Valmorel ski resort
Being the last of more than 50 purpose-built ski resorts in France, designers of Valmorel ski resort had the advantage of being able to learn from the mistakes of the previous two decades. As a consequence, they planned a resort that not only had all the advantages of a ski centre built for snow sports – rather than a traditional village that tries to cater for skiers and boarders – but also traditional-style, wooden buildings with slate roofs and trompe l'oeil façades, rather than a mass of concrete boxes.
This approach immediately won Valmorel praise from skiers and boarders (as well as reviewers) when it opened in 1977, and today it is still growing in stature on the world stage.
Despite expensive development projects, including the 5-star MGM and Club Med Village, Valmorel ski resort is keen to stress its environmental credentials. The resort's buildings cover only 3% of the land it occupies and the village is certified to the highest environmental management standard. There's also no car traffic in the resort itself, where everything can be reached on foot or over snow on skis or snowboard, contributing to its family-oriented nature.
Valmorel ski resort is situated close to the Vanoise National Park, in the heart of the Tarentaise Mountains (part of the French Alps) in the southeast of the country. The resort is the first major ski village when arriving from Chambéry (one hour's drive to the west), or when driving from the north.
ValmorelResort Elevation: 1400m
Top Elevation: 2550m
Base Elevation: 1250m
On the slopes
Valmorel's Grand Domaine ski area has a good mix of terrain, with an impressive 165km (103 miles) of groomed pistes.
Valmorel ski resort has no fewer than six dedicated learning areas, specifically for beginners to learn to ski, which is a unique proposition in France. Two of these are just for young children (in the ski nursery area); a further two are located at Malatrai; while the remaining areas are at Crève-Coeur and Doucy Combelouvière.
Despite this focus on beginner skiers, intermediates have the most to enjoy here, with much of the terrain suited to their ability level, including long cruising pistes of up to 4km (2.5 miles) in length.
Although not known as a destination for advanced skiers, there are challenges to be had – particularly on the red and black graded runs of the Col du Mottet, as well as on the Massif de la Lauzière. The eight blacks include the challenging 3km-long (2 miles) Riondet descent.
The local mountain guides office will be happy to take skiers off-piste when the conditions are good and safe – one popular off-piste route is the long descent down the Belleville Valley to emerge below Les Menuires in the Trois Vallées (Three Valleys) ski area.
For freestyle skiers and boarders, there are several specially designed sectors located throughout the ski area. The 'snow zone' has a boardercross, slopestyle and freeride area, and there are three snow parks (at Gollet, Prariod and Beaudin), two boardercross courses (at Arenouillaz and Charmette) and a further two snow cross areas.