If you want to be absolutely, 100% sure of your snow in the Alps, you've got to aim high. And that's where Val Thorens comes in...
The village itself is at 2,300m, and three of its lifts rise to 3,100m. Sounds great, doesn't it? Well yes it is, in many ways, but there are a couple of drawbacks. The first is the look of the place - Val Thorens is purpose-built and charmless. The second is the fact that all slopes are above the treeline. On a cloudy day, you'll be skiing by sense of smell.
When the sun's out, everyone in Val Thorens is happy. The architecture doesn't seem so ugly, and - more to the point - the skiing and snowboarding are superb. Val Thorens is part of the vast Three Valleys lift system, which also encompasses Méribel, Courchevel, and a fourth, 'secret valley' above the village of Orelle. With 600km of pistes on offer, and a couple of popular terrain parks, you could ski for a month and not get bored.
Good intermediates in particular will like the huge variety of groomed trails off the cirque of peaks above Val Thorens. They'll also enjoy the opportunity to do a bit of ski tourism - travelling down the valley to check out the neighbouring resorts of St Martin and Les Menuires, or across the ridge line to ski such classic runs as the gorgeous Combe Vallon red above Méribel-Mottaret in the next valley. Snowboarders and more accomplished skiers will be praying for fresh snowfall; the high, open slopes are a freerider's dream (provided of course they hire a guide to show them the way).
You can drive or take the train (to Moutiers). There are also four airports to choose from...
Of the four - Geneva, Grenoble, Chambéry and Lyon - Chambéry is the closest, with transfers taking a couple of hours.
With some great off-piste slopes and lots of lovely runs for intermediates to swoosh down, Val Thorens is a fabulous winter playground...
Skiers and snowboarders who are trying the sports for the first time will not get so much out of this resort though.
Val Thorens also offers plenty of fun after the sun goes down thanks to its numerous rocking bars and delicious restaurants…
The bar scene in Val Thorens is very Brit-friendly in style, with pubs prominent. The Frog and Roastbeef is the most popular, with a live band playing as the lifts close. In busy weeks there's a great atmosphere in there by 6.30pm. The Underground is the liveliest club. Surprisingly for a functional, high-altitude resort, Val Thorens is also home to Michelin-starred restaurant l'Oxalys. Book in advance: there are people who come to Val Thorens so they can eat there all week!
Val Thorens has worked hard to improve its offering to non-skiers over recent years, and boasts a large leisure centre with a swimming pool, hammam and indoor tennis courts, as well as an ice-driving circuit and ice-climbing wall.
There's also an eight-lane bowling alley and pool hall.
8/10 Cost of living
Val Thorens is at the cheaper end of the Three Valleys, with a wide range of budget-oriented accommodation, and plenty of cheap and cheerful venues for dinner and drinks.
5/10 Attractiveness of the resort
Val Thorens is not a destination for those in search of Alpine charm or ancient village atmosphere.