We spent a week skiing the expansive Les Trois Vallees ski area (hence the long blog title). And all in all we were thoroughly impressed with the place!
Les Trois Vallees is made up of three distinct resorts: Courchevel, Meribel, and Val Thorens. Each resort having its own satellite communities: Les Menuires, Brides les Bains, etc. And La Tania where we stayed.
The village of La Tania is pretty small compared to the other towns in the 3 Vallees. It is car free; has a couple of hotels and apartment blocks, some ski rentals, restaurants, a playground, and a few shops, with chalets up on the hill. All of these factors give the resort a sleepy (but in a good way) feel. While there is some apres-ski activity at the two main bars in town, there is also an equal number of families out sledding on the empty pistes after dinner.
We booked this time through Crystal Ski and chose a ‘self catering’ option – meaning we stayed in an apartment and were responsible for our own meals. Aside from what we picked up for breakfast; we cooked our own dinner twice, did takeaway meals twice, and ate out three times. We did find that doing most of our own meal prep (and I’m counting buying cooked food and bringing it back to the apartment) dramatically cut down the cost of our holiday.
Also, since we weren’t going during a school break we found all of the resorts to be considerably less crowded. Which meant that when we went to rent skis, the two shops we went into offered prices lower than their printed flyers. Perhaps we there was even more room for negotiation, but we were so pleased with the discount we didn’t try.
Two of the three restaurants we went to for dinner were in La Tania. Both of which we were very good. This first was La Taiga, were we tried the traditional Savoyard cheese meal of Raclette, which is a type of cheese that is melted under a table-side broiler. You scrape off a layer of melted cheese onto your plate and eat with the boiled potatoes, cured meats, and salad that are served alongside. It is very tasty and novel meal, and I prefer it over fondue.
The other was Le Farcon, a Michelin star restaurant, that is a little bit out-of-place in small budget-friendly La Tania. Le Farcon only serves two set menus; two at lunch and two at dinner. There are Madame & Monsieur plans; men at served one set of dishes and women another. Each course shares the same primary ingredient, but there are different components. It is a way for the chef to play with ingredients, rather sexism. If you would like your opposite genders menu, the restaurant is absolutely fine with that.
Courchevel is the main resort to La Tania, and is made up of four villages: Courchevel (1850), Courchevel – Moriond (1650), Courchevel – Village (1550), and Le Praz (1350). It is
best to know each village name and altitude since the signage in the resort isn’t consistent and may use one or the other. Courchevel has a pretty posh reputation and eating in the resort and on the mountain can be a little expensive, but with a little planning there are ways to cut down on costs.
In the center of Courchevel there is a mall, Du Forum. Which has some shops, a small grocery store, some restaurants, and a small bakery, which sells sandwiches. There is a small sitting area, but you can also take the sandwiches to go, ride to the top of the Verdons gondola where there is an indoor picnic area. On the mountain we found Le Bouc Blanc (between Courchevel and La Tania) to be fairly affordable as well.
As for the snow in Courchevel, we were very impressed. While snow conditions in France had been improving since the new year, there is still a layer of ice underneath the snow; so towards the end of each day the snow was scraped off. But, we found that the resort did a very good job of grooming each night and made the most of the conditions. However, by the end of the week a meter of snow had fallen in Courchevel. And our concerns about ice were vanquished. On our last day, the storm was mostly finished and I had the opportunity to ski is fresh powder for the first time. While my husband loved it, I found the experience to be very disconcerting. It works different muscles than typical skiing, so I got tired pretty easily. Plus you need to lean back more to keep the tips of your skis up, which is in direct contradiction to every ski instructor I’ve ever had telling me to lean forward. Hubs loved it though!
For the non-skiers (aside from the shopping) that mall in the center of Courchevel also has a bowling alley, climbing wall, and a skating rink. Elsewhere in the town was also a movie theater with movies in both French and English.
Les Trois Vallees
Courchevel has ski links to two other major resorts; Meribel and Val Thorens, the highest ski resort in Europe. Val Thorens is the furthest away of the resorts, and it was a basically a half-day ski to get there. So after lunch, there is only time for a run or two before we had to make our way back. As a result, I can’t offer many observations about Val Thorens; but its high altitude did provide us with the least icy conditions.
Meribel has a quite easy connection with Courchevel, especially from the La Tania end of the resort; so we skied there a few afternoons. I don’t know why this would be, but we found Meribel to cater to the more advanced skier. It’s not like they gave me a ski tests as we skied in. But after skiing the pistes, I did feel like I noticed fewer beginners than I had in Courchevel. Also, in Meribel’s center gondola area there were ski demo tents that allowed you to try out various types of skis, a service that the more advanced skier would be interested in.
We were thorough impressed with Courchevel. We felt it offered a wide variety of well-groomed pistes. And we didn’t feel like we were skiing the same few runs over and over. And while it can be pricey, we definitely found ways to keep our costs down. Of the places we’ve skied, it is definitely our favorite. And we’ve even made arrangements to go back!