Top 5 Activities besides Skiing in the Three Valleys

This is a guest post by Alpine Infusion.

The Three Valleys has plenty to boast about when it comes to winter sports. It’s best known for being the largest and one of the most impressive ski areas in the world, but making the most of the Alps isn’t just limited to skiing.

For those looking for something a little different, there are plenty of options to keep you entertained throughout the year. From mountaineering to sledging, we’ve thought of everything when it comes to the best non-skiing activities in the Three Valleys.

Ice Karting and Ice Driving

Fancy taking a car out for a spin? In Val Thorens, situated in the Tarentaise Valley, you can hire specially modified cars to drive around an ice circuit.

You’ll be co-driver to an expert for the first few laps, but after you’re shown the ropes you’ll be able to grab the wheel for yourself! If you want something a little more downsized, there’s also a mini track available for go-karts.

Explore the three valleys on foot

Exploring the Summits on Foot

The slopes themselves aren’t exclusively accessible through skiing!

Non-skiers can buy a ‘pedestrian pass’ and walk to their chosen summit. You’ll be able to meet friends at mountain restaurants, travel on pedestrian-friendly lifts and take those all-important holiday snapshots.

There’s something for everyone throughout the Three Valleys, whether it be gentle walks for all the family or more challenging, mountaineering hiking routes for those in need of a challenge.

Of course, it’s always vital to plan your routes and check the weather before you head out. Always ensure you’re being as safe as possible!

Spend a Night at a Mountain Hut

There’s nothing quite like the magic of a mountain refuge in the evenings after a long hike. Throughout the Three Valleys you’ll find plenty of huts available for overnight stays, ranging from the basic to top-quality accommodation.   

While the huts make for a fantastic experience, you may want something more permanent to keep you cosy during your holiday. Alpine Infusion offer award-winning luxury ski chalets in both Meribel and Courchevel with catering from top chefs, extensive client services and true extravagance.

Paragliding in the three valleys

Paragliding

If you’re in need of a fresh perspective on those fantastic mountain views, there are several accessible paragliding points dotted about the Three Valleys.

With both winter and summer flights available around many of the resorts, you’ll be able to take in the scenery all year round.

Mountain Biking

Once the snowy season comes to an end, the summer weather plays host to some fantastic mountain biking trails across the Three Valleys. There’s a wealth of variety when it comes to scenery, and a huge range of trails to dig your wheels into.

You can find many guided tours that’ll keep you within the eye of an experienced professional, and you can hire equipment to ensure you get the best out of the Three Valley trails.

Book Your Stay with Alpine Infusion

If you’re tempted by the alternatives to skiing, you may want to consider booking your accommodation with Alpine Infusion.

Choose from catered chalets and enjoy unique leisure and entertainment facilities, including swimming pools, saunas, complimentary bars and plenty more. Be sure to book your stay today and guarantee your spot in the mountains!

Top tips for driving in snow

Following the chaotic scenes in the French Alps on 27 Dec 2014, we thought we would offer a few tips just in case you ever found yourself facing similar conditions.

Make sure your vehicle is fitted with winter tyres

We wrote an article about winter tyres last year. When I was a transfer driver in the Alps, I got the feeling that many of my customers thought that winter tyres were just a marketing ploy and would not make much difference. This is not the case. Good winter tyres are amazing and they are essential if you want to have any hope of driving on a snow covered road. Not only that, but they are hugely beneficial even when the road is simply very cold or a little bit icy. If you are thinking of renting a car, then make sure it is fitted with snow tyres (many are not). If you are driving to the Alps from somewhere warmer, then this may not be a feasible option for you but read on for some more tips.

If you are already worried about not having winter tyres, then book a transfer as all of the vehicles operated by companies operating in the mountains will be fitted with snow tyres.

Carry snow chains – and use them if needed

You absolutely must have snow chains in your vehicle when driving in the Alps. Again, if you are hiring a car look in to this as they will not come as standard.

Make sure that the first time you attempt to put snow chains on is NOT the first time you need them. I have seen a thousand people standing at the side of the road looking at snow chains like you would look at a 10,000 piece jigsaw. Practice putting them on somewhere nice and dry and bright.

If it starts snowing heavily and the road is becoming covered in snow, then look for a place where you can pull over and put your chains on. Do not keep going until you can’t go any further because your wheels are spinning, because then you will get in everyone’s way and cause chaos. This was the main cause of the issues in France that made headlines – cars got themselves stuck in the snow and prevented the snowploughs from clearing the roads.

Conversely, don’t put your chains on if there is no snow on the road – this will really damage the road surface.

Do you know who is guaranteed to be carrying chains and able to fit them in just a few minutes? Professional transfer drivers.

Use a low gear when driving downhill, high gear when driving uphill

If you are driving downhill in snow, the aim of the game is to use your breaks as little as possible. By putting your vehicle in a low gear, the engine will control the speed which reduces the risk of you locking the wheels up when breaking.

If you are driving uphill in snow, then get up the gears as soon as possible. This will reduce the torque and will mean there is less chance of you spinning your wheels. Also when driving uphill in snow, try to maintain momentum. This does not mean “drive fast”, it just means try to avoid coming to a complete stop, as it is really difficult to get a vehicle moving again on an uphill slope covered in snow (unless the vehicle is really well equipped).

Check the weather forecast

It really helps if you know what to expect. If you have got to be somewhere at a certain time, such as a ferry terminal or airport, and the forecast is for heavy snow, then leave yourself plenty of time. By this, I don’t mean an extra half-hour – you should be leaving hours ahead of schedule.

