SkiBike Tour 2014-15 - Val Thorens Giant Steps

Posted: Thursday, 5 March 2015 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , ,

What a difference a day makes, yesterday I was riding in a small, quaint, rural ski resort and today I would be switching to the 3 Valleys, quite possibly the largest interlinked ski domain in Europe. Last season I explored the Meribel and Courchevel side, but today I would be heading to the highest point at Val Thorens.

Val Thorens is somewhere I have not been since my first weeks of skiing twenty years ago, it was all so new to me then. But I recall being amazed that all the slopes were above the tree line, lending the place an ethereal lunar quality. I imagine it's all well and good when the sun is shining and the weather is clement, but it must be brutal in blizzard conditions.

My companion for the day would be Kevin, who I think is now into his second or possibly third week of skibike riding. There was no real agenda, just another opportunity to mooch around the resort and have some fun.

Kevin - he didn't say a word, but he did laugh a lot

I chose to drive up as far as Les Menuires, rather than go the whole hog and use it as our rendezvous point. We found each other and set about making our way up to Val Thorens.
Here's where the glitz of the 3 valleys tarnishes a little, the first lift operators we encountered didn't want us on at all, as our leashes weren't attached to our feet! We weren't going anywhere in a hurry and they let us on eventually so we would stop cluttering the place up. I suspect this part might be under the control of the same company that runs St. Martin de Belleville lower down the valley and they just haven't caught up with the skibike beat yet.
Once out of Les Menuires and into Val Thorens itself there were no major issues with chairlifts to report and we didn't choose to ride any of the cable cars or gondolas.

Anything within spitting distance of a blue run was tracked out

The price to ride here is high at €54.30, but then so is the altitude and it really shows in both the quality and quantity of snow. Most pistes were perfect packed down powder snow, but not overly groomed, here there are no issues with freeze-thaw cycles. But it was really the off-piste conditions that blew me away. Anything that was within spitting distance of a blue run was totally tracked out, but still a delight to ride. Straying off the more challenging red runs, were where the really good stuff was to be found. Huge mountainsides, piled high with powder snow and nothing to do all afternoon but go just a little berserk in it.

Nothing to do all afternoon but go just a little berserk

Kevin managed brilliantly after I lead him onto some pretty daunting slopes and we both had our fair share of wipe outs. There again if you don't crash once or twice, you're just not trying hard enough. I even managed a few diddy jumps, I seem to be getting better at the take off, now I need to work on the landings.

Kevin managed brilliantly on some daunting slopes

In conclusion, Val Thorens is a very favourable location to go skibiking if you can afford the overheads. You are spoiled for choice and can head down to Les Menuires if you want variety. Opt for the 3 Valleys ski pass and Meribel, La Tania, Le Praz and Courchevel are waiting for you. Sadly St Martin de Belleville hasn't openend its lifts to skibikes, nor has Orelle the 4th valley, but I live the in hope I will see it in my lifetime.