Battle of The Giant Ski Regions!
France is famous for its huge ski regions, interconnecting the terrain above as many as a dozen neighbouring villages.
But how do three of the biggest and best known in the world stack up on some key criteria when it comes to your holiday?
We crunched the numbers for the 3 Valleys (Briodes les Bains, Courchevel, Les Menuires/Reberty, Meribel, Val Thorens), the Portes du Soleil (Avoriaz, Les Gets, Morzine); Paradiski (Les Arcs and La Plagne) and ‘the Area Formerly Known as Espace Killy’ – Tignes and Val d’Isere.…
The real size of these giant ski areas isn’t really known. We have had the claimed areas of 650km for the Portes du Soleil, 600km for the 3 Valleys, 425km for Paradiski and 300km for Tignes and Val d’Isere but these figures have been claimed for decades and they haven’t changed as new runs have been added. A Garman cartographer attempted to measure all of the planet’s 100 biggest ski areas and put the 3 Valleys in first place by some distance using computer mapping, with Paradiski in second. The reality though is that whichever area you choose there’s enough terrain to keep you busy for a week, a fortnight, a month, a season, a lifetime?
Verdict: Tignes and Val d’Isere 7/10, Paradiski 8/10, Portes du Soleil 9/10
Winner: 3 Valleys 10/10
Whilst the difference between the highest and lowest lifts in the Tignes – Val d’Isere area is about 1900 metres, it is possible to squeeze in a bit more vert, up to a maximum 2050 metres if you keep going – one of the world’s 10 biggest lift-served verticals.
It’s a similar story at paradiski where both Les Arc and La plagne have glaciers above 3200m and descents of up to 2000m possible, and maybe longer if you keep going below the bottom of the lowest lift.
The highest and lowest lifts in the 3 Valleys are at 3230 and 1300m respectively giving a potential vertical of over 1900 metres, almost as impressive as the extent of the runs. The off-piste route down in to the 4th valley and the village of Orelle is even greater, as the village is down at 880 metres.
The highest and lowest points in the Portes du Soleil region do vary between 840 and 2466 metres, more than 1625 metres of vertical difference. The problem is these two points are a long way apart and you can’t ski between them so the biggest possible descent here is around 1270m.
Verdict: Portes du Soleil 7/10
Winner: 3 Valleys, Paradiski and Tignes Val d’Isere all 10/10
A fairly simple one for comparison. The 3 Valleys and Tignes and Val d’Isere are entirely inter-connected by lifts and runs. The Portes du Soleil is a little more fragmented with some areas requiring a short bus connection. Paradiski’s two halves are well connected by the Vanoise Express double decker cable car across the valley between them so it’s a bit pedantic to say it’s any less well inter-connected that the others but still the two halves are marketed more separately than others.
Verdict: Portes du Soleil 8/10, Paradiski 9/10
Winner: 3 Valleys and Tignes Val d’Isere both 10/10
Tignes, Val d’Isere, La Plagne, Les Arcs and Val Thorens all have glacier ski areas accessed by lifts. Tignes and Val d’Isere both re-open for snowsports in summer and Tignes has by far the longest season in France, normally open at some point during every month of the year.
Avoriaz, Courchevel, Les Menuires, Val Thorens, Les Arcs, La Plagne, Tignes and Val d’Isere are all among the highest altitude resorts in the Alps, Val Thorens in fact the very highest major resort.
Verdict: Portes du Soleil 8/10, Paradiski and 3 Valleys both 9/10
Winner: Tignes Val d’Isere 10/10
Character and Ambience
This one is perhaps the most subjective of our six criteria and because each is so vast with such a wide choice of places to stay, it’s not difficult to find a traditional village in which to base yourself and get the full French ambience experience along with access to a massive ski area.
But marking areas overall, perhaps the Portes du Soleil with most of its bases being traditional villages, and the one that isn’t, Avoriaz, being one of the most appealing purpose built centres, plus that Swiss connection, gives it the edge.
Verdict: Tignes Val d’Isere, Paradiski and 3 Valleys all 9/10
Winner: Portes du Soleil 10/10
Tignes and Val d’Isere are 2.5 – 3 Hours from Geneva.
Paradiski and 3 Valleys resorts are 2 – 3 hours from Lyon or Geneva airports.
Portes du Soleil ski resorts are 60 – 75 minutes from Geneva.
Verdict: Tignes Val d’Isere 7/10, Paradiski and 3 Valleys both 8/10
Winner: Portes du Soleil 10/10
Well it’s just a bit of fun, and a but subjective in places, but the final scores are:
Portes du Soleil: 52
Tignes Val d’Isere: 52
3 Valleys: 56