An independent guide to Val Thorens
Val Thorens ski schools offer group lessons and private lessons, for adults and children, and in skiing and snowboarding. Read about Val Thorens ski schools here.
There are six main ski schools in Val Thorens - the ESF, Ski Cool, Prosneige, Evolution 2, Oxygène, and Free School Attitude. There are also high mountain guides, and a British instructor in Val Thorens.
The ESF in Val Thorens (Ecole du Ski Francais de Val Thorens) was founded by one of the pioneers of Val Thorens, Jean Béranger, in 1972, shortly after the resort came into existence. Today, it is the biggest ski school in Val Thorens, with up to two hundred instructors in the busiest periods. It offers group lessons, private lessons, and other activities.
There are options for children from 3 months upwards. For children from 3 months to 35 months, there's a nursery and crèche. The Piou Piou club is for children from 3 to 4 years old, with a mixture of indoor activities and skiing in the safe snow garden area. Children's group lessons (4 to 12 years old) are divided into seven levels (ourson, flocon, 1st star, 2nd star, 3rd star, bronze star, gold star).
This is a brief description of the levels:
For children from 4 years old who have never skied before, or who have the 'Piou Piou'. They begin in the snow garden, a safe, enclosed area, where they can learn to do a snowplough. Once they can slow down, stop, and turn, they are taken out on the main slopes.
After a warm-up in the snow garden, children in the Flocon level are taken out on the main slopes, beginning with the easiest green slopes. By the end of the week, they learn to bring the skis parallel at the end of each turn.
For children who can snowplough and turn on green runs. By the end of the week, they should be able to bring their skis parallel by the mid-point of each turn (when the skis are in the fall-line).
For children who ski confidently on easy slopes. By the end of the week, they learn to ski almost completely parallel (just a slight plough at the start of the turn is acceptable in the end-of-week test), and they can side-slip.
For children who ski more or less parallel on blue runs. They learn to ski different terrain and conditions, and control their speed on red runs.
For children (from 6 years old) who can ski parallel. They improve their technique, and learn to do short turns. There's a gentle introduction to giant slalom.
For children (from 6 years old) who are comfortable skiing fast, and on red and black runs. They learn technique for moguls and giant slalom. At the end of the week, there's a timed giant slalom.
Beyond Gold Star, and snowboarding
Beyond Gold Star, children (from 8 years old) can do the Junior Competition course (including slalom, giant slalom, and skicross training and racing), or the Team Rider course (a mixture of competition, snowpark, and off piste).
There are children's group snowboard lessons too, from 7 years old.
For a full explanation of the different levels in skiing and snowboarding, see our ski school levels document.
The ESF in Val Thorens offers group lessons for adults and teenagers (from 13 years). When there are enough teenagers, groups are made specifically for them, as it's more fun for them to ski or board with people of their own age, and they tend to make quick progress. See the ESF Val Thorens page for the timetable. The levels are beginner, Class 1, Class 2 , Class 3, and Class 4 (competition or off piste).
This is a brief description of the levels:
For people who have never skied before. Learn the basics, beginning with snow plough, then turns. These lessons give you a solid foundation for your skiing.
For people who have done one week of skiing, and can ski on green runs. Develop from snowplough turns towards basic parallel turns.
For people who can make parallel turns on blue runs, but don't feel completely confident on red runs. Improve your parallel turns on steeper slopes, and learn to make turns of different radius and at different rhythms.
For people who have skied for at least 5 years, and can turn parallel on all types of slope. Learn to ski different snow conditions, very steep slopes, and moguls.
Class 4 off piste or competition
Beyond Class 3, there is Class 4 off piste, for off piste skiing and itineraries, and Class 4 competition, with slalom and giant slalom training and races.
For more details, and snowboarding levels, see our ski school levels document.
Private lessons are also available from the ESF in Val Thorens. They are a good way to learn a lot in a short time, with the focus on what you want to improve, and the lesson adapted to your level.
