Southeast of Annecy and south of Moutiers, the Val Thorens ski domaine has 150km of pistes served by 31 lifts with a maximum vertical descent of 1,430m (4,700 feet). Val Thorens is located in a vast cirque below six glaciers and is well-known for its off-piste freeriding. As the highest ski area in the Alps, most of the Val Thorens pistes are above 2,000m (above the treeline) and are known for reasonably reliable snow cover. While this may sound great, snowfall can quickly close a majority of lifts and wind can scour the slopes to icy hardpack.
The Val Thorens ski domaine interconnects the towns in the valley including the purpose-built highrise town of Val Thorens, the highrise town of Les Menuires, and Saint Martin de Bellevenue. Only the later village has any old-world charm.
The Val Thorens ski domaine is part of Les Trois Vallees ski arena that accesses 600km of pistes served by 173 lifts with a maximum vertical descent of 1,980m (6,500 feet). Many of the local snowboarders like riding further west over to the lesser known fourth valley of Les Trois Vallees called Orelle, which has crazy big mountain freeriding routes when there's enough snow.
The Val Thorens ski domaine is blessed with numerous off-piste options. To start off with, the Les Menuires sector has the Liberty Room, which is a zone-natural with an ungroomed piste route. For the less experienced freeriders, head up the Col chairlift and traverse across the Chaviere glacier to the Pierre Lory Pass route. This route leads down a wide easy slope to the lifts at Plan Bouchet. If you are looking for an amazing couloir to ride, head over to Le Plein Sud. Taking it up a notch, head up the Cime de Caron cable car and descend on the well-known Lac du Lou off-piste freeride route. The route descends 1,400m down a wide valley on generally north facing slopes. Over in the Orelle sector, head up the Bouchet lift and there are big sidecountry lines on the right and left of the lift flowing all the way down.
After ripping it up all morning, you'll want to grab lunch on-mountain at Chalet de la Marine or the more old-world Chalet des 2 Lacs (off Moutiere lift or 2 Lacs lift).
The town of Val Thorens is a purpose-built ski resort not really known for old world charm. While the apres ski scene can be a little scattered, you can start off up on-mountain at either La Folie-Douce or over at Les Chalets du Thorens. Then, riding down into town and head to either Maison Blanche or Tango. When are you are looking for nightlife just head over at midnight to L'Eclipse or the Malaysia basement bar.
To reach the snowboarding at Val Thorens by air, fly into Lyon or Geneva. Take the train to Moutiers and then use the regular bus service up to Val Thorens.
TIP: If you are planning to arrive by train, keep in mind that the regular bus up to the resort is primarily during daylight hours. After dark, the bus runs infrequently, if at all. Therefore, you will need to take a cab from the train station to the resort. If you plan to fly into Lyon, you may want to check the train schedule before buying your flight to make sure there is a convenient transfer. If you plan to arrive Friday through Sunday, the shuttle Altibus might be a more convenient option. Since there are not many trains or buses up into this region, you are highly encouraged to advance purchase tickets and reserve your seat.
Overall, Val Thorens is the 21st most popular snowboard & freeride destination of all 42 snowboarding resorts in France.