Trois Vallees, France
France's fabled Three Valleys comprise some of the world's best-known ski resorts. The high-elevation ski stations of Courchevel, Méribel, Les Menuires, and Val Thorens are the most famous in the area, but there are also small, intimate satellite villages tucked into the valleys below.
The big resorts at Three Valleys are hardly intimate charmers, but rather bustling born-for-skiing meccas. They also hosted some of the ski events at the 1992 Winter Olympics, headquartered in Albertville.
Courchevel (www.courchevel.com) itself consists of resort centers at three elevations, all named after their elevation in meters. Courchevel 1850 is sleek and chic—one of the most glamorous of all French resorts. At one end of the three parallel valleys are Courchevel 1650 and 1550, plus adjacent Le Praz at 1,300 meters.
In the middle valley are the resorts of Méribel (www.meribel.net) and Mottaret, a pair of relaxed resorts that attract a younger clientele than toney Courchevel, but a wealthier one than economical Le Praz. With some of the Three Valleys' more challenging runs, it also appeals to advanced skiers.
Les Menuires (www.lesmenuires.com), snugged deep in the Belleville Valley, the largest of the three valleys, is located way on the other end. It too is a purpose-built ski center with more convenience than charm.
Val Thorens (www.valthorens.com), at 7,545 feet, is Europe's highest resort, meaning that it has the most direct access to the best snow and is a good choice when the Alps are enduring a marginal season.
If you want economical lodging in authentic villages with access to the grandiose Three Valleys terrain, consider La Tania, a small still-rustic hamlet, or St. Martin-de-Belleville, an old-cheesemaking center below Les Menuires.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication