The story of a challenge

Val Thorens was born 50 years ago from the encounter between an exceptional natural environment and visionary pioneers (some of whom are still involved in the life of the resort); the story of an epic and harmonious human adventure, which has been built up on a daily basis over the last four decades...

1969 - 1971: The birth of a project

Val Thorens was the brainchild of Pierre Schnebelen, a visionary engineer and an extraordinary gamble at a time when the development of winter sports resorts was the subject of controversy. This property developer, who had already built several integrated ski resorts, never ceased to use his skills to find the funds and obtain the authorisations needed to launch a project that was considered huge at the time: the construction of the highest station in Europe.

The marmots [...] sometimes didn't hesitate to enter our offices

Val Thorens in the 1970s

Under the political authority of Joseph Fontanet, Mayor of the Vallée des Belleville, President of the Savoie General Council and Minister, and with the help of his SODEVAB (société de développement des équipements de la vallée des Belleville) manager, Bernard Reverdy, and General Councillor Ferdinand Martin, and with the help of Pierre Josserand, one of his young fellow students at the Arts et Métiers, Pierre Schnebelen began the studies and work. Let's not forget those who played a decisive role, such as Pierre Le Blanc de Cernex, Michel Herenger, Francois Buisson, Jacques François, Georges Cumin and many others.

The adventure on site begins with a small, isolated but determined team, who will do everything in their power to make the most of this unique site. the enormous potential of this exceptional site.

I love these hostile environments, it's like rounding Cape Horn, the roaring forties...

1981 - 2010: The era of innovation

Technical and commercial innovations, daring choices and human challenges: the history of the resort is punctuated with milestones that have contributed to making it an exceptional resort.

We were on our own, safe here, like brothers and sisters, we grew up together [...] after school we'd go to the Marmottons ski lift, we'd press the green button to start and we'd have an hour's fun!

  • 1980 Construction of the Sports Centre by SODEVAB and further development of the site
  • 1981/ 1982 The Cime Caron cable car: despite being in debt at the time, SETAM embarked on the project to build the world's biggest cable car to reach an altitude of 3,200 m. This was the beginning of a new era for Val Thorens. This was the start of a new era for Val Thorens, and would position the resort as one of the world's leading winter sports resorts.

I was really born in the snow and the first time I saw grass I didn't want to get out of the car, I was worried, I didn't know what it was!


Cime Caron cable car

Built in 1981/1982, it was the biggest cable car in the world at the time.

  • 1985 Val Thorens Tour : In order to market the Val Thorens offer quickly, SETAM defined and financed an ambitious hotel plan and created the Val Thorens Tour travel agency. Its mission was to organise group holidays and sell the resort to tour operators.
  • 1987 Val Thorens : Val Thorens is one of the first resorts to set up a central booking office, on the initiative of the ski lift company.
  • 1990 In collaboration with Denis Creissels, SETAM engineers invented the Funitel concept (a two-cable carrier-tractor lift with excellent wind resistance) and installed the first lift of its kind at the foot of the Péclet glacier. SETAM then sold the patent to ski lift manufacturers, who exported the concept worldwide.
  • 1995 Creation of the double-boarding chairlift, which at the same time increased the capacity of the chairlifts and improved customer comfort by giving them more time to settle in. At the same time, construction of the Maurienne/3Vallées link, via Orelle, with the construction of the world's longest single-section gondola lift, which, among other things, facilitated access to the regions and enabled Orelle's property development.
  • 2004 : At the Oxalys restaurant, Jean Sulpice wins his first Michelin star and becomes the youngest Michelin-starred chef in France. He helped to establish Val Thorens as a top destination for high-altitude gastronomy and in its wake a number of establishments are developing an increasingly high-quality offering. In 2009, Jean Sulpice was awarded a second star.
  • 2007 SETAM installs 2 detachable gondola lifts in automatic "ESO" mode (Operatorless Service): thanks to a video and security system, a single driver operates the 2 gondola lifts as well as the Caron cable car.

2010 to present: Repositioning

  • 2010 Val Thorens is taking a fresh look at itself as it approaches its 40th anniversary. To understand the challenges of skiing in a mature market and identify our strengths, we are carrying out a repositioning study.
  • 2010 : The Altapura opens in December, becoming the resort's first 5-star hotel the following winter. This marked a new turning point for the resort, with an expansion of the range. 3 other 5-star hotels were to open in the following years, as well as a 4-trident Club Med.
  • 2011 SETAM installs 2 detachable gondola lifts in automatic "ESO" mode (Operatorless Service): thanks to a video and security system, a single driver operates the 2 gondola lifts as well as the Caron cable car.
  • 2013 First World's Best Ski Resort award at the World Ski Awards.
  • 2014 Jean-Frédéric Chapuis wins a gold medal at the Sochi Winter Olympics.
  • 2016 Val Thorens becomes the first Smart Ski Resort: using digital data to improve both the comfort of its customers and the management of its natural resources.
  • 2022 Le Board, the new sports and conference centre, is now complete.
  • 2022 : To mark the inauguration of the Board, we are celebrating our 50th anniversary with a special event.

If you reason factually, you can't understand this place... There's something impalpable... A magic.

Features and portraits

50 Years of Val Thorens

50 Years of Val Thorens - Portraits

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