I tested Val Thorens, Europe’s highest winter sports resort 🔑

It celebrated its 50th anniversary with a pioneering spirit preserved


Building a resort in a valley at an altitude of 2,300 m already seemed heretical to the inhabitants of the Belleville valley, which gave birth to Les Menuires. Only a few adventurous pioneers believed it. 50 years later, their children have taken on the adventure, always keeping their dream of being pioneers.



Val Thorens, 2300 m, the highest resort in Europe (©OT Val Tho)
Val Thorens, 2300 m, the highest resort in Europe (©OT Val Tho)

Val Thorens, 2300 m, the highest resort in Europe (©OT Val Tho)




The Vallée des Belleville is one of the largest municipal communities in Savoie, consisting of nearly forty villages around Saint-Martin-de-Belleville and two winter sports resorts, Les Menuires and Val Thorens. The story of the latter is a project that will never get off the ground.

Too high, too complex, too hostile, the site just gave him access to an unexplored domain rich with possibilities. A few stubborn people believed in the project, including Jean Beranger, the former coach of the French women’s team, and Pierre Josserand, who is still the head of the ski lift operating company.

If most of the families of Saint-Martin-de-Belleville had not followed them, already satisfied with the success of Les Menuires, others “ adventurers » offered their support and experiences…

Also read: Val Thorens is counting on a new Board of Directors to boost the summer season

Politicians such as de Gaulle’s minister Joseph Fontane, engineers such as Pierre Schnebelen, as well as successive mayors in Saint-Martin: Georges Cumin, André Plaisance and today Claude Jay, mobilized for the construction of facilities and the first skiing. The season began in 1972. That is 50 years ago.


The name of the Goitschel sisters remains associated with the station

Sisters Christine and Marielle Goitschel during their 50th anniversary (©BC)
Sisters Christine and Marielle Goitschel during their 50th anniversary (©BC)

Sisters Christine and Marielle Goitschel during their 50th anniversary (©BC)

It would be a bit long to talk about this half century, especially since success did not happen immediately, it could even turn into failure.

Resort life is marked by several strong elements that are still part of its DNA: construction of the Cime Carona cable car at 3200 m, the highest point in Europe to start skiing ; the arrival of the Goitschel sisters, Marielle and Christine, whose name will long be associated with the resort; The establishment of Pierre Barthes’ tennis academy has since been replaced by a completely rebuilt sports center: the Council.

There was a time when recurring storms on the highest peaks seemed to destroy the high stations forever. Val Thorens’ story is one of persistence paying off.


A “Living United” solidarity concept that works surprisingly well

Call for votes for awards (©OT)
Call for votes for awards (©OT)

Call for votes for awards (©OT)

Year after year, the pioneers, always in search of the latest innovation, imagining their own equipment, inventing ways to manage the resort in symbiosis and close cooperation, gave a special character to Val Torrens.

The Live United signature, which can be translated as “Let’s live together”, is a symbol of the spirit that everyone shares: ” We are at the end of the valley. We can only rely on ourselves and the solidarity that exists between us. “, explain in their own way each of all the managers encountered in the management of the technical services of the slopes, the operation of the lifts, sports and leisure facilities, as well as in most shops, restaurants and accommodation and Tourist. Office.

Vincent LalanneOT’s general manager, a former Courchevel and Trois Vallees veteran, explains how the station works: ” We focus on what the customer, the customers, expect or want.

When one of us comes up with an idea, we meet in the big office room, discuss it and see how everyone can contribute to its realization. I have rarely seen a territorial organization work so harmoniously “.


Val Thorens collects world firsts

Altapura, completely renovated, is one of the resort's four 5* hotels (©DR)
Altapura, completely renovated, is one of the resort's four 5* hotels (©DR)

Altapura, completely renovated, is one of the resort’s four 5* hotels (©DR)

The multiplicity of structures: eight ski schools, including the Société d’Aménagement de la Savoie, Setam, Sogevab, slope services, ESF, usually leads to competition or difficult decisions.

But the difficulty of establishing the station 50 years ago left a deep impression, it was an important need for cooperation.

Since then, Val Thorens has often been the 1st or the first resort to introduce innovations in lifts, slope maintenance, sports offers, cultural and holiday events.

Not counting the families of hoteliers who have increased their projects, from Club Med to Pierre & Vacances, all the main accommodation providers are available today through MMV, Odalys or UCPA: Marielle, Fitzroy, Altapura, Pashmina or Farenheit.


“Keep innovating to invent the mountains of tomorrow”

50 years after the official inauguration, the ceremony, which brought together all the pioneers who are still alive, their children and grandchildren, was not a celebration of the past, but a step towards the future.

The elders insisted to the young people who were now leading: Don’t stop innovating! Keep inventing tomorrow’s skiing, tomorrow’s leisure, tomorrow’s mountains as we do! »


They took turns at the podium to convey a message of pride for the work done and a warning of the challenges ahead, as did Regional President Laurent Walkes, who held the first snowflake at the resort.

Environmental concerns, global warming, and the expectations of new generations mean that we cannot rest on our laurels. However, many of them are collected by Val Thorens, regularly voted the best ski resort in the world.


Striking a balance between improvement and accessibility to as many people as possible

Snow Tubing - (CL. Brochot - OT Val Thorens)
Snow Tubing - (CL. Brochot - OT Val Thorens)

Snow Tubing – (CL. Brochot – OT Val Thorens)

The direction the station takes will require maintaining a delicate balance, as with other arrays. The high-end action coveted by elected officials, concretized by local families – with 4 5-star hotels in operation, 5 4-star hotels, several luxury residences and private chalets – shouldn’t deter skiers. intended for high salary earners.

If it is a huge asset during the period “normal”70% of foreign customers compared to only 30% of the French can be a hindrance to traffic restrictions and challenges.stays“.

With the arrival of very high-end residences associated with hybrid concepts that are more accessible to young people, several projects are underway or have construction permits, especially in the lower part of the resort.

Also read: Altapura from Val Thorens wins again at the 2022 World Ski Awards

Skiing remains essential, but comes in a more fun version. Parallel activities abound: zip line over the slopes, fat bike, snowtubing, snow balance bike, snowplow or sledding.

If Val Thorens continues to surf every winter without too much trouble in his reputation, he doubts himself to expand his activities in the summer (see the article about new destinations). Frustrated by Verbier in Switzerland winning the world’s best resort award, he is already preparing a response for next year.


Val Tho Club is a unique loyalty tool

The descent of the torchlight (©T. Loubère OT Val Thorens)
The descent of the torchlight (©T. Loubère OT Val Thorens)

The descent of the torchlight (©T. Loubère OT Val Thorens)

Val Thorens has a huge tool for this, Club Val Tho, which has almost 40,000 members as part of the resort’s loyalty program. In order to keep this society alive, it is regularly animated, demanded and questioned. Each season, the Tourist Office teams offer up to 2,000 dream experiences.

Every week, members of the club are invited to unexpectedly experience carefully designed experiences: from a snowplow ride at dusk, to dinner at a gourmet restaurant, including a mountain bike ride or participation in the torchlight of the monitors. There is no doubt that the community is also mobilizing to put their precinct back on top of the list.



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