Off piste run in ski resort

Why The Tarentaise Valley is The Best Part of The Alps

By: Cliff Frank

The Tarentaise Valley hosts the largest group of Olympic quality ski runs anywhere. The valley also has beautiful towns with luxurious resorts open both for winter sports and summer fun.

Long before Caesar invaded Gaul, Darantsia was the capital of a tribe called the Centrones. Le Vallée de la Tarentaise is named after this ancient village. The Tarentaise Valley runs along the Isère River in Savoy, a typically beautiful region of the French Alps.

There are four towns in the valley: Albertville, at the western entrance, is the largest, followed by Moûtiers, Aime, and Bourg-Saint-Maurice. These towns support world-class ski resorts, headlined by Les Trois Vallées, Paradiski, and Les Arcs. The 1992 Winter Olympics was hosted by the city of Albertville and used the fantastic slopes of the Tarentaise Valley. If you ski, these resorts are the primary reason that you should make the Tarentaise Valley a destination.

Les Trois Vallées has more slopes and cross-country trails than any ski area in the world. It is a beautiful year-round tourist destination as it intersects with the Vanoise National Park, one of the most beautiful National Parks in Europe. There are currently four valleys with interconnected ski lifts which create the greatest variety of skiing on a single lift pass anywhere. There are 370 miles of ski slopes and about 800 miles of cross-country trails. Les Trois Vallées currently runs 183 ski lifts transporting as many as 260,000 skiers every hour. Les Trois Vallées places a strong emphasis on safety and employs 424 ski patrollers for the protection of its clients. It also hires 1,500 ski instructors, so rest assured that you don't have to be an Olympian to have a great time.

Paradiski offers fantastic ski slopes between La Plagne, Les Arcs and Peisey-Vallandry. Beginning in December 2003 Paradiski has been served by the Vanoise Express, a double-decker cable car that connects La Plagne with Les Arcs. The Vanoise Express is an exciting ride, transporting 200 people at a time more than 1,200 feet above the valley in a ride that takes seven to ten minutes. It has a pair of units that can run independently and is constructed without pylons. Paradiski offers a lift pass that connects it to Les Trois Vallées.

Les Arcs is considered the first of the "mega-resorts.” Its architecture is 20th century "avant-garde" for the most part, though its newest structures are built in the 19th-century chalet tradition.

In the Winter Olympics of 1992, Arc 2000 was used for speed skiing. The slope is 2000 meters long with a stopping zone of 700 meters. This slope is still there, one of the many reasons that the Tarentaise Valley is considered the finest skiing destination in the French Alps.

Bourg-Saint-Maurice, Arc 1600, Arc 1800, Arc 1950, and Arc 2000 form the spectacular area called Les Arcs, which hosts 106 ski runs served by 54 lifts. The high point is the mountain called Aiguille Rouge (Red Needle) with a vertical drop of more than 2000 meters that descend directly to the lovely hamlet of Villaroger.

snow covered hillside with ski chalet in the distance

Skiing the 3 Valleys

Skiing the 3 Valleys, or Les 3 Vallées, as its known in France will keep you busy for a lifetime and is probably one of the world’s largest ski areas with a whopping 600km of pistes, 321 downhill skiing pistes, more than 2,100 snow canons and 169 ski lifts.

The area as a whole enjoys excellent snow sure skiing on a range of slopes for skiers and snowboarders of all ability levels as well as some seriously breathtaking vistas.

Known for attracting celebrate skiers such as the Beckhams, Elton John, Robbie Williams and even Royalty the region is also home to 12 Michelin-starred restaurants so if you desire, expect excellent gastronomy during your stay.