During high season periods (school holiday weeks), private lessons are generally 12.00-1.30, 12.30-2.00, or 12.00-2.00. A series of afternoon lessons may be possible, 2.15-4.45 (early season) and 2.30-5.00 (9th February 2019 onwards). There is sometimes availability for private lessons on Sunday morning (as some instructors start group lessons on Monday). Times are more flexible in low season.
Full days (engagements) are a great way to get the most out of your instructor's knowledge of technique and ski area, without tight time constraints. During a full day, you can explore the Three Valleys, or (conditions permitting), tackle off piste itineraries.
Here's a video of one of the off piste itineraries that can be done from Val Thorens:
These are the private lesson prices for 2018-19. Some of the main private lesson meeting points are shown on this map, with the meeting points marked on the map by a black triangle (and on the ground with an 'ESF private lessons' sign).
The instructors of the ESF ski school in Val Thorens take part in a torchlit descent one evening a week at Christmas, New Year, and during the four weeks of the French school half-term holidays; the ski school organises a children's torchlit descent once a week in the school holidays, it offers guided snowshoe walks, and it puts on races open to everyone. All of these activities can be booked at the ESF office.
In this video, you can see some of the instructors from the ESF doing a waterslide, set up at the end of the 2012/13 season:
Read more about the ESF in Val Thorens.
A smaller ski school, Ski Cool, has around twenty instructors. The main Ski Cool office is in the Silveralp (rue du Soleil). They offer group lessons in skiing and snowboarding, with up to 10 people per group (whereas with the ESF, the groups are up to 12 people in the morning, and 10 in the afternoon). They also do private lessons (skiing, snowboarding, and telemark).
Ski Cool offers the option of shared private lessons for up to 5 people (Share N'Ski). The idea is to go onto their website, and enter your dates and levels, then be put in touch with possible fellow students.
Prosneige is a school of about forty instructors, and their main office is in Montana Soleil, rue du Soleil. The group and private lessons they offer more or less mirror those of the ESF, but their groups are slightly smaller (maximum 10 people), and their prices are a touch higher.
One of the Prosneige instructors has particular expertise in skiing with pupils with various different disabilities (Alain Poux). Apart from skiing and snowboarding, you can do snowshoe excursions, ski touring, and telemark. There's also ice climbing (half day, ice axes and crampons provided).
Tel: 04 79 01 07 00
In recent years, there has been a fragmentation of the ski schools in Val Thorens. A few ESF instructors left to start a new school at the beginning of the 2014-15 ski season, under the Evolution 2 brand which already existed in Tignes, Val d'Isère, Chamonix, La Plagne, and other resorts. Their main office is in the Maison de Val Thorens, next door to Goitschel ski shop, place Caron.
As well as ski and snowboard lessons, they arrange a number of other activities, including dog sledding, and diving under the ice of the Lac du Lou.
Oxygène opened a ski school in winter 2015-16 (initially as Magic in Motion). It's a ski school with branches in the rest of the 3 Valleys, and other resorts including La Plagne.
A school with just a handful of instructors, Free School Attitude is based in a ski shop in the Caron commercial centre. Their main focus is private lessons, with expertise in freeride and freestyle skiing and boarding. They also offer group lessons, when they have enough people to allow them to run.
David Mitchell has been in Val Thorens every winter since 1997/8, and teaching at the ESF since 2005. He's experienced, friendly, and professional. To enquire about private lessons, you can get in touch through his website.
The high mountain guides in Val Thorens are the specialists for off piste skiing in Val Thorens. Whilst ski instructors can take you off piste, the mountain guides spend more time off piste, so know the routes and conditions best, and they are the only professionals authorised to accompany people on glaciers.
In Val Thorens, you can speak to a mountain guide at the main ESF office in the Maison de Val Thorens, place Caron, from 5pm each day, and ask about availability. If you wish to get in touch in advance, you can contact Alain Stevenet through his website.
The Office de la Montagne coordinates and represents the ski instructors who specialise in off piste, and the mountain guides.
The latest ski pass prices, for Val Thorens, Belleville Valley, and the 3 Valleys, plus a link to book ski passes online.
All the ski shops in Val Thorens, with a location map.
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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