Val Thorens is a snow-sure ski resort connected to the Three Valleys ski area. Although it is known as a party resort, it can also offer families an excellent value for money ski holiday. It also has wonderful beginner pistes and has the highest number of green runs in the Three Valleys.
One of the most appealing aspects of Val Thorens is that you can ski (or sledge!) everywhere - to and from your accommodation, between shops and restaurants, to the ski lifts - no need to carry two or three sets of skis! In addition, the ski pass is free for children under five, the beginner ski passes are discounted by 50%, and reduced price lift passes are available for families - essentially everyone pays the child's rate. Please see our Ski Lift Pass Prices page for further information. There is very little traffic in Val Thorens as it is semi-pedestrianised.
There is a wide range of affordable accommodation in Val Thorens, much of which is ski-in/ski-out. The resort is full of self-catering apartments, with a good choice of four bedroom and larger options. Catered chalets are more scarce in Val Thorens, but you should be able to get one in the lower lying village of Les Menuires. Val Thorens also has a lovely selection of hotels, from five star luxury to more modest aparthotels, all that can organise childcare for you.
There are nursery ski areas in the village centre where you can use some of the ski lifts for free. There is a good selection of children's ski schools and the resort has a modern ski lift infra-structure to help you explore the ski area easily and quickly.
In addition to the wonderful skiing, Val Thorens can offer families plenty of activities, with its swimming pool, trampolines and soft play area in the sports centre. Many of the restaurants are family-friendly and there are several independent childcare companies that can help you with looking after the kids.
At 2,300m, Val Thorens is one of the highest ski resorts in Europe, which means that it normally has excellent snow, but can be very cold and the altitude may not suit very small children. However, for beginners, it is a great place to learn how to ski. There are five designated beginner zones, with 11 green runs and 29 blues - so much variety for those just learning is very rare. The neighbouring resort of Les Menuires at 1,850m is also popular with families - it has its own nursery slopes, plenty of green runs and is connected to Val Thorens via the lift system. And being at a lower altitude, it may be more suitable a destination for those with toddlers.
Accommodation for families
Taking the family on a ski holiday can be hard work so finding good family-friendly accommodation is essential to making life that little bit easier. Many families enjoy coming here because of Val Thoren's ski-in ski-out accommodation which can be a big help at the start and end of each day. However, the high altitude can be tricky for small children to adapt to, so an alternative place to base yourself is the next village down the valley - Les Menuires.
At 1,850m, it still has excellent snow for learning on but you avoid the chill that you can experience up in Val Thorens. Both resorts have a large choice of self-catering apartments that offer an affordable way for a family to take a ski holiday. For a chalet holiday in the valley, you are best to look around Les Menuires and Reberty, as there are only a handful in Val Thorens itself.
If hotel accommodation is more your thing, then there is a super selection in both resorts, with Val Thorens having a wider selection of luxury hotels. Aparthotels can be found in both resorts, and some of these will organise childcare as an extra.
Both Val Thorens and Les Menuires are good choices for your family holiday. Both have nursery slopes that you can access using free lifts and dedicated ski/snow areas for children, both have a good range of accommodation, and both offer additional winter activities.
If you plan on enrolling in ski school, find out where your meeting point will be so you can make sure you have good access to get there is the morning. The main meet up areas are at Rond Point in Val Thorens, and at the bottom of the Croisette lift in Les Menuires. There are free shuttle buses that run regularly throughout the day in Val Thorens and there is sure to be a bus stop close to your accommodation if you prefer not to ski to the meeting points.
Lift passes for families
Family discounts are available for both the Val Thorens/Orelle and Three Valleys pass - basically everyone pays the children's rate. Your 'family' needs to be made up of a minimum of two adults and two children (aged five to 17 years), but can include up to seven children, and all passes the same durations from six to 14 days. At least four passes must be bought together for the discount to apply. Proof of age will be required. Children under five ski for free; and there are special beginner and pedestrian passes available too.
You can also buy reduced price ski passes for the nursery areas, please see the Beginners Ski Pass section on our Lift Pass Prices page for all the details.
Ski schools for families
If you have designs on raising the next Shaun White or Chemmy Alcott, then getting your kids into ski school as soon as possible is going to be a priority! Ski schools will not take children under three, so if you think your child is ready earlier, then you will need to teach them yourself or hire a private instructor. If you want to teach them yourself, you can find out more about the nursery and beginner ski areas in Val Thorens in our guide. All ski equipment can be rented at the ski hire shops in Val Thorens when you arrive or you can book everything online in advance. They will need a helmet, mittens and goggles in addition to skis (poles are not initially needed for kids), and make sure they have enough layers on to stay warm. Remember to apply sun cream to their faces before they start and place a snack and your phone number in their pocket, just in case.
There are plenty of ski schools in the area offering ski lessons for children, some of them are British-run and all are English-speaking. Most are based in Val Thorens, although there is an ESF school in Les Menuires. For three and four year olds, the focus is on having fun in the snow and games are used as part of the teaching process. They learn to ski in their own specially designed snow gardens where they can play in a fun and safe environment. Their ski pass is free of charge although you still need to get them their pass from the lift pass office with proof of age. For children aged five years and above, you can enrol them in courses according to their level, from beginners to good skiers who are nearing competition level.
Ski schools cater mainly for weekly courses, so if you are here for only a few days then you will need to enquire when you arrive to see if there is any space for your kids on the days you are in resort. The alternative is to hire a private instructor for your dates.
