A CANADIAN IN THE ALPS: PART ONE
6th February 2019 | Marie Taylor. Les3Vallees, France
Last modified on January 4th, 2020
Marie Taylor has skied the finest resorts in Canada, but never the Alps. In a series of special reports for PlanetSKI she compares the two.
As a first time skier in Europe where is the best place to go?
Well, why not the largest linked ski area, not only in the Alps, but in the world.
Step forward Les3Vallees in France.
600kms of piste served by 180 lifts.
The skiing starts at 1,260m and goes up to 3,230m – 1,970 of vertical.
Even the largest ski area in North America, Whistler in Canada, would fit into a tiny little corner of it.
With plenty left over.
My favourite in Canada is Lake Louise: 10 lifts and a decent 4,200 acres of terrain.
Skiing starts at 1,645m and goes up to 2,635m – 990m of vertical.
It could hardly be more different than the Canadian ski experience.
Canada v France – who’s going to win?
Marie will be looking at the ski area, the snow, the accommodation, the mountain restaurants, the atmosphere, the après and the overall experience.
And any other comparisons she comes across.
She’ll be posting across the next week or two.
So, which will come out on top?
This is going to be fun finding out…
I’ve been skiing since the age of 3 and skied in Western Canada across Alberta and British Columbia.
Growing up and then living in the Canadian Rockies I would try to get to the hill as often as I could.
Mainly at weekends.
And it was the beginning of February that I headed to Les3Vallees in France.
Would the Alps match up to what I had heard about it?
Usually in Canada I would go skiing at Sunshine Village just outside of Banff, Alberta, or my favourite, Lake Louise, which is just another 40-minute drive west.
I absolutely adore everything about the resorts.
My home resorts.
The ski areas I love.
But now I’ve moved to London and I’m going to experience skiing outside of Canada for the very first time.
We flew into Geneva late Friday night from Heathrow and as it was snowing in London (a very small amount in Canadian terms) our flight was delayed.
The first difference – our airports in Canada stay open after a few flakes of snow.
We overnighted in the valley and then drove the mountain road up to Les Menuires early Saturday morning.
We were advised by many people to ensure our rental car had winter tires and chains, as Les 3 Vallees had been getting dumped on in the past week.
Luckily enough, we didn’t need them, but the cars that had been parked overnight had over 20cm of snow to clear off.
The snowploughs were out and it all looked rather promising to me.
In the past week, there’s been well over 1 meter of snow to hit Les Menuires.
Insane amounts, and great conditions for my first time ski trip to the Alps.
I’ve always been told that skiing in the Alps compared to Canada is different, but I never quite understood why.
People would try to explain the differences, but all I was ever told is that “it’s bigger”.
But would it be better?
Size is not everything.
And after I had a weekend skiing Les 3 Vallées, it is definitely much bigger than Canadian resorts.
But there’s also many other differences, and I will make my final judgements later.
Now I’ll try my best to explain the major differences that I’ve noticed while skiing in Les 3 Vallées from the conditions, terrain, ski rentals and the chalet experience.
First thing to do is rent skis and there was the first BIG difference.
Hiring skis, or rentals as we call them, is miles ahead of the game in the Alps.
The selection of rentals in Canada is horrendous.
There are exceptions, like Whistler and a few good shops in other resorts, but by and large the rental selection is poor.
In general, a resort has a partnership with one or two ski brands and those are the only skis that are offered.
Whereas renting from Intersport Reberty 2000, the selection and quality of skis was unbelievable.
There were all mountain skis, racing skis, and powder skis from many different brands.
I was like a kid in the toy shop.
The staff at Intersport were amazing – recommending what skis to rent for the current conditions, and even telling us where to go for the best snow.
At first I was given Atomic all mountain skis – perfect for skiing on and off piste.
The bindings were fitted to my boot and dins were set to 7, exactly to where I like them.
They were great for the first day, however, overnight we received close to 20cm and the snow was still coming down…so back to Intersport we went to upgrade to some powder skis.
This is where I realised how amazing ski rentals are in Europe.
Without any questions or any extra fees I was able to switch my skis to Black Crows.
Though they do that rather well too.