Phil Smith, Director of Snoworks gives his top 10 reasons why La Tania, Courchevel and The Three Valleys is one of the greatest ski areas in the world. Photo: Heading into the forth Couloir from the Saulire cable car in Courchevel 1850.
It’s big and we mean big! Here are the stats for the 10 largest ski areas in the world with total pistes, number of lifts, transport capacity per hour. (these are ski areas you can ski between with no busses needed). The 3 Valleys is out in front by a mile.
2. BEGINNERS & INTERMEDIATES
For beginners Courchevel has to be the best place to learn in the world. As an instructor you’re looking for a seamless progression of pistes from absolutely flat through to Green, Blue and Red Runs. The runs need to be wide and not on cambers. The lifts need to have easy on and off sections, not T-bars or high speed drags going through wooded areas where if you fall off it’s a hike through a forest back to the piste. Courchevel has it all – it’s the best place to learn to ski without a doubt.
For intermedates – Wow! What more can you say. The Three Valleys is intermediates heaven. Just look at these stats:
Blue Runs – 152
Red Runs – 119
You can ski from Courchevel to Val Thorens and back and select your slope choice accordingly and for those interested in progressing to the next level there are 33 blacks to choose from. Other resorts do not even come close to this amount of choice.
3. ADVANCED / OFF-PISTE
With 33 Blacks to choose from plus endless off-piste you can ski a whole week and not even come close to skiing the same run twice. Here’s an example of one 3 hour local off-piste session setting off from the top of the La Tania bubble.
Meet the group and take the Dou des Lanches chairlift. From the top head skiers right and take the path towards Meribel. From any point along the path pick a spot and ski off-piste towards Meribel Village. This aspect always holds the snow well and is a great warm up. Take the Plan De L’Homme chair followed by Tougnette 2. From the top you can head directly off-piste to Roc de Tougne, another nice bit of off-piste that links the two lifts well. Take the Roc de Tougnes drag. From the top head head back on yourself and take skiers right and you have magnificent access to some really great off-piste. One option, keep heading skiers right and drop into a couloir and access a large bowl that brings you out at the bottom of Plateirs 2. Take the Platiers 2 and from the top come back on yourself and take a traverse to skiers right into Marioland. An off-piste area in heart of the Meribel lift system hardly ever skied. From the bottom of Marioland shuss all the way back to Meribel Mottoret and take Pas du Lac to the top of the Saulire. Don’t take the piste. Head across to the helicopter pad and into the couloirs directly below the Saulire cable car. Still not finished – from the bottom of the couloirs head skiers left as far as you can round the back of Rocher de L’ombre and ski off-piste more or less all the way back into Courchevel 1850.
Result: 7 ski lifts, 6 great off-piste routes, 3 hours and you’ve only just scratched the surface.
Were do we begin. Where else can you buy a 300 page off-piste book packed with ski routes? Les Cles des 3 Vallees has everything you need. Written by Didier Givois it’s a magnificent book which encompasses every off-piste and backcountry route in the 3 valleys along with magnificent photos. You can ski Backcountry for the next 5 ski trips and still not cover all the off-piste potential.
Here are a few just routes to wet your appetite:
LES AVALS – A wonderful backcountry area on the far side of Courchevel 1650 with an abundant of different routes either returning back to 1650 or you can head further afield with some skinning and take some magnificent off-piste descents into the resort of Pralognan.
LAC DU LOU – A classic off-piste route in the Les Menuires, Val Thorens sector. A stunning descent from 3195 metres from the Cime du Caron to 1800 metres via the Lac du Lou. Not a lift in site and no skinning required.
VALEE DES ENCOMBRES – On the outer limits of The Three Valleys from the top of la Masse you can head over the back and into the valley that overlooks St Michael du Maurienne. A stunning descent to the hamlet of Planchette where a little further you can pick up a taxi and head to the Orelle gondola in The Forth Valley. Or alternatively take the off-piste route back around into Three Valleys via the hamlet of Chatelard to St Martin de Belleville.
Need I say more. You can literally ski for a whole week and not ski the same run twice. Now that’s choice.
6. MODERN LIFT SYSTEM
The three valleys has one of the most modern infrastructures in the world. Huge cable cars, high speed telecabines, fast chairs. Nowhere else can you be uplifted so quickly and efficiently. Maximising skiing time minimising waiting time. The 3 Valleys has the world’s largest uplift capacity at 242,000 skiers per hour!
For those skiers that like their runs well prepared then you’ve arrived in heaven. In most resorts you’ll see ridges where the tracks from the piste machine join but in Courchevel it’s like a carpet. It’s a ‘carving’ paradise.
8. SNOW CANNONS
The Three Valleys has invested in a massive 2007 Cannons that’s higher then any other ski area in the world.
When the weather comes in head to the trees. In Courchevel you can immediately head down to 1550, La Praz and La Tania. The two blacks down to La Praz, Jockeys and Jean Blanc offer two of the finest Blacks that meander through the trees.
Finally cost – head to La Tania and you have access to the best ski area in the world at a cost you’ll find difficult to beat in any resort in the world.