Les 3 Vallées, Savoie
Resort Altitude: 1 850m
Altitude: 1400m -2850m
34 Blue • 24 Red • 12 Green • 6 Black
3 Fun/Snowparks + Boardercross
6 Gondolas • 4 Draglifts • 13 Chairlifts
(3 high-speed) • 3 Cabriolet/Bucket lifts
Snowmaking: 410 cannon covering
50% of groomed terrain
Trois Vallées Lift Pass
downhill terrain: 600km
129 Blue • 108 Red • 51 Green •
180 Lifts including:
2 Cable cars • 33 Gondolas
40 High-speed Detachable Chairlifts
Snowmaking: 43% of groomed terrain
- Mountain Scenery
The 3 Vallées’ near-endless network of long, wide runs, plus ample off-piste opportunities, really should satisfy just about everyone.
- Dining Out
- Village Charm
A down-to-earth experience, compared to its glitzy neighbours – and newer, traditionally-styled accommodation is fast transforming the once less-appealing image.
- • Accessible buses and a taxi with access for handicapped passengers
- • 50% discount for the disabled person and their companion for Les Menuires/Saint Martin de Belleville ski passes (conditions apply).
- • Adapted accommodation - call the Tourist Office for personal advice and recommendations.
- • Accessible public toilets in the resort centre at La Croisette, next to the tourist office.
- • Specialist instructors and range of equipment (provided by ESF)
- • 3 Vallées ski experience is justifiably world-famous.
- • Terrain for just about every level, from raw novices to demanding experts.
- • Easy access to linked areas.
- • Dependable snow record.
- • Still a more affordable option than some of its illustrious neighbours.
- • Snow Guarantee - or your money back. Rules apply, see www.lesmenuires.com for details.
- • This much skiing doesn’t come cheap – but do you really want to miss out on skiing legendary terrain available with the full 3V lift-pass?
- • Explore the excellent terrain nearby, including fine runs down to charming Saint-Martin de Belleville.
- • Download the free iPhone app available on the
. It's compatible with iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. Requires iOS 4.0 or later. Also available for Android phones.
The app includes practical information so you can find out exactly where you are with geolocation and consult the interactive map, get the forecast, snow conditions and ski lift opening times plus there's 15 itineraries to help you explore the ski area. There's a weekly agenda of events so you won't miss anything and you can easily find services and shops. One of the best features is that it will give statistics of your day on the mountain as well as retracing your circuit.
A softer, more traditional style is appearing.
So much to ski, so little time...
Where to Stay
- Seen, tried and tested.
73440 Les Menuires
Superbly located hotel at the foot of the slopes with ski-in, ski-out access, just a few paces from a chairlift.
The Isatis offers 17 chalet-suites - sleeping from 2 to 12 guests - each designed and decorated as lovely apartments in savoyard chalet style. We stayed in a duplex style apartment with a cosy lounge area with TV, DVD player and free wifi, and it's own jacuzzi on the balcony (10% supplement). The hotel's bar restaurant 'Le Cocon des Neiges' is open all day, see our review below.
Ski lockers are conveniently placed at slope level with a lift to upper floors. Covered parking available (€50/week).
Enquiries and bookings:
0844 576 0175 (UK)
or +44 (0)2392 890 960
73440 Les Menuires
Enjoying a slope side position in the Reberty sector of the village, Hotel Kaya offers contemporary elegance with spacious rooms and suites sleeping up to 4 people. There's a wonderful pool and 'spa bio' - massage and care treatments using organic products (suitable for children from 7 years).
The Hotel has its own restaurant 'Le K' serving a delicious and beautifully presented menu of traditional savoyard flavours with modern flair. We enjoyed a light lunch of grilled chicken and Tomme de Savoie salad, Omble Chevalier (mountain lake fish), followed by Moelleux de chocolat.
Enquiries and bookings:
0844 576 0175 (UK)
or +44 (0)2392 890 960
The Alpine Club
73440 St Martin de Belleville
Tel: +33(0)6 30 22 62 15
Helen & Chris Raemers have created three stylish and unique mountain homes in a small hamlet near St Martin de Belleville. All bedrooms are ensuite with plenty of creature comforts, comfortable lounge areas and top quality gourmet food prepared by professional chefs. Guests are provided with personal service throughout their stay so they can truly relax and enjoy their holiday. Bookings can be by individual rooms or for a complete chalet.
Saint Martin de Belleville
Tel: UK 01243 575 507
Sophisticated, luxurious ski lodge in the heart of St-Martin de Belleville. The chalet comforably sleeps up to 12 people, then there's a penthouse suite with separate access that can sleep up to 4 more (can be rented separately). A small team of efficient and discrete staff who live on the premises will take care of your day to day requirements. Otherwise, guests are free to enjoy every comfort and facility imaginable including a wellness suite with jacuzzi and sauna, games room, library, surround sound entertainment, wifi, and immediate access to skiing via the village teleski.
