The mere mention of “the largest ski area in the world” gets a surprisingly mixed reception. The span of reactions is wide whilst some skiers feel threatened and daunted by the sheer scale of so many elements, through those who feel they have to cover everything to be able to match their peers, to dedicated skiers who relish the prospects of skiing their hearts out.
In my three trips to the Trois Vallées, I had not thought of skiing right across from one end to the other as I was skiing with others ranging out each day we focused on a couple of resorts or so. I quite like to find a challenge and when I was told that I would need to devote a full day to ski to Val Thorens from Courchevel 1850 and back, it was both a surprise and of course, irresistible.
On my latest visit, we stayed in one of the catered Powder N Shine chalets ‘Sapin de Reberty ‘in the Reberty area of Les Menuires. The resort reads like a book that evolves and grows on you as you progress through its chapters. Nearly all purpose-built resorts are like a first chapter that is hard going to get into. In Les Menuires, the appearance of the massive stranded cruise liner of an hotel jutting out from the mountainside, which was designed by the over-celebrated architect Le Corbusier, I found difficult to digest. In that context, the developments which followed must be regarded as better, but any equivalent school essay report would have prompted ‘start again; could do much better’. The lesson was eventually learnt in the most recently developed area of Reberty. It is so much easier on the eye in its traditional Alpine style whilst there is no original storyline; it is a very pleasant place for a base and is also well-situated in the context of accessing the whole ski area.
Fran, the owner of Powder N Shine, has been busy over the summer with a much expanded programme which incidentally includes self-catering chalets as well as adding new facilities; Sapin de Reberty gains an outdoor hot tub as well as up-grading the interior of the chalet. Our en suite bedroom was cosy; we could not find anywhere to hang our clothes, the one thing that was large was the full length mirror, we later found out it was the wardrobe door; problem solved. However, the public rooms and all the facilities you would need and want were spacious. I was particularly taken with the main public room comprising the bar, dining and sitting area; great view of the piste just outside with the mountain backdrop. Lots of atmosphere; you could progress around the room’s seating rather too easily through the evening and into the small hours when the intent was to explore other nightspots. The honesty bar was too handy and worked well.
Our chef produced some good and interesting dinners; one popular theme he followed was multiple variations of the same main ingredient; I particularly liked the desert with apples cooked ten different ways. Almost next door and on the piste side is an excellent bar restaurant ‘La Ferme de Reberty’ where we had an excellent lunch al fresco and enjoyed the atmosphere inside for some après ski fun. The appeal covers a wide range of parties, value for money is to the forefront (their 7 nights’ gourmet package is from £795) for such a good location right on the slopes, the size of the chalet suits family bookings whilst it is big enough to cater for booking by the room to get a good mix.
Fiction writers of ski holiday brochures use the expression ‘Ski in/Ski out’ without embarrassment. One of the most blatant is at the Fairmont Hotel in Whistler, the only way to ski out is to dig an even deeper basement. Even a Canadian ski journalist defended the reference; “OK it is a short walk to the lift but ….” The Powder N Shine chalets are just a few yards from the piste and a short walk to enough shops and, of course, the usual Intersport ski rental shop. It is a good view from the Sapin de Reberty chalet which is right by the piste; at breakfast we could to see the Piste Bullies honing the run.
In the Trois Vallées, prices largely vary according to the status of the particular resort. Courchevel 1850 is unapologetically eye-wateringly expensive but if you want the most prestigious of global brands next door, the accommodation and dining prices are complementary. Les Menuires is readily accessible to the other slopes and resorts being roughly in the middle so no issues there, but the overall resort has neither got the cachet nor prices attached to the bigger names. Reberty happily has a new generation of accommodation and the prices offer good value for money.
Back to skiing; I wanted to get my mind straight in terms of the whole Trois Vallées experience and the only way to do that was to ski from one end to the other. We skied a few runs with Fran or rather just kept up with her as she combined enviable style with speed. Then we discussed and marked off the options with her as it was evident she knew every little niche of the valleys. The more we chatted, the more irresistible diversions were added.
We headed off taking in the more exciting prepared pistes along the way to Courchevel 1850, the diversions meant we arrived at the Le Bel Air restaurant in time for an early, enjoyable lunch, happily the prices did not reflect those in the resort. I always marvel at the sight of the Altiport which has featured in numerous films obviously including a ‘Bond’ but which one; ‘Golden Eye’, ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ or is ‘Octopussy’ (see; Wikipedia). Whichever it was, we needed to move on passing by Les Menuires towards Val Thorens which has expanded rapidly and moved up-scale in terms of hotels and dining. The area that receives little publicity or attention is the Orbelle area beyond Val Thorens despite offering some very good skiing with a character of its own and effectively, on our own. We repeated more runs here than on any other diversion which says a lot.
It was a very enjoyable day, we stayed on the pisted runs rather than venturing off-piste as the objective was to cover as much as possible. It had not snowed for quite a while whilst the pistes were still in good condition and so the off piste areas were densely criss-crossed by so many skiers, there was hardly a square metre without a ski trail.
Looking back, the undertones were that many people are overwhelmed by the whole scale of the ski area combining eight village resorts with hundreds of miles of prepared pistes. The joy is that you can get a good spread of different villages from the extravagant but of the ‘fur coat’ brigade in 5* plus Courcheval 1850, through buzzy Meribel and its’Folie Douce’ champagne spraying antics to the quiet, traditional Orelle which is a cluster of ten hamlets.
A treat for me at the end of a long day’s skiing is flopping into a chair on the terrace of a bar and taking a leisurely drink or two. A rarer treat is to arrive at the chalet completely out of breath having skied my heart out on the final run. Both were experienced during our enjoyable stay in Reberty.