Clear snow off your vehicle before setting off

I have seen a few people who think it is a novelty to drive off with half a metre of snow on the roof of their car after it was parked outside all week in a ski resort. However, this can be really dangerous as if you have to break, this snow could cascade all over your windscreen – and driving in the mountains is hard enough when you can see where you’re going. If the snow doesn’t fall on your windscreen, then it will probably come off sideways when you are going round a corner and could hit another vehicle. Just take a few minutes and get it off your roof and bonnet one way or another. You should also make sure that all of the windows are clear of snow and ice, and also clean snow and ice off your lights.

Put anti-freeze / de-icer in your windscreen wash or use a special formula

There are lots of things involved in maintaining a vehicle in the Alps, but this is perhaps one of the most important things to remember.

The roads are heavily gritted, which is great for preventing ice and stopping light snow from settling. The downside to all this grit is that your windscreen becomes caked in it if you drive behind any vehicle for any amount of time. So, you instinctively pull the stick / press the button to wash the windscreen and it is an absolute disaster if the windscreen wash liquid is frozen because your windscreen wipers simply smear the dirt all over your windscreen making it 10 times more difficult to see. When you put the anti-freeze – de-icer in with the fluid, give it a good spray so that you get all of the non-treated liquid out of the system.

Drive slowly and steadily and keep your distance

I was going to try to avoid stating the obvious but it needs to be said. The last thing you want to do on snow or ice is to stop in a hurry, so make sure you don’t have to. Accelerate and decelerate slowly and maintain a safe distance from anyone in front of you.

 

It is not easy to drive in snow or ice, and it is always a possibility no matter what time of the season you arrive or depart. If you are debating between driving yourself or booking a transfer with a local, experienced, professional company, I know what I would do 😉

How to ski on a budget

Skiing is notoriously expensive, but there are a few ways you can bring down the cost of a ski holiday:

Book flights way in advance but accommodation last minute

It is normal behaviour to sit down and try to sort out every aspect of your ski holiday at the same time. But if you want to ski on a budget, this is not the best way to go about it.

Flights with low cost airlines such as easyjet are cheaper the further in advance you book, and then get more and more expensive the closer you get to your departure date, so you need to get your flights booked as soon as possible.

Accommodation, however, works the other way round. No hotel or chalet wants to have empty beds because it is a total waste. Ski seasons are short and so accommodation owners want the highest possible occupancy rate. You are therefore likely to find great last minute deals on places to stay.

Choose a resort you have never heard of (or at least are not sure where it is…)

What is so good about the big, famous resorts anyway? So they might have massive ski areas, and loads and loads of bars and restaurants, but chances are they are run by enormous corporations who want to make as much money as possible. Not only that, but purpose built mega resorts are often dead outside the ski season so local businesses have to charge exorbitant prices to make enough money for the whole year (or they have to move house every 6 months).

If you choose a ski resort you have never heard of then it is likely that the price of everything will be lower. All you need for a great ski trip is snow and a few friends or family!

You might have a smaller ski domain to explore but the lift pass will be a lot cheaper. The hotels might not be 4 or 5 star but they won’t be very far from the lifts. The ski shop might not have a choice of 100 different ski brands but it will be 1/10th the price of a platinum luxury package in Courchevel 1850.

There are just a couple of things to look out for before you go ahead with this plan:

1) Locate the ski resort you like the look of on a map and check you can get there from an airport. Some resorts are not very accessible and you could end up saving lots of money on everything else but then an epic journey turns out to cost loads.

2) Check that the resort you are considering fits your definition of a ski resort. In France, I have seen a drag lift in a field referred to as a “station de ski”, which might be technically correct, but it would make for a pretty rubbish week long holiday.

The chances of you choosing a resort you don’t know are zero, so I better give you a couple of ideas. How about Valloire or Montgenevre in France?

Get a last minute package deal

Love them or loathe them, tour operators are big players in the ski industry. They commit to huge numbers of beds and charter flights every season and they want them to be as full as possible. For this reason, you often see some great last minute deals that include flights, transfers and catered accommodation for around £300 per person, as the tour operator would rather take peanuts for the places than have them empty.

Another word of warning here: check up on the resort you are heading to on a late deal. If it is to a mega resort, you could get a shock when your lift pass and ski hire costs more than your flights, transfers and accommodation combined!

Do not eat on the mountain

Mountain restaurants always look so tempting but they were not built to keep the budget conscious skier going until afternoon tea. Resist the temptation to get out of the cold as it could cost you a fortune. I remember about 6 years ago, I heard a chef in a mountain restaurant in Méribel curse because he had slightly burnt a massive tray of lasagne. That is not to say it didn’t go out on the self service with a price tag of €17 per portion. I thought at the time, its a good job he didn’t drop it because it was worth about 300€ !

If you don’t have the option of making yourself a packed lunch, then ski back down to resort when you are hungry and grab something from a supermarket. This can be a nice way of exploring nearby resorts, but be careful, in certain places (France) the shop selling food could be shut at lunch…

Get insurance

I’m sure everyone reading this always has good insurance, but one way to stop a ski trip costing 10 times more than you budgeted is to get the correct winter sports insurance policy. If you have a yearly travel policy, make sure it covers you for skiing.

If your idea of fun is skiing through trees, or in to trees, or hitting the park, then you might want to get extra insurance for any equipment you hire. I have seen people take recked skis and boards back to a ski shop and it is not pretty. The ski shop are never going to let you just pay the cost price that they pick them up for at a wholesaler, they will take you for all they can!

Do a ski season and make friends with people who live there permanently

This quite often works for us! Staying in a friends spare room or on their sofa can considerably reduce the price of your ski trip.

 

These are just a few ideas to save you a few quid. If you have any other good ideas please do let us know and we will add them to the article.