Winter sports in Valmeinier: the perfect ski area in France for families

Written by Sam Van den Haute aka CheckOutSam

The skiing and snowboarding season is getting longer and longer every year. Together with the tourist office of Valmeinier, I accepted the challenge to explore this winter sports area in the spring. The snow is still excellent, and there are a lot less tourists! Moreover, there is much more to do here than just snowboarding or skiing. Did I make you curious? Then make sure to read on!

Sam Van den Haute CheckoutSam

Hi, I'm Sam, the blogger behind CheckOutSam!

Sam Van den Haute has been a full-time world traveler for ten years and has therefore gained a lot of travel and lifestyle inspiration on all continents. Do you still have questions after reading this blog? Ask them in the comments section or send me a message at [email protected] and I'll be happy to help you wherever I can!

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Valmeinier Ski Resort

Winter sports for everyone

Valmeinier is a very popular winter sports area for many Europeans and Brits. Both adventure lovers and people who are fond of a bit of luxury, will feel perfectly at ease in this Winter Wonderland.
The Valmeinier ski area covers more than 160 kilometers (about 100 miles) of slopes, suited for all levels. Moreover, you even get two ski areas for the price of one, because with your ski pass you can discover both the slopes of Valmeinier and those of Valloire.

Green, blue, red and black; skiers and snowboarders of all levels can show off their skills.
On the slopes you’ll also find quite some fun initiatives. An obstacle course for young and old, places where you can picnic while having phenomenal views, an après ski that serves delicious local wines and beers or maybe a gourmet restaurant with panoramic views that seem to have been plucked away out of a fairytale.

Logically, this domain focusses most on snowboarders and skiers, but there is also plenty to experience for people who have not (yet?) mastered these sports. An afternoon of cross-country skiing or a snowshoe hike is surprisingly fun and shows you the unspoilt nature that is located just a stone’s throw away from the slopes.
Daredevils can let the adrenaline rush through their veins while they try out a bit of paragliding or perhaps a flight with an ULM. Whatever you choose, you are once again rewarded with fantastic views of Valmeinier.

On top of all this, I also have to tell you that this ski area is very child friendly. This becomes clear, not only from the diversity in the slopes, but also from the other activities that you can plan here. How about sledding with some friendly huskies? Or going to a mini amusement park where you can sled and play as long as you want? Or perhaps the hilarious ‘Snakegliss’ is more to your liking? Welcome to Valmeinier, the paradise for families and adventurers!

winter sports Valmeinier

Skiing in winter or in spring? Both are possible in Valmeinier!

How to get there?

Valmeinier is tucked away in between the flanks of mountains of more than two thousand meters high (6500+ ft), but this winter sports area is still very easily accessible. With the help of public transport, car or plane: everything is possible! I’ll tell you how to get here with all these different means of transportation:

By public transport

By choosing for the train, you’ll pick the most environmentally conscious way to visit Valmeinier. However, this is certainly not always an option. If you’re not living too far away from Brussels, you can take the TGV in about three and a half hours towards Lyon. From Lyon Part Dieu, it’s necessary to change trains once or twice to the Saint-Michel-Valloire train station.
From here you can take the bus to Valmeinier 1800 (€7) or the taxi (€50) (Taxi Valmeinier – +33 6 23 09 89 23).

Another possibility is to commute to St-Jean de Maurienne (or leave from here). But then you’ll have to take a taxi to / from Valmeinier 1800. The taxi ride will at least cost you €70.

To plan your trip with the train, I recommend using NMBS international and / or OUI.SNCF (the French railways). From Brussels, you’ll be travelling for at least nine to eleven hours. That may seem like a very long time, but both the high-speed train and the local trains are very comfortable, so you can already start to dream about your upcoming winter sports holiday.

With a car

Depending on where you live, it might be a better idea to drive all the way to Valmeinier.
From Brussels, it’s a drive of about 925 km’s (575 miles). Depending on the traffic, this will take you anywhere in between eight to ten hours.

