In for some snow and ski fun in the Alps? Then head towards Valmeinier, a small village in the Galibier Thabor ski area in the French Alps. Ideal for beginning and intermediate skiers.
THE GALIBIER THABOR SKI AREA
The ski area Galibier Thabor connects the villages of Valmeinier 1500 and 1800 and Valloire in the beautiful Maurienne. The two summits Galibier and Thabor rise above 3000 meter and their slopes offer 160 km ski tracks. The lowest point is at 1430 meter, the highest at 2750 meter.
The slopes are ideal for beginners and intermediate skiers such as ourselves. There are 16 green, 33 blue, 33 red and 8 black runs. 29 lifts connect all the slopes. Most lifts are chair lifts – some very long ones – others drag lifts. There are 2 cable cars, which we didn’t take.
Our ski adventure always started in Valmeinier 1800, enabling us to cover the Valmeinier slopes or head towards the opposite Valloire area.
At both sides, you can nearly reach all corners by green and blue tracks.
The Jeux chairlift combines an excellent and easy green track ‘Lauzes’ followed by ‘Chardons’ offering magnificent view on the slopes and the valleys. The track is not that broad, but most of the times very easy going. An alternative is to go for ‘Violettes’ and ‘Bleuets’ skiing towards the Gros Crey chairlift taking you up to the Gros Crey summit (2594 m). From there too, you easily get down again by combining blue (Myrtilles – Vilolettes – Bleuets) with or without green (Lauzes – Chardons) or even some red.
Genépi, Cyclamen and Eglantiers (red) and even Epilobes (blue) lead to the valley of Valmeinier 1500. From there, the Armera and Grandes Drozes chairlift brought us to the Valloire area on the other side. This is a pretty long chairlift, reaching down to the valley and then up again.
We also got to Valloire by skiing directly from our apartment via the Anglaises and Neuvache track (blue) taking the Girordiere chairlift followed by the Riouberoux track to the same Grandes Drozes chairlift.
The Arcosse track (blue) brings you with the Moneul chairlift high up the other summit le Crey du Quart at 2534 m. There too is a magnificent viewpoint, leading to a mix of red, blue and green tracks. We followed Crocus, Selles, Primevère taking Brive 2 up again.
An alternative is taking Grand Plateau up to Le Grand Plateau summit (2524 m). From the latter, Combe orsière takes you through a long black track to the other side again. It’s a long track with a superb view over the bottom of the valley and the village. You can ski, via the Inversins chairlift, right back to Valmeinier 1800.
From Grand Drozes, it’s for beginners not so obvious to ski back to the Valmenier area. The blue track Pierre du midi is pretty steep in the beginning, so it is recommended to take the Grand Drozes chairlift back, it goes both ways. Then take Armara and Roi, and you are up again at the Valmeinier side with various green, blue and red ones. This is a pretty long ‘chairlift’ journey though.
All tracks are well maintained. I found the Valloire area much quieter than the Valmeinier 1800 area. It seemed that the tracks and slopes are broader too. In the Valmeinier 1800 area, the chairlifts Jeux and Pre Aynard can be busy, in particular at the start of the ski schools in the morning or the afternoon. We visited in the school holidays, so that might have also something to do with it. As soon as you go ‘higher’ up, some pistes were much quieter.
You can also ski at night, but we didn’t explore this. Too tired from a day ski trip …
At both sides are various picnic areas, all located on the map, offering you a beautiful view on the area. Just go up with the Jeux or Grand Drozes chairlift or up to the Crey du Quart area and enjoy the views, in particular on a sunny day.
WHERE TO STAY?
If you go skiing, then choose for the higher Valmeinier 1800. The village is built around the slopes for the purpose of skiing. It’s snow-sure.
It has a small and cosy main center with some shops, restaurants and accommodation in the lower part and an additional small center in the upper part. The restaurants and bars in the lower area are located around the main lifts. They have excellent sun terraces.
From each accommodation you have more or less direct access to the slopes. You can easily walk between the upper and lower area through a set of stairs.
We stayed in ‘Les hauts de Valmeinier’ in the upper part of Valmeinier 1800. This residence offers comfortable apartments which are considered spacious for France. We booked an 8-persons apartment for 6 persons and had 2 big bedrooms, one bunk bed, a sofa-bed, two bathroom and a small kitchen. The residence has a small, free swimming pool. On top, you have a wellness service, offering sauna and massages. Skis could be stored in the ski depot on the ground floor. Each apartment has a separate locker.
The accommodation is located on a 2 minutes walk to the ski slopes. You can ski immediately to one of the main lifts, enabling you to reach the main ski area.
Ski material can be rented in the immediate neighborhood. There are various rental shops, such as Intersport and Skiset. The ski pass station is located at a 1 minutes walk and is located next to the Carrefour.
It’s a small center but you have really everything at hand. Only parking is a bit of a hassle but luckily, there are some parkings on a 10 minutes walk.
On Thursday, there is a small market selling a variety of fresh local products in the lower part.
Since the ski areas mainly focuses on self-catering, there are a couple of easy reachable supermarkets – Carrefour and Sherpa – in the lower as well as upper Valmeinier 1800. They offer everything you need from fresh bread over local products to fresh vegetables and fruits. Prices are reasonable.
Next to our accommodation was a fresh bakery, opposite ‘Aux Délices des Bergers (a Coopérative laitière de la Chambre)‘, selling excellent local cheese and other local products.
On the slopes, there are only a few mountain huts, but we didn’t try these. At some places, you have small picknick areas.
Lower Valmeinier offers some restaurants and bars, immediately on the slopes. I spend some time on the pleasant sunny terrace of La Glisse, offering traditional food and, in particular, nice sun deck chairs.
For take-away, Pizza Rock is an option: decent pizza for a reasonable price.
Valmeinier seems to be one of the cheaper ski resorts in France.
There is a variety of accommodation, mostly self-catering, although you also find some hotels.
We booked our trip through Snowtrex, offering the full package: accommodation, ski rental and ski passes. We paid 750 euro per person for a decent apartment directly at the slopes, including rental material and a skipas for 6 days. If you book well in advance, there are often discounts. Snowtrex offers a variety of accommodation in the area. Their customer service is friendly and helpful.
Ski material can be rented in the immediate neighborhood. There are various rental shops, such as Intersport and Skiset. We rented via Skiset: easy, friendly staff, good service and decent material. Snowtrex offered 3 packages: Bronze (beginners), Silver (intermediate) and Gold.
If you need any ski lessons, then head towards the ESF (http://www.esf-valmeinier.com).
It seems to me it’s very easy to book everything yourself. Just make sure to book well in advance. We went in the school holidays, which was extremely busy.
The prices in the supermarkets are similar to the ones in Belgium.
Takeaway pizza costs between 10-15 euro, depending on the size and type.
As for the restaurants, prices are typical French ones, even a bit less. A cup of tea costs you around 4.80 euro, supper between 15 and 20 euro.