An independent guide to Val Thorens
19th July 2017
Val Thorens with Mont Blanc behind
There are plans to develop and expand Val Thorens, by building a new area of hotels and apartments, and renovating the Sports Centre and the Galerie Caron. The Mayor and the lift company also have new ideas for the Cime de Caron.
The commune (les Belleville), which includes Les Menuires and Saint-Martin-de-Belleville as well as Val Thorens, have considered various possible sites for the expansion of the resort.
Those sites include the Combe de Thorens (the location of the Chalets du Thorens restaurants, Bar 360, and apartments). That would involve connecting a significant new area to water, electricity, and other services. It would also mean building a road to the site, and vehicles would have to go through Val Thorens to get there, creating more congestion on weekends. There would also need to be enough parking on site, which could be difficult. For these reasons, the Combe de Thorens option can be discounted.
Another site which was a possibility is the Balcons area. However, the French government is becoming stricter about building in places where there are risques naturels. There is some natural risk of avalanches on the Balcons slopes, and that risk is managed for existing buildings by using avalanche barriers. According to new government criteria, it will be difficult to obtain permission for significant new construction in the Balcons sector.
The plateau de Cairn was another idea which has been rejected.
The best option appears to be a couple of bends below the current entrance to the resort, at Parking P3, where the ice circuit is currently located.
Permission will be sought (from the préfecture, the local representatives of central government) to build hotels, club hotels, and self-catering apartments in résidences de tourisme. Apartments used as second homes are not favoured, because they are often empty, and therefore don't contribute to the commercial success of Val Thorens. In recent years, a number of new luxury hotels and apartments have opened their doors, and they seem to be the preferred type of development.
The existing Sports Centre in Val Thorens dates from 1983, and needs to be renovated.
The plan is to rebuild a sports centre on the same site. It will be a major project, and will be tricky to manage because the Sports Centre is important to Val Thorens in summer and winter. It could be done in two phases, so that the Sports Centre is never closed altogether.
As part of the project, there's to be better access to the Sports Centre and the Galerie Caron, from place des Arolles (the bus station). At the moment, it isn't obvious to visitors who arrive at place des Arolles that they can get to the Sports Centre and the heart of the resort by the escalator and stairs at the foot of the Galerie Caron. In the new scheme, there should be an entrance to the Sports Centre at the level of the bus station.
As a comment, if there is still an escalator into the Galerie Caron in the new layout, it would be useful if it could work all the time. Currently, we have an escalator which doesn't escalate! About half the time, it is at a standstill. For a resort which is a multiple winner of the World Ski Awards 'best ski resort in the world' prize, it's an embarrassment. To be fair to Val Thorens, in general it's motto could be 'yes we can' - things which need to be done, get done. The Galerie Caron escalator is an unfortunate exception.
Another aspect of the Sports Centre/Galerie Caron project is that the tennis courts on the roof (by la Maison restaurant) will be a snow-covered extension of place Caron, rather than being fenced off. This will create more space for events that take place in the winter in the centre of resort.
At the moment, architects are being asked to put forward proposals for the redevelopment. These proposals will be considered, and a scheme chosen.
The Cime de Caron is the jewel in the crown of Val Thorens' ski area, and the resort would like to maximise its potential in summer and winter.
There's a possible project to replace the current lifts (télécabine and télépherique de Caron) with a new télécabine which would allow access from both sides - ie, Orelle, in the Maurienne valley, and from the Val Thorens side. The idea is that it would help develop the Maurienne side, attracting more visitors in summer and winter, and without increasing the pressure on the road up to Val Thorens.
Of course, this would be a major undertaking, and plans are at an early stage.
A guide to the events in Val Thorens during the winter season, plus the weekly programme.
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