Having missed an entire winter season and a half due to the Covid pandemic I was very keen to hit the slopes early this winter. So I arranged a December review of Les Menuires snowboard holiday in the French Alps. I expected to be exploring the massive Three Valleys, but epic snow fall meant we didn’t even leave the Les Menuires ski area. But we had so much fun!
We reached Les Menuires by flying into Geneva then taking a transfer to the resort, which took just over two hours. It was an early morning flight, but not ridiculously early, and we arrived in time for a late lunch followed by a an hour and a half of snowboarding.
You can also reach Les Menuires by catching the Eurostar to Paris and then to Moutiers. From there you can hop in a taxi which takes about 30 to 40 minutes and I suspect would be quite pricey. Alternatively, Altibus run buses to resort throughout the day for about €13.50 but you need to book in advance.
This is the first time I have been to a ski area and only ridden a tiny fraction of the slopes since I was a beginner. On the face of it that could be bad news. But links to Val Thorens, Meribel and the rest of the Three Valleys were closed because around 1.5 metres of snow fell over 36 hours. This meant we had powder runs pretty much the entire time we were in Les Menuires.
Our arrival day was the only time we had prolonged sunshine and that the lifts to the rest of the Three Valleys were open. However, we only had time to get a few runs in and didn’t want to get stuck the wrong side of the mountains. Plus it was the first time either of us had snowboarded in nearly two years so we were taking it easy. At least until we got back into it!
From our accommodation at the ho36 hostel you could ski from the boot room down to the Doron chair. The only problem was a thirty metre stretch of untouched knee deep powder down to the piste (pic below). Someone had walked through it showing the way, but so much for taking it easy! We both fell on the first turn, but laughing we dug ourselves out of the powder and made it to the piste.
It is a rather flat run to the Doron chair mostly going at a snails pace. Of five gondolas and chairlifts that meet here only the Doron was open as the western side of the valley (right as looking at the piste map) was not due to open for another week or so. From the top of the chair it was a relatively short blue run down to the Bruyeres gondola.
Although it was short it was like a dream. The sun was shining, the piste was well groomed, snow was soft, there was hardly anyone about and, most importantly, I was back on the snow. It felt amazing and I was surprised how quickly it all came together. Mark and I arrived at the Bruyeres grinning ear to ear and took it all the way to the top.
From the summit you can head into Meribel or Val Thorens. But with just about enough time to get one more lift we decided to snowboard into Les Menuires. It is a long run combining reds and blues, the slopes were almost deserted and in perfect conditions.
Off the side of the pistes there was lots of fresh snow, most of which was untouched. So I had a little play to remind myself what snowboarding is all about. Not knowing what was submerged just below the surface I took it very easy but it felt great. We made it to the Roc 1 gondola in time for a final uplift.
From the top we enjoyed watching the sun go down behind the mountains while having a beer at Le Roc 7. Music was playing, people were dancing and it was the perfect end to our first day back on the snow. We boarded back down to the resort buzzing from the experience.
That evening it started snowing and didn’t stop for about 36 hours. We woke to a closed resort due to too much snow. The roads off the mountain were impassable due to avalanches and many staff who run the lifts were stuck down the valley. Eventually things started moving at around 10:30, so we met our ESF guide who gave us avalanche gear and we hit the slopes.
As we set off to the Doron from the boot room our tracks from the previous day had been completely covered in fresh snow. At first it was the only lift open so we lapped it a couple of times – there was knee deep powder on the piste! Eventually the lower half of Bruyeres opened and we headed higher. Visibility was terrible but the snow was great and with a guide we were off-piste laying fresh tracks.
When the Roc 1 opened we were some of the first to the top. There was so much snow on the piste into town that you didn’t have to go looking for powder and we pretty much had the fresh snow all to ourselves doing the same run many times. In the afternoon the Becca chair opened for a while and we went a bit higher where the powder was even deeper.
The snow kept falling until the morning of the third day and at times I was snowboarding in thigh deep powder. You couldn’t see a great deal and had to trust your legs, but it was an epic couple of days. We even fitted in some avalanche transceiver training – it is always good to refresh yourself at the start of each season.
To be honest there is not a lot I can add about the snowboarding during this December review of Les Menuires snowboard holiday in the French Alps. We followed our guide around off piste for two days, when the sun briefly popped out the top of the Bruyeres gondola opened and had a couple of epic runs roughly following the Leo Lacroix black piste.
But for the most part we could not see a great deal and were just flitting between the pistes on relatively easy slopes. We all – even the guide – had a few tumbles, got stuck in deep snow and had to dig ourselves out a few times. It was an exhausting but amazing couple of days.
On the final day we had until about three in the afternoon to ride independently. It was overcast with flat light until mid morning but we saw the sun a bit between 11 and 2. The piste conditions were great and off-piste there was still plenty of powder to ride. Being able to see meant we could ride faster so we got stuck far less often, but avalanche risk was still high so we stayed on safe slopes.
