Which resort? A question we all deliberate over every Autumn. Last year we asked ourselves a different question: How many resorts? 

Choosing between Europe’s biggest resorts for your winter retreat can be tough, but is it possible to visit several of them over the space of a week? Early last season, the Ski Club teamed up with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle and Spaceships Rentals to see how viable it was to visit the biggest and the best in just one week.

 

So, join us as we hop between some of France’s biggest and best ski areas…

Collecting our Spaceships Rentals van from their London pickup point was a doddle. We noticed on getting in the car for the first time that the van had a name: Tron. We hoped that like the vehicles that feature in the cult arcade game it would turn on a dime and ride smooth. Turns out the almost new Ford Transit was no slouch. Packing the van at the office, we easily fit a weeks’ worth of kit for three people including several sets of skis each in the boot, a definite luxury.

 

From the Ski Club’s Wimbledon HQ, it’s just a short blast down the mercifully clear M25-M25-M20 to Le Shuttle’s terminal in Folkestone. Once checked in we had some time to kill so had a wander around the terminal. Dinner courtesy of Leon was washed down by a complimentary hot chocolate served by one of Santa’s helpers, a nice touch that really got us in the mood for our trip!

The crossing took a mere 35 minutes from Folkestone to Calais, where we were straight through the péage and into the night. Putting in a shift each at the wheel we had booked a hotel in the Troyes area to put a good dent in the drive but allow us to not get to bed too late. After briefly hitting the hay in our motel we rose early to get going before sunrise.

 

The coffee certainly helped, but the main thing keeping us going was the promise of skiing later that day. The kilometres tumbled and by lunchtime, we had made it to our first stop of the trip, the heart of Les 3 Vallées, Meribel.

 

 

Meribel

Parking up next to the lifts, we donned our ski boots and warm weather clothes before grabbing a quick piste-side lunch and wasting no time by jumping straight on a lift out of town.

As we only had an afternoon on the slopes, we only purchased a local area pass, which is more than enough skiing for a long weekend, never mind a few hours. Heading up towards the mighty Saulire we readied ourselves for our first ski descent of the trip. After hours of static in the car, it was time to finally let loose.

 

Carving our way back towards town it was smiles all round. The snow was crunchy and cold and the runs were relatively quiet. This is a big advantage of skiing on transfer day. While everyone is in transit, you have more of the mountain for yourself.

That afternoon was the opening party for the Folie Douce, nestled high above the resort. With views to the mouth of the Tarentaise, this is by far one of the most scenic venues in the infamous alpine brand’s portfolio. After having a boogie with some of our friends at OOSC in their party-starting one-pieces, we left the festivities a little early as we had a drive ahead of us to reach our base for the week, Bourg-St-Maurice.

 

En route to Bourg, we stopped off at a Sapaudia Brewing Co. Recently started by two Brits who now call the Tarentaise home, this craft brewery near Aime La Plagne supplies bars and holidaymakers across the Alps with delicious amber nectar. Their sharp signature beer, Signal, is named after a legendary lift in Val d’Isère – one we were hoping to check out later in the week. The boys were kind enough to give us a few cans to enjoy for the week, if you are driving through on your way to resort this season, be sure to pick some up – you won’t be disappointed!

 

Les Arcs

Waking up in our apartment in the valley town of Bourg St Maurice we were greeted by fresh snow but overcast conditions. However, knowing Les Arcs this was not a concern.


A full day of skiing lay ahead and thanks to Bourg’s direct link to its lofty sibling, reaching Les Arcs would be a car-free affair. After buying our passes we hopped on the funicular railway and ascended into the thick cloud and even denser forests of Paradiski.

From the top of the train, which has been upgraded for the 2019/2020 winter season, we hopped straight on the modern lift system and began to explore the forests around the town, the trees protecting us from the clouds rolling through the valley.

On the occasion that the clouds retreated, the views across the valley were immense, made all the more dramatic by the inclement surroundings. Even below the treeline, there is plenty to keep all kinds of skier amused, with plenty of satellite villages to refuel in and sample some local cuisine in, as we did.


As the clouds lifted in the afternoon we had the chance to explore some of the higher glades crowning the resort. With more visibility, it was clear there was a lot on offer here and the brief glimpse we had over to the linked La Plagne only backed this up. In truth one day of skiing was not enough in this megaresort, a whole winter may not be enough. With hundreds of kilometres of pistes still to ski, not to mention the acres of backcountry terrain waiting beyond the piste poles.

