Val Thorens ski resort Review

A Complete Review of Val Thorens: Les Trois Vallees, France

by Samuel

This year, I visited and snowboarded the infamous Val Thorens in Les Trois Vallees, tucked away in the Northeast regions of France.

As someone who typically frequents Colorado for my powder needs, Val Thorens is easily the farthest-flung destination I’ve traveled to for the sake of snowboarding.

As a first-time snowboarder in Europe, it was almost more than my American mind could comprehend. So… with a little excitement and a whole lot of stoke, I hit the road. 

As you may have guessed, this is my in-depth and unbiased Val Thorens review. 

Table of Contents

But first, Introductions!

Bonjour! My name is Samuel and I love going to places I have never snowboarded before.

As a passionate storyteller for Outdoor Master, I was overjoyed to visit Val Thorens, in France. Here is what I learned during my journey to one of Europe’s top ski destinations.

America offers some of the best snow conditions in the world, but the pure expanse of space that was available at Les Trois Vallees was breathtaking, both literally and figuratively.

Before I get into what it’s like to ski and snowboard in Val Thorens, I should tell you that Val Thorens is a ski area that is attached to two distinct yet interconnected ski areas that make up “Les Trois Vallees.” Allow me to explain…

What is Les Trois Vallees?

Les Trois Vallees (The 3 Valleys) is the largest ski area in the world! Spanning over 600 kilometers of skiable terrain, this ski area attracts visitors from all over the globe.

As arguably the most popular ski area in Europe, Les Trois Vallees is made up of three resort areas including Val Thorens, Meribel, and Couchavel. Each has its own atmosphere, cultures, histories, prices, and clientele.

While I would love to write a review on Les Trois Vallees one day, I will be focusing on Val Thorens exclusively, because that is where I spent most of my time.

The French Alps at Your Disposal: What is Skiing in Val Thorens Like?

val thorens piste map

Snowboarding in Val Thorens was unlike any experience I have had in my entire life. The sheer size of the place was enough to make me hold my breath.

From the bottom at the resort’s busiest chair live, Moutiere, the slopes stretch into the sky, littered with sharp rocks, deep powder, and enough cliffs to make a thrill-seeking skier water at the mouth.

There is so much to explore. Regardless of one’s skill level as a skier or snowboarder, I’d recommend hiring an instructor from one of Val Thorens’s many academies (for at least a half day).

That way, the instructor can show all the best places in Val Thorens and advise on which areas should be avoided.

Off-Piste & Groomers

This French ski resort looks a little bit different from those in America. At Val Thorens, there are poles sticking out of the snow to indicate where to turn. These poles map the mountain, with its hundreds of trails and slopes.

At first, I thought it was mandatory to stay within the poles, but, after consulting with a local skier, I learned that there is no such thing as ‘out-of-bounds’ at Val Thorens. 

That’s right, there is nowhere you are not allowed to go in Val Thorens!

Powder hounds don’t have to worry about getting their pass pulled for ducking some ropes. However, those who go off-piste regularly are cautioned to be wary of the mountain’s frequent avalanches.

val thorens snowboard review - riding powder

I spent much of my time at Val Thorens enjoying the seemingly endless powder of the off-piste area.

Almost every run in Val Thorens can access the off-piste. That said, skiers and snowboarders should not charge wildly into the backcountry of Val Thorens without first mapping where to go and how to stay safe.

Stay Safe Out There Folks!

On one of my runs through the powder, I came face to face with a cliff drop that would have most certainly ended my ski trip (or life) early. I was forced to walk back up to a safe spot, through snow that was often up to my waist!

I was told by one of the ski instructors that those looking to ski in the Val Thorens backcountry are encouraged to pack the correct gear, bring beacons, shovels, and avoid sketchy snow.

P.S. Here are the best avalanche transceivers for beginners >>.

Carving and Groomers

My time on the groomers and carving the off-piste powder helped me to understand why Val Thorens has been voted the best ski resort in the world (multiple times).

The groomers at Val Thorens were just as fun. With over 200 lifts spread throughout Les Trois Vallees, it is virtually impossible to hit every single one without booking for at least a week.

There are greens, blues, reds, and blacks, so there is somewhere to ski for everyone. The groomers were definitely more busy, especially the closer you got to the bottom of the mountain.

val thorens

I also learned that Val Thorens offers one of the longest ski seasons in all of Europe. It is not uncommon for the area to stay open for business into June!

Plus, the tops of the mountains keep snow year-round, so those who don’t mind walking up its steep inclines can go ski touring whenever they want!

Some Tips and Tricks

Go Back to School

Val Thorens has 5 ski schools amounting to over 400 ski instructors, so if you aren’t confident in your abilities as a skier or snowboarder, one of their many instructors is sure to help you develop your skills.

Come Prepared!

1. Goggles

I highly recommend bringing a pair of goggles with interchangeable lenses (any of these options will do). My first day was very overcast, causing the slope to blend into a white mesh that was hard to navigate. My other days were all bluebirds and I wore lenses that protected my eyes from the harsh sunlight bouncing off the bright snow. 

