Vast mountain landscape with distant skier descending from Val Thorens to Orelle.

Orelle-Val Thorens

Vallée de la Maurienne, Savoie, French Alps

Close to Modane and the Fréjus Tunnel, while the A43 Lyon-Turin autoroute passes through the valley.

The Trois-Vallées Express gondola lift brings access to Val Thorens and the 3V, with free car parking at the base of the lift. Orelle also has its own ski terrain, which is worth discovering.

The Ski Area

  • Access to the vast 3 Valleys ski area.
  • Ample cruising for intermediates, plus carte blanche for experts.

In theory you could ski the entire 3 Valleys from here. The vast area offers close-to-limitless skiing for just about all levels, but only the fittest are likely to make it all the way from here to the furthest corners. But even if you don’t make it beyond Val Thorens you’ll still have plenty of entertainment, including long blue- and red-graded scenic cruises for intermediates. Even closer to home, Orelle’s very own terrain is easily overlooked in the desire to press on, a pity as it has an unpressured feel, some great scenery and a few surprises for anyone expecting it all to be tame. The only downside is that all the skiing on this side of the 3V is above the tree-line, so it pays to keep a wary eye on weather conditions - and forecasts, if you’re planning on returning to Orelle (which, officially at least, is only possible via the gondola). High winds mean it’s time to head down while you still can.

Resort Information

Altitude : 2300m - 3230m
Orelle - Val Thorens
Pistes Total:
150 km
11 Green
33 Blue
29 Red
9 Black
Ski Resort Lifts : 29
3 Magic Carpets
3 Draglifts
15 Chairlifts
3 Funitel
3 Gondolas
1 Cable Cars
Trois Vallées
Pistes Total:
600 km
51 Green
129 Blue
108 Red
30 Black
Ski Domain Lifts: 180
33 Gondolas
2 Cable Cars

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View from gondola lift of chalet-style apartment development

The Ski Village

  • Most accommodation at Orelle is in a relatively recently established tourism residence.
  • The key to Orelle is in its accessibility, proximity to the autoroute and Modane's railway station.

Orelle and its eight outlying hamlets still retain their identities as small, traditional working communities, and the deep (and in winter, perpetually shaded) valley location tells you something of the cheery resourcefulness of the local people. As a tourism destination, though, Orelle is a relative newcomer, as you’ll see from the recently-developed accommodation. Most is sited above the old village, which is tiny, so when you feel like an evening off from self-catering, Modane or Saint-Michel (10min drive) are the only realistic options. The nearby Gare TGV of Saint-Michel/Valloire has high-speed rail services to and from Paris and Turin, making Orelle worth considering for anyone looking for greener travel via Eurostar.

Staying There

Value for Money Accommodation Dining Out Nightlife Village Charm

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Skiers queueing to board gondola lift

Why go skiing in Orelle - Val Thorens ?

Younger and budget-conscious committed skiers will find it hard to resist the value on offer here. Factor in the reassurance of lift access to the highest-altitude skiing on the French Alps and the case for choosing Orelle as a base strengthens still further – particularly if you’re prepared to forgo things like a dazzling nightlife.

Skiing There

Beginners / Families Intermediates Advanced / Expert Mountain Scenery

Snowboarding

Variety of fun zones including Family Park with lots for beginners and improvers.
1 Snowparks
1 Ski cross Snowboarder Cross


Handiski...

  • Reserved parking in Orelle.
  • Ramp access to the 3 Vallées Express cable car.
  • 50% reduction on lift passes for disabled skier and their companion (conditions apply).
  • Adapted toilets and use of wheelchair at the Cairn Carin cable car building in Val Thorens. Dedicated equipment area.
  • 10 adapted apartments in the Hameau des Eaux d'Orelle.
  • ESF specialist instructors.

icon-smileyYes please...

  • Ample cruising for intermediates, plus carte blanche for experts.
  • Highest altitudes around for just about all the ski terrain.
  • Capable lift system.
  • Modern self-catering apartments close to the gondola.
  • Free car-parking for day visitors.
  • Nearby high-speed TGV rail access.

icon-frowneyYes but...

