France

French Ski Resorts

Les Arcs & La Plagne

I (Rachel) have been ski-ing in France since I was young and have ski-ed at many of the well known resorts but in the winter of 2009 I decided I needed a break and change from Bulgaria and so on a whim rented a room in a chalet in a small village called Vallandry, just under Plan Peisey, part of the Les Arcs ski area. I had a fantastic few months and the skiing in Les Arcs is brilliant. The resort is linked to La Plagne as part of the Paradiski area and so we also ski’ed there fairly often, although I much favoured Les Arcs ski area over La Plagne. La Plagne has some good ski’ing but a number of lifts were often shut if it was windy and many of the runs all come down to a couple of central areas and it is a bit of a ‘motorway’ of ski pistes. However, the far side at Champagne-en-vanoise is lovely and comes down into the Courchevel valley (although not linked and on a different ski pass). 

Les Arcs has the Peisey-Vallandry ski area which is lovely, lots of runs within the trees and some lovely restaurants and bars. It is connected to Les Arcs 1800 and past that there is Les Arcs 1950 and Les Arcs 2000. These are all purpose built areas, just collections of modern apartment blocks. Below Les Arcs 1950 is Les Arcs 1600 which links to Bourg St Maurice by a venicular train, a lovely town in the valley and the furthest part of the ski area is Villaroger.

Paradiski piste map

Courtesy of skimap.org

After a brilliant season in Peisey, I decided to travel a bit and headed down south with a friend to the Pyrenees to explore the area, with a view to possibly buying or renting a place there for ski-ing. After a summer in Bulgaria I returned to France in autumn 2009 and rented a traditional house in the Pyrenees region, near Saint-Guadens. I spent around three months there viewing property and exploring the place. The main ski area is Superbagnères but the actual ski-ing seemed a long drive from the nearest towns. I never actually got to ski the area as there was not much snow that year, early on in the season. And so I decided to move back to the Alpes. I rented an apartment near Aigueblanche, just a short drive from Moutiers and in a matter of 6 weeks managed to find an apartment to buy in Bozel, just under Courchevel, part of the Three Valleys ski area.

The Three Valleys – Courchevel, Meribel & Val Thorens

Courchevel ski areaThe Three Valleys ski area is over 600km of pistes and covers the resorts of Courchevel, Meribel and Val Thorens. There is actually a fourth valley of Orelle, accessed over the back of Val Thorens. We mainly ski’ed in the Courchevel valley, made up of St Bon, Le Praz (1300), Courchevel 1550, Courchevel 1650 and Courchevel 1850, now “renamed” as Courchevel Saint Bon, Courchevel Le Praz, Courchevel Village, Courchevel Moriond and Courchevel.

La Tania is nestled in-between Courchevel and Meribel and was built for the Albertville winter Olympics in 1992. It’s not the most attractive place as its purpose built but has some good ski’ing above it and is ski in –  ski out.

Brides les Bains is down in the valley, just off the road that winds up the mountain from Moutiers and an old, fairly slow bubble takes about 30 minutes to get you up to the centre of Meribel.

Meribel area in the middle of the Three Valleys often has fairly icy and busy runs leading down to the main hub, but there is some good ski-ing higher up above the resort. A little further across and you go over to Saint Martin de Belleville. This is a lovely traditional mountain village with some fantastic ski’ing, great off-piste and some lovely restaurants. And then its up to Les Menuires and Val Thorens, the highest area of the Three Valleys and the part of the ski area open the earliest and the longest. There are some great open runs in this area and some fantastic back bowls to explore.

The fourth valley of Orelle is accessed by a gondola up from the Maurienne Valley and is often described as the ‘back door’ access to the Three Valleys.

Three Valleys Piste Map

From piste-maps.co.uk

 

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