2. Gloves

One thing that took me by surprise was the snow itself. Snow in the French Alps is much different than the snow found in the United States.

The snow at Val Thorens was VERY dry, causing the snowpack to be thinner and harder. This made many of the slopes at Val Thorens icy, less forgiving, and more painful to fall on.

I’d recommend bringing a pair of quality gloves to protect your hands from the cold, dry snow. My heavy-duty Baist Trigger Glove was my best friend as I plowed through the pow. As someone who absolutely hates cold hands, trigger mitts are perfect for cold days, tough conditions, and off-piste skiing and snowboarding.

You can find the best trigger mittens here >>

baist gloves val thorens

3. Helmets!

I’ll avoid getting all preachy with you, but with great powder comes great responsibility. Get yourself a MIPS snowboard helmet. No excuses!

Fortunately the Val Thorens snowpack softened up around noon, when the sun was fully over the mountains and casting its warm rays over the dangerous icy patches.

From about noon to 2 pm, skiers and snowboarders take advantage of the softened snow, and that is when the slopes are busiest. After some heavy carving, most get thirsty and make their way to La Folie Douce.

The Famous Val Thorens Apres-Ski

Many of those who visit Val Thorens, do so because the apres-ski is outrageous. In French, apres-ski means “after-ski.” AKA the after party!

La Folie Douce!!!

At around 2:30 pm, the party begins at Val Thorens. Those who are of age make their way to the Plein Sud chair lift to access La Folie Douce (“sheer madness”).

La Folie Douce is a restaurant where weary skiers can rest, have lunch, drink hot chocolate, and sunbathe.

But… once the clock strikes 2:30 pm, parents begin ushering their children down the slopes. Why? Because La Folie Douce transforms into the liveliest place in all of France. Seriously!

With a different DJ every day playing a mix of house and techno music, the patrons of La Folie Douce are treated to an intense dance party that stretches into the late afternoon.

With the drinks flowing and the music bumping, there is sure to be a good time every single day at La Folie Douce.

At around 4 pm, the party stops and it’s time to ski or snowboard down the mountain. The only problem is most of the partygoers are happily intoxicated. For this reason, many congregate atop the slopes to watch the spectacle of hundreds of drunken skiers navigating their way down, crashing and tumbling.

Other Nightlife Options

In addition to La Folie Douce, there are plenty of bars and clubs for visitors to let off some steam. With countless bars scattered around the resort’s city center, locals know the best spots to go.

Wild and Savage bar is the perfect place to start the evening. With a few drinks down the hatch, partygoers can make their way to Le Malaysia, the world’s largest resort nightclub. This club features a 1,500-meter squared dance floor for the many happy feet that shuffle and jump to the club’s bumping tunes. 

Most bars and clubs close around 2 am, and after a long night of partying, visitors can walk to their hotels to get some much-needed rest for their next day of skiing.

Staying Safe and Aware of Your Surroundings

Shooting_ski_amis - T.Loubere OT Val Thorens - 2-2

The importance of being aware of yourself while skiing at Val Thorens cannot be overstated. There are countless spots that lead to avalanche territory or a cliff that drops off for about 100 feet.

That is why I recommend hiring an instructor.

An instructor will be able to identify volatile snow and direct you to a fun skiing experience without the danger.

For example: All it took was a moment of lost concentration for me to become incredibly lost.

The time was 4pm. I was skiing with a friend and we took a chair lift up the mountain without first caring to look where it was taking us. We got off and skied all the way to the bottom… to a place we did not recognize.

At this point, it was 5 pm and the chair lifts were not moving. After asking someone where we were, we learned we were in Meribel, one of the other 3 vallees.

With the chair lifts out of order, we were forced to take a taxi all the way back to Val Thorens later. €200 and two hours later, we made it back to our chalet. An expensive mistake to make!

Ski Passes, Lodging, and Food

OT Val Thorens

As part of the largest ski area in the world, Val Thorens does not disappoint when it comes to places to stay and spots to eat. But what about the lift tickets?

1. Ski Passes

Unlike the United States, where some have to sell their kidney to afford a day at Breckenridge or Vail, Val Thorens makes skiing accessible and affordable for all… with single-day ski passes starting at €60/person.

That said, there are lots of options for people to choose from. From big groups to small groups, Val Thorens offers multiple options to make ski holidays more affordable and easier to plan.

Here are their main plans:

  • Family Pass – €300/person (6 days for 2 parents + 2 children)
  • Adult Solo Pass – €375/person (6 days)
  • Tribe Pass – €355/person (6 days for 3 people)
  • Solo Child Pass – €300/person (6 days)
  • Senior Solo pass – €337.50/person (6 days)
  • Veteran Solo Pass – €93.70/person (6 days)

Season Passes

Val Thorens also offers a season pass, which is well worth the money for those who travel the world for skiing. Starting at €724/person, users of the Val Thorens season pass can ski whenever they want. You will also have 3 free days at Shiga Kogen in Japan, Mount Buller in Australia, as well as La Parva and Valle Nevado in Chile. Additionally, they can enjoy 3 x 2 consecutive days at Vail Resorts’ locations in the USA.

