© Gemma Hunt
Why Val Thorens is great for beginner skiers
Coming to a ski resort for the first time as a beginner skier or snowboarder can be a bit daunting. With a little locals know-how, our tips and tricks will help you make the most of your time here and hopefully leave you desperate for more.
Val Thorens is part of the world renowned and enormous Three Valleys ski area with 319 pistes, totalling a whopping 600km with 200 ski lifts. With such a huge ski area it's probably no surprise that there is a wonderful world of beginner areas to explore in and around the resort and across the whole of the Three Valleys ski area.
Here are our top tips:
- You may not need a full lift pass - beginner slopes are usually low down, easily accessed and some don't require a lift pass at all
- Book into ski school, don't let your mates / partner teach you, trust us and hire a professional
- Consider your choice of equipment hire shop
- Plan your outfit before you arrive
- Utilise free public transport
- Enjoy the fun zones, they usually have a beginner area
- Explore the whole resort, seek out the blue and green slopes away from the beginner zones
- Explore the blues and greens of the other resorts included in your pass
- Enjoy après-ski - after all you'll have earned your stripes
Whilst it is possible to arrange these things once you're in resort, we wouldn't recommend it - especially lessons. Plan ahead, book what you can, and take the pressure off that first morning.
If you're a complete beginner and booking into ski school you might not need a full Three Valleys six-day pass. A beginner's pass will probably suffice. It's also worth checking with your ski school before you buy, some schools offer packages that include a lift pass. Buying online couldn't be easier and the pass itself can be recharged / reloaded next time you visit. And rather than opt for them to be mailed to your home address, simply pick them up in resort. It's one less thing to remember to pack.
Don't let your friends or partner attempt to teach you to ski or snowboard. Trust us, for the sake of your relationships, put yourself in the hands of the professionals. Luckily there are many ski schools in Val Thorens offering group and private lessons with friendly and knowledgeable English speaking instructors. If you're the only beginner in your group it's definitely worth joining group lessons. You'll learn in a safe and fun environment, and make new friends with rest of your crew over your shared experiences. Lessons are definitely something you should book well in advance to ensure you get your slot - especially if your ski trip is during the school holidays.
Renting your gear online is often cheaper than in resort, and most shops have beginner ski / snowboard packages on their websites. Also it's worth making sure your pick up point is close to your accommodation, so it's not too far to carry your gear. Some shops offer free locker use near the slopes for customers, delivery services, and may even come to you for fittings on arrival if pre-arranged, especially if there's a group of you. It's worth checking this with the shop before you book.
Make the most of your time
All the gear, no idea
For the beginner skier or snowboarder it might seem expensive to lay out for the right apparel before you arrive, and there aren't many places that rent clothing in resort, so borrow what you can, check out the sales and online discounts. At the bare minimum make sure in addition to your trousers and jacket, that you've got a helmet, some goggles, gloves, and technical ski socks. Plus a lightweight back pack is always handy for carrying water, snacks/lunch, sunscreen and an extra layer.
Get on the bus
Plan your route from your accommodation to the beginner slopes, and use the resort's excellent public transport system to get around until you get the knack of carrying skis and poles like the pros.
The beginner slopes
The valley has over five designated beginner zones, and the four magic carpet lifts are free to use. These zones / slopes are ideal for beginners because they are very flat, plus majority of other skiers will be aware that this is the beginner slope and will give you space to learn. Cascades is a lift that brings you to a run that is very good for beginners. It has a nice wide piste and returns you to the baby slope. When you’ve mastered the green runs, La Portette chair lift will bring you to Le Fond which is a nice blue run that won’t scare you too much. It runs down by the snow park, which is always fun to go by to watch the freestylers. You can also take the Funitel de Thorens (gondola) which brings you a higher slope with a fantastic view of the valley. Le Chocard is also a nice blue run which will lead you back to Le Fond run.
The fun zones
Val Thorens has a 70,000m² snowpark on the Plateaux pistes. You'll find some fairly big kickers here, but all runs are colour coded like the pistes as green, blue, red and black. Stay on the greens and blues and you should be fine... we hope. There are three freestyle zones, a border cross, and a jump with an airbag - if you're brave enough. Or you could just pass by and watch those in the know do their thing!
Once you're over the nursery slopes, it will be time to put that lift pass to some real use and head off to explore. The best thing about this resort is that it has gentle pistes that connect the various different areas of the valley, so it completely opens up the whole domaine for everyone, and it means beginners get as much variety as advanced skiers and can avoid having to repeat the same slopes over and over again. The Funitel de Peclet (gondola) leads you to an amazing view point and the ski down is an easy blue run called Tete Ronde. And if you’re looking for the party, the chair lifts Plein Sud and Pionniers brings you up to La Folie Douce. The blue run, Plein Sud that leads you back to the town can get quite icy and bumpy because it is a very busy slope, but if you go at your own pace you should be fine.
After all you have earned your stripes (and probably some bruises), now it's time to share your stories from the day with your family and friends, new and old.
Val Thorens is a great place to let off some steam after a day's exertions on the slopes. Whether that's in the local après-ski scene over a beer or two, in a local restaurant, or with a swim and sauna to relax those aching limbs. Val Thorens has a huge sports centre, with an aqua-spa including two swimming pools, jacuzzi, steam room, sauna, relaxation area and river showers. There's a fun park for children with bouncy castles, trampolines, ball pits and the like. Plus a gym with weights, cardio equipment, sports courts, table tennis and more.
These are great options for a day off the skiing, in the event of poor weather or a great way to spend a few hours after the slopes close.
Families, at the very least, may finally have a shot at exhausting the kids with this option!
So what are you waiting for? Get yourself out here and have some fun in the snow!
Val Thorens, Val Thorens