If you want to get high in the alps there is really only one place to go… Val Thorens.
Wearing the title of Europe’s highest snow resort proudly, Val Thorens sits at a (literally) breath-taking 2400 metres above sea level. Not only is it the highest resort it also is a key part in making up the largest ski area in Europe, Les Trois Vallées, which covers a very tasty 600km of pisted runs!
Just below Val Thorens is the town of Les Menuires, split across both sides of the valley and being around 1000 metres lower it can really be a shelter if the wind is picking up higher up the mountain. There are busses running from Val Thorens, through Les Menuires down to Saint-Martin-de-Belleville. Saint-Martin-de-Belleville is the lowest village in the valley and is a perfect place to take your parents if they come and visit, as there are some fantastic restaurants, even including one with a Michelin star.
Now that you are all orientated and you know where you are, let’s get to the more interesting shit.
Val Thorens is known for the loose nightlife and is the sacred home of the Joss shot! If you don’t know what a Joss shot is, it’s a caffeinated powder originally designed for to create an energy drink. BUT, if you don’t add it to water and just put the powder in your mouth and wash it down with a shot of vodka you end up having an amazing night. You will find these naughty numbers in all of the saloon group bars which include; Saloon, Down under (which is underneath Saloon), Favela (opposite Saloon and Down under) and Klub Summit.
All of these bars area located on the VT strip, the top of which is The Frog and Roast Beef. The Frog is the OG British pub and Europe’s highest pub, these guys/girls are all seasonaire veterans so any questions feel free to go there buy a beer and ask them a question. They are also the home of the yard of beer challenge and Rimmer, madly the record currently stands at 10.2 seconds, if you can finish it in under 45 seconds you get it for free or if you finish it in under 30 seconds you get your beer free for the night (GET THE BUCKET READY!). If you have never played Rimmer it’s a quick-fire game of bouncing a coin into a glass with forfeits of you rim the glass or bounce the coin off the table, drinking a lot of vodka and a guaranteed big night/day. It can get the most innocent of boys into a state, as you can see from the before and after shots of our lovely team member Ed.
They also regularly have live acts such as the 3 Valley’s power houses ‘Bring Your Sisters’ as well as local talent at least twice a week. The Frog is also your one stop shop for UK post so whether you are looking for some more underwear sent out from your mum or an AJ seasonaire care package when you spend £50 or more on AJ gear (or Joss, that’s right, you can get your Joss fix right here on the site), this is the place you will send it to!
Following the strip downhill, you have a lovely Irish bar O’Connell’s for a Guinness to make you feel like you are back in the local or if you have been going pretty hard and fancy a quieter pint. If you are below the main bus station in VT (the Gare Routier), which provides a free shuttle bus that goes in a figure of 8 route around VT between 7am and 10pm, there is the other paddy pond, the Shamrock. A go to place for the rugby or a few beers after a busy transfer day. The staff in the Shamrock always have a smile on their face, if you introduce yourself and actually talk to them you can get yourself seasonaire prices on your drinks, a couple euros off each drink is always nice!
If you enjoy a drunken sing-a-long to your favourite party anthems (don’t pretend you don’t because after 5 Joss shots everyone does), then it’s time to head to Le Monde. This Dutch extravaganza is the last stop on the strip before hitting up Klub Summit, as mentioned before, or the fabled Malaysia night club. Le Monde has many a deal on shots and the dutch mini bottle shooter of Fügel, a raspberry flavour shot with the picture of a duck on, they are moreish, you’ve been warned.
I could write this entire guide on bars alone but supposedly there is more to seasons that drinking and partying, no one told us. Some special mentions that we will leave you to go and check out are; Wild and Savage, a lovely French bar located in the Caron shopping centre (will be covered later on) and has music on every night. Baramix, just outside of the Caron shopping centre and under possible seasonaire accom, Olympiads, when you walk in you think it’s a small local’s bar but venture down the stairs and that is something for you to find out on your own, it surprised us the first time that’s for sure. Finally, the Red Fox, the only bar located at the top of the resort on Les Balcons (the Balcony), this is mainly where most of your Chalet guests stay. Great beers, bit pricey, but a really good vibe when you want to chill out in some big ass arm chairs.
Bar 360 is situated on the Combes de Thorens green run so even if you are a complete beginner you can get there and back again without any issues. 360 is where you will find most of the seasonaires, with 360’s massive sound system and hard-hitting DJ’s it’s always going to be a good time. AfroJack is a regular here and simply loves a good VT party. During Dutch week and Belgian week expect it to be busy, but they bring even more speakers and some powerful European DJ’s so it kind of makes up for it.
Bottles of rose wine go down a treat in 360 as they offer the best euro to booze ratio.
If you fancy a quick run before après then head up Cascades and hoon it down a lovely blue that has some beautiful rollers for you to tweak some shifties or just get a bit of air, head left at the fork and along the nice chilled cat-track to end up just above 360.
If you aren’t as keen on going fast head up 2 Lac, which is at bottom of the beginner slope to the right, and be met by a hella chilled green run.
