The Three Valleys run from Courchevel to Orelle in the French Alps, and the eight linked ski resorts collectively create the biggest ski area in the world. With some 600 km of runs, you can ski or snowboard all week and not cover the same terrain twice.
But there’s far more to the Three Valleys than winter sports. The apres ski is legendary, and in the summer months there’s a lively programme of cultural events, not to mention uncountable routes for hiking and mountain biking. The Alps create a stunning panorama at any time of the year, and it’s well worth coming more than once to see them in different seasons.
If you‘re planning a trip, here’s our pick of the Top 10 things to see and do:
1. Art at the Summit, Courchevel
Unforgettable artworks aren’t confined by gallery walls. For the past decade, Art at the Summit has taken place every year in Courchevel, bringing extraordinary works of sculpture to the villages and slopes. Throughout the season, you might find yourself standing in front of Dali’s surreal melting clock face outside the tourism office, or step off a chair lift and see contemporary Parisian sculptor Richard Orlinski’s bright red King Kong beating his chest.
For most skiers in the resort, sightings of the artworks are a surprise. More serious art lovers, however, can follow an art tour across the mountainside, ensuring they take each unique masterpiece in.
2. The Tyrolienne, Val Thorens
If skiing a black run doesn’t give you a big enough adrenalin kick, you need to ride The Tyrolienne. This 1,300 m long zip line stretches from Val Thorens to Orelle, reaching speeds of up to 105 km per hour.
It is exhilarating without a doubt, but if you can keep your eyes open long enough to soak up the views, the panorama really is the highlight of the experience. This is the closest you’ll ever get to flying like a bird; the landscape 250 m below you really is breathtaking.
3. Fahrenheit 7, Courchevel 1650
Drinking beer in the mountains is a must, especially when you’re looking out on snow covered peaks. Fahrenheit 7 has an extensive terrace in Courchevel 1650, where you can lounge on a deck chair in the sunshine throughout the afternoon.
The Aperol Spritz here goes down particularly well, and they also have a good list of wines.
4. Fête de la Musique, La Praz
The annual Fête de la Musique takes place in the Three Valleys in June, and the village of La Praz buzzes with the sounds of live music. Headlining this year’s calendar is Sugar Lady on 21 June. The trio will be belting out covers of French and international hits, so you had better put on your dancing shoes!
5. Aquamotion, Courchevel 1650
Has it ever occurred to you to go surfing in the Alps? Or to float in an outdoor pool with snowflakes falling on your face and the stars twinkling up above? At Aquamotion you can do both these things, and more. The multi activity complex offers everything from indoor surfing to a climbing wall, and virtual reality fitness classes to a spa.
The main swimming pool area has definitely been designed with kids in mind. You can race each other on a variety of flumes, and there are plenty of inflatables, too. Mums and dads wanting some child-free time can relax in the jacuzzis, steam rooms, and sauna, or pop into the spa for a rejuvenating massage.
6. Azimut, La Praz
Mountain air builds up an appetite, even if you’re doing very little at all. Thankfully, chef Francois Moureaux cooks up a storm at Restaurant Azimut in La Praz.
Moureaux rightly earned a Michelin star for his cooking at Azimut, and you’ll taste his skill and precision in every dish. He features local products and traditions proudly on the menu, and pairs them with some excellent wines from the Savoie region. The atmosphere in the restaurant is warm and welcoming; it feels like you are a guest in Moureaux’s stylish home
7. DC Snowpark, Meribel
There are three snowparks in the Three Valleys, one each in Meribel, Courchevel, and Val Thorens. The largest and best equipped of these is the DC Snowpark in Meribel, where freestyle snowboarders and skiers can be seen showing off their moves every winter afternoon.
Anyone with a Three Valleys ski pass can use the ski park, though if you’re a beginner it’s highly recommended to book an instructor for a lesson whilst you get used to the rollers, jumps, and half pipes. This is also a great place to come if you’re a keen photographer and want to get some action shots: there are regular DC parties, often with contests for the best freestyle tricks.
8. Moriond Racing, Courchevel 1650
Tobogganing meets Mario Kart and the Grand Prix at Moriond Racing. The 3 km sledding track is accessible via the Ariondaz gondola, and it then twists and turns through the forests all the way back to Courchevel 1650.
On the face of it, tobogganing is easy enough. All riders are given a helmet and a plastic sled, plus basic verbal instructions about how to steer and brake. Now comes the fun part: you have to put the theory into practice. Expect to fall of your sled on the very first turn, shriek on the steeper slopes, and plough into a drift of snow whilst laughing hysterically at least once. Hopefully by the time you reach the first tunnel you will have got the knack of steering, and once you approach the finishing line you might as well turn pro.
9. Danses Courchevel, Courchevel 1850
Dance! From 3-9 August, hundreds of dancers will descend on the Three Valleys for Danses Courchevel. This week long festival of dance includes more than 130 workshops taught by 25 international instructors, plus six parties for you to show off the moves you’ve learned.
The programme is aimed at enthusiastic amateurs, though by the end of the week you’ll certainly look more professional. Dance styles range from salsa to swing, and everything in between. You can take whichever combination of classes you choose.
10. Hot air ballooning, Courchevel 1850
Last but certainly not least, end your trip to the Three Valleys with an early morning flight by hot air balloon from Courchevel Altiport. Each hot air balloon basket can carry five or six guests, and the epic views include both Mont Blanc and the Vanoise National Park, the first national park created in France.
Every hot air balloon begins at sunrise when the air is still. The route and length of flight will depend partly on the weather and time of year, but typically they last three hours and are suitable for guests of any age. Be sure to bring a bottle of Champagne: it may be early, but it’s never too early for a toast!
FLY: British Airways from London Gatwick to Geneva
STAY: Le C Residence in Courchevel 1650. Apartment (sleeps 4) from €215 per night.
MORE INFO: Visit the Courchevel official website
By Sophie Ibbotson