Val Thorens is located in the French Alps in the south east of France. It is one of the resorts the Three Valleys Ski Area - the largest interlinked ski area in the world which has eight resorts connected by lifts.
Overall for seasonal workers, Val Thorens is an excellent choice if looking to work in France due to its relatively reliable snow cover, its access to The Three Valleys, cheaper nightlife, and large amount of English speakers and internationals. It is not as pumping as other resorts, and can get bad exposure to the weather, but these factors are not overwhelming.
Val Thorens is in the valley furthest west at The Three Valleys, in the same valley as Saint Martin de Belleville, Les Menuires and Orelle. The middle valley contains Méribel, and the valley furthest east contains Brides Les Bains, La Tania and Courchevel. It is a further 17km up the valley from Les Menuires.
The TGV (high-speed) train goes to Moûtiers from any major city in France and, from Moûtiers, it is possible to take the bus to Val Thorens (around 13€ one way and 35km). This is probably the simplest and cheapest way to get to the there. www.mobisavoie.fr is the company that runs the bus transfers from Moûtiers to Les Menuires and Saint Martin de Belleville.
However, it is also possible to take the bus from the airports at Lyon (218km - two and a half hours), Chambéry (113km - one and a half hours), Grenoble (140km - two hours) and Geneva (163km - two and a half hours).
Val Thorens is the highest resort town in Europe, and the highest lift access in the resort reaches 3,230m which provides for a lovely view over The Three Valley. The resort is surrounded by a cone of peaks which look spectacular; however, the resort is well above tree-line and is therefore very exposed when the winds arrive.
The high altitude, in addition to the Glacier de Péclet, means a relatively long season which can last from mid-November all the way through to May.
Val Thorens is super touristy and cosmopolitan. It holds the title of the most visited ski resort in France by foreigners, with over 70% of visitors to the resort being from overseas. There are lots of Scandinavians, British, Belgians, Dutch and Germans. There are so many tourists that one can easily live in Val Thorens for five months and not learn any French.
Almost all the accommodations are ski-in, ski-out. The bar scene is more relaxed in Val Thorens compared to thriving Méribel and ritzy Courchevel, but it also happens to be one of the cheaper resorts of The Three Valleys which is great for seasonal workers.
Val Thorens has a nice mix of intermediate and advanced terrain, with plenty of on-piste cruisers and steeper runs. Most people coming to the resort ski on-piste, which means off-piste terrain can be relatively quiet. Make sure you check avalanche conditions if going off-piste and be prepared.
There is some pretty nasty terrain up near the Glacier de la Pointe Renod and a few decent chutes and drop-offs around other parts of the resort, including at Cime de Caron - the highest summit in the Three Valleys. From here it is possible to access the famous Orelle, as well as the Lac du Lou.
The Col chairlift has some nice terrain up higher near the Glacier de Thorens. It only takes 30 minutes to get to Col de Pierre Lory, another way to get into Orelle, which is on the glacier but is an easier ride - just watch out as it is still off-piste. Traverse further and you will find that the North facing slopes are steeper.
Epaule de Bouchet is even more challenging. From the top of the Col, if you take skier’s right you can hike for about an hour and reach the Face Ouest which is a glacier. From here you can also tackle the St Pères couloirs and Gebroulaz glacier. Gebroulaz is covered in crevasses so take a guide.
The Three Valleys
Of course, working at Val Thorens means access to the rest of The Three Valleys. This promises a season of skiing new terrain virtually every day as this area is simply enormous. It's a full day trip to make it all the way across to Courchevel and back again. Méribel has the largest amount of terrain, while Val Thorens and Courchevel are the areas which get the most snow.
There is a lot of off-piste skiing in The Three Valleys. Always be prepared and be sure to carry avalanche gear before going off-piste.
Mountain stats: The Three Valleys
The resort is mostly north and north-west facing, so the resort is often in shade. This helps to protect the snow cover, though it can get cold riding all day in the shade.
France is not known for huge powder, but Val Thorens compares favourably with other French resorts given it is so high. The snow can be great when the season is good, but during dry spells the on-piste riding gets icy. Average snow depth is around 2m once the season hits its peak.
