With the swankiest resort in the Alps at one end, and the highest at the other: the biggest lift-linked ski area in the world Despite competing claims, in practical terms the Three Valleys cannot be beaten for sheer quantity of lift-linked terrain. There is nowhere like it for a mileage-hungry intermediate - but it has a lot to offer beginners and experts too. What's more, the area undersells itself: it expanded years ago into a fourth valley, the Maurienne south of Val Thorens. The Three Valleys area is dealt with in six chapters covering the four major resorts - Courchevel, Méribel, Les Menuires and Val Thorens - plus St-Martin-de-Belleville and La Tania. None of the resorts is cheap, but of the major resorts Les Menuires is cheapest. The centre of the resort is an eyesore, but new developments have been built in chalet style. Les Menuires has an excellent position for exploration of the Trois Vallées. Down the valley from Les Menuires is St-Martin-de-Belleville, a charming traditional village that has been expanded sympathetically. It has good-value accommodation and lift links towards Les Menuires and Méribel. Up rather than down the Belleville valley from Les Menuires, at 2300m Val Thorens is the highest resort in the Alps - and at 3230m the top of its slopes is the high point of the Trois Vallées. The snow in this area is almost always good, and it includes two glaciers where good snow is guaranteed. But the setting is bleak, and the lifts are vulnerable to closure in bad weather. It's a purpose-built resort and very convenient - and better looking than Les Menuires. Méribel is a multi-part resort. The highest component, Méribel-Mottaret, is perfectly placed for access to any part of the Trois Vallées. Méribel itself, 200m lower, is a British favourite - the most attractive of the main resorts, built in chalet style on a steep hillside. Parts of the resort are very convenient for the slopes and the village centre; parts are not. The growing hamlet of Méribel-Village has its own chairlift into the system. You can also stay in the valley town of Brides-les-Bains. Courchevel has four parts, which have recently been rebranded. Courchevel (formerly Courchevel 1850) is among the most fashionable and expensive resorts in the Alps. The other parts - Le Praz, Courchevel-Village (formerly 1550) and Courchevel-Moriond (formerly 1650) - are much less expensive. Many people rate the slopes in the Courchevel valley the best in the Three Valleys. La Tania was built for the 1992 Olympics, just off the minor road linking Courchevel to Méribel. It has now grown into an attractive, car-free collection of chalets and apartment blocks set among the trees, and is popular with families. It has good nursery slopes and good intermediate runs in the woods above.

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