  • Access hangs on the gondola lift, so expect some queuing at times.
  • Eating out in Modane or St Michel is only viable for those with their own transport.
  • High winds and storms can close exposed lift access, so keep a watchful eye on weather forecasts.
  • Not celebrated for its nightlife...

icon-winkingOur Tips

  • Enjoy the fabulous 3V skiing - but don't overlook the Orelle sector's own worthwhile ski terrain.

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Practical Information

Ski & Equipment Hire

Ski & Equipment Hire

Our partners at Alpinresorts.com ski hire don’t currently cover this resort
but you may be able to take advantage of their BEST-PRICE GUARANTEE by using
the search box to look for a convenient location nearby.

Tried and tested

Tried and testedResidence Orelle 3 Vallees

73140 Orelle

Le Hameau des Eaux d’Orelle apartments

Nicely laid-out complex composed of 8 large chalets with apartments sleeping from 2-8 people. Ten apartments are adapted for disabled visitors. All the apartments are spacious and well-equipped (ours had an MP3 player and a handy radio alarm). Each chalet has its own ski locker. The secure underground car park at the residence is payable, though there are plenty of outdoor spaces.
Onsite there's a mini-market for essential supplies and fresh daily bread plus a bar / restaurant where you can access free WiFi. We found the restaurant and its menu disappointing, and would prefer to make the short drive into St Michel (5 minutes) or Modane (10 minutes) for more choice.
There's a spa centre which is very popular in the evenings, with heated indoor pool, sauna, Jacuzzi, steam room and a relaxing area with sun loungers. Massage and beauty treatments are available at a supplement.
To ski, there's a shuttle which runs every 15 minutes down to the nearby 3 Valleys Express gondola. If you prefer to drive, there is ample free parking close by.

Enquiries and bookings:
Peak Retreats
023 9283 9310
reservations@peakretreats.co.uk

One of the disadvantages of staying in Orelle is the lack of services, the only restaurant and food shop being at the residence. For sightseers and shoppers, the tourist office offers a weekly coach trip to Turin.


All inclusive ski holidays

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Experience the true meaning of a luxury all-inclusive ski holiday with .
Stay in the Club Med at Orelle - Val Thorens and you'll get a package that incudes skiing and snowboarding lessons, a lift pass, plus a wide range of food served throughout the day, as well as Kid’s Clubs, evening activities and more.

Things to do

Girl skier on the Tyrolienne, or zip-wire, Val Thorens

Holidaymakers to Val Thorens can try all sorts of activities such as mountain biking on snow, ice-driving, Europe’s highest zip wire, ice-diving, ski cross or tobogganing. Here are a couple of thrilling new adventures to try.

Thrills and chills: ice climbing

Looking great from the chairlift of the same name, you can now get much, much closer to Val Thorens’ frozen waterfall! The sound of your pick biting into the ice, balancing your crampon on the wall, your eyes fixed on the cold blue ice; ice climbing is an experience that immerses you in a moment of pure concentration. With expert coaching from mountain guides, a taster session gives you a different kind of climbing experience and a shiver of adrenalin. The basic techniques taught introduce you to the amazing world of mountain sports. Price: €120 2-hour afternoon activity www.evolution2-valthorens.com +33(0)6 58 14 63 15


Play in the air with the Gyrocoptere

Flying from the tarmac of the brand new heli-station - a new kind of aircraft is now available for leisure flights: an autogyro - more commonly known as a gyrocopter. The autogyro looks like a tiny helicopter, but it’s lighter, with much freer movement in the air. Alone with the pilot, this is an intimate flying experience, where you explore the amazing landscapes of Les 3 Vallées! Price: €100 for a scenic flight of 15-20 minutes www.evolution2-valthorens.com +33(0)6 58 14 63 15


Bars & Restaurants

Tried and testedLa Fruitière

TS 3 Vallées 1 - TS Plein Sud
Val Thorens
Tel: +33 (0)4 79 00 04 27

Terrace, La Fruitiere, Val Thorens

One of our favourite slopeside restaurants, with a retro-chic dairy ambiance. Dine inside in a bright, airy room with views or soak up the sun on a large terrace while enjoying a varied, fresh menu with daily specials. Impeccable service from friendly staff and a great atmosphere, so reservations are essential at busy periods. We enjoyed the plat-du-jour: Féra (mountain lake fish) with rice and spinach and a delicious raspberry sauce (price €19) followed by truly sublime desserts.
There's also a self-serve called La Folie Douce which does a great trade in creatively-presented dishes including spaghetti bolognaise and panini.


