Quick, ski-daddle to Savoie where Le Val Thorens has achieved peak hospitality. This ski-in, ski-out stay was one of the first in the Val Thorens resort – part of skihead-central, the Three Valleys – and its designers dipped into the time capsule, selecting warm wood panelling, rich velvets and stone feature walls, to throwback to its 1971 opening. Add fondue parties, old-favourite cocktails and sauna sessions and all you’re missing for the full timewarp effect is a bowl of keys. But when it comes to top-notch skiing, poste-piste spa pampering and powdered-sugar views, they’re very much in the moment. So, grab your gear and head offski.
Double rooms from £269.29 (€323), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €2.53 per person per night on check-in.
Rates usually include the hotel’s Continental breakfast buffet, access to the spa and use of the shuttle service.
If you do forget an essential piece of kit, or you just don’t want to lug about unwieldy boards, the hotel can help with gear rental.
The hotel welcomes ski bunnies in the winter season between November and May (dates vary).
At the hotel
Spa with a sauna and hammam, gym, expansive outdoor terrace, lobby lounge, free WiFi. In rooms: balcony that connects with other rooms, flatscreen TV, minibar, free bottled water, Diptyque bath products. The Suite has a fireplace.
Our favourite rooms
Rooms are similarly dressed like burnished cabins, with lots of wood, stylishly understated furnishings and neutral hues with a dash of sage in the bathroom tiling. What differentiates them is the view – and why did you come here if it wasn’t to gaze out over glittery swooshes of snow? All rooms have a balcony too, so grab a mug of something steamy and head out to watch the powder fall. The hotel’s suite is nearly double the size of its other rooms at 43sq m – all the more space for ski gear, and families should book the Privilege Village View or Privilege Room Slopes View, both of which have a bedroom with bunks.
There’s something immensely soothing about submerging yourself in warm water after cleaving through cool, crisp snow. The spa’s pool (open from 10am to 8pm) obliges with space for laps and a stylish stone-tiled feature wall. And, there’s no need to forfeit Christmassy scenes – huge windows frame the mountains and loungers are positioned so you can enjoy eyeing them up post-swim.
The ski lift isn’t the only thing that’ll give you a boost – hit the spa for gentle baking in the sauna and a cleansing steam in the hammam followed by a few butterfly strokes in the pool. Snö and Igrane treatments will ease any ski-worn muscles and rosy up windblown skin; and to fully acclimatise, book the signature High-Altitude Massage, which deals with dizzying highs via a scalp and body massage, breathwork and reflexology.
Grab those flip-flops and short-shorts. We kid, of course, but aside from your ski gear you will need a swimsuit for splashing about in the pool. And bring anything fluffy and fleecy to ensure maximum snugness.
A Comfort Room with Village View has been specially adapted for guests with mobility issues.
Very welcome. Some rooms have bunk-beds and sleep a family of four. As for the skiing, there are beginner runs and ample opportunity for snowball fights and snowman building.
Those old enough to stand on a pair of skis. Teens will love the boarding here.
The Privilege rooms have bunk-beds and ample space for a family. And the Superior Rooms can each sleep a child under 12.
If your little snow bunnies are happy to spend the day on the slopes then they’ll be entertained from check-in to check-out. Val Thorens may be best for intermediate skiers, but there are nursery runs for beginners. Alternatively, go on gentle hikes, toboggan, fatbike or build an igloo. The spa also has a selection of mini massages and facials for smalls.
Kids are welcome to use the pool in the spa, but it’s unguarded.
Savoyard cuisine will undoubtedly appeal to little ones, especially vegetable dodgers. Croques, hotdogs and cheese, cheese, cheese will go down a treat.
Why have a huge terrace in the freezing cold? Because skiers criss-crossing glittering mountains is captivating – bring a drink and hunker down under the fluffy blankets provided.
Something snuggly and elasticated for La Fondue and a touch more ice queen for La Brasserie.
Cutlery shmutlery – give us a stick, some bread (and meaty bits) and a giant pot of bubbling cheese and we’re happy. Experience the pinnacle of Savoyard culinary innovation at La Fondue, which is cosily dressed in wood and ushers chilled skiers into its warming embrace. And they up the carby, bacon-y, cheesy stakes with raclette and tartiflette too. If you must use a fork, La Brasserie du Val Thorens is a bastion of chic comfort dressed in leather and wood and has warming favourites: hot-diots, a croque with Beaufort cheese, freshly roasted chestnuts, and vegetarian and vegan picks. Come morning it serves coffees to tuck into your mitts and keep you warm as you get snuggly on the terrace to watch skiers on the slopes.
Unpack the rainbow-trim puffer and ultra slim-fit ski pants that leave little to the imagination even under padding, the 1971 bar travels back to when the hotel was first built, with throwback cocktails and a dash of old-school hedonism. It’s open from 12 noon to 6pm and you won’t just have maraschino-cherry garnishes to snack on, with a menu of local favourites, say a diot hotdog. A fire crackles away in a flagstone feature wall, and butter-soft leather banquettes and sage-green velvet stools beckon.
Dinner in La Brasserie and La Fondue is from 7pm to 9.30pm.
