Once promoted as “the smile of the Alps” in a reference to the curving layout of its central buildings, Les Menuires is the fourth largest resort in the world’s biggest ski area, the Three Valleys, along with Courchevel, Meribel and Val Thorens.
One of the highest resorts in the Alps at 1850m, Les Menuires was purpose-built for skiers in the 1960s and 70s with ski-in, ski-out the norm here and all the other facilities you need just steps away from your accommodation in most cases. Les Menuires is arguably the most French of the main four resorts, with two-thirds of guests here from France - a higher proportion choosing to stay here over any of the other three. Perhaps that’s in part because Les Menuires has kept to another of its founding ideals – keeping the skiing as affordable as possible.
Approximate Transfer Times
Skiing in Les Menuires
Les Menuires lies at the heart of the Three Valleys, the world’s largest ski area with 600km of runs. About half of that 600km lies in the Belleville Valley, the most easterly of the three, with Val Thorens, Europe’s highest resort, lying further up the valley at 2300m, and St Martin de Belleville, a traditional mountain village, also connected by lifts and ski runs at the bottom of the valley. Les Menuires’ other immediate neighbour is Meribel and the Meribel Valley – which is a quick lift ride and ski down. From Meribel it is possible to travel on to the third valley, Courchevel. It is also possible to reach the Maurienne valley via Val Thorens and a gondola ride down to Orelle. So in short – there’s a huge ski area containing terrain to suit everyone.
Les Menuires’ local slopes are largely graded easy to moderate with the largest single sector located above St Martin de Belleville and with links via four separate routes on to the Meribel valley, so (as long as you have a Three Valleys pass) the connections are easy and seamless. The slopes here are largely west facing and almost entirely above the treeline so expect lots of wonderful, fast, cruising terrain – superb stuff for most recreational skiers who mostly want to clock up the kilometres under their skis. Closer to the resort base itself the blue runs tend to turn green for excellent family and novice skier terrain. Several lifts at the head of the Valley will also take you up to connect with Val Thorens - or again ski back down on largely blue or red graded terrain.
Les Menuires also has a separate ski area of its own -La Masse- on the other side of the resort that’s serviced by a couple of gondolas. It'ss usually very quiet and has the best of the advanced-level skiing locally with the second gondola accessing higher slopes which are graded at least red (and quite steep reds) or black, with more than 650 metres of vertical. La Masse also has a reputation for some of the best snow conditions in the area and is the place to head for off piste runs with a guide, including the popular Vallon du Lou run down to Val Thorens.
The resort has recently introduced three ‘Liberty Ride’ ungroomed and unprepared runs where you can head off-piste relatively safely knowing these routes are made avalanche-safe and patrolled. The three zones are La Masse and Les Pylônes (200 metres of vertical drop) and La Riondaz on the Tougnète mountainside (300 metres of vertical drop).
Les Menuires is extremely well placed in the Three Valleys for fast access to all parts of the huge ski region. Expert skiers in particular will want to head out to test themselves on some of the region’s more famous runs such as the couloirs accessed by the Saulire cable car above Courchevel, whilst intermediates will have a blast just clicking up the kilometres and touring this huge region going from resort to resort.
There are four separate routes over to the Meribel Valley (reducing the danger of any bottle necks both heading out and on the return) and if you are not too distracted by the 150km of piste delights there and can stay focussed you can carry on to the Courchevel Valley (which has as much skiing again) in a little over an hour and be skiing its most distant lower slopes within 90 minutes of clipping on your skis in Les Menuires.
A trip up to Val Thorens is also well worthwhile, particularly at the end of the season when snow cover is likely to be better up there, as well as powder quality. Access is usually via the Bruyeres gondola but there is a less frequented route down an easy blue from the top of the Montaulever drag lift. If you travel on past Val Thorens and up to Cime de Caron then down to Plan Bouchet on the Orelle side (the ‘fourth valley of the Three Valleys’) you can take a fast new six-seater chair then a slower quad up to the Pointe du Bouchet, the highest point in the whole huge area at 3,230 metres.
Les Menuires Resort Overview
Les Menuires is located in the Belleville Valley, one of the famous Three Valleys and is divided in to several hamlets and off-shoots, known as ‘quarters’. These are inter-linked by a combination of pistes, walking paths, ski lifts and shuttle buses. The original sector of the resort is now known as La Croisette and has the lion’s share of resort facilities – shops (there’s an indoor mall), restaurants, and everything else. It’s particularly appealing at night as a lot of investment has gone into illuminations.
Much of the most appealing, modern accommodation is, however, located in either Les Bruyères, Les Menuires Village, Brelin or Reberty sectors, with their Alpine-style chalet buildings with sloping roofs and wood-cladding.
Each sector has its own selection of bars, restaurants and shops and Les Bruyères also has its own swimming pool and ice rink. Some sectors are so large they can be subdivided again, Reberty for example is divided in to Reberty 1850 and the higher altitude Reberty 2000. All remain focussed on providing predominantly ski-in/out accommodation.
Restaurants & bars
There are about 50 places to eat out in Les Menuires, spread between the various quarters with the majority in La Croisette but some good options in the newer sectors. Many options are, like most things in Les Menuires, accessible from the slopes for lunch, but remaining open for dinner. The overwhelming theme of the restaurant is, unsurprisingly, traditional Savoyard regional cuisine, but most have other options on their menus too.
La Fromagerie des Belleville near the bus station is the most popular restaurant in town. As its name suggest the theme here is cheese – be it fondue, raclette or any other cheese-based creation, many visitors claim the meals here are the best they’ve ever had when it comes to this type of dish.
