Wide overview of mountainside with snow-covered trees and skier on piste

Valloire

Vallée de la Maurienne, Savoie, French Alps

Extensive skiing in three valleys high above the Maurienne and beside the legendary Col du Galibier.

Road access is via Grenoble, from which an autoroute speeds progress through the valley.

Straightforward transfers from Chambéry Savoie Mont Blanc & Grenoble flights, or TGV rail services from Paris to St Michel de Maurienne.

Skier on tree-lined piste after fresh snowfall

The Ski Area

Spread across three valleys, the whole area offers extensive skiing for just about all levels. Highlights include long blue-graded scenic cruises which begin high and end among pine forests. You can even follow the course of a river. It can take a little getting to know, which, of course, is all part of the appeal.

The link between two sides of the ski area is simple enough, via a choice of two lifts – the Inversins detachable chair at the top end of the valley, and the Arméra chairlift, which reaches Valmeinier 1500 across a deep gorge in a memorably-vertiginous single span.

A further plus is the provision of green-graded descents from peaks like Gros Crey (2594m), allowing less-experienced skiers to enjoy top-of-the-mountain sensations.

Resort Information

Altitude : 1430m - 2600m
Valloire
Pistes Total:
150 km
Galibier-Thabor
Pistes Total:
150 km
20 Green
28 Blue
32 Red
9 Black
Ski Domain Lifts: 30
1 Magic Carpets
10 Draglifts
17 Chairlifts
2 Gondolas

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Chalet-style hotel and skiers' bar

The Ski Village

Valloire, at an altitude of 1430m has all the charm and history of a traditional working community. The mood is friendly and there’s quite a buzz after the lifts close, particularly during the annual international ice-sculpture competitions.

Above the main village of Sétaz on the route up to the Col du Galibier lie other accommodation centres around Moulin Benjamin and Les Verneys, while in the opposite direction (back towards the Col du Télégraphe) is Le Hameau. All are served by shuttle-buses, although the centres on the Galibier side have chairlifts to the skiing. A high-speed six-seater has overcome the queues which once plagued Les Verneys.

The linked ski resort of Valmeinier comprises two villages, set at 1500m (la Ville Dessus) and 1800m, with a third development (Gros Crey) set roughly midway between them. Not surprisingly, the higher, purpose-built sites well above the tree-line have a slightly separate feel. They are, however, right in the thick of the ski terrain and ski-in/ski-out, although Gros-Crey is served by a single Green-graded piste.

Staying There

Value for Money Accommodation Dining Out Nightlife Village Charm

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Skiers on chairlift leaving ski village

Best For

Young independents and budget-conscious family skiers clearly love this place, and we can see why. Older French families, too.

It’s not obsessed with sophistication, being more focused on the skiing - which we applaud – with plenty of variety and opportunities to put real mileage under your skis.

On the other hand, you can take it easy on gentle, scenic runs through forests or simply enjoy hanging out among relaxed company. It’s very convivial, and you get the sense that plenty of families return here year after year. All in all, a cheerful place to be.

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Skiing There

Beginners / Families Intermediates Advanced / Expert Mountain Scenery

Snowboarding

Offers different zones according to ability, plus Easy Park for learners and young ones. Big air bag.
2 Snowparks
1 Snowboarder Cross
1 Half-Pipe


Cross-Country Skiing

Free access to three groomed trails.
10km Cross-Country and Nordic Ski Trails

Handiski...

  • Half price ski pass for 80% disability or more  (proof required)
  • Disabled access to the Pontet gondola (drop-off point and ramp to lift)
  • ESF and ESI (equipment included) ski schools offer specialist instruction.
  • Central booking office can offer advice on suitable accommodation tel: +33(0)4 79 59 00 22 or www.resavalloire.com

icon-smileyYes please...