What’s cosier than cocooning yourself undercover as snow falls outside the window? Nothing. So it’s lucky the hotel will bring food to your door from a special menu.
Le Val Thorens is the highest altitude resort in Europe and the highest point in the Three Valleys ski area, the largest in the world with over 600 kilometres of runs. Set at the edge of the Savoie, it’s a majestic meringue of a mountainscape.
Geneva International and Lyon-Saint Exupéry airports are both a two-and-a-half-hour drive from the hotel, where direct flights arrive from all over the world. Alternatively, UK dwellers can zip over to Chambéry Savoie Mont Blanc airport, which serves big cities from Manchester to the capital to Southampton. The hotel can arrange transfers, and the drive, which cuts through the Bauges and Chartreuse massifs, is spectacular.
Gare de Moûtiers-Salins-Brides-les-Bains is around an hour’s drive from the hotel (they can arrange transfers on request). The TGV runs a service from Paris in four hours, Eurostar connects London to the station in eight hours and Thalys runs a service from Brussels in seven hours.
You’ll want to sit back and admire the scenery here, and that’s hard – and somewhat dangerous – to do while you’re taking the wheel on mountain roads. The resort is car free and it’s where you’ll likely spend most of your time, so if you want the odd offsite day then we suggest asking staff to book a taxi for you. If you do self-drive, there’s charged parking at the resort.
Worth getting out of bed for
Superlatives swirl around this part of France: the largest snow-sports area in the world, the highest ski resort in Europe, the tallest mountain in the Alps… So adjust your aspirations loftily. Whatever kind of snow-based fun you seek here can be found – slopes run from nursery to black, and intermediates have 200 runs to whizz down. Plus snowboarders can freestyle and boardercross to their heart's content. There are peaceful first runs at dawn, off-piste adventures across the Three Valleys, and nighttime slaloms. But you needn’t strap your feet onto something to enjoy the slopes, you could ride down on a toboggan, skid over the ice in a car or indeed dive into the freezing water below at Lac de Lou (in a wetsuit, natch). Or zipline from peak to peak and get a natural high paragliding. Or acquire a unique skill by building your own igloo. The hotel can also secure mountain bikes for you for a bracingly scenic ride and pack you a picnic to keep you fuelled too.
You might think, at this altitude, that there’d be slim pickings for dinner, bar fish you pull out of a hole in the ice or hardy berries you’ve hunted down. But, you’d be wrong. Val Thorens is a really rather cosmopolitan resort – and a full-on fondue party – and a sociable one at that, where you can dine very well indeed. Head down the slope to Les Explorateurs for some actually very adventurous dishes like snail ravioli with candied fennel and a pastis broth, cornmeal-coated pike cake with crayfish cappuccino and veal sweetbreads with bergamot demi-glace. And an 18-minute drive north lies another Michelin-star-spangled eatery (holding three, no less), La Boitte, where local ingredients are put to stunning effect in theatrical dishes cooked by a legendary father-son team. Expect caviar with cauliflower ‘snow’, stewed pigeon on toast with local mushrooms and pine-cone-cooked crawfish with cocoa beans and fennel in a shellfish soup. And, Smith stablemate and fellow Beaumier hotel Le Fitz Roy serves the likes of Romaine salad with Beaufort cheeses and trout in a Nantua seafood sauce.
If you want to get the lowdown on the ski scene, head to chalet-style eatery L'Adray Telebar where clued-up skiers and instructors head for Savoyard classics, steaks and cocktails in a stone- and wood-lined dining room.
For a quiet drink, Le Zinc is a sophisticated spot with lots of wood, leather and velvet, an extensive wine and champagne list and a good selection of rums. And for a turn-up-the-volume night, hit infamous party spot La Folie Douce, the highest open-air club in Europe, where DJs hype up an anything-goes crowd and the toffee vodka shots are dangerously moreish.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this chic chalet in the world’s largest ski area, unpacked their Moncler salopettes and put down the fondue fork, a full account of their ice-ice-baby break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Le Val Thorens in Savoie…
Come, gather round this pot of melted cheese, we have a story to tell. Long ago (1971, to be exact) a hotel opened its doors in the world’s largest ski area – the mystical Three Valleys – and the people came in droves to sip hot chocolate on its huge terrace, ski in and out all day, dip things in gooey raclette and celebrate with garish and overly garnished cocktails après piste. And joy reigned in the Alps. And people may say all good things must come to an end, but this ice-cool chalet persists after fine-tuning its interiors and undergoing a top-to-toe makeover. Don’t call it a comeback, it’s more a throwback to its heyday, most notably in the bar, which keeps the pours classic, as well as in the strokable velvets and leathers and stone and wood accents throughout – getting into the groove, but not overdoing it. Alongside rock-candy mountain views and some of the finest skiing and boarding in the world – plus the chance to build your own igloo – there’s sumptuous Savoyard cuisine, and sauna schwitzing and altitude-alleviating massages in the spa. Altogether it’s as cosy and comforting as a bubbling pot of fondue – speaking of, the hotel has an eatery dedicated to that too, so get stuck in.