For further information on children's ski lessons, take a look at our dedicated Children’s Skiing Lessons page.
Ski areas for families
The main nursery ski areas for children and beginners are at Le Rond Point and Place Carron in the centre of Val Thorens. Here you will find several free ski lifts, and it's also where most of the ski schools meet up. Further beginner areas can be found in the area between Le Roc, Cascades and 2 Lacs ski lifts - nice gentle green runs that take you back down to resort. Up here, you will also find Fun Slope, a mini snow park for families with tunnels, whoops and a boarder cross. There is a further Family Park just up from here on the Plateau lift. Find out more about the Beginners Ski Areas in Val Thorens.
Offers a good selection of free lifts on the nursery slopes, along with a beginner zone that is accessed from the Doron chairlift.
For more advanced skiers, you have the whole of the Three Valleys ski area to explore. With over 600km of pistes and several snow parks there is terrain suitable for everyone. Val Thorens is connected to Méribel and then onwards to Courchevel with a modern, interconnected ski lift system, and it is quick and easy to explore the whole area.
There are several snow parks in Val Thorens and a further park and boarder cross in Les Menuires. Val Thorens has an Easy Park for beginners, with green and blue tables and rails. For more advanced riders, the Snow Park is the place to test your skills, or admire the tricks of others. It's spread over 70,000sqm and consists of tables, rails, boxes and a Jump'Air where you land on a stuntman's mattress. There's no way your experienced teenagers will get bored here!
Activities for families
During the winter if the kids are only skiing for half a day, there are plenty of other activities available in resort to keep them happy.
On the snow
Staying on the slopes, there is a dedicated sledging zone at Place Carron in the centre of resort, one area is perfect for toddlers, and the other is best for six to ten year olds, with its longer drop and banked turns. The good news is that there is a free magic carpet lift to take you back up once you've sledged to the bottom! For children over the age of five, they can ride with an adult down the longest toboggan in France. Le Toboggan starts at an altitude of 3000m and the track takes around 45 minutes to descend! You need to purchase a ticket at the bottom of the Cascades chair lift, and helmets and gloves are compulsory.
In Les Menuires, there are two tobogganing tracks - Speed Mountain (for aged five and upwards) and Roc n Bob (for aged seven and upwards). Smaller children can enjoy sledging in the village, along with a fairground carousel in Les Bruyeres.
Within the centre of Val Thorens, there is the sports centre which is home to swimming pools, an indoor sports hall, squash and tennis courts, a soft play area and trampolines, and a gym. Other winter activities include a cinema (look out for films VOST for films in English), tenpin bowling and husky dog sledding. You can find out more about Non-Skiing Activities in Val Thorens in our guide.
The sports centre in Les Menuires has a soft play area and swimming pool, and Les Bruyeres has an 'aqua fun' pool for children. There is also a cinema, and the tourist office organises themed weeks in the school holidays plus a children's show every week.
For adults that aren't quite so sure of the skiing, there are a number of spas you can try for some indulgence, as well as fitness classes, or perhaps some snow shoeing. Pedestrian ski passes are available at a reduced rate so you can join the rest of your group up in the high mountains for lunch and spectacular views. Head up the Pionniers chairlift to find the Folie Douce and it's legendary après-ski parties.
During school holidays, the tourist office organises plenty of events designed for children such as torch-lit descents, workshops, and live music. Over Christmas you can expect street parades, lantern processions, shows, and Santa Claus. Check our Events Calendar for details.
Summer holidays in Val Thorens are all about being active and there are a wealth of activities on offer here for all ages and members of the family. Our dedicated guide to activities in Val Thorens includes a section specifically on kids' activities with information on horse riding, short family hikes, high ropes courses, where to go swimming, nature parks, and numerous other fun things that will help make your family holiday as unique and memorable as possible!
It is possible to hire baby equipment in resort - items such as high chairs, pushchairs, cots and playpens, but check with your accommodation provider - for cots and highchairs especially. Ski shops often offer a kid's ski pack rental also, with skis starting at a length of 67cm and boot size 23EU. Some will also rent you sledges, strollers and sledge-strollers.
There are a couple of specialist tour operators and chalet companies who cater for families and have in-house nannies to help with the childcare. Children under three are generally too little to try skiing so some help with childcare is essential if you plan on skiing yourself. Independent nanny agencies are also available, and should be booked well in advance of your holiday. Have a look at our childcare listings page for more information or you can contact the local tourist offices for a list of available babysitters.
You may find that the main sports centre of each town host a kids club during the summer holidays, normally from 1st July to 30th August, with activities such as swimming, climbing, tennis, basketball, ice-skating, etc. and organised hikes and picnics.
School holiday dates
France divides its school holidays into a regional timetable to ensure that the entire country doesn't go on holiday at once - however, this staggered system can mean that some months (particularly February) can be busy from beginning to end as one region after another arrives in resort! Chamonix is in Zone A.
- Zone A - Ain (01), Isère (38), Savoie (73), Haute-Savoie (74) Caen, Clermont-Ferrand, Grenoble, Lyon, Montpellier, Nancy-Metz, Nantes, Rennes and Toulouse
- Zone B - Aix-Marseille, Amiens, Besançon, Dijon, Lille, Limoges, Nice, Orléans-Tours, Poitiers, Reims, Rouen and Strasbourg
- Zone C - Bordeaux, Créteil, Paris and Versailles