First time skiers and snowboarders, or beginners looking to improve their technique will find plenty of good areas to practise in Val Thorens.
In Val Thorens there are 5 nursery areas for those who are just starting out with the basic. If you're already out of ski school you'll be able to practise on 11 green runs and 29 blues and if you extend that to the whole of the Belleville Valley, you will have access to a total of 20 green runs and 60 blues.
Best beginner areas
Nursery ski areas
The Belleville valley has five designated beginner zones incorporating nursery ski areas. In Val Thorens this covers the area between the Roc, Cascades and 2 Lac lifts (where the 4 magic carpet lifts are free of charge). For those based in Les Menuires, this zone spans the space below and to the sides of the Doron lift and there's also one small free lift and piste near the Prayerand gondola and the Bettex blue piste. In St Martin de Belleville are two small beginner zones and a free drag lift.
Progressing to pistes
The best thing about Val Thorens is that unlike the majority of other resorts, it has gentle pistes that connect the various different areas of the valley, completely opening up the ski area for those who are still building up their confidence. This means that learners get as much variety as advanced skiers and spend less time, if any, doing the same slopes over and over again.
If you are comfortable navigating the resort by yourself after finishing ski lessons, we recommend trying the Cairn run down towards Les Menuires, which is wide and not too steep. It leads into Boulevard Cumin, which is narrower but also flatter. Once at the bottom of this run, you can explore the calm flat windy blues around Masse 1 to get the best of the morning sunshine. To head back to Val Thorens, you can take the Reberty followed by the two Bruyeres lifts where you have a choice of three blues, Mont de la Chambre, Pluviometre and Plein Sud. These runs all lead back into the heart of resort.
Beginner ski lessons
If you're learning to ski for the first time, Val Thorens has plenty of choice of ski schools who teach children's ski lessons and adult's ski lessons. Children's lessons are determined by their age and ability, whilst adult lessons are determined by ability and interests.
Beginner ski passes & free lifts
If you're joining a ski school as a complete beginner, you will probably start off in the nursery areas where a ski pass isn't needed, making use of the free beginner ski lifts or just practising on the slopes without using any lifts at all. There are three free ski lifts for beginners to use in Val Thorens centre, five in Les Menuires and one in St Martin de Belleville, so if you're a complete beginner you won't need a ski pass at all in these areas.
If you're a skier looking to progress after having already learnt the basics, you can buy a ski pass from as little as 3 hours to explore the wider ski area. You should consider buying a beginner ski pass, or the Val Thorens valley ski pass rather than the 3 Valleys ski pass (which includes the neighbouring resorts of Meribel and Courchevel).
Children under 5 ski for free, but they still need to have a hands-free pass for access onto all the lifts - these can be picked up at one of the ski pass offices once you're in resort. Children under 1.25m height must be accompanied by an adult on the chairlifts and there must be no more than 2 children per adult (one on either side).
Beginner ski hire
Pre-booking your ski hire in advance allows the hire shop to prepare for your arrival and smooths the process. A key thing you should consider when booking your equipment is how close your accommodation is to the ski hire shop, or to the foot of the pistes for when lessons have finished. Even if there are several equipment options to choose from, we recommend you go for the most basic. Beginner skis are short, flexible skis that are easy to turn or, if you're snowboarding, you'll have a shorter stiffer snowboard that's easier to control and generally cheaper too. You won't need to know about the technical aspects of any of the equipment as ski hire shops will advise you to get the best model for your ability and size once you've booked.
What should I wear when skiing or snowboarding?
Buying all the gear before you go can be daunting if you’ve never set foot in a ski resort before. The key items to bring with you, along with the obvious ski jacket, ski trousers and sunglasses, are as follows:
- Layers - thermal tops and leggings, fleeces, hoodies, hats and a good pair of ski gloves and a helmet. Weather on the mountain can change pretty quickly, and you are much better off wearing layers of thinner items as opposed to a big, bulky jumper.
- Socks - a variety of socks ranging in thickness, it may sound weird but in our experience hire boots can be quite painful with the wrong socks.
- Sun cream - even when it’s cloudy the sun here can (and will) still get you, and don't forget the underneath of your chin as the sun reflects off the snow too. Don't forget a lip salve with an SPF.
- Piste map - make sure to always have one in your pocket while you're out on the mountain. You can pick up paper copies from the lift pass or tourist office once you've arrived in resort.