Sharing a beer before the last funicular train down to our apartment we reflected on the day. Not having a journey ahead of us in the car was a definite respite from the last two days’ voyaging.


Want to find out more about Les Arcs and its progressive nature? Read our recent feature on the French resort here.

Val Thorens

After an early breakfast and we jumped into Tron before our short drive from Bourg to Moutiers and up the winding road to Val Thorens. As we ascended the rain turned to snow and we found ourselves only able to see a few metres ahead of us, time to fit the snow chains Spaceships had supplied when we picked the van up. Luckily, we had set off early, so arrived in Val Thorens just after the first lifts started turning.


The amount of snow falling when we were out on the mountain was at times so great that we couldn’t even see as far as our skis. The kind of whiteout where you can’t tell whether you are moving or stationary, making for some laughable falls, but hey, at least there was a soft landing!


While the snow was enjoyable, the visibility was not, at a lower resort we would have not been so lucky with the snow, but the disadvantage of skiing in Val Thorens is that on days like these there are no trees to hide in due to the altitude. Still, as we knew the area fairly well we made the most of the conditions enjoying the sensation of the freshly fallen snow under our skis, even if we could not see it.


That afternoon we swerved Val Thorens’ legendary après scene and jumped back in the van. Set to the low rumble of snow chains and the fading thud of outdoor parties, our descent from the highest ski village in Europe was not the fastest, but with the clouds clearing and the sun setting beautifully over mountains we didn’t mind taking our time. Once on solid tarmac however the journey stretched out in front of us and we settled in for the long haul…

Morzine and Avoriaz

The most ambitious day of our week was our visit to the gargantuan, border straddling Les Portes du Soliel ski area. For the first time on our voyage, we were leaving the Tarentaise, and by some distance. The drive from Val Thorens to Morzine was over 156km, which Google informed us would take just shy of 3 hours, factoring in the obligatory stop at Albertville’s golden arches added some time to this.


The drive would usually be quicker, however, the road between Ugine and another alternative route was closed, so we were diverted on to winding mountain roads for the middle section of the journey. Driving through Megeve, and close to many other ski resorts in the Haute-Savoie region, with several hours of driving between us and our destination, we questioned whether we needed to venture so far from the weeks base. However, the heavy rain at lower altitudes and the promise of fresh snow up top spurred us on.


Deciding that it would be foolish to attempt the 6-hour-plus round trip in one day, we sought refuge in the Hideout Hostel in vibrant Morzine. With parking for the van just down the road, the homely and reasonable hostel was the perfect place to rest up before a big day on the hill. What’s more, there was a warming Asian fusion meal waiting for us after our long journey.


Read our review of the Hideout Hostel here

Waking early, we filled our boots with a continental breakfast and hopped in the van before driving up the hill to Avoriaz. The whole resort is built on a carpark, so it is perfectly set up for day trips by road. Donning our boots, we ascended to the pedestrianised town centre where we clipped into our skis and skated towards the nearest lift.


The area certainly did not disappoint. Stretching out in front of us was a powder paradise, the overnight snow that coated the ground and clung to the trees was inviting us to dip our tips into the soft stuff. The powder was perfectly framed by blue skies and preserved by the cold temperatures. As a mixed group of skiers, we found something for each of us to enjoy in the area, from wide-open faces above Chatel to mythical forest surrounding the Stash and motorway groomers over Avoriaz. On the chairlift we all agreed the long journey had been worth it for the world-beating riding, however, we all wished we could have stayed longer – a recurring theme for the week.


Want to explore Avoriaz on your next trip in the company of instructors? Why not try out one of the Ski Club’s iconic Instructor-led Guiding sessions.

After another missed après we pointed our trusty Tron towards Bourg-Saint-Maurice, this time to the sound of 80s bangers (or clangers) and 90s R&B hits to get us through the drive. We skipped the Albertville McDonalds this time, in favour of its sister restaurant in Megeve, with its open fire in stark juxtaposition as we waited for our baton de poulet. 

The rain fell heavily for the second half of the journey but it was smiles all round, rain in the valley could only mean one thing…

Tignes and Val d’Isere

After arriving back late from the drive from Avoriaz, we were a little slow to rise ahead of our last day’s skiing. Thankfully there was only a short 40-minute drive to Tignes to be tackled that morning.


Our Spaceships rental chomped through the mountain roads in the shadow of the mighty dam at the top of the Tarentaise valley. Approaching Tignes we made use of the carpark on the snow front and kicking pours boots on we wondered what would be in a stare for us in our final resort. Having already visited four resorts we couldn’t decide between them owing to their individual characters, after grabbing some ski passes and a breakfast pie from the Planks store, we continued the debate on the first lift of the day as we sped up towards Val d’Isere.