2. Hotels & Accommodation

val thorens hotels and accomodation

Everywhere you walk in Val Thorens, hotels stretch into the blue sky. Here are some of the best hotels visitors can stay at, according to Trip Advisor.

  • Hôtel 3 Vallées
  • Résidence Koh-i Nor By Les Etincelles
  • Le Val Thorens
  • Hôtel Koh-i Nor By Les Etincelles
  • Fahrenheit Seven Val Thorens
  • Hotel Club MMV Les Arolles
  • Altapura Hotel

With many places to stay in Val Thorens, visitors can pick whatever they please. Many of the resorts are 5-star hotels, offering the best of the best when it comes to accommodations, and others are more affordable, designed to accommodate those who simply want to enjoy the many facets of Val Thorens.

Visitors can expect to spend around $200 a night during the non-busy season at Val Thorens. Conversely, visitors can expect to spend upwards of $400 a night during the busiest times of the year at Val Thorens.

3. Food Options & Restaurants

Just like the hotels in Val Thorens, there are countless restaurants and places to eat within the ski area. Conveniently, there are also grocery stores scattered around and visitors can stock up on food, wine, and shots of Jägermeister (that you should definitely not sneak into La Folie Douce).

There are many restaurants in Val Thorens, some to satisfy your needs for delicious French delicacies such as fondue and braised deer. From French classics to ethnic delicacies, there is something for everyone at Val Thorens.

During my stay in Val Thorens, I had lunch on the mountain at Chalet des Deux Lacs, where I ate a delectable serving of beef tartare, french fries, and a side of bread.

For one of my dinners, I went to the well-known Le Vieux Chalet, where I ate a braised deer served with vegetables and finished my meal with a rich espresso and a sweet passionfruit ice cream. Take a look:

val thorens food

Non-Ski-Related Activities

For people who don’t love to ski or snowboard all day (I’m told they exist), there is more than plenty to do at Val Thorens.

While there are tons of things to do at Val Thorens, here are just a couple that are especially popular with first-time visitors.

The Cosmojet

Enjoy the longest sledding experience in all of France! This 6-kilometer slope begins at Peclet Glacier, which is 3,000 meters above sea level!

This immersive experience is one to remember, as it takes nearly 45 minutes to reach the bottom. Although I was unable to do this during my trip, I would have loved to experience this scenic sled ride.


At Val Thorens, there are two ziplines that visitors can hang from. The first is La Bee located in the heart of the resort. This 1,800-meter descent takes skiers and snowboarders down the mountain without having to touch the snow!

The second zipline is the Tyrolienne du Bouchet, the highest zipline in Europe. This 1,300 ride offers some of the best views in all of Les 3 Vallees.

Events and Festivals

On top of being an awesome resort with world-class skiing, dining, and lodging, Val Thorens is a popular spot for festivals and events. Here is what the ski area has lined up for the 2023/2024 season:

  • November 24-26 – Ski Mountaineering World Cup
  • November 25-26 – La Grande Premiere
  • December 7-8 – Ski Cross World Cup
  • January 21-24 – Ski Force Pro
  • March 19-21 – Festival’Tho (a three-day music festival)
  • March 31 – 3 Vallees Enduro
  • May 4-5 – La Grande Derniere

How Do You Get to Val Thorens?

There are many ways to get to Val Thorens, but which way is the best?

Lyon → Val Thorens

The best and most common way to get to Val Thorens is via Lyon, France. I flew from London to Lyon, a 1.5-hour flight. From there, I was able to rent a car and make my 2.5-hour drive to Val Thorens, viola!

That said,  there are other ways to get to Val Thorens…

You can shuttle, which is just as convenient. Or, you could take the train from Lyon to Moûtiers, where you can get a taxi or a bus to your hotel in Val Thorens.

If you wish to avoid flying into Lyon, or that is a more inconvenient option, you can also get to Val Thorens from Paris and Geneva, Switzerland. Both are ideal cities to fly into. Once there, travelers can either rent a car or take transit to Moûtiers.

Would I Go Back to Val Thorens?

In a heartbeat! While the winter season is (sadly) coming to a close, I have added Val Thorens to my list of places to snowboard in the coming season.

For me, and many Americans like myself, Val Thorens is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Although I don’t speak a lick of French and I had to travel to the other side of the world, skiing in the French Alps was something I always dreamed of. I will be back for sure!

val thorens review - night

If any Americans are reading this, you need to know this: 

Skiing in France is accessible, affordable, and worth the effort!

It’s getting pricey to visit certain resorts in America (cough Vail cough), so now is the best time for that trip you’ve always wanted. France is calling and Val Thorens offers a welcoming environment for all.

Click HERE to learn more about Val Thorens!

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