In March of last year Igluski's Sales Director, Adam Johnson took 3 Iglu team mates on a mission to conquer the largest linked ski area in the world, Les Trois Vallées, in France. AJ takes us through their epic day...

Can you Ski the 10 Main Resorts of Les Trois Vallées in just one day?

The answer is yes, and it’s an excellent day out that gets you to all the corners of this massive ski area. We started our ambitious mission in the most central resort of the largest ski area in the world, Méribel {1}, in the middle Les Allues Vallée. We were staying with Total Ski in the lovely Chalet Cedre Blanc in the Mussillon area above Dick’s Tea Bar. Around the dinner table in the Chalet, my team and I had planned our whole day travelling anti-clockwise on the map around the 3 Valleys the night before. However, there was a hitch from the moment we opened the curtains in the morning. It was a Powder day above 1600m! And as everyone knows, the 1st casualty on any Powder day, is the plan! On a day like this you need to be up with the sparrows and queuing for the 1st lift. My IGLU veterans crew of Scotty on K2’s with Telemark bindings, Boyd on Volkl Grizzlies, Damian on some heavy rubbish he hired, and myself on Stöckli Coral Snakes, were more excited than 6 year olds on Xmas morning.

Kick off at 8.30am at the Chaudanne

The plan called for us to head for St Martin de Belleville {2} at the bottom in the next Vallée that leads up to Val Thorens. The quickest way up was to take the Tougnete 1 Gondola and then the Express 6 seater, Tougnete 2, which would very swiftly take us from 14520m to 2434m. At the top we skated off right looking for the Seasonaire’s favourite Red run, Jerusalem. This is a long fast banking red that never gets too steep but has oodles of tempting powder stashes left and right. And here in lies our 1st error. Scotty got so excited by the depth of the Pow that he stayed on the right hand side of the piste for too long and ended up on the Blaireau Red piste taking us back to the Tougnete 2 express chair. OK, not much of a detour except that the crowds had caught up to us so we had an annoying 15 min wait. Back at the top we were away again and this time we frolicked in the pow on the left of the piste heading to Jerusalem and had a ball. Freshies all the way to St MdV. It’s a Village that most visitors to the 3V never get to and that’s a shame. It’s a sweet little Savoie village with more character than its neighbouring purpose built resorts and it hosts some lovely restaurants like Le Montagnard owned by Eric Suchet a local cheese maker, and just down the road at St Marcel is Chef Rene Meilleur’s Michelin starred La Bouitte. You can ski there off-piste or call for a lift from St Martin.

The main street of St Martin de Belleville

Already, at only 10am, we were late and behind plan. We quickly got on the St Martin #1 Gondola and then the St Martin #2 (painfully slow) quad chair. Once back up at the Tougnete peak we jumped on the long flattish blue piste Gros Tougne down to Les Menuires {3} at 1850m. Not a lot to look at in Les Menuires but it is incredibly popular with families who like the convenient village, slopes and cheapest prices in the whole ski area.

Les Menuires looks better at night ;)

We skied through the crowds in central Les Menuires to the short Doron Chairlift which gave us enough elevation to ski to the fast Bruyéres Gondola. You can stay on this from 1850m all the way up to the Col de la Chambre at 2850m. We peeled off to the right and skied down the skiers left* of the 4 Vents red piste and joined onto the Mont de la Chambre blue for a speed tuck straight through Val Thorens{4} the highest ski resort in Europe at 2300m, for the 3 Valleys #1 chairlift. We had planned to have a break in VT and the drinking terraces did look inviting but time was getting away from us. It was past 12 midday already and we had a long, long way to go. The 3 Valleys # 1 chairlift is quite fun. You travel through town at around the 3rd floor level looking straight into the apartments on either side (not that we peaked through the curtains) and at the top of the chairlift you can see one of the great on-piste parties of the skier’s world. The new for last season La Folie Douce, the same crew as the original Val d’Isére Folie, passes right by within touching distance of the table top dancing girls and was ever so tempting. But we were on a mission, so we jumped straight onto the Bouquetin Gondola for a fast ride back to the Col de la Chambre.

*For the uninitiated, skiers left or right is always the view looking down from the top. Not the tourists view from the bottom which is the opposite.

The 3 Valleys #1 lift and VT Folie Douce

Now we were heading back into the middle Les Allues Vallée and the next stop was Mottaret {5} at 1600m, the slightly cheaper, slightly uglier and quieter, but far more convenient resort for ski in/out than it’s close neighbour Méribel. Our plan had been to hit the Famous (Seasonaire’s secret) Mottaret Montagne Burgers. I was sure I was smelling a Montagne burger as we came shooting down the skiers right of the Venturon red piste under the Cote Brune chairlift. FYI: As we splashed around in the piste side pow, we noticed a few guys hiking up the slope to our skier’s right. We took note of this and did the same hike, scrambling over the little terrain park entrance 6 times the next day. An awesome little painless hike for the deep untracked. By this time of the day we were famished but to our great despair the Montagne Burger café had a queue of scruffy, woolly hatted chalet staff about 20m long.

Damn I wanted that burger!