  • Extensive terrain for intermediates plus gentle return runs for novices.
  • Lots of safe ski terrain, activities and events aimed at families.
  • Free beginners' slope at Verneys plus a 1.7km blue piste for families complete with picnic areas.
  • 70% of the ski area is above 2000m.
  • Tree-sheltered lower runs.
  • Skipass gives one day in any other Maurienne ski station or Val Thorens in Three Valleys via Orelle (supplements apply).
  • Plenty of accommodation to suit most budgets.
  • Valloire a friendly, traditional village - welcoming in all seasons.
  • Frequent free ski buses.

icon-frowneyYes but...

  • Getting around the large area can be confusing for newcomers.
  • Higher, more exposed areas can lose snow-cover during high winds.
  • Long, winding access road can require snow chains or snow tyres.

icon-winkingOur Tips

  • Find peace and solitude by skiing further from Valloire, working your way around towards Valmeinier.
  • Visit Valloire during the remarkable International Ice or Snow Sculpture competitions in held every year in January. Check Valloire website for details

Practical Information

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 Saint Michel de Maurienne then exit towards Valloire (17kms) on the D902.
Snow-tyres or chains advised.

By air
The nearest airport is Chambéry Savoie Mont Blanc, about 100kms distance. Transfer times vary according to traffic conditions on this busy route. Grenoble (130kms) would be a good alternative airport. There are shuttle bus transfers between Lyon and Chambéry airports to Valloire.

By train
There are direct trains from Paris Gare de Lyon to St Michel / Valloire at weekends during the ski season. There is a regular service from Paris to St Michel de Maurienne via Chambéry Savoie Mont Blanc every day. There's a shuttle service from the St Michel Valloire station to the resort.

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.


Things to do

Tried and testedInternational Snow and Ice Sculpture Contests

Ice sculpture, Valloire International Ice Sculpture competition.

Held every year from mid-January, you can marvel at the skills and creativity of the ice and snow sculptors international teams competing in this established contest. The ice sculpture display ends with a grand night-time "son et lumière" event, well worth braving glacial temperatures to attend.

Huge blocks of snow are carved over the course of several days in Valloire's main street where pedestrians can observe the emerging sculptures. The event culminates in a huge firework display and the sculptures remain in place for as long as temperatures allow.


Snow-Shoe Walks

Bureau des Guides
73450 Valloire
Tel: +33 (0)4 79 83 35 03
or +33 (0)4 79 59 00 73

Pair of lightweight showshoes on snow, showing piste grooming lines.

A varied programme of guided walks throughout the week to discover the Valloire valley on foot, away from the pistes and in the depths of nature you can observe wildlife and learn a little about local history. English spoken.


Where to stay

Tried and testedLe Hameau de Valloire

Les Granges,
Valloire

Hameau de valloire ski apartments, Valloire, French Alps

 Simply furnished accommodation with fully-equipped kitchen, comfortable beds and plenty of storage. We loved the views towards the village and mountains and the spacious and light feel to the apartment. There's an indoor swimming pool, Jacuzzi, fitness room, sauna & steam room for guests. The ski-lockers on the lower ground floor have access by a short flight of steps to the Le Col shuttle bus which comes to the front door of the residence every 20 minutes - a reliable service running from around 08h30 until early evening. This is invaluable, since the residence is 2km outside Valloire. Free outdoor parking. WiFi (payable) in reception only.


Tried and testedLes Chalets du Galibier

Route du Galibier,
73450 Valloire

Chalets du Galibier ski apartments, Valloire, French Alps

 Comfortable, well-equipped self-catering apartments in a quiet location right opposite the Moulin Benjamin chair-lift.
Guests can enjoy 2 indoor swimming-pools, lounge with open fire, pool table (payable) and tea-making facility, sauna and steam room (1 free session per apartment, then €39/apartment/week), left luggage room, laundry room (payable). The residence has free outdoor parking and its own covered parking (£25/week, payable at time of booking). WiFi internet in reception (payable).
Regular free shuttle buses stop outside for access to all ski departure points and the shops, or a few minutes' walk will take you to the village centre.

