Published the 24 March 2014
A legendary run is a story of thrills, stunning landscapes, anecdotes, connections, a unique atmosphere or a spark of madness... something indefinable that earns it a place amongst the legends.
From locals to holidaymakers via 3 Vallées addicts, we've asked everyone's opinion to ensure your ski tips will be itching to get onto these legendary 3 Vallées runs.
Whether you're here with your family, for sports, some quiet reflection or as beginners, there's something for everyone so we can all share some of Les 3 Vallées' treasures. But first of all, a bit of history!
Les 3 Vallées ski area is a network of 8 resorts: Courchevel, La Tania, Méribel, Brides-les-Bains, Les Menuires, Saint Martin de Belleville, Val Thorens and Orelle for the best of skiing and the best of the mountains!
"That's another reason we come to Les 3 Vallées, you come across exceptional places around the corner, not just at the summits"; one holidaymaker's opionion.
One idea, 3 valleys, 75 years of history...
In 1925, Arnold Lunn (the British inventor of the Slalom) made an incredible geographical discovery; an exceptional site comprising three valleys: Saint-Bon, Les Allues and Les Belleville.
A number of pioneers, visionaries and bold innovators rose to the audacious challenge of making Les 3 Vallées into the largest doorstep skiing area in the world. The challenge was achieved and maintained by other champions and visionaries, the best known being Jean Blanc and Emile Allais.
In a few figures:
- 600 kilometres of runs, the equivalent to the distance between Val Thorens and Paris
- 45,000 hectares of natural environment, the equivalent to the Seychelles' surface area
- 105km² of slopes a larger area than Greater Paris
- 318 runs at altitudes between 1,300 and 3,230 metres
- 172 ski lifts
- 50% beginners' runs (green and blue) and 50% expert runs (red and black)
- 1 single lift pass: the famous 3 Vallées ski pass
- 25 summits accessible on skis
- 1,200 ski lift agents at your service
- 62,000 metres of cumulative vertical drop equal to 7 times the slopes of the Himalayas...
Want a little extra? Download the 3 Vallées app to find all the practical information you need: restaurants, weather forecast, list of groomed slopes, piste map, ski lift opening times... The cherry on the ski tips is being able to join the largest interconnected community of skiers on SKI+, where you can take part in challenges, recording your performance, vertical drop, distance, altitude, and speed, and share it all with your friends!!
App available from the App Store and Google play.
Essential rucksack items for a day in Les 3 Vallées:
- a bottle of water
- a few cereal or chocolate bars for when you feel peckish
- a tube of high-factor sun cream
- a piste map
You're good to go, Les 3 Vallées are all yours!
La Masse, Red run (Les Menuires)
Vertical drop: 1,000 metres
At 2,800 metres, La pointe de la Masse is one of Les Menuires' highest points. La Masse, a little out-of-the-way sector in Les Menuires, offers a different kind of skiing to the south facing slopes. It enjoys optimal snow conditions, preserved throughout the season thanks to its northern exposure. You'll love the wide range of quiet runs, particularly the Fred Covili red run which naturally leads on to the Vallons blue run. The sportier amongst you should take the La Masse ski tow and descend the Dame Blanche black run.
Yves Bonnemains, manager of the ski patrol office for the Belleville Valleys recommends that you ski there in the morning because of its altitude and ideal orientation. Unmissable: "awesome panoramic views over the whole Belleville Valley!"
Léo Lacroix, Black run (Les Menuires)
Vertical drop: 1,000 metres
A famous downhill run that has played host to numerous international competitions. In naming this run, Les Menuires chose to pay homage to a major figure in French skiing, Olympic downhill medal-winner, Léo Lacroix.
It's an unmissable run for experienced skiers, which goes from Mont de la Chambre to the centre of the resort. Its upper section is the most interesting. The sun affects the snow because of its south/south-westerly exposure. The run offers a series of wide curves and steep slopes. It's long, varied, and good for strengthening the thighs. After completing a downhill run like this you can feel proud to join the ranks of the champions ;)
Grand Lac, Blue run (Les Menuires)
Vertical drop: 550 metres
Go to the top of 3 Marches and follow the directions to the Grand Lac run. This run's biggest plus is its westerly exposure, which means it enjoys exceptional quality snow. Offering something to suit all tastes, it alternates between amazing turns and wide straight downhill schuss sections, sure to delight any skier. A run for relaxed skiing to enjoy to your heart's content at any time of day! Keep your eyes open and get your camera out to capture the endless panoramic views over the Belleville Valley.
Jérusalem, Red run (Saint Martin de Belleville)
Vertical drop: 440 metres
A little bit of history. This run pays homage to the victims of the Second World War, helped by Savoyard locals who hid them from German soldiers in the barns alongside this slope. This was a site of the Resistance, and today is a place of pilgrimage and memory for victims' families.
