An independent guide to Val Thorens
For many people, off piste is the very best of skiing and boarding. From the joy of fresh powder snow, to the feeling of freedom and solitude in the back country, nothing beats a day out away from the pistes and lifts. Val Thorens is one of the top places in the Alps to ski off piste, together with the connected ski areas in the Belleville Valley, and the Three Valleys.
Here, you can find out about some of the best off piste itineraries in Val Thorens, and the Belleville Valley. There's a section on safety considerations, and details of guides and guidebooks. The guide to the itineraries is an overview, but bear in mind it's not a substitute for a detailed guidebook, map, and/or local guide. Read about Val Thorens off piste itineraries here.
There are risks involved in off piste expeditions. It's essential to have a knowledge of, and respect for, the mountain environment. Read more on off piste safety considerations .
If you would like to buy a guide to the itineraries of the Three Valleys, there are two options (both bi-lingual, written in French and English). Les Clés des 3 Vallées (The Key to the 3 Valleys) by Didier Givois is a very good, if expensive, book. It can often be bought in the resorts of the Three Valleys - for example, it's sometimes available in the gift, card, and book shop in the Péclet centre in Val Thorens.
Otherwise, the old classic is the Vamos guide, Les 3 Vallées Hors Pistes (The 3 Valleys Off Piste), written by Philippe Baud and Benoit Loucel. It is small enough to take with you on a day out, unlike the large, hardback Givois book. The latest edition was published in 2004.
Local instructors and mountain guides know the local area, and have seen the evolution of the snowpack over the winter season. They can enable you to have a safer and more enjoyable off piste experience.
The high mountain guides in Val Thorens can be contacted through the main ESF office in place de Caron, and one of them is usually present from 5pm each day. One of the guides is Alain Stevenet. The high mountain guides, and the instructors specialising in off piste, are represented by the Office de la Montagne website.
You can buy any off piste equipment you need online, and buy or rent off piste equipment at Zenith ski shop in Val Thorens. Read more about buying or renting off piste equipment at Zenith ski shop, Val Thorens.
These are some of the main off piste routes from or near Val Thorens.
The Vallon du Lou is a big valley without any pistes or lifts. There are various routes down the valley, to the lake at the bottom - the Lac du Lou. Read more about the Lac du Lou off piste itineraries.
The Pierre Lory itinerary is in Orelle. It's fairly easy, not too far from the pistes, and doesn't take very long. The skiing can be great fun when the snow is good. Read more about Pierre Lory.
One of the most spectacular days out from Val Thorens is Pralognan. After a trek up from the Col chairlift, you ski off piste, walk up again, then ski for many kilometres, to arrive at the Refuge du Roc de la Peche. From there, continue on cross-country ski trails to Pralognan. Read more about Val Thorens to Pralognan off piste.
A very enjoyable outing in the right conditions, the Combe Sans Nom starts from the top of the Cime de Caron, and heads SSW, into the Maurienne, and ends at the Maurienne chair. Read more about la Combe sans nom.
There are lots of great Belleville valley off piste itineraries, many of them starting from La Masse in Les Menuires. In general, they're not particularly steep and deep, but are perfect for getting away from the pistes, lifts, and people, and into beautiful snowy landscapes, close to nature.
This route starts from the top of the Lac Noir chair. There's little walking involved, and you get a great ski down the Combe des Yvoses. Read more about les Yvoses.
This charming itinerary starts from the top of the Lac Noir chair, with a walk up La Gratte. The best skiing is from La Gratte, into Le Geffriand. Read more about le Geffriand.
This itinerary begins the same way as the Geffriand, with a walk up La Gratte, and a ski down into the Geffriand. Then, though, touring skis are required, to get up to the ridge by the Col de la Fenetre. From there, there's a great ski down to le Chatelard. Read more about the Col de la Fenetre.
The Olympic Express chairlift takes you up to a peak on the ridge called Le Verdet (2294m). There's a wide open expanse of slopes, and you can ski to the right of the wood (le Bois de Goffay). Arrive in the village of Béranger. You need to have booked a taxi, or have a friend to give you a lift, to travel the 3-4km to St Martin de Belleville, and the ski lifts.
This itinerary begins with a ski from the top of the Olympic chair, along the ridge to the Roc de Fer. There's then an enjoyable ski down the Creux de la Stetta, past the stone chalets at Les Granges, and through the trees to the Raffort bubble station. Quite low altitude, but great in winter when there's fresh powder. Read more about the Raffort off piste itinerary.
Our suggestion for quality ski and snowboard hire at fair prices - Zenith ski shop, in the centre of resort.
All the ski shops in Val Thorens, with a location map.
A guide to all the ski schools in Val Thorens, including the ESF, Prosneige, Ski Cool, Evolution 2, and Free School Attitude.
The mountain restaurants of Val Thorens - the best places for a coffee or hot chocolate, and the most attractive lunch options.
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