Cruising through the scenic and historic resort we were greeted with a bluebird powder day, and with so much terrain available within touching distance, it’s easy to rush towards the open powder faces, but we were sure to do so with the correct safety equipment and having thoroughly checked the weather and avalanche bulletins.


After 5 days of hard-charging skiing, our legs were feeling it, but with snow as cold and crisp as it was that day, any fatigue was left in the parking lot. Like Paradiski, the Espace Killy area has several villages to explore from Tignes Les Brevieres on one extreme of the piste map to Le Fornet on the other: one day was simply not enough.


We elected to stay around the Solaise area above Val d’Isere which, served by a new gondola complete with heated seats and Wi-Fi in the cabins is reachable in speed and comfort. Thankfully the slower lifts near the top deterred the powder hungry masses and we enjoyed fresh tracks ‘til well into the afternoon.


Jumping over the infamous “up and over” chairlift we had a quick blast from the top of Val’s glacier all the way down to Le Fornet. A fast-paced descent that ranges from wide-open mountain faces to tree-lined glades where you can find fresh tracks days after snowfall.


Passing the Planks store on the way back to the car we were once again tempted by the wafting smell of pies but resisted, instead opting for dinner near our apartment in Bourg. Washing the meal down with a pint of locally brewed Signal beer, named after a lift in Val d’Isere, we were quick to hit the hay. 5 days of riding pistes and mountain roads had taken its toll.

Discover this legendary area for yourself in the company of professional instructors and guides on one of our Freshtracks holidays or Instructor-Led Guiding sessions.

Early the next morning, we departed our base for the week in Bourg with sadness. As the sun came up we began to contemplate the week we had just completed. France’s péages providing the perfect environment to reflect on the trip.


What we learned…

Bourg-St-Maurice is a fantastic place to stay when considering a trip of this sort

You are so close to so many resorts within easy reach and having your transport allows you the freedom to visit whichever resorts you please on any given day. We had only scratched the surface too, La Plagne, St Foy, La Rosiere and many more are all within a 60-minute drive from the hub town.


Party animals need not apply

This type of holiday isn’t for everyone, if you are an après fiend hoping to get merry every afternoon on the tables at the Folie Douce, then you may wish to stay put for your whole holiday – unless you have a willing designated driver in your midst.


Make sure you have several drivers in your group

There is no dressing this one up, we were very ambitious with our itinerary. Had we stayed within the Tarentaise and not wandered to Avoriaz, the week would have been a much more sedate affair. However, this was one of the better days on snow despite a long time on the road. One person driving this kind of trip would have been unmanageable, so if you are planning on doing something of the sort, make sure you have options behind the wheel.


Park low

Anyone who has descended snow and ice-covered road in the dark will know it requires total concentration. In hindsight, it would have been wiser to park low and ski down to the car each day. The extra 20minutes on the lifts in the morning is worth it. This was especially apparent on the Val Thorens day.


Be ready for anything

There is no denying that this trip was epic, we didn’t ski the same run twice all week, the first time in all of our years on the snow any of us have been able to honestly say that. Staying in one resort can become repetitive, but with that familiarity can also come enjoyment and let you start to get to know a place. Which you prefer will depend on your perspective, we decide.

What we could all 100% agree on though was the trip would have not been possible without the van. Having a vehicle big enough to transport the group’s kit and navigate twisty mountain roads with ease was invaluable. Tron certainly served us well.

Arriving early at the terminal in Calais, we were reminded of the advantages of using Le Shuttle as they snuck us on to an earlier service than booked, a nice touch. The service was very impressive and without the speediness, the drive would have been much longer.


Dropping the van off we went our separate ways. I must admit the straight, smooth roads seemed a bit pedestrian. It was going to take a while to adjust, I found myself wanting to pack my ski gear into my car every morning for the next week.


This trip wouldn’t have been possible without Spaceships Rentals and Eurotunnel Le Shuttle.

Spaceships Rentals offer vehicles of all shapes and sizes for holidaymakers. From small vans to larger motorhomes there’s a vehicle for your escape. Find out more here. Ski Club Members receive an exclusive discount.

Eurotunnel Le Shuttle offers the fastest option for motorists wanting to reach the continent, taking just 35 minutes to arrive in France from Folkestone. Find out more here

Find out more about travelling to resort in our Info and Advice pages.