“I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.”
Let’s talk snow, picturesque views, cosy French Chalets (complete with your very own Host) and a ‘White’ Family Christmas in Val Thorens. A ski resort nestled within the award winning 3 Vallee’s and proudly situated at 2300m – the tallest in Europe. Pull on your boots and click into your board, the mountains are covered in glistening ‘pow pow’ and the piste is well and truly calling!
We were glued to the window of our bus, yes noses glamorously squashed against the glass, admiring the landscape outside with quiet anticipation. Alpine communities were busy about their day and, although the temptation of the slopes was in constant view, residents were still admirably committed to daily routine.
Classic and contemporary wooden Chalets were nestled into the mountains and we were once again captivated by their Alpine charm. Although tummies were squeamish, as the bus hugged the range snaking up the steep terrain, we were confident the rewards would far out weigh the temporary discomfort.
It was the morning of Christmas Eve and week two of our holiday in the French Alps. Time to transfer from the magical and quaint village of Meribel and check into the ski-in, ski-out resort town of Val Thorens.
Val Thorens sits at 2300m and enjoys the title of Highest Altitude Resort in Europe. It is also connected to the 3 Vallees which, with over 600km of runs, makes it the largest ski area in the world.
Altitude is everything when you are planning a holiday early in the European snow season. As 99% of Val Thorens skiable terrain sits above 2,000m we figured, although it is impossible to predict the weather, there was a pretty good chance we would have enough powder to play in.
By the time the bus pulled into the town square we were well and truly pumped by the ‘boarding’ action we had seen on the mountain and super curious to explore our new surrounds, however, first stop was checking into Chalet Des Neiges. We had family who were arriving from Australia and friends from India who were already settled in – time for the White Christmas Festivities to begin!
White Christmas in Val Thorens
Christmas Eve began with a visit downtown to the Grotto, a buzzing hub of chilled-out adults and excited children celebrating the season. Definitely no late night shopping anxiety in crowded Malls up here in the French Alps!
The smell of freshly roasted chestnuts filled the air and the husky dogs enthusiastically embraced the attention from children and adults alike. Sparkling lights and real Christmas trees decorated every corner, along with holly and mistletoe freshly picked for the occasion.
Santa had even taken some time out from his busy schedule to pop in and say hello; it was truly like being in a real life fairytale.
Our Chalet Host had prepared a delicious home cooked dinner which was ready to be served once we arrived back and, if that wasn’t spoilt enough, we were even treated to evening fireworks. It certainly was spectacular watching the display light up the snow covered mountains as the bursts of colour erupted into the night sky.
The final touches on a near perfect day was placing the stockings and snacks for Santa under the Christmas Tree and, after the children listened to their PNP Christmas message, they were more than contented to drift off to sleep.
Christmas morning was a flurry of excitement in the Chalet as the children quickly became submersed in the colourful Christmas mess which had exploded under the tree. Our Chalet Host was welcomed into the excitement before having to excuse himself to begin cooking breakfast. The turkey was also placed in the oven in preparation for our evening meal.
And so, with no meals to prepare, no shopping, cooking, or tidying to be done, all that was left for us to do after the excitement of Christmas morning, was to ‘kit up’ and hit the slopes. A H – M A Z I N G !!
The most decadent aspect of experiencing Christmas in a Hosted Chalet is, the fact that you don’t actually have to DO anything. All you personally need to organise is unpacking your clothes into the wardrobe on check-in day, as everything else is already under control.
Hitting the Slopes
Val Thorens enjoys “the most beautiful view in the Alps, a breath-taking 360° panoramic view over more than 100 Alpine summits (French, Swiss and Italian).
Michelin Green Guide
There are no bus transfers needed from accommodation to the slopes at Val Thorens as access to 600 km of runs, with terrain for all ski levels to enjoy, is literally right at your doorstep – the absolute highlight of staying in this ski-in, ski-out resort. Once on the slopes, we enjoyed breathtaking views from as high as 3002m and, with 330 on and off pistes for you to explore, the most challenging part for Parents is to keep track of the time. The last thing you want to do is get distracted from the commitment of picking up children from Ski School right when they finish 😜.