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


Where to Eat

Tried and testedLe Fournil des Bergers

Rue des Grandes Alpes
73450 Valloire
Tel: +33 (0)4 79 59 00 74

 Quality authentic regional produce beautifully and mouth-wateringly displayed. Don’t miss the tempting slabs of hand-made chocolate and slices of nougat - buy by weight. Absolutely delicious...


Tried and testedL'Equipe

73450 Valloire
Tel: +33 (0)4 79 59 00 57

Situated on the corner of Le Christiania Hotel and close to the Cret de la Brive gondola and ESF school this bar/restaurant has a great atmosphere at the end of the day when people pile in for a hot drink or a beer. Home of the Jean-Baptiste Grange fan club!


Tried and testedLe Kôsa Krûta

Place de la Mairie
73450 Valloire
Tel: +33 (0)6 11 44 84 89 (Orders taken)

Small and friendly central snack bar serving sandwiches, soups and salads and regional dishes to eat in or take away. We applaud the fact that they use fresh local produce and everything is made to order. Vegetarians should not be put off by an apparent lack of options; just ask. Best (and largest) panini we've ever had. They also do picnic backpacks and new for 2018, everything you need to make a fondue on the slopes. Order the day before, price 12€ per person. The snack bar is open daily 08h45 until 17h30.


Tried and testedLes Chalets de l'Arméra

73450 Valmeinier
Tel: +33 (0)4 79 59 29 41

Piste-side restaurant Chalet Armera, Valmeinier

Situated at the foot of the Grapil piste, this bar/restaurant (with gite accommodation) has a sunny terrace with views over the ski terrain and valley of Valmeinier. Serves hot meals and snacks with daily specials at reasonable prices. Open evenings on reservation, accessible on foot.


Insight: Valloire

Group of skiers looking at snow-dusted piste map at Valloire ski resort

Insight: Valloire

Driving to Valloire involves powering up the long, winding route over the Col du Télégraphe, one of the most gruelling classic climbs of the Tour de France, while those bound for Valmeinier turn off a little sooner. Ordinarily we’d take it in our stride, but after fresh overnight snowfalls we could be pushing our luck arriving before things have thawed and softened a little, particularly during a busy Saturday changeover period. Not surprisingly, the local police are past masters at keeping things moving, and are checking each vehicle approaching the upper section of the route. Access in snowy conditions like these requires ‘special equipment’, meaning chains or snow tyres – sine we have a 4×4 with the latter we’are waved through without further delay.

Once over the Col the first sight of Valloire’s snow-laden rooftops cheerfully backlit by the pale morning sun suggests that we’ve come to the right place at the right time. There’s a distinct buzz in the heart of the old village, where a new influx of visitors is finding its way around while regulars meet up with old friends.

Armera is a long, blue-graded scenic cruise which after fresh snowfalls really is the stuff of dreams. It fires us down through the forest to the sensational Armera chairlift spanning a deep gorge at the lower end of the valley. It really is quite a ride, with a free vertigo test thrown in for added entertainment.
Brive 2 chairlift, Valloire
Riverside piste, Valloire

There’s more snow overnight, setting a pattern for our stay, and we lay the first of our tracks here the next day amid the kind of fairytale scenery we’d not only choose for our Christmas cards but for our ideal skiing. The Setaz gondola hauls us up smoothly to the intermediate terrain below La Setaz-des-Prés (2538m), a popular spot, particularly on Sunday mornings when the local skiers swell the numbers on the pistes. Fortunately things are considerably quieter in the next valley. In the days to come we discover that taking the Crêt de la Brive gondola instead will put more distance between us and the terrain immediately above village. For now, though, we press on via the Montissot chair-lift, which gives us time to take in the wild-looking scenery through which we move hypnotically.