Getting there

By Car
For Dover-Calais ferry travel, other cross-channel routes, offers and bookings visit P&O Ferries

Take the A43 autoroute to St Michel de Maurienne (exit 29) and follow RD1006 to Orelle (6km). If arriving from Italy via the Fréjus Tunnel, exit the A43 at Modane (exit 30) then follow the RD1006 to Orelle (10km).

By air
The nearest airports are Chambéry Savoie Mont Blanc and Turin, both about 100kms distance. From Turin you can arrange a private transfer from the airport (best for small groups) or hire a car though be sure to factor in the cost of the Fréjus tunnel and the autoroute toll.
From Chambéry Savoie Mont Blanc, there are regular trains to Modane where you can get a taxi to Orelle or there is a seasonal shuttle service for around 25€ per person - see the Orelle website for details and booking.

By train
It's just a 4hr high speed train journey from Paris to the TGV stations at St Michel Valloire or Modane. The Paris-Milan train is direct, alternatively, you can change at Chambéry for connections. Saturdays during the season there are shuttle services from the stations or you can get a taxi.

Book your TGV fast train from Paris or Eurostar’s ski train direct to the French Alps with OUI.sncf

Transfers
Visit Ski-Lifts for the best range of ski transfer destinations from airports and main rail stations.

Cheap flights to the Alps

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Insight: Orelle - Val Thorens

Wide view of of skier on long mountain descent above Orelle

Insight: Orelle - Val Thorens

We’ve driven past Orelle countless times over the years while en-route to other areas. Eventually, though, the image of the Three Valleys Express gondola lift looming high above the roadside proved just too much to resist, so this time we’re back to ride it and find out what we’ve been missing. As we peel off the road from Modane in the chill of dusk the first thing we discover is that it takes surprisingly little time before our accommodation comes into view just above the village. After checking into the Hameau des Eaux d’Orelle we garage the car and transfer ourselves and our luggage to a snug apartment with a view we’ll have to wait until the following morning to see.

…we head up the mountain on an epic haul of more than 5km, gazing expectantly at the craggy terrain above with no idea until the very last minute of what awaits us.

Trois Vallees Express, Orelle

Rapid access via the Trois Vallées Express to the Orelle sector.


Orelle link lift to Val Thorens

It's just a short hop to the link lift to Val Thorens from the top of the gondola.

There’s no snow overnight but temperatures plummet, and we awake to a frosty overview of a development of large, chalet-style apartments set around a central green, against a familiar mountain backdrop between Valfréjus and Valloire/Valmeinier. To our far right we glimpse the idly-dangling cabins of the gondola, prompting us to make an early start.

We’re not the only ones to have this idea, judging by the lift-queues which greet us down below – clear signs that word is out about this place. But the wait is less than we’d expected and soon we’re leaving the village far behind as we head up the mountain on an epic haul of more than 5km, gazing expectantly at the craggy terrain above with no idea until the very last minute of what awaits us. Snow would be good. As we crest the final ridge we’re suddenly above the snow-line and into a totally different world, proving once again that in a less-than bountiful snow season there really is no substitute for altitude (in this case around 2360m).

There’s powder up there…

It’s hard not to smile as we step from the gondola onto pure, soft powder – and there’s plenty more all around, on which we glide down to the nearby Rosaël chairlift for an overview of the Orelle sector’s snow-cover on the smooth haul up to around 3000m. At the top, close to the Col de Rosaël, we get our first glimpse of Val Thorens, looking very different when peering down from the Maurienne side when compared to gazing up from somewhere like Les Menuires. Getting there involves little more than launching off onto the blue-graded Chamois piste, which kicks off a gentle cruise (with the possibility of a detour on the red-graded Falaise piste), taking us to the base of the Grand Fond Funitel lift.

