The Three Valleys is an enormous ski area and it probably comes as no surprise to hear that in such a big place, there are plenty of places to head to on a good powder day for some incredible off-piste skiing.
Val Thorens is one of the most stunning areas in Europe for off-piste skiing and ski touring. The area is surrounded by six glaciers, giving endless fields of powder snow in breath-taking surroundings. Discover the glaciers of the Vanoise (check out the descent from the Gebroulaz glacier towards Méribel or Pralognan) and the most beautiful off-piste skiing in the Three Vallées on the amazing Maurienne side.
You can join in guided off-piste tours with the Bureau de Guides or ESF Val Thorens; excursions are led by high-altitude mountain guides who are also qualified ski instructors. Expect to walk or skin uphill for anything up to an hour, in return for untouched snow and deserted descents. Depending on snow and weather conditions you may picnic on a summit or in a local restaurant and may ski anything from deep powder to crud, to spring snow. You need to be a strong skier with some off-piste experience to take part. The guide provides avalanche transceivers; you need to bring a ‘can-do’ attitude.
If you are an experienced off-piste skier Val Thorens has several recognised off-piste tracks starting at the top of several of the peaks. The weather must be taken into account when attempting any of these off-piste itineraries, not just on the day but also the build-up to it as, due to the altitude of Val Thorens, the snow and wind can create some precarious situations.
Popular off-piste routes include: The Pierre Lory from the top of the Col chair into the Maurienne Valley; Lac du Lou from the Combe de Rosael black run from La Masse; La Masse down Vallée des Encombres; further down the valley above St Martin the area between Jerusalem and Pramint is renowned for its off-piste skiing, especially with the instructors and their clients. But you have to be quick, otherwise, the Meribellians get there first!
The Three Valleys enjoys excellent off-piste skiing – but please only venture off the marked runs in the company of a guide or instructor. Only they have the essential local knowledge necessary to avoid avalanche-prone and dangerous terrain, and they will also find the very best snow. To whet your appetite, buy the guidebook ‘Les 3 Vallees. Hors Pistes – Off piste’ available at the Maison de la Presse, price at around 24€.