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Les Menuires, France

Practical, functional, the best value of Les Trois Vallées resorts.

Consider Les Menuires the claw hammer of les Trois Vallées resorts. While not as pretty as some European ski resorts, it’s one of the most practical and functional, offering some of the best values in one of the world’s finest ski areas. Les Menuires calls itself “The Smile of the Alps” after the arc of the main building, and the uncrowded, sunny skiing here certainly brings smiles to skiers. As with Val-Thorens, the highest elevation ski resort in the Alps that’s just up the valley, altitude equals quality skiing with a base at 1,850 meters (6,084.65 ft).

From the top of the lifts the quarters of Les Menuires spread like blocks across their sunny, open valley. When visitors note that there are more than four quarters, the locals merely shrug. Quarters vary from modernist Berlin to the village feel of Reberry-Les Bruyères to La Croisette, the oldest area built in the 1970s. La Croisette is still the shopping center and site of the ski lift offices.

Each quarter is within easy access of the 45-lift system that can move more than 50,000 skiers an hour up and onto 160 kilometers (80 miles) of pistes spread over 5,600 hectares (1,400 acres). Since the lifts also move people between quarters, they stay open until 11:00 p.m. With free shuttle buses as well, you’ll have no problem getting around the resort.

What’s Great

  • Probably the cheapest place to stay in the famously extensive Three Valleys area – biggest in the world
  • Some great local slopes
  • Lots of slope-side accommodation
  • Extensive artificial snowmaking
  • Trying hard to smarten the place up

What’s Not-So-Great

  • Possibly the ugliest resort in the Alps
  • Main intermediate and beginner slopes get a lot of sun
  • No woodland slopes
  • Beginner slopes are busy as well as overexposed to the sun