An unmissable itinerary for peaceful skiing in Les 3 Vallées. The run begins in the Méribel summits (Tougnete and Cherferie) at altitudes of more than 2,100 metres, and arrives easily at the village of Saint Martin de Belleville. Make your way down this wonderful rolling run adapted for all abilities (it's more dark blue than red) on high quality snow; you'll feel as if you've gone off-piste.
La Combe du Vallon, Red run (Méribel-Mottaret)
Vertical drop: 960 metres
Starting at Le Mont du Vallon, at an altitude of 2,950 metres, this is the highest skiable summit in the Méribel Valley. La Combe du Vallon is renowned for its wild, challenging sections. It offers a steady rolling endurance slope over more than 3 kilometres in length, and boasts excellent quality snow thanks to its northerly exposure. It is, without contest, THE legendary downhill run in Méribel Valley and is sure to delight you, especially if you're a fan of amazing turns!
Maudit, Red run (Méribel)
Vertical drop: 1,200 metres
Take the Saulire Express gondola lift to arrive at the summit at an altitude of 2,700 metres where you'll see unique panoramic views over the Alpine mountaintops. Put your skis on and head to the Maudit red run. It was named after a local major Alpine skiing champion.
This run is renowned for its large vertical drop, varied, endurance route including wonderful forest sections: everything you need for peace, quiet, and enjoyment!
Roc de Fer, Blue run (Méribel)
Vertical drop: 700 metres
The run of champions. The Olympic Ladies run in the 1992 Albertville Olympic Games, the Roc de Fer run will also host the Alpine Skiing World Cup final in 2015!
Access it via the Roc de Fer and Olympic chair lifts, and enjoy breath-taking views over the entire Tarentaise Valley on your way. Discover over 800 metres of vertical drop, from the Sommet du Roc de Fer at 2,290 metres to La Chaudanne at 1,440 metres. You'll love its variations in pace.
Combe de la Saulire, Red run (Courchevel)
Vertical drop: 620 metres
From its summit at an altitude of 2,700 metres, Courchevel's star historical run unfurls over 3 kilometres. With playful, challenging, and relaxed sections, it is renowned for its high quality snow. Nicknamed "the Courchevel glacier", it's usually skied on at the beginning and end of the season. You can combine a total vertical drop of 1,400 metres, going from the Saulire summit to admire Mont Blanc less than 50 kilometres away as the crow flies, ending up at Courchevel 1850.
A little secret: it's a paradise for carving enthusiasts as soon as the runs open.
La Jean Blanc, Black run (Courchevel)
Vertical drop: 680 metres
A bit of history: La Jean Blanc took its name from one of Courchevel's founding fathers when it played host to the World Cup in 1966. It was the first time that the average slope speed exceeded 100 kilometres an hour.
Also known as the Descent of Truth, it's a technical run for experienced skiers. Don't let its steep wall with more than a 40% incline take you by surprise. A combination of mogul fields - good for strengthening the thighs - and forest hiking offer a magnificent descent into the Saint Bon Valley and the village of Praz.
Les Chapelets, Red run (Courchevel)
Vertical drop: 450 metres
This run is accessible via the Chapelets and Signal chair lifts from Courchevel 1650. At the western-most extremity of Les 3 Vallées, the Chapelets run offers uninterrupted panoramic views over the Vanoise glacier and gypsum erosion in the mountains. Don't forget to look up and take it all in. Meet Mother Nature on this landscape bordered by pine trees where you won't come across a single ski lift on your descent.
The combination of steep slopes and easier flat plateaux sections provides a long varied run for a peaceful ski tour.
La Folyères, Blue run (La Tania)
Vertical drop: 515 metres
This run was originally designed by Emile Allais, and goes from Le Col de Loze to Brides-les-Bains. When the resort of La Tania was created, Jean Bérard and Gilbert Garnier retraced its route, keeping the run's wide, straight characteristics intact. The run starts at the top of the stadium and finishes in the centre of La Tania.
Make your way along an attractive trail over 3 kilometres in length, including the wonderful experience of skiing through pine forests. La Folyères is perfect for family skiing, at a pace adapted to suit everyone, against a splendid backdrop.
A word of advice: It's ideal the day after a snowfall! Fall under the spell of sumptuous pine tree branches heavy with a thick layer of fresh snow; it's everything you need to delight the whole family.
It's time for you to ski! Remember to take a piste map and not to forget to make a note of the ski lift opening times so you can get back to the right valley ;)
We're interested in your feedback, what are your legendary or favourite runs in Les 3 Vallées? And why?
PS: Some time ago I wrote a full article on the runs in Val Thorens and Orelle, the highest point in Les 3 Vallées. I'd love you to read it and add your comments: Val Thorens' legendary runs.