Food & Drink
73440 Saint Martin de Belleville
Tel: +33 (0)4 79 08 96 77
Image © Eliophot
La Bouitte is an exceptional savoyard chalet. René Meilleur established a Savoyard restaurant there in 1976. Twnety years later, he is joined by his son, Maxime, whereupon the chefs evolved their craft and achieved their second Michelin star in 2008.
A visit to La Bouitte is a memorable experience where guests discover many different dishes prepared according to the season with astounding artistry and concentration of flavours. The average cost for a meal at La Bouitte is around €150.
La Bouitte also offers charming guest accommodation with spa.
Restaurant La Voûte
Tel : +33 (0)4 79 08 91 48
Family run bar restaurant in the centre of the village and just a few steps from the bottom of the piste. It's busy in the main holiday season so best to reserve a table for lunchtime to enjoy the chef's specials (plat du jour €11) or a pizza. Eat on the terrace or in bad weather, there's a cosy, bustling interior.
Restaurant Le Cocon des Neiges
73440 Les Menuires
Tel :+33(0)4 79 08 78 21
Open all day, it has a large sunny terrace with views and overlooks the kindergarten area so you can keep an eye on little ones. Inside, it's furnished in contemporary style with a large bar and tables overlooking the slopes or the valley. It serves lunches and evening meals (typical midday plat du jour around €12). We enjoyed generous portions of roast chicken and chips with salad for €11,50.
Things To Do
Musée de Saint Martin
Tel : +33 (0)4 79 24 47 87
Open daily except Saturdays, times vary.
For more info visit www.st-martin-belleville.com
Entry €3, children free. Guided: €1 extra.
The story of St-Martin de Belleville is told with extraordinary domestic, agricultural and other exhibits. There are interactive and audio-visual experiences and the fascinating story of the tourist revolution which started in the sixties. A must for anyone who has fallen in love with the village or is interested in the development of ski resorts in France. English audioguides available.
Arrive in style on the ski train...
Enjoy extra days on the slopes and no surcharge for skis or boards with Eurostar Direct Ski Trains.
Self-drive ski holidays in France
Travel to France by ferry and some of the best self drive skiing in the world. Enjoy the freedom of taking unlimited baggage and up to 9 people per car via .
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Book tickets to Grenoble and take Monarch Flights to this undiscovered destination from Leeds Bradford, Manchester, Birmingham and London Gatwick. There are plenty of cheap flights available to help you get the most out of any holiday to Grenoble, whatever season you travel in.
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Pick up and ski this winter
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The formerly less-than-traditional image of one of the more practical bases in the Three Valleys is fast being transformed.
In the Vallée des Belleville, in the Savoie area of the French Alps, just south of Chambery. The road up the mountain is a long and winding one (but significantly less so than for those continuing onwards to Val Thorens). Snowfall is as abundant here as for the other high-altitude resorts in the 3V, but the local snow-clearance teams do a great job of keeping things moving on the road. All the same, if you're planning on self-driving you'll need to carry snow-chains or textile snow-socks (and be familiar with fitting them).
As for basing yourself here in what is effectively the ‘third valley’, you shouldn’t feel at all marginalised. On one side, capable lifts will haul you smoothly to drop in on Méribel, which in turn offers rapid access to Courchevel. And there’s the very worthwhile option of dropping down into nearby Saint-Martin de Belleville – or heading considerably higher in and around Val Thorens.
Dependable snowfalls, a modern, efficient lift system and excellent grooming are hallmarks of the Three Valleys.
The 3 Vallées are billed as The World’s Largest Ski Area, and we’re not about to disagree. Neither will you; unless you’re in for the season, there’s little danger of skiing it all out. Which isn’t to say you can’t have a whole lot of fun trying.
The local Les Menuires/Saint-Martin lift-pass offers plenty of varied terrain, but since the whole point of skiing here is to have access to the whole Three Valleys area, you'll probably regret not going for the full lift-pass.
That said, skiing in this sector is not without its own rewards. You'll find the gentler terrain on the side of the valley which bounds Méribel, along with some long runs over towards Saint Martin de Belleville (the Red/Blue-graded Jérusalem being a particular favourite). There's also a good-sized Fun Park beside the Sunny Express chairlift.
Across the valley things are a little steeper below the Pointe de la Masse, although apart from a couple of Blacks there's nothing to intimidate most intermediates. And the views from the top of the gondola lift alone make this an essential visit.
Early morning finds Bruyères village awakening to another ski-day.
You'll make worthwhile savings on accommodation and dining out by basing yourself here in Les Menuires, rather than in Méribel or Courchevel (yet you get to share exactly the same vast ski area). True, there was a time not so long ago when the high-rise image of the developments around La Croisette, Brelin and Preyerand was something of a handicap, but recent years the Les Bruyères and Reberty areas have softened things with a more traditional, Savoyard chalet feel.