I sought consolation in Boyd’s hip flask of mighty fine skiing single malt and headed for the Pas du Lac Gondola to the famous Saulire peak at 2738m and entry to the 3rd Vallée called St Bon. We still had 5 more resorts to visit in the Courchevel area. At least we knew Courchevel has a plethora of awesome mountain eateries. We were just slightly wary of the usual wallet melting bills that go with it. From the top of the Saulire we had to forgo the usual skiers left dip into the thrill and spills that are the Courchevel Couloirs. On a day like this they would've been awesome. Instead we decided to go as far out to the boundaries of the area as possible so the rest of the trip would be coming back towards home. So we zoomed down the Marmottes red run and jumped on the Chanrossa chairlift. It was about now that I had an inspiration, perhaps brought on the Boyd’s medicinal administrations. I remembered the Ski Instructor’s favourite restaurant in Courchevel, The Bel Air. Still not cheap, but within our budgets and a cracking south facing terrace. The food is great and the service somewhat mindboggling. How do those waiters move so much food and drink through the crowds at such speed and accuracy?

Luckily for us the service at the Bel Air is famously fast and we appreciated getting in and out in under 45 mins. Now it was 2 pm and we still had 5 resorts to go. 1st on the list was 1650, now known as Courchevel Moriond {6}. We had a nice little romp down through fluffy white stuff under the Ariondaz Gondola all the way to town. We couldn’t stay so we were straight onto the Ariondaz and zipped up to high enough to get over to the Aiguille du Fruit chairlift. We could’ve jumped on the Gravelles and skied across the Altiport, but why would we waste an opportunity to bomb the Suisses Black run on a powder day. The lads larked about and jumped off anything they could find and this got me worried for time. I cracked the proverbial whip and chased the crazy fools all the way down past the Altiport, down the Bellecote, and through Courchevel 1850 {7} only stopping for a photo.

Next stop was after a thrilling but icy Brigues Red piste down to Courchevel La Praz at 1300m {8} the lowest point of our circuit. La Praz is another little gem of a resort. The Ski Jump from the Albertville Olympics stands proudly over the entrance to the village. This village is more like a Savoie town than a ski resort and although it’s pretty quiet it has some really nice Restaurants like the Michelin starred Le Bistrot du Praz. But no time to waste here. Another photo and away we go on the Praz Gondola. We really should've gone to 1550, Courchevel Village 1st but we missed the turn off. Now we were running it damned close for getting all resorts done.

Courchevel Village at 1550m {9} is the workers village of the St Bon Valley. Lots of staff from the Hotels, chalets and ski schools live down here. This makes the town a lot of fun and very functional. The bars and restaurants cheaper and well suited to looking after the young people that really make the Valley work. There is a selection of well-priced accommodation down here for the British market and it’s ideal for being able to have a drink in Courchevel 1850 before either sledging or skiing straight down the Tovets blue piste to get home in the dark. You’ll see lots of workers doing exactly that all night long. By now it approaching 3.30pm and we still had to do 4 long lifts to get back to the Col de la Loze peak that would enable us to ski all the way back to Méribel. We jumped on the Grangettes Gondola and nervously watched the minutes tick by. At the top we ran onto the Chenus lift as the clocked seemingly flew past 4pm and then 4.15pm.

The Grangettes Gondola up to Courchevel 1850 from 1550

At the top of the Chenus Gondola we jumped in our skis in record time and just tucked it for La Tania {10}. We weren't popular as we raced past (or through) groups and families having a lazy last run on the red pistes Bouc Blanc and then Moretta Blanche, but we were on a mission that could go very wrong, very soon. If you miss the last lift back to your own Valley the Taxi drivers rub their hands together with glee and start assessing you for how cash all of you can get out of the nearest cash machine in one go before setting the fare. There’s not a lot you can do as the public transport doesn't go from Valley to Valley and 4 wild eyed and desperate men with big skis hitching is almost impossible. After scaring a few dozen La Tania guests and ourselves at around 100kph we hit La Tania just after 4.30 and we still had 2 long lifts. Would the Dou des Lanches Chairlift still be open when we got to the top of the La Tania Gondola? They were closing the Gondola as we arrived but the Lifty knew from our sweaty and desperate faces that there was no way weren't getting on that Gondola. We were the last on.

We hoped that they would always take the last skiers on the Gondola onto the Dou des Lanches chair to make sure Méribel guests got home but we weren’t sure of it. As we approached to the top we prepared to argue for all our worth to get on that chair but there was no need. I think the Lifty was expecting us and he hurried us on and off we shot for the Col de la Loze and enough elevation to get us all the way back home. We broke out the celebratory hip flasks and toasted our achievement. Now that the pressure was off it was time to decide which of the 2 main sunny south-facing on-piste après ski bars of Méribel to go for, the new upstart, La Folie Douce or the long standing favourite, The Rond Point. I’ll spare the blushes and not mention the ages of my IGLU crew but when we pulled up to La Folie Douce and looked across the vast sea of table dancing and champagne fueled smiling faces, and noticed that very few of them were born before 1990 we realised that this might not be the scene for us. Off we went to the Ronny for a few Jugs of Mutzig and to relive a most excellent Trois Vallées adventure.

Top tips for making the circuit

1.Take a packed lunch
2. Don’t do it on a powder day
3. Don’t take someone trying on Telemark bindings for the day (thanks Scotty) or any boarders, bladers or monoskiers
4. Try and get as much done before lunch as possible. Afternoons seem to slip away
5. Do your talking in the Gondolas or on Chairlifts. Leave the piste-side chats to the instructors and awed bystanders

Apologies to the resorts that some would consider to be part of the 3 Valleys like Brides Les Bains and Orelle which have gondola access to the ski area but aren't possible to ski to in late March.