The other main Après venue is widely known for dancing on tables, spraying champagne, a vocalist adlibbing to euro trash and the DJ constantly asking you to put your hands in the air. Of course, its La Folie Douce! With breath taking views and sun all the way to the end, Folie is always a bit of fun and easily accessible from either the Plein Sud lift (bottom of the beginner’s slope) or the Pionniers lift (top of the beginner’s slope). Take your own booze to the hill outside to avoid expensive ass drinks or if you are short on time play a game of I-go-U-go on the lift with a bottle of Old Nick rum punch, we recommend two bottles between three as a good ratio. You will get to Folie sober enough to get in but after 20 minutes or so you’ll be loving life on top of those tables. The run down from Folie is a pretty gnarly blue and after kick out time it’s a massive Chinese downhill so beginners are recommended to leave early or get the last lift down.
Once you are suitably tanked because, similar to London, club prices cost as much as a lift pass, you need to make a choice between heading to Summit or Malaysia. No, not the Malaysia where your friend Bronte found herself but the Alps very own super club. Have been told by many it’s the largest in the Alps and we haven’t been able to disprove that yet. It has everything a French nightclub should have, pissy bouncers, pissy bar staff and sweaty knobheads that don’t understand personal space (good DJs though to be fair to them). But it is open until the very early hours of the morning so if you have a big crew and are in it for the long haul, get yourself to Malaysia. Summit is a little smaller but it is where you tend to find all the bar staff after they have finished their shifts are the aforementioned venues, so if you were having a nice little chat with them across the bar, offer to buy them a drink and you might end up with more than a free shot.
Val Thorens itself has a very modest 180km of pistes, accessible by the 29 lifts dotted around the resort, and a whole lot more off-piste which entices powder hounds and backcountry explorers to come back year after year just to explore some more. If you are looking for even more slopes to tackle but don’t want to fork out for the Three Valley’s pass then simply hop onto a cable car and drop down into Orelle which is just next door but is included on the Val Thorens lift pass. Orelle isn’t massive but it is an absolute hidden gem as it contains large open runs where you can really enjoy those recently sharpened edges and fresh wax, but also totally mind-blowing powder spots that seem to throw two fingers up to the wind and stay put.
VT is a bit weird with its runs, they are designed with progression in mind. You can start on the beginner green run and lap that until you feel confident to leave the beginner area but you are funnelled towards a harder green and then an easy blue etc etc. So what this means is the runs that are the same colour can vary a fair amount and actually be closer to the colour either above or below them.
Saying that, a firm favourite is Moraine. Wide and straight you can really open up the taps and challenge your friends as to who has the most minerals as turning is off limits, or if you fancy taking a cruise and practise your really big turns then I guess it can work for that too…
The run under the Boismint lift down the bottom is a crowd favourite as well, nice and winding with a lot of side hits and mini cliff drops.
Even though there aren’t any park comps VT has a good selection of riders in a very well organised park. With the park being run by the Q-Parks crew, they are constantly moving things around and making it better. Towards Easter they put a massive whale tail roller in between the medium and large jumps as well as 6 different jib lines, a big ol’ hip transfer and a massive bowl at the bottom of the park which a few of the guys decided was perfect for backflips. With a drag lift right next to the park it is a dream for quick laps on a bluebird day and the run at the top of the park leads to 360. Many a day was spent sending it in the park followed by ripping down to 360 and getting a bit turnt in the sun.
There is also a beginner’s park on the other side of the run that separates the two. With small jumps and hella wide boxes which are awesome for getting your first taste of freestyle.
Accom and Eating in
What a night, you have either woken up with someone or you didn’t, get over it, you have all season to get your snow crush bedded. It’s time to get some breakie, get those ski’s or board on and get outside! Depending on where you are living depends the fastest way to the slope, if you are in the lower half of resort and work for a tour op you’ll likely be based in the OG of seasonaire accom Temples Du Soleil (TDS), what TDS lacks in charm it makes up for in views and snow accessibility. Based right on the slope it is a little walk up to the bars (about 15 mins) but you can literally jump off your balcony and land on the beginner slope which leads to the majority of lifts. Right opposite is the large gondola Péclet which takes you high up the resort and offers a choice or blue or red runs to start off with. The restaurant Les Aigullies de Péclet is situated at the top, great views if you stop for lunch or if you know someone on struggle street that just fancies some decent views and some food.
Another seasonaire accom block is Les Neves, situated above the VT strip. I wouldn’t recommend jumping off these balconies as it would hurt like hell, but if you go down in the lift you come out between the Frog and Snesko (another little bar - there are bars fucking everywhere!). Great for nights out but the down side is you have a short two minute walk down the street to the slopes, so yanno, swings and roundabouts.
There are multiple shops that vary in size dotted around VT. If you live down in TDS and in the lower half of resort there is a small shop just under the reception level, they open in the morning but close at 12pm for a few hours and open again around 3pm. It’s good for little bits but if you are looking for more choice head to the top of the street and there is a Spar next to the Shamrock Pub.