Resorts of the 3 Valleys

  • Courchevel, located in the Saint-Bon valley (altitude between 1,300 and 1,850 metres).
  • Méribel and Méribel-Mottaret, based in the Allues valley (altitude 1,500 and 1,700 metres, respectively). Méribel is the main town in the Allues valley.
  • Brides-les-Bains is a spa resort also based in the Allues valley (altitude 600 metres). It is linked to Méribel by cable car.
  • La Tania is located between these two valleys in the smaller La Perrière valley (altitude 1,350 metres). It offers easy access to the slopes of Courchevel and Méribel.
  • Saint Martin de Belleville can be found in the Belleville valley (altitude 1,400 metres).
  • Les Menuires is also located in the Belleville valley (altitude 1,850 metres).
  • Val Thorens, the highest ski resort in Europe (altitude 2,300 metres), is also based within the Belleville valley.
  • Orelle can be found in the smaller Maurienne valley (altitude 900 metres) close to the Belleville valley. It provides easy access to the highest point in the area: la Pointe du Bouchet (altitude 3,400 metres).

3 Valleys accommodation

Snowchateaux offers fantastic chalets in La Tania and Méribel, right in the heart of the 3 Valleys. Set within traditional Alpine villages and just a stone’s throw from the slopes, the finest foods are on offer here throughout the day.

Freeride Lodge’s catered chalet in Méribel-Mottaret is just 100 metres from the closest ski lift and a short walk from the village. When you’re not out and about, you can enjoy a glass of wine on the sun terrace or get cosy in front of the log fire.

Ski out of the Blue have fantastic luxury chalets close to the pistes of Meribel. Choose from two perfect chalets, Neve and Tapia.

Mountain Lodge Adventures offer stunning chalets in the heart of St Martin de Belleville. IF you are looking for village charm, St Martin is a stunning setting with great access to the Les Menuires and Val Thorens slopes.

How to get to the 3 Valleys ski area.

Skiing the 3 Valleys has never been easier, it is within easy reach of Geneva airport, which is around two to two and a half hours away by car.  Grenoble and Lyon airports are both options at around two and a half hours away and Chambery airport is the closest at a stones throw of one and a half hours driver or transfer.

The simplest and most cost-effective way to travel between the resort and the airport is of course via a reputable transfer company. If you are looking to book a transfer to get to the 3 Valleys, contact Mountain Rescue Transfers.

chalet-broski in the snow

Why Saint Martin de Belleville makes an excellent ski resort

Saint Martin de Belleville is a small, picturesque resort with plenty to offer. Set in the mountains at an altitude of 1,450 metres, it is a fantastic place to ski with spectacular views in every direction.

Visitors can enjoy the slopes here in the heart of the famous Three Valleys region without waiting in long queues. There are gentle slopes for beginners, a selection of blue and red slopes for intermediates, and safe off-piste areas for experienced skiers. There are also plenty of options for snowboarders. 

Other activities on offer in Saint Martin de Belleville include mountain biking and hiking during the summer months, with 20 biking and 50 hiking trails within easy reach. Canyoning and rafting lay down the gauntlet for more daring visitors, while those looking to take it a little easier can enjoy shopping, concerts, spa treatments, craft fairs and visits to the village’s quaint church and museum. There are several excellent restaurants and bars in the region, where you can sample locally produced food and wine.

 

Great places to stay in Saint Martin de Belleville

Why Saint Martin de Belleville

Snow Trippin: A above and beyond luxury experience in the beautiful chalet Broski. A truly owner operated experience we can highly recomend. (Chalet Broski featured picture)

Mountain Lodge AdventuresChalet Alpage offers charm and character, accommodating up to 12 guests. In the evenings you can unwind in either of its two lounges or hang out in the sauna.

Ski TaliniSki Talini offers three luxurious, catered chalets that can accommodate large groups of up to 13. Offering incredible views, you can also enjoy the services a personal chef during your stay.

The Alpine Club: The Alpine club is a selection of beautiful ski chalets each offering excellent service and exceptional food and wine.

How to get to Saint Martin de Belleville

Just over an hour away, Chambery is the closest airport to Saint Martin de Belleville. However, Geneva, Grenoble and Lyon are all about two hours away, so you will have plenty of choice when you book your flights.

You can hire a car at any of the above airports and drive to the resort yourself, but many visitors opt to book an airport transfer instead. This is a more affordable option and means you don’t have to worry about navigating to or from the airport.