We had visited the worlds largest ski area and probably saw less than five percent of it. But because of the fresh snow I did not care. If you want to read about the whole Three Valleys then check out this Les Menuires snowboarding review from March 2018 when we explored the entire area.
Of course a Les Menuires snowboard holiday is about much more than just the slopes. We stayed at the low cost and flexible ho36 hostel just outside the main Les Menuires centre. It is a friendly place with a nice bar that serves Meantime beers on tap that are imported from London. While €6.50 a pint is not cheap, it is good for a ski resort and I’ve paid that in London for the same beer.
ho36 is a hostel so the rooms are basic. They are comfortable but there are minimal luxuries. We had a twin ensuite room, but there are bunk rooms and doubles too plus communal bathrooms. The whole place has a bit a deliberate unfinished look, with pipes showing and unpainted plywood and chipboard. I liked it but Mark was less keen – so clearly not to everyone’s taste.
Breakfast was a continental affair with fruit, cereal, boiled eggs, bread, croissants, jams, peanut butter and Nutella. To be honest it wasn’t the most varied of breakfasts, but with fruit juice, a good coffee machine and a nice range of teas it did the job. Mark is vegan and struggled a little more, although they did have plant based milk on all but one day.
Other facilities include a boot room to store your board and boots etc. Unfortunately, the boot rack is not heated so it didn’t dry out our wet gear. From here you have easy direct access to the slopes – unless there is lots of fresh snow then it is more tricky!
The hostel itself does not have a spa, however the Les Menuires Sports Centre has a large pool and spa and is just a short walk away. We visited and enjoyed the steam room, sauna and jacuzzi before having a dip in their lovely pool. A great way to ease any aches and pains after a big day on the mountain.
No review of a snowboard holiday in the French Alps would be complete without talking about the food. I was travelling with the Vegan Snowboarder so we ate at places that accommodate his dietary needs. We had some stunningly good meals, and as a vegan in the mountains he was mostly very well fed.
These are the different places we ate during this December review of Les Menuires snowboard holiday:
Located at the top of the main complex we had dinner at La Brasserie des Belleville twice and both times it was delicious. They serve a range of traditional mountain food with a modern twist, excellent pizzas and some Asian inspired dishes. The beef poke bowl was rammed with fresh veg and flavour and was one of the tastiest and healthiest things I have eaten in French ski resorts.
The Vegan burger was apparently very good, and they also offered a pizza without cheese and a vegan pasta dish. I enjoyed the smoked trout starter, a lovely tartiflette and onion soup. The chocolate mousse desert was so good I had it both visits. Book a table at www.brasseriedesbelleville.fr
For lunch on day one we stopped at La Comptoir which is in the main Les Menuires centre near the ESF office. I enjoyed a very nice burger and chips while Mark went for a Vegan Poke bowl – he was in veggie heaven! They also serve traditional mountain dishes, check out the menu here: www.lecomptoirmenuires.com
We ate one night in the ho36 hostel. They have an option to dine in and you get whatever is the meal of the day. It was three good hearty courses including soup, main and desert. My pork ribs were very tasty but I know Mark was disappointed with his vegan food as they simply replaced a massive rack of pork with some roasted artichokes which was not very filling. Find out more at: www.ho36hostels.com
You’ll find L’Antigel at the midstation of the Bruyeres gondola. The staff were super friendly and the decor is really interesting with stuffed animals wearing shades and skis used as light fittings. There is even a ski museum on the way down the stairs to the toilet. The food is presented with flare and tastes amazing. Both Mark and I had lovely pasta dishes. Book a table at: www.lantigel-lesmenuires.com
Le Roc 7 is an Italian restaurant on the slopes above Les Menuires near the top of the Roc gondola. It has a luxurious feel and is well worth a visit during a Three Valleys snowboarding holidays in the French Alps. I had a lovely Pizza and Mark went for a vegan pasta dish he was very happy with. You can find out more here: www.rocseven.com
Going away pre-Christmas is always a gamble, sometimes minimal slopes are open due to a lack of snow. But linked with Val Thorens – the highest ski resort in Europe – Les Menuires is as snow sure as they come. However, during this December review of Les Menuires snowboard holiday in the French Alps we had too much snow. This closed the Three Valleys links, some lifts and many slopes, but we still had an amazing time.
The atmosphere in Les Menuires is really friendly with some nice bars and restaurants. It was very quiet in December, although we heard that nearby Val Thorens was very busy with a student week. So you could always go to the Folie Douche in Val Thorens for a party and snowboard back to Les Menuires when you are done (just check the run is open!).
Having previously visited Les Menuires in March I can confirm it is a great base to explore the Three Valleys. The western slopes facing the town are among the quietest in the 650km ski area and the Menuires slopes are my favourite in the Three Valleys. While I would highly recommend visiting in December I’d be happy to head back at any point in the season, in fact I hope to return for a family visit at Easter!
We hope you found this December review of Les Menuires snowboard holiday in the French Alps interesting and useful. For more information check out the Les Menuires website: www.lesmenuires.com