Heading up the resort into the large shopping centre the Caron, this is where you can find the pool and the gym which has really good rates for the season which included the pool and sports courts, you will also find another Spar that has a really good selection of fresh fruit and veg as well as cheese, meats etc. If you walk up the stairs and outside you will see a good sized Carrefour across the street if there was anything you couldn’t find in the other places. This would also be your first call if you were staying in the Olympiads accom or near the Place de Caron (big snow square in the centre of town).
Heading up the resort again towards the VT strip you come to the other shop centre which is the Peclet, here you will find a Sherpa. If you have a chat to the people working and are a regular you can get seasonaire discount on your shopping which is always a bonus!
Just up the street and over the road from the Sherpa you will find another Carrefour! They have a clearance section just after the till’s that is completely free, it can be crammed with decent goodies or just as bare as a junkie’s front room.
Special mention goes to the small ass Sherpa shop located at the top of the resort (Les Balcons) that is pretty much just there so the chalet guests don’t have to walk 20 minutes into and back from town to get some bread, milk, eggs etc. You the real MVP.
If you can’t be bothered cooking in your kitchenette, it’s pay day, or Mum and Dad have come over and you are going out for some food - you are not going to struggle finding somewhere to go. Whether you are looking for some traditional Savoiard (Val Thorens is located in the Savoie region, a bit like a county) fondue, raclette, burgers, steak, French cuisine or even Scandinavian cuisine, you can find it in VT. Booking for most restaurants is recommended, especially on Wednesday when the chalet staff get the night off so all the guests head to the restaurants.
If you are looking for a tasty steak then the only place to go is The Steak Club, situated next door to Le Monde on the strip, with a large selection of fine cuts you will find what you are looking for whether it’s an 8oz fillet or a 14oz ribeye, you’re in luck.
Le Maision De Val Thorens is located in the Caron shopping centre looking out onto the Place de Caron, opposite the entrance to Malaysia. This restaurant excels in delivering beautiful French cuisine, with a powerful wine list to back up its strong menu it is definitely one that the parents should pay for or that ski instructor you met at Après that one time. Finessed.
John’s American is cosy as hell. We don’t think you could fit more than 25 people into this small restaurant, if anything this adds to the quirky nature of the place that is littered with American memorabilia. Something that isn’t small though is the portion sizes. Whether you ordered the burger, ribs, chicken or fajita’s you get a mountain of food and oooooooooh, it’s tasty.
There are a million and 1 places to get fondue and raclette and they are all bloody good, we recommend having a look around and seeing what you like the look of, you won’t be disappointed no matter where you go.
As mentioned before there is a gym and pool in the Caron shopping centre as well as a pretty big sports hall that all falls under the same membership. The pool area also has a spa which includes two hot tubs, 3 saunas and a massive steam room. Just the thing you need after a long day riding or when the snow is really coming down.
There is also a 5-a-side football league organised between the seasonaires in resort, just ask in the bars and they will be able to help you out!
There is a bowling alley which has about 9 lanes so if you know a shite day is coming book ahead as they get booked up quick. If you just fancy a game in the evening with your mates it’s normally pretty chill and again, have a chat, you can normally get seasonaire discount. The bowling alley also has a hench projection screen and shows the 3pm kick off Premier league games (obviously at 4pm local time).
If you are wanting to relive your teenage dating years then you are in luck because VT has its very own cinema! Yeah alright, most of the films are in French, unsurprisingly, but they do show English movies if they think people will watch it. For example, they had a couple viewings of the new Star Wars film that came out last year; if it’s your bag then go for it yo.
So it’s been briefly mentioned earlier but there are two main shopping centres in town, the Peclet, which is right on the strip, and the Caron which is in the centre of town.
The Peclet is where you are going to find the pharmacy, these lovely ladies will sort you out with the good stuff when you feel like ebola is on a comeback tour. You will also be able to get your fade redone in the Peclet. The hairdressers here give hands down some of the best head massages, or, at least it felt that way, might just have been craving some female attention… er, anyway! Seasonaire cuts are around €19 so it’s an option, or you could let your roommate loose with his clippers, just make sure you put the results on your insta story and #AJSeasonaireCuts. This is also where one of the two Tabac’s in town are, so if you smoke just make sure you know.
The Caron shopping centre, where the pool etc is, remember? Here you will find the other Tabac in town. Some bars sell them but you will be paying a premium. In the Caron you will also find the only board specific shop in town, Ride and Style. These G’s will sort you out anything board related, included spares, repairs and waxes. They also allow free demo’s to seasonaires to help them get the right board before buying. A box of beers when you return the board will keep them sweet and willing to help you with whatever you need, a box of beers is like the unwritten currency of the alp.
No matter what you are doing you will find something in VT to do and fall in love with. People come back year after year after year for the good times that VT produces! Photos and knowledge kindly donated by our OG Val Thorens Ambassador Amy Hoskins and Marketing Exec Ed Green.