At the top (2220m) we cruise lazily over to the nearby Brive 2 lift, on which we finally reach Le Crey du Quart (2534m). From here on we’re in the Valmeinier sector, the purpose-built village finally becoming visible in its sensational location at the head of the next valley spread beneath us. We decide to take a closer look at the valley and take Grapil, one of the blue-graded trails which snake down the valley side. This doesn’t go as smoothly as planned — it’s not overly steep but on a narrow, icy section half-way down we encounter lots of small stones, which are impossible to avoid. Result: some unwelcome scratches on our skis. A few minutes later things look up, though, when we chance upon a chalet-style restaurant right beside the piste and offering warming food plus sweeping views across to Valmeinier 1800. Perfect timing.

The spectacular Arméra chair-lift spans a deep valley to link Valmeinier with Valloire.
The reward: dropping through the tree-line towards Valmeinier 1500.

More fresh snowfalls in Valloire…

After a reviving break we work our way back to Valloire and spend some time getting better acquainted with the piste-map. This rewards us the following day with the kind of glorious sustained skiing which we’re not going to forget, and which will bring us back here sometime. For now, however, we board the Crêt de la Brive gondola and Brive 2 chairlift direct to the Crey du Quart ridge and take Armera, a long, blue-graded scenic cruise, which after fresh snowfalls really is the stuff of dreams. It fires us down through the forest to the sensational Armera chairlift spanning a deep gorge at the lower end of the valley. It really is quite a ride, with a free vertigo test thrown in for added entertainment. Once across we spend some time on the mainly red and blue-graded runs of the Gros Crey area, before heading back over to Valloire to meet Christophe, an ESF ski instructor who will take us on a tour around both Valloire and Valmeinier sectors.

There’s nothing quite like skiing with someone who has known the terrain since childhood to speed the process of getting to know a new ski area. With no need to guide ourselves, we simply follow in his elegantly-carved tracks before taking a breather on the serene drag-lift haul up to Le Grand Plateau. This slightly sedate rite of passage opens up a few interesting possibilities, including Combe Orsière, a long and exhilarating swoop which clings to the side of the Neuvache Valley, above a gently flowing river. It’s a different world over here.

And so it continues – an action-packed afternoon’s skiing which gets us back to Valloire just as the lifts are preparing to close. Christophe, a true pro, has shown us things we’d otherwise have probably missed, and somewhere along the way we had begun to share his obvious love for this place.

Back for more

The area has never been one to stand still, and since our visit has continued its heavy investment in lift infrastructure and other improvements. We don’t need too much encouragement to return here, so when we find ourselves nearby in the Haute Maurienne we jump at the opportunity of revisiting Valloire and updating our impressions. The villages feel much as we remember them, Valmeinier actually looking more attractive since the removal of the unsightly and deeply-unloved multi-storey car park which was for several years an intrusive blot on the landscape.

Crocus, blue graded piste, Valloire
Nightfall, Valloire village

Meanwhile, over in Valloire things are also looking up in Les Verneys, where the previous frequent lift queues for the slow three-seat fixed chairlift have been removed at a stroke by a high-speed six-seater. Getting back has also become a lot easier, too, with the replacement of two difficult drag-lifts and a two-seat chair on the other side of the ridge by another new high-speed lift, the Cornaford six-seater.

As we discover, it’s an impressive ride, giving a fast 1.6km haul up to 2310m, for a choice of red- and blue-graded runs down either face of the mountain, plus a couple of long blacks back to the base of the lift. The longer of the two – Dahu – looks interesting, but is closed during our brief time here.

Instead we take a more leisurely cruise on the Sétaz Blue to enjoy dramatic views and to see the results of some of the many other subtle remodelling work which has been applied to the piste layout. Here and there the results are obvious, elsewhere less so, but it all adds up to a safer skiing environment, with greatly improved visibility at crossover points. There’s also some stylish, clear new signage, something we welcome as things weren’t always instinctive when we were here last.

As you’ll recall, we’d already developed a soft spot for the skiing in Valloire, feeling that like other ski areas in the Maurienne it really does deserve to be much more widely appreciated. Now it’s even better. MountainPassions heart icon