There are so many reasons to choose Val Thorens for a family ski holiday that it’s hardly surprising that the resort is so popular with French and English skiers alike.
When I decided to visit, the choice was driven by a slightly obsessive hankering for the very best snow. After all, Val Thorens is the highest resort not just in France, but in the whole of Europe, with guaranteed snow from November through to May. What’s more, I was pleasantly surprised by all of the other things that the resort has to offer. Here’s my guide to this snowy spot!
Val Thorens one of those modern, purpose-built resorts that the French seem to favour. One of the many benefits is that the accommodation has been built to make the most of the ski-in-ski out conditions here. There are loads of lifts close to the accommodation, as well as a nearby ‘centre’ with restaurants and terraces that look out over the piste.
Val Thorens is part of the Trois Vallées ski area, and is known for its jaw-dropping network of 600km of pistes. There are enough blues, reds and blacks to keep every member of my family happy, whatever their skill level.
But while I knew that the skiing would be fantastic, I wasn’t expecting the variety of alternative activities that were on offer here.
Now, my kids are keen skiers and snowboarders, but there always comes a day when they start whinging that their boots hurt or that they don’t want to go out for some reason or other. At Val Thorens, we didn’t need to waste the day, though: there were so many other things to do, which had them leaping out of bed with huge smiles on their faces.
Fun in the Snow
Whether your kids love a zip wire, a hot air balloon ride or mountain biking on snow, there is so much to do here that they’ll never want to spend the day inside. Here’s a taster of what’s on offer.
If you’ve ever been go-karting with your kids, you’ll know how fun, challenging and competitive it can get. Now, add a track of compact snow and ice and watch the fun ramp up to a whole new level!
The instructors will talk you through the techniques for driving on the slippery surface, and then you’ll be on your own, racing with the kids. Just prepare yourself: it can be frustrating when your youngsters manage to pick up the tricky sliding and turning techniques faster than you do!
The La Trolienne zip wire runs from the Orelle at 3230 metres to the Col de Thorens at 3000 meters. Whizzing through stunning Alpine landscapes can only be described as 1.3km of pure exhilaration. It may last less than two minutes, but it’s a memory that’ll stay with you and the kids for a lifetime.
This is the highest zipwire in the world, and speeds up to a whopping 100km/h. It can only be reached by skiers and snowboarders. You actually carry your equipment with you as you hurtle down the wire, allowing you to ski off at the other end… once your legs have stopped trembling, that is.
This is basically a treasure hunt in the snow for adults and older kids. Geocaching is a treasure hunt that makes use of a GPS tracking device (nothing fancy, your smart phone will do). You discover co-ordinates online, and then you and your family can head out and try to track them down.
This isn’t really about the ‘treasure’ – it’s more about the ‘hunt’, so don’t expect anything too exciting, but your kids will love signing their names in the log book to mark the fact that they are successful ‘geocachers’.
Hot Air Ballooning
Hot air ballooning is always a special experience, but gliding up through the mountains and away from the busy pistes and into the area’s exceptional wilderness is truly awe-inspiring.
Although this may seem sedate compared to trying an adrenalin-fuelled winter sport, you are still a long way up, and I found that even the bravest of my family (definitely not me!) experienced a few pulse-racing moments.
How to Get to Val Thorens
Val Thorens is served by a number of airports. The nearest airport is Chambéry (90 minutes away by car), although it is the slightly further Geneva Airport (two and a half hour’s drive) which offers the most flexibility in terms of the number of flights and carriers from the UK.
For the most convenient and stress-free way of getting from the airport to your resort accommodation (particularly if you are all bringing sports equipment with you), I would recommend booking a transfer with Shuttle Direct in advance. Let them know how many of you there are, and what skis and boards you’ll have with you. The service will provide a vehicle that’s big enough to comfortably fit the whole family, and it won’t charge you extra for carrying your winter sports equipment, either. What’s not to love?
Where to Stay
Fahrenheit Seven Val Thorens – The stylish and contemporary Fahrenheit Seven Val Thorens offers four-star ski-to-the-door accommodation. With two restaurants, a comfortable bar for the family to meet in for hot chocolate after a day on the slopes, and a spa to soothe your tired muscles, this is a great base in the resort.
Alberta Hotel – Situated right on the piste, the three-star Alberta Hotel offers a more traditional Savoyard experience (particularly in the delicious dishes served in its onsite restaurant). There is also free Wi-Fi throughout the property.
About Shuttle Direct
Shuttle Direct specialises in ski transfers and understands that you may need to bring a lot of baggage on your ski holiday. When you book online, just let this renowned airport transfer service know when you’re travelling and what you will be bringing with you. Before you know it, you’ll be in for a convenient group transfer… with no extra charges for your sports equipment!