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Adventure

Dream Trip: 3 Vallees France

The world’s largest ski area will blow your mind.

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Let me begin by stating an indisputable fact about the sport of skiing: If thou considerist thyself a skier, thou must make pilgrimage to the Alps…

Let me begin by stating an indisputable fact about the sport of skiing: If thou considerist thyself a skier, thou must make pilgrimage to the Alps during thy lifetime.

Why? It’s the cradle of the sport. It’s the epicenter of off-piste and mountaineering, and the Mecca of après. The ski resorts of the Alps are unfathomably massive and staggeringly beautiful. France’s 3 Vallées is no exception. A grand domain comprised of five connected ski areas—Courchevel, Meribel, Les Menuires, Val Thorens, and Orelle—the 3 Vallées is the largest ski area on the planet. You’ll ski high-alpine powder with expansive views, cruisey 3,000-vertical-foot groomers, chutes, bowls, glaciers, and even an occasional tree stash. You’ll enjoy fabulous French cuisine and party hard. Plus, lift tickets are just over half the price of a pass at most major resorts of the US. The French have really figured this whole skiing thing out.

Photo: Keri Bascetta

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Home to 15 five-star hotels and two of France’s 15 Palace-designated hotels, Courchevel has a luxurious reputation. Yet it hides some of the 3…

Home to 15 five-star hotels and two of France’s 15 Palace-designated hotels, Courchevel has a luxurious reputation. Yet it hides some of the 3 Vallées most committing skiing with the couloir-ridden Saulire, endless off-piste off the Roc Merlet, and tree skiing down to the lower villages of the resort.

Photo: Keri Bascetta

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Stay: If you have the cash, the village of Courchevel 1850 is home to the nicest hotels you’ll ever see. Outside of the holidays, rates are pricey…

Stay: If you have the cash, the village of Courchevel 1850 is home to the nicest hotels you’ll ever see. Outside of the holidays, rates are pricey but manageable, especially considering the quality of the rooms and service. Check out Le Saint Roch, La Sivolière, or the Annapurna for the five-star experience. There are plenty of more affordable options as well. Every lodging property in Courchevel is ski-in/ski-out so you can stage out of your room and access the lifts. When you’re in France, you’ve got to live a little.

Photos: Keri Bascetta

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Smack dab in the middle of the 3 Vallées, Meribel is an ideal base camp for the area. Meribel-Mottaret, the highest village in the Meribel valley,…

Smack dab in the middle of the 3 Vallées, Meribel is an ideal base camp for the area. Meribel-Mottaret, the highest village in the Meribel valley, provides access to every corner of the area with only a lift ride or two. The east face of the Saulire provides some of the longest descents of the entire region. The powder skiing is pretty damn good too.

Photo: Keri Bascetta

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Stay: The remodeled Alpen Ruitor in Meribel-Mottaret is comfortable and convenient, just steps from the lift.Party: With locations in Val d’Isére and…

Stay: The remodeled Alpen Ruitor in Meribel-Mottaret is comfortable and convenient, just steps from the lift.

Party: With locations in Val d’Isére and Val Thorens, La Folie Deuce is one of the most legendary après-ski bars in France—if not the world. The newest location opened this year in Meribel. Don’t miss it. Après in France is on a different level. Expect full on ragers at 3:00 p.m., table dancing, techno, shots, and 1,500 vertical feet of slightly intoxicated skiing after the party closes down. It’s glorious.

Photos: Keri Bascetta

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The sleeper of the 3 Vallées, Les Menuires is known as a family destination yet it hides some of the best adventure skiing of the whole area. Rising…

The sleeper of the 3 Vallées, Les Menuires is known as a family destination yet it hides some of the best adventure skiing of the whole area. Rising to just over 9,000 feet, Le Masse offers limitless off-piste in almost all directions. Most of the backcountry allows you to get away from the lifts completely as you ski remote drainages that funnel back to charming little towns like Saint Martin de Belleville where a lift waits to take you back up for another lap. Get a ski guide here through the ESF (French National Ski School) and you won’t be disappointed.

Photo: Keri Bascetta

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Stay: The lower-elevation villages of Les Menuires like Saint Martin de Belleville and Saint Marcel are beautiful. Age-old farmsteads still make the…

Stay: The lower-elevation villages of Les Menuires like Saint Martin de Belleville and Saint Marcel are beautiful. Age-old farmsteads still make the butters and cheeses you’ll eat in the 3 Vallées. Each village feels like skiing in a simpler time. Cozy chalets and farmhouses make up the landscape instead of huge hotel structures. For a more traditional lodging experience, check out La Bouitte in Saint Marcel. Eat in the restaurant there. It’s expensive but unreal.

Photos: Keri Bascetta

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Eat: The Caron Freeride Café, at the top of the famous Cime Caron cable car, serves up delicious fare from the Rhone Alps like Tartiflette, a potato…

Eat: The Caron Freeride Café, at the top of the famous Cime Caron cable car, serves up delicious fare from the Rhone Alps like Tartiflette, a potato gratin with reblochon cheese and bacon. It also has one of the best views in France stretching from Mont Blanc to the mountains just outside Milan, Italy. Say hello to JP, the owner of the Caron Freeride Café.

Photo: Keri Bascetta

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Stats: 600 km of runs, 175 lifts, innumerable off-piste areasLift Tickets: 53.00 Euros per day ($69), 300 Euros for 7-day pass ($395).Get There:Air…

Stats: 600 km of runs, 175 lifts, innumerable off-piste areas
Lift Tickets:
53.00 Euros per day ($69), 300 Euros for 7-day pass ($395).

Get There:
Air France flies from most major US hub cities to Lyon with a quick layover in Paris. Lyon is the biggest regional hub for the Rhone Alps and the 3 Vallées. It’s also one of the centers of French food culture, which makes it a nice little place to work off your jet lag. Do some window-shopping as you wander through the narrow streets of town. Be sure to eat at a Buchon for delicious, traditional home-style meals from the region.

Links:

3 Vallées
Courchevel
Meribel
Les Menuires
Val Thorens
Lyon
Air France
France Montagnes

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