With so many ski trails to cover, my best advice is to start by grabbing yourself a map, or alternatively download the interactive ski map on your phone. Honestly, you really can’t go wrong when you set off to explore this exciting expanse of winter wonderland.
While you are exploring the mountain you will discover all the familiar sights and facilities you would expect, such as Alpine cafe/restaurants, a 6 km toboggan slope, fun areas and snow parks. A few things were new to us such as zip lines (see picture below), ice cart tracks, lift systems accessible via escalators, glacier runs and the perspex tunnels at the beginners area.
This year the ski season in Val Thorens opened on 26 November, 2016 and is due to close on 1 May, 2017. We didn’t have any fresh snow during the Christmas week and, although there was plenty of snow for us to have fun on, although, I must say by the end of our visit it really was getting quite icy. But hey, you can’t control Mother Nature.
Last but not least…
Val Thorens is a thriving Resort Village with accommodation ranging from Club Med to Hosted Chalets, with everything in between. You will find all the holiday essentials in town from practical amenities such as grocery stores, pharmacies, equipment hire as well as gift shops, cafes, restaurants and bars which can be found on every second corner. There certainly is no shortage of ‘après-ski’ to keep you entertained long after you come down from the slopes.
The local street markets are held twice a week in Val Thorens and, although meals were included in our holiday package, we couldn’t resist sampling the local delicacies.
Our Chalet Host enjoyed one night off during our stay and yes, we could have used this as an excuse to enjoy a meal at a local restaurant, however we were completely contented to stay in and order home delivered pizza instead. Perfect opportunity to sit around talking thrills and spills – comparing injuries, bragging about the run-of-the-day and measuring who has the biggest bruises!
Getting down to the ‘Nitty Gritty’
Ben’s Bus offer straight forward airport transfers up the mountain from Geneva, Lyon and Grenoble Airports. It is a three hour journey from Geneva with only one change over at Moutiers Bus Depot. Interestingly enough, being dropped off at one village and departing from another village is not classed as a return trip. You will need to book two single fares per person.
For those of you being dropped at Val Thorens town centre it is super easy to catch a resort bus up to Chalet Des Neiges. You will need to catch a bus up to Nevis bus stop, which is past the church, then it is just a 100m walk up the hill to the Chalet.
Our accommodation was organised through Ski Beat which came highly recommended to us via the personal experience of family members – and I can see why! Their loyalty is due to exceptional customer service, quality of food and accommodation, efficient and personable ‘on-ground’ staff and value for money. Ski Beat can arrange your entire holiday for you in a single package or you can choose to organise your own transfers, which is what we did.
There are several ways you can book lift passes, online, during the bus transfer, or at the ticket office on the slopes. If you still haven’t got yourself organised, Ski Beat can organise a member of their team to visit you in the Chalet. The price is the same regardless.
We pre-organised our ski and snowboard hire online through Twinner, who were conveniently located within our building. Never was getting fitted out with gear as easy as popping downstairs in the lift AND in-house guests received a 20% discount.
The children were divided between two Ski School’s during our stay in Val Thorens. Our four year old enjoyed the more personalised attention and smaller group size of Magic Ski School and our eight year old joined friends in a group booking with ESF. They both received medals at the end as well as a progress report booklet. I would strongly recommend you pre-book your lessons online in preparation for the peak season. If not, a team member from Ski Beat can pop over to the Chalet and organise your booking for you at your leisure.
We named 2016 One Day is Today, the year we enjoyed so many experiences which had been sitting waiting on our #BucketList. A definite highlight being our first ever White Christmas which we spent in the French Alps.
This holiday was split between Meribel and Val Thorens Resorts due to availability and, although we were initially disappointed with this arrangement, it turned out to be a brilliant opportunity.
Although the Resorts are connected within the 3 Vallees, we were able to experience the atmosphere and daily life of both sides of the mountain, as well as a shared verses group booking Chalet arrangement.
As far as family holidays in the snow go, we honestly couldn’t be happier.
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