Don’t forget that there are a lot of toll roads on the French highways and that speed cameras are hidden everywhere!

By plane

If you’re not living near Belgium, Italy, Switzerland or Germany, you might need to take the plane to reach Valmeinier.
There are five airports near Valmeinier.

  1. Aix Les Bains (Chambery) is the closest airport. It’s located about 110 km’s (70 miles) away from the ski slopes and with a car or taxi it would take you about one and a half hour to reach Valmeinier.
  2. Italy is a neighbor of Valmeinier and so it makes sense that Turin International Airport is not too far away either. From Valmeinier to Turin is a 160 km (99,5 miles) drive and you can do that in just over two hours.
  3. Grenoble Saint Geoirs is 180 km (110 miles) away from Valmeinier-Valloire and this route would also take you about two hours by taxi or by car.
  4. Geneva International Airport is located right in the middle of many ski resorts, but it would still take up two and a half hour drive to Valmeinier. You have to be in a car for about 195 kilometers before you can finally enjoy your winter sports holiday.
  5. From the airport of Lyon it will take you about two to three hours to reach the winter sports area of ​​Valmeinier. A taxi will cost you a lot of money, so perhaps the shared ‘ski shuttles’ are a better option.They cost €73 for a one-way trip or €115 for a return ticket.
valmeinier ski area

Once you’ve (finally) arrived, these amazing landscapes await you!

The best time to go to Valmeinier

The ideal time to go snowboarding or skiing is of course around January. During the cold winter months, the snow is at its best. However, during this period it’s also often the busiest, because a lot of people naturally want to enjoy these perfect snow slopes!

I was invited by the tourist office of Valmeinier to go skiing during the spring (late March), and I have to admit: the snow was still very good!
Because this ski domain is so huge, you always have places that are less perfect of course. But the vast majority of the slopes that I raced down were covered with wonderfully soft snow.
Another advantage of skiing in the spring is that there are far fewer people on the slopes. The ideal moment for beginners to build up more confidence. But for advanced skiers, I also think that skiing in low season has its perks: you can now reach top speeds without having to look out too much for other people on the slopes.

The winter sports area of ​​Valmeinier remains accessible until the end of April. To guarantee snow, cannons are regularly used. This way you can be sure, that you can enjoy an active winter sports holiday right up to the last day.

skiing valmeinier

Don’t forget to enjoy all those beautiful views from time to time!

Top things to do in Valmeinier besides skiing or snowboarding

The time that winter sports areas only offered challenging slopes is long gone! To make your stay in Valmeinier as varied as possible, you can try out a lot of different winter activities. Awaken the child inside yourself while sledding, admire the beautiful landscapes during a snowshoe hike or transform into an eagle and soar above this winter wonderland with an ULM. Here are a few of the coolest things to do in Valmeinier besides hitting the slopes:

ULM: for the most beautiful views

You already get quite some amazing views from on top of the mountain peaks and from the ski lifts, but for the absolute most stunning vistas, you should hop into an ULM plane. ULM stands for ‘ultra-light motor aircraft’ and these machines are therefore the perfect way to float above the snow-white mountain peaks.

You depart from the ski slopes with a roaring engine and after only a few seconds you are already airborne.
The world below you becomes smaller and smaller and the farther you move away from the inhabited world, the more beautiful the landscapes become. Thick blankets of snow cover the sharp peaks of this inhospitable area and without your temporary wings you would never be able to see this part of Mother Nature.
A twenty-minute flight with this ultra-light plane costs seventy euros per person. Not very cheap, but without a doubt the highlight of your holiday!

This is what an ULM looks like. Looks like a lot of fun, doesn’t it?

things to do in Valmeinier ULM

Hitchhiking a ride in an ULM is definitely one of the top things to do in Valmeinier!

Ski de randonnée: The French way of cross-country skiing

I thought cross-country skiing would be very boring, but now I can tell you that it most certainly is not!
This tiring activity requires a lot of physical effort, but of course it’s all worth it in the end. Together with the ESF (ski school) you can organize an initiation class for a few hours, depending on your level and skills.

