Les Menuires: The perfect gateway to the 3 Valleys

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Decisions, decisions. Left is Meribel and Courchevel, straight ahead to Val Thorens and right is back to Les Menuires.

This is what Les Trois Vallées – the largest linked ski area in the world – is all about. Lots of great skiing and all within easy reach.

It takes two chairlifts to the crossroads in ski heaven – about 20 minutes – from the main Croisette meeting point in Les Menuires and the view in all directions is stunning.

You can be in Courchevel in about 20 minutes, or the route through Val Thorens and back home will take about 40 minutes.

A great place to stop on the way to Val Thorens is La Folie Douce – part bar/part restaurant/part nightclub.

As we are there in late April there is no need for huge ski jackets and woolly hats – you can happily eat outside in a T-shirt (and shorts, if you have them).

At about 4pm each day the tables and chairs are moved to one side and the whole place turns into a dancefloor with DJs until dark. Just remember, there are no taxis at 2,500m.

Click here to see the 3 Valleys piste map

Les Menuires was built in the 1960s and it shows, part Spanish holiday resort, part motorway service station.

But who cares when it is covered in snow? It doesn’t detract from its stunning location or proximity to one of the most popular ski areas in the world.

Spectacular views

It is at the top of a valley so enjoys spectacular views of the ski slopes on three sides with the western side bathed in sunshine all day.

The newer parts of Les Menuires are far better looking with much more of an Alpine ski resort feel.

We are staying in one such hotel, les Clarines. Like all CGH hotels, les Clarines is finished to a high standard and with the bonus of a swimming pool and spa area.

Les Menuires is an intermediates’ paradise – lots of fast gondolas and chairlifts, and plenty of motorway-wide blue runs.

The Mont de la Chambre takes you from 2,700m right back into the resort in about half-an-hour and is a pleasant mix of swinging turns and gentle slopes.

One of the great pleasures of a family ski holiday is watching your children progress from nervous non-skiers to a mini piste pros in the expert hands of the ESF instructors.

Nothing can beat the feeling of admiring tiny dots in matching ESF bibs expertly swooshing down the mountain opposite only to realise one of them is your son.

Well, a couple of things can beat it. The look of pride on his face when you fortuitously meet at the lifts and he waves his hand casually towards an enormous blue run as he squeaks: “Look Daddy, I just skiied down THAT!”

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And the moment he ‘guides’ you down a very gentle green, ‘because I promise it is really easy Daddy’.

This green, which squeezes though a gap in the shops revealing a spectacular full valley vista, ends in a free bucket lift back up to Croisette.

For beginners it is worth hunting out this and the free magic carpet lifts dotted around the resort.

They could save on a lift pass for a couple of days while finding your ski legs.

We found afternoons very quiet at the magic carpet below the main resort, allowing the children to go up and down undeterred by queues or the more confident flashing past.

Four days in, and our three-year-old could stay upright on the lower reaches of the nursery slope.

But what she really loved was the sledging.

Squealing with laughter, she was finally on an even footing with her older brother.

Next time they may be old enough to brave the 4km toboggan run in the Roc ‘n’ Bob snow park (from 10 euros, seven and up).

A visit to Espace Aqualudique a mile away in Les Bruyeres is a must. At first glance it is a rather nice indoor swimming pool.

But there is a secret beneath the whirlpools, jets and children’s ice-themed play pool.

Soothing

The lower floor is an adults-only spa. All soothing saunas, soft sofas, fluffy robes and relaxing pools. Treatments are available but just a time-out, sipping mint tea while travel companions are on child care duty is heaven.

If your idea of relaxing is finding another way to hurl yourself down a mountain, Les Bruyeres is also home to Speed Mountain, a toboggan on rails.

The Croisette area is the perfect place to end the day, bar terraces bathed in evening sun, swapping stories about the mountains that have been conquered that day.

Les Menuires is a perfect base for all ages to enjoy an Alpine adventure, and if you are complaining about the architecture you really are missing the (much) bigger picture.

Fact Box

Paul’s family holiday to Les Menuires was put together by the Savoie Mont Blanc – for more information visit www.savoie-mont-blanc.com or www.lesmenuires.com.

Seven nights at CGH Residence Les Clarines with Erna Low on a self-catered basis is £229pp for a family of four, £184 if six sharing (www.ernalow.co.uk, 0207 584 2841)

Ski equipment was supplied by Intersport (www.intersport-rent-france.co.uk). The adult package was 77 euros (£57) and the junior package 45 euros (£33).

(Prices correct as of March 2015)

This review was first published on the Manchester Evening News website in June 2015

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