This more authentic mountain has since spread to La Sapinière, Reberty 2000, Les Balcons des Bruyères, Les Hameaux des Marmottes and Les Airelles. Even MGM/CGH has been convinced, adding the 4*Les Clarines in the Preyerand area. Result: Les Menuires is now a nice place to be, and has some very stylish services, too (see our reviews, left).
The first skiers break for an early lunch beside the Bruyères gondola.
Skiing from this side of the Trois Vallées will suit those looking for worthwhile savings, without the need to commute to and from the ski area; it's all right there on your doorstep. What you won't find, though, are sheltered, tree-lined pistes, but this might not be an issue for you. We'd say that it's a logical choice for keen skiers who want speedy access to Val Thorens (but in a less exposed setting) or families and mixed-ability groups who value the range of facilities including the large Fun Park. And those who can't leave their social network (or business) behind will appreciate the multiple (payable) WIFI zones around the resort areas.
Fresh snow has fallen overnight in the Belleville valley, evidence of which we see during the steady climb from Chambery during late December. After passing Saint Martin de Belleville, looking as pretty as ever, we turn towards Les Menuires. Our hotel, the Isatis, is on the far side of the village in the Les Bruyères area, and our apartment offers us interesting overviews of goings-on around the modern gondola lift.
There's going to be some snow-clearance needed around the loading area of the Bruyères gondola.
Next morning, despite the fact that the location is as close to ski-in/ski-out as it gets around here, we decide to head down to another lift, for a haul up to the Pointe de la Masse (2804m) on the opposite side of the valley. As we'd hoped, the early morning conditions here are just perfect, with few signs of ice to unsettle our skis. Just 100m or so along the Red-graded Fred Covili piste we pass Le Bouquetin, a 3.5m-high mountain goat in larch by wood sculptor Marc Georgeault.
Le Bouquetin surveys the surrounding mountain scenery from beside the Red-graded Fred Covili piste.
Here the piste divides, offering another Red-graded alternative (Crêtes, which feeds onto the Lac Noir Black) but we continue onwards to join the network of Blues spreading out from the lifts lower down. Ahead of us we can see the whole of the upper valley, revealing for the first time Les Menuires' surprisingly sheltered location. By now the gradient has eased slightly, and our final drop back to our starting-point is a gentle cruise.
The Brelin area, seen here from the Mur Rouge piste below Pointe de la Masse (2804m).
Now we head over to the Roc des Trois-Marches gondola to see how conditions are shapng up on the opposite side of the valley. On the ride up it's looking promising, so at the top station we ski over to join the Mont de la Chambre chairlift for a haul up to 2850m. From here we could drop straight over into neighbouring Méribel, but having done that last season we decide instead to get better acquainted with Les Menuires’s own terrain. There are any number of routes back down to the village, most of them Red- or Blue-graded, and if you were staying for a week or so you could do worse than spending a morning skiing right here without ever quite repeating yourself. Sadly, we don’t have that luxury, so we work our way slowly and deliberately over towards the Bruyères area, above which we stop for lunch at the Chalet Hotel Kaya. It turns out to be an inspired choice, with a satisfyingly varied menu and a large sundeck overlooking the pistes.
The Chalet Hotel Kaya, set beside the wide return pistes to Bruyères, contributes to the changing face of Les Menuires.
We emerge from our meal feeling far too relaxed to power up the energy levels for awhile, so we’re more than happy to join the other skiers taking it easy on the gentler terrain on this side of the ski area. But not everyone feels the same, judging by the steady flow of freestylers keen to develop their tricks over in the snowpark. You can’t help but be impressed by the confidence and flair (not to mention the energy reserves) of the new generation of skiers and boarders who are changing the outside world's perception of on-mountain activities, but our self-preservation instincts override any temptation we might secretly harbour about joining them.
In any case, we're elated enough by the sheer magic of skiing our last runs of the day, as the sun slips below the nearby peaks and hints at the kind of sunset which counteracts the sudden chill of evening.
The final cruise of the day comes early in late December.
After a great day’s skiing we head back to the hotel in a reflective mood and prepare to enjoy an evening meal at the legendary (two) Michelin-starred La Bouitte Chalet Restaurant, over in Saint Martin de Belleville. Which is another story we’ll be adding soon...
© Roger Moss
Follow the A430 to Albertville, then Moûtiers. Take the D117 for 27km to Les Menuires.
The nearest airport is Chambery (100km). For bus connections see www.mobisavoie.fr (in English) to book your journey in advance. An adult return from Chambery airport costs €50.
Alpes Savoie Tours offers more individual service with vehicles from 4 to 53 seats - see www.alpes-savoie-tours.com
This couldn't be easier - travel by from London to Moûtiers every Saturday.
High-speed TGV services run daily from Paris, also bookable through RailEurope.
Late arrivals on Saturday nights can visit the Information chalet at the entrance to the village where help will be at hand to guide you to your accommodation. Tel: +33 (0)4 79 00 69 04.
There's also a left luggage facility (€2) and showers at the Sports Centre (0800 - 2030 Saturdays)
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