For a wider—ranging menu with standards so high some feel a Michelin star could be on the cards – L’Ours Blanc restaurant up at Reberty is another top choice. Open for lunch (it’s accessible from the slopes and has a lovely terrace) and dinner the service is also of a very high standard but prices not as painful as you might expect given the very high quality. La Perdrix Blanche is a small, atmospheric and very French family-run restaurant in the main resort. It serves Savoyard specialities again but is also a good option for pizza (takeaway also available), and great dishes like salmon pasta. Advance booking is recommended due to its small size and high popularity (in part also due to reasonable prices). In Reberty The K restaurant within the Hotel Kaya is one of the best choices in town for more of a gourmet meal. Here Chef Stephan Demichelis offers both a Menu Ephémère with several different dishes of the day to choose from as well as a local specialties menu.
There are plenty of excellent mountain restaurants located on the slopes around Les Menuires. Many are based around the edges of the resort itself but for somewhere a bit more atmospheric it’s worth going a little further afield.
The Grand Lac, based in a large chalet-style building in a lovely spot by the base of the Granges chair on the route over to St-Martin has a good reputation for serving up big portions of first rate mountain food with friendly, fast service too.
Another great restaurant on the slopes is the long established Chalet Chez Pepe Nicolas, which has been open since the late 1950s – in other words, before Les Menuires was built. In an old farm-building off the Piste de La Chasse down from Val Thorens (which it also pre-dates!) it’s in a stunning location, with a lovely terrace to sit out on if the weather is fine, and again a reputation for excellent food and good, friendly service.
Après ski / nightlife
Apres is relatively low key in Les Menuires with more of focus on families looking for a quiet night. For a some apres and nightlife you will find most of the bars (and a few discos) are located in the main Croisette quarter.
Le Plan B is a popular, cool bar that also serves up great burgers in the Les Bruyeres quarter, with La Chouette another good choicer at the end of the ski day there. In the Preyerand quarter the Medz'ery is usually a good choice and sometimes has live music if you stay on later.
Back out on the snow there’s the kilometre long ‘Speed Mountain’ downhill roller coaster ride and the 4km long ‘Roc N’ Bob’ toboggan run. The ski school also leads guided snowshoe walks and you can sign up to try fat biking (mountain bikes with over-sized chunky tyres) on snow. There are also cleared hiking trails of various lengths for those who just like to stroll and take in the magnificence of the Belleville Valley.
Les Menuires is very much a resort designed for skiers. While the list of non-ski activities continues to grow, and it would be possible for a non-skier to spend a relaxed week here and not get too bored. Off the slopes the main focus of non-ski fun are several sports and swimming pool complexes. These include the excellent Aqua-Fun Park which contains 500m² of trampolines, a mini multi-sports field, ball pool, slides, pyramids, rope bridge and modules, as well as two swimming pools.
The La Croisette Sports Centre has more water-based fun and relaxation on offer with a choice of 15 water-based activities. In Les Bruyères there’s another Aquafun and Wellness Centre has another swimming pool, counter-current pool, and a paddling pool with ice grotto for children, plus balneotherapy whirlpool baths, Jacuzzi, steam room and sauna for adults.
Les Menuires also offers a selection of spa services. The latest, Pure Spa in the recently built MMV Résidence “Le Coeur des Loges” includes an ‘aqua’-relaxing’ area with indoor heated pool, Jacuzzi, sauna, steam room and wet rooms, relaxation baths and rain showers and offers a wide range of massages following the Doctor Payot ritual of 42 movements. A special ‘Family Zen’ treatment is available with children aged 14 and older. The spa within the La Croisette Sports Centre offers face treatments, scrubs, wraps, massages and has hydro massage beds and a jet spa. The Wellness Centre in Les Bruyères also offers body massage and treatments, manicures and pedicures.
Who is Les Menuires Suitable For?
Les Menuires makes a big effort to appeal to the first-time skier or boarder. It has one of the largest nursery slopes areas in the Alps, kitted out with half a dozen easy to use conveyor lifts to get you back up the gentle runs. Once you have the confidence to venture out beyond the nursery area you’ll find lots of green and blue runs. These include the great green descent down to the resort from the Roc des 3 marches gondola, or by the end of the week, you might feel up to the epic le Bouquetin blue run which provides a thigh-burning 1,000 metres of vertical drop to descend at your own pace from La Pointe de la Masse at 2,800 metres down to the resort.
Les Menuires works hard to be as family-friendly as it can be. Most of the accommodation here is ski-in, ski-out for ease and convenience and facilities like restaurants are very family-oriented too. There are excellent children’s ski areas that are secured from the main slopes by fencing and contain their own lifts and fun features. Children can be taught from as young as two-and-a-half here if they’re up for it. Younger children can combine ski lessons with indoor play, for older children (over five) there’s more of an emphasis on learning snowsports skills. Off the slopes there are a number of good facilities for families including the excellent sports centre and swimming pool complex, the Speed Mountain coaster for children 5 years or older and the toboggan run.
Given its location in the biggest ski area on earth, Les Menuires is an exceptionally good choice for intermediate skiers. It’s not just about the size however but the quality of the whole experience is second to none. Firstly most properties are (or nearly are) ski-in/out, so you’re on the slopes fast; second, the lift network is very modern with fast and comfortable lifts whisking you up the slopes, so you get more downhill – queues are a rarity. Then the scale of the Three Valleys means there’s endless choice and also the option to head off on day-long excursions, perhaps across the Meribel Valley and down to Courchevel or up to Val Thorens and the highest lifts in the area over to Orelle in the Maurienne valley – that sense of travel always adds fun to a trip. Then there’s the separate La Masse sector with quiet, steeper slopes where you can challenge yourself and even give one of the patrolled off-piste zones a try.
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