After climbing back to 3000m and quite close our starting point at the Col, we blast our way down the red-graded Variante and over to pick up the Portette chairlift, gradually working our way across the sizeable, mostly north-facing area which finally tops off at 3130m on the Glacier de Thorens. It’s already clear that there’s no shortage of long, wide cruising runs above Val Thorens, which is exactly what the majority of today’s intermediate skiers are content to enjoy.

A change of scene above Orelle…

Sadly for us, we have just one day here and little hope of skiing it all. So for now we decide to head down past the village for a closer view of what we’ve so far only glimpsed in the far distance. When we get there what previously appreared remote and exposed feels much more welcoming, and the energy level, with skiers converging from all directions, is infectious.


Val Thorens village pistes, skiers

Plenty of room for everyone as skiers descend to the main lifts.


Skiers below the Plein Sud chairlift, Val Thorens

Be prepared for a few surpises skiing through the heart of the ski village.

Ride to the Glacier

Later we’ll get a lot closer, but first we take the impressive Péclet funitel lift for a scenic ride up to the famous Glacier de Péclet at 2945m. At the top there’s the option of a run down to a chairlift for a haul up to a single black-graded piste called, not surprisingly, Glacier. Given more time and softer conditions we’d do just that but for now we stop to take in the scenery spread around us before skiing back down to the village on the long, red-graded Béranger. One day, though, we’ll return to try the four or more alternative runs we have to skip for now, since we sense lunchtime approaching.

Once safely down we ski over to take another chairlift, this time the Plein Sud high-speed six-seater. It’s a key link for skiers heading directly over to Méribel and Courchevel, and throws in the welcome bonus of bird’s-eye views of the lower end of the Val Thorens. The haul begins gently enough, passing over the blue-graded Cairn piste, before climbing more determinedly between chalet-style apartments while below us skiers thread their way cautiously on a steeper section of piste which has become quite icy in the low, low temperatures.


The first tantalising glimpse of distant Val Thorens, from the 3000m Col de Rosaël.

The first tantalising glimpse of distant Val Thorens, from the 3000m Col de Rosaël.


Above the vastness of the legendary Trois-Vallées at Cime Caron, Val Thorens.

Above the vastness of the legendary Trois-Vallées at Cime Caron

Flying low…

A little higher up there’s further light entertainment, as more confident skiers and snowboarders are tackling some well-established mogul-fields on either side of the pisted terrain. We leave most of them behind as we continue climbing ever higher and transfer to another lift, the Bouquetin funitel, which drops us near the viewpoint of the Col de la Chambre (2850m). The following brief black-graded run down the Goitschel piste delivers us neatly beside the welcoming terraces of La Fruitière, where we relax for a beautifully prepared meal in what must count as one of the best locations in the French Alps.

When we finally summon the will to leave, it’s to take a long Blue-graded cruise down the Plein Sud piste and over to the Caron gondola lift for a haul up to the Cime Caron cable-car – the world’s largest when it opened in 1982, with a capacity of 150 passengers per car. In 2010 new panoramic cars were installed, making the 2.1km ride up to 3200m even more impressive.

Even so, the panoramic views from the summit are even more hypnotic, and well worth the journey. Suitably uplifted, we decide to round off the experience with a run down the black-graded Combe Rosaël piste we see snaking away far below us, which turns out to be a run we’ll long remember. Even without the near-vertical wall of sheet ice we encounter along the way it’s quite something, and fires us down back into the heart of the Orelle sector’s own terrain for a final few runs beside the chairlifts before we have to head back to the valley below.

Orelle: sometimes less is more…

The half-dozen or so runs don’t look much on the piste-map, but then maps can’t get across the sense of being there, and this is one place which makes a compelling case for the notion that sometimes less really is more. For example, the Bouchet chairlift will haul you all the way to 3230m – the highest lift-accessible summit in the whole of the Trois-Vallées – from which you can ski very nearly 1000m of vertical drop back to the gondola. Deciding that our hard-working legs really might not be up to it, we satisfy ourselves for now with half that figure, on a run down the blue-graded Peyron piste, while the sun sinks languidly into the gathering late-afternoon haze.

Minutes later, in the cosy fug of the Trois-Vallées Express gondola, we gaze in wonderment at the scene unfolding below us with a considerable sense of achievement at the mileage we’ve packed into a single day here and the experiences we’ve had along the way.MountainPassions heart icon