With these incredibly light ski slats, you can reach places that are otherwise not accessible with normal footwear or skis. Along the way you get to see untouched landscapes that seem to have never been visited by humans before. The synthetic skins that are glued to the bottom of the slats (in the past, they actually used seal skins!!) make sure that your skis are more resistant to slipping away. This makes it a lot easier for you to climb up, but at the same time you can sill slide down (slowly).
The material for cross-country skiing is particularly light, which makes it feel very different from skiing once you try to get back down. I have to admit that I had completely lost my balance, which of course led to quite some laughter…

cross country skiing valmeinier

Tiring, but the views are phenomenal!

Husky sledding: hugging dogs and racing

You might not expect this in France, but you can also embark on a sleigh ride with super fast and friendly huskies. These barking sweeties are eagerly awaiting you as you get ready to race with them.
You can of course choose what you want to do. Will you be holding the reins and steer the sled yourself? Or would you prefer to sit down comfortably, while someone else does all the mushing and shushing? Whatever you choose, it’ll be one of the most fun things to do in Valmeinier or Valloire! Don’t forget to give your dogs a big hug afterwards. Perhaps you’ll even get a slobbery kiss in return!

valmeinier husky sledding

These cute dogs are already awaiting your visit impatiently!

Snowshoe hike: the only way to get to pristine places

Another great way to see the unspoilt landscapes around the ski slopes of Valmeinier, is by using snow shoes. These ‘raquettes‘ are very easy to attach to your (waterproof!) footwear. Thanks to the wider surface and the ribbed bottom, you sink much less deep into the snow and this will result in a much firmer grip.
Because of this, snowshoeing doesn’t feel much harder than a normal hike. A guide will await you and your fellow adventurers in Valmeinier 1800. From there, he or she will lead you to some of the most beautiful landscapes of this region. Along the way, you’ll notice that a lot of animals have left their tracks on the fresh snow. Your guide will tell you more about all of these fascinating creatures and how you can track them yourselves.
After all that walking, you of course also deserve a bit of rest. Fortunately, you get to sample some local specialties (and yes, there are also warm wines and other alcoholic drinks from the region) during your break. I can highly recommend this activity while you’re in Valmeinier!

More information:

snowshoe hike valmeinier things to do

With snowshoes you can reach places you would otherwise never be able to see.

raquettes valmeinier

Sometimes it can get a bit challenging, but it never really gets too physical.

Wellness: relaxing all those muscles

After all this physical activity, it’s time to relax a bit, and the best place to do so is the AEC Le Grand Fourchon*** hotel. They have converted their ground floor into a lush wellness paradise.
Sweat out all of the toxins from the après-ski in the hamam or the Finnish sauna and afterwards have a massage in the bubbling hot tub.
One hour in this relaxing environment costs €10. Reservations are required.

Wellness le grand fourchon valmeinier


Valmigliss: fun for young and old

Valmigliss is a brand new activity in Valmeinier.
This small amusement park appeals to the imagination of both young and old, because the adventurous rides are guaranteed to be fun.
The friendly managers provide you with a rubber band with which you can discover the entire course. From up high, you slide down and you are shaken in all possible positions while you slide down the smooth track.
With an automatic conveyor belt you effortlessly get back to the entrance of the course, from where you can start all over again (as many times as you want!).

If you’re not easily scared, then I definitely recommend to try the ‘airbag’, yet another fun activity. With the help of a super fast slide, you get thrown onto a huge bag of… air! After you’ve been rocketed into the clouds, it almost seems as if you’re hanging motionless in the air, but of course it only takes a few milliseconds before you gently plump down onto the gigantic airbag. What an experience!!!
Do you want to see if I survived it myself? Then be sure to watch this video.