There is a large 70,000m2 park located at 2600m. Val Thorens hosts the SFR Freeskiing Tour and the European Snowboarding Cup each year, while there is also a Bordercross event - the Skicross Worldcup.
The Espace Saisonnier (Seasonal workers space) in Val Thorens is probably the best and easiest way to find a job at the resort. It is run by the local municipality and has a physical office which posts a list of jobs that employers in the area have advertised. You can consult the list of jobs at their site emploi.mairie-smb.com (French only).
They will be willing to provide information on current jobs available, a list of jobs posted by employers, links to employers and job guidance.
The SMB 'Espace Saisonnier' services the resorts of St Martin de Belleville, Les Menuires and Val Thorens which means it services the entire western valley of The Three Valleys.
For jobs in town you could expect up to 1800 Euros a month in salary if no lodging is included, and less if so.
Pole-Emploi.fr is a French Government website where jobs are often posted. Speaking French will be a huge advantage although many places, such as rental shops, will hire English speakers given the high number of tourists that come through.
www.cnpc.fr is a resource for sports shops and often contains job listings.
Emplois-espaces.fr is another job resource which is specialized in tourism in France and may be a way to find a job in the valley.
A number of tour companies operate in the Les 3 Vallées. These companies run full package holidays for visitors. These packages can include things such as buses to and from the airport, accommodation in tour run chalets and hotels, help with getting around town and getting ski passes etc.
Held in London in late October, the Metro Ski Show is a good place to find work for the season with a tour operator. Otherwise, July or August is the time to start applying with these companies. Many of the British companies will only hire UK nationals
Tour operators in The Three Valleys area include:
If you are from outside the EU, you will need to get a French working visa. See Work a Snow Season in France for information on visas. If you have your work permit you may turn up in town to look for a job.
If you want to ski instruct in France, you will need to get your French Ski Instruction qualifications. See Work a Snow Season in France for information on transferring your foreign certificate.
The Three Valleys offers a reciprocal deal with Val d'Isère/Tignes, otherwise known as the Espace Killy which is another huge area of terrain to explore.
Staff accommodation is usually provided with most tour operator jobs, while even a lot of bar jobs and other employers around town offer staff accommodation. Employers rent out spaces in shared buildings each season, such that you may be living in an apartment complex with employees from different companies.
If you are looking for accommodation yourself, Val Thorens is the cheapest town in The Three Valleys, followed by Mottaret (Méribel's town). Courchevel is the most expensive in the Three Valleys. In Val Thorens, most of the rental properties are well-centered so there is not really a preferable area of town.
The Espace Saisonniers has a list of available places to rent as well as a list of people looking for flatmates for the season emploi.mairie-smb.com/logement/. You could also visit the office in person at Maison de Val Thorens, 73440 under the Office of Tourism.
You do not need a car as it is possible to get around everywhere by walking or skiing and it is preferable to do so. To get a taxi, for example, from Courchevel to Mottaret is about 80 Euros.
There are just two nightclubs in town. Klub Summit is a late night season worker's first choice while Malaysia gets a big crowd and puts on live concerts.
For bars, the Rhum Box is a little gem, hidden behind “Le Pandora”, where flavoured rums are the drink of choice. Tango is a Swedish bar where every night from 8pm to 10pm you get to buy one and get one free on cocktail.
The Frog and Roastbeef is very popular with the English seasonal workers and has great parties and a giant screen to watch all the sporting events, in addition to live music.
On the slopes, you will find the “Folie Douce” if you fancy an open air après-ski.
The Red Ski team visit Courchevel in January and they throw down some nice aerials. The Free Ride classic in March is an extreme downhill race which is also well worth a look.
One hour and a half drive from Val Thorens is Champagny from where you can take a lift up to La Plagne ski resort, ski the day, and take in a beautiful view of Courchevel from a distance.
Chamonix is three hours away and well worth visiting at some point, not least to take on the Vallée Blanche and get a view of Mt Blanc, the highest mountain in Europe.