Val Thorens, built in the beginning of the 1970’s at the end of the Vallee de Belleville, sits at 2,300 meters – making it the highest resort in Europe. Because it’s purpose built, it’s also very convenient, with a lot of the accommodation directly on or near most slopes. Unfortunately, like a lot of the French resorts from the 70’s, the landscape of Val Thorens is littered with some hideous architecture. Also, the ‘convenience’ of the layout means that you may well step out of your bathroom naked to find a smiling (or screaming!) family waving at you from a passing chairlift!
- Highest Point: 3,220m
- Descent: 920m
- No. lifts: 31
Some recent aesthetic improvements have been made to the buildings however, and if you’re not too fussed about architecture then Val Thorens is an unpretentious snowboarder’s paradise. Cheaper than the neighbouring (and linked) resorts Meribel or Courchevel, it has over 600 km of pistes up to altitudes of 3,200m, one of the best parks in France and some amazing freeriding. The Pass Duo gives any two people who buy the same kind of lift ticket an extra €10 knocked off the price.
La Folie Douce, the open air club near the Plein Sud chair at 2,400m, has kick-started the après scene here. Along with its counter-part, the 360 Degree bar, the parties have to be seen to be believed, and there are loads of restaurants and bars at the bottom of the hill to fill the hours after dark.
The Parks – 5/5
In recent years things have improved massively on the park front. The park is usually already up and running in great shape by early December, thanks mostly to the fact that they cover the snow-mounds with tarp in the summer. The extensive snowmaking facilities allow the dedicated crew of shapers to build what is now one of the best parks in France, with kickers up to 25 metes in length.
“Take an early trip up to the Cime de Caron for one of the best views in Europe before the queues build up“
Local riders come from nearby resorts to session the line of four advanced kickers (with smaller options) that lead into the gap jib feature over the old Cime de Caron cable car, and the large hip at the bottom. From the two draglifts, a line of five smaller intermediate kickers separate the kicker areas from the jib lines. There are also beginner kickers, pole jams, tyre jibs, street rails, boxes and whoops, all of which are roped off to prevent ignorant tourists using your landing as a sightseeing spot.