Are you not so fond of all this sliding fun, but do your children really want to spend some time here? Then just relax and sit down in one of the comfortable seats from where you can watch your kids enjoy themselves. While your children are burning calories, you might perhaps take in a few? I can definitely recommend the waffles or local wines.
It doesn’t get much better than this.

More information:

Valmeinier Valmigliss

Who will win this race?!

valmigliss valmeinier

This attraction is only for the real daredevils!

Snakegliss: get tossed around by laughter

When visiting a winter sports domain, it might also be a good idea to take a sled with you on the slopes.
However, it becomes even more fun when you go sledding with Snakegliss in Valmeinier. A dozen (small) luges are carefully hooked onto each other so that they all together form some sort of plastic snake.
Your guide sits at the very front and he or she will control the descent of this dangerous vehicle, while all of the passengers get knocked around in literally every direction possible. The farther you sit at the back, the more that you are shaken up. Sometimes, you’re going so fast that it seems impossible to hold onto the sled for any longer and then it will not take long before you need to let go…

I think I’ve never had so much fun on the slopes in all my life!! This is an activity in Valmeinier that you should definitely not skip.
You can take part in this chain collision everyday, starting at 5:30 pm and from then on every hour. Adults pay €17 per person and children pay €12.

More info:

things to do in Valmeinier Snakeglisse

Snakegliss is definitely one of the top things to do in Valmeinier.

Ski or snowboard lessons

Are you not yet the ski expert that you wish to be? Or have you always dreamed of being able to snowboard? Then it might be worth taking some lessons so that you can descend the slopes a little faster.

The officially recognized instructors of ESF have completed a training course of more than seven years (!), so you can be assured that you’re in good hands.
The women and men with their typical red jackets know everything about the right technique and are patient teaching it to you.
Private courses with a ski instructor start from €46 per hour. For group lessons you need to pay between €130 and €160 for five or six classes of two hours. You can find the exact rates and possibilities on the website of ESF Valmeinier.

Are you already pretty good at skiing or snowboarding? Or perhaps you’re just not that fond of speeding down the slopes.
ESF Valmeinier also offers help for other activities. For example, you can book an afternoon of ‘ski de randonnée’ (= cross-country skiing).

ESF Valmeinier ski courses

Do you want to learn how to ski or snowboard? Ask for help from the ESF.

Where to stay in Valmeinier?

If you’re heading to Valmeinier and you’re still looking for accommodation, I can definitely recommend ‘Le Grand Fourchon‘.
This hotel is located ideally and provides all modern conveniences. It’s situated barely fifty meters away from the ski slopes, but at the same time you’re also in the vicinity of quite a few equipment rentals or places where you can purchase your ski passes. Moreover, it’s not too pricey here, which is not unimportant. Because a winter sports holiday is already expensive enough!

The rooms are small but very clean and they all have a very nice view over the ski resort of Valmeinier. On the ground floor there is a wellness center which you can make use of for ten euros per hour. Here you’ll find a gigantic hot tub, but also a Finnish sauna and a steaming hamam.

A typical French breakfast is included in the price (fresh baguettes, local cheeses, jam, …) and you also have the option to dine here in the evening.
The menus are announced every week and are usually a mix of local delicacies and dishes that everyone seems to enjoy.
Is tartiflette on the menu? Then make sure to make arrangements. Yummy!
Oh, and I almost forgot! Tasty, local wines are served here for free with your food. Did you miss the après ski? Then you can make up for it right away!

Yet the most important reason to book a room in AEC Le Grand Fourchon, is the incredibly friendly staff. You immediately feel welcome and all questions that you might have are always answered with a smile. Everyone who works here likes to have a chat and that certainly contributes to the pleasant atmosphere that is present.

Prices, rooms and availability can be found on the website of Le Grand Fourchon.

accommodation valmeinier le grand fourchon

My room in Le Grand Fourchon (with terrace!).

Where to eat?

There are numerous restaurants on the ski domain of Valmeinier 1800. However, if you want to eat well and enjoy a beautiful view, then I can certainly recommend ‘Le Chardon Bleu’.
Ski and snowboard instructors have their lunch here too, and since they know the domain like no other, I take that as a very good sign!

Le Chardon Bleu is located smack in the middle of Valmeinier 1800. So leave your skis or snowboard in front of the restaurant and get comfy in one of the seats with a view of the snow-white winter wonderland.

A huge selection of pizzas or hamburgers with a local touch appeals to everyone, but there’s plenty of specials to try out for people who aren’t afraid of trying out some local delicacies. If you like cheese, I can definitely recommend the raclette. And of course there is also delicious tartiflette on the menu here!

chardon bleu valmeinier restaurant

A delicious raclette at ‘Le Chardon Bleu’.

Where to rent equipment?

If you go skiing or snowboarding regularly, you may have your own equipment. If this is not the case, then that certainly isn’t a problem!
There are numerous places where you can rent skiing or snowboarding equipment in Valmeinier:

Intersport Valmeinier – There are two locations where you can pick up all of your tools. One is a two minute walk from the slopes, the other is right on the ski slope. You get a very good here and the material that they rent out is of great quality. You can leave your clothes and shoes while skiing or snowboarding.

Valmeinier sport – This rental company is located right on the ski slope and offers an equally good service. Here too you are taken care of smoothly and you get to pick high-quality equipment. Feel free to leave your other belongings in the shop while you are stretching out those muscles.

To rent all of the necessary equipment (ski’s, boots and sticks) for six days, you pay the following:

  • Starting skier: €109
  • Intermediate skier: €129
  • Advanced skier: €159
  • Experts: €179

Kids of course pay less:

  • 0-6 years old: €49
  • 7-13 years old – beginners: €69
  • 7-13 years old – advanced skiers: €89

Do you want to do more than just skiing? You can also rent equipment for ‘ski de randonnée’ (cross-country skiing), or waterproof shoes if you’re planning a snowshoe hike.

valmeinier France

For cross-country skiing you need adapted equipment, for example.

A few more tips for your visit to Valmeinier

  • Keep your ski pass and receipt with you at all times. Without them, you can’t make use of the ski lifts. At certain moments, receipts are being checked too, to make sure that people actually bought them! Also, don’t forget to never put your mobile phone in the same pocket as your ski pass. The electronics might make your ski pass not work anymore.
  • Protect your skin and eyes. You’re located on an altitude of 1800 meters (5905 ft). That means that the sun radiates very brightly and that you can burn very easily. Coat yourself with a layer of sunscreen or oil and always wear UV-resistant sunglasses or goggles.
  • Always wear clothing in layers. You may be a lot closer to the sun, but it can get quite cold too on such heights! Sometimes up to -20° C! You might heat up because of all the physical activity, but it can get ice cold once you sit still on the ski lift. It’s better to put on too much clothing than too little.
  • Don’t forget your camera! There’s a lot to see in Valmeinier and it would be a shame if you didn’t bring your camera to take a photo every now and then. A GoPro or action camera is ideal, because with these you can show off your stunts to friends and family at home without ever being scared that it’ll break.
spring Valmeinier winter sports

The landscapes in Valmeinier are gorgeous in every season!

Valmeinier in summer

Are you not too fond of skiing or snowboarding? Then visit Valmeinier in summer!
There’s still plenty to do and this is the ideal season if you like some peace and quiet.

Cyclists or mountanbikers will certainly be able to enjoy themselves here. The zigzagging roads not only provide challenging exercises, but you will also be rewarded with beautiful views over the green valleys surrounding Valmeinier and Valloire. The same naturally applies to hiking enthusiasts. Once the cold snow has melted away, the landscape revives in hundreds of shades of green. Thousands of cows, sheep and goats now graze along the steep mountain flanks and because the weather here is often so clear, you get the best views possible.

Valmeinier Valloire

Valmeinier, a winter sports area for everyone!

This article was a collaboration with the tourist office of Valmeinier and Atout France.

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