Ski highlights for all levels

Boasting just a handful of truly local slopes, Saint Martin doesn’t even sell its own lift passes, with a combined St Martin/Les Menuires ticket the entry-level unit. This adds Les Menuires’ 160km of diverse local runs and will be enough for many less mileage-hungry intermediates, while stirring in a few of the 3 Valley’s gnarliest black runs and some substantial off-piste options. Late season and very sunny spells can see all of this largely south-facing area turn slushy though – one more reason to upgrade your lift pass and gorge on all the 3 Valleys has to offer. Cross-country skiers are well served, with 28km of marked trails in the valley between Saint Martin and Les Menuires.


Honestly, Saint Martin de Belleville is not the greatest for absolute beginners. There are no green runs on the local slopes, with the closest being the broad, scenic La Violette above neighbouring Les Menuires, two lifts and a blue run (3 Marches) away. Or you can catch a shuttle bus to Les Menuires base village, or indeed Val Thorens, both of which have many more options. There is however a teeny-tiny learning area right in Saint Martin, and the (on sunny afternoons) slushy lower blue slopes make for soft landings for newbies edging out of their comfort zones.


Now you’re talking! The few local slopes include lingering, swooping blues, plus two long, pacy reds, one of which, the long, wide and rolling Jérusalem, may just be our fave full-throttle thigh-burner in the whole 3 Valleys. Les Menuires offers many more long, spacious cruisers on its south-facing side, while the Pointe de la Masse area across the valley is about as close as the wildly popular 3 Valleys gets to a hidden gem. The higher, north and east-facing runs here might test the mettle of some intermediates, but those who like their carving more sedate will find gorgeous, gentle blues fanning out across the lower section. Further afield, plenty of intermediate routes access all of the 3 Valley’s other ski areas.


Thanks to the fast and uncrowded lifts from the village base, Saint Martin’s lack of any black runs won’t trouble the nippier and more adventurous. Les Menuires’ Pointe de la Masse should be their first port of call, with a clutch of challenging reds and blacks Masse and Lac Noir criss-crossing a magnificent wide-open bowl down from the 2804m peak.

Val Thorens’ super-snowsure, high-altitude slopes surround the next resort up the valley – we’ve had many fantastic heart-in-mouth moments zipping down its glacier area. Further afield, Courchevel’s sublime black groomer Les Suisses is a must, while vert virtuosos may want to take on the nearby Grand Couloir.

And for those who like a distance challenge, Orelle in the ‘fourth valley’ offers a mini ski safari, richly rewarded by the Combe Rosael run’s plunge from the top.

Freeride and off-piste

There are many who swear Saint Martin has some of the best off-piste itineraries in France, and for all levels. The village’s location on an edge of the 3 Valleys also means these stay relatively uncrowded, and after a heavy fall you’re in pole position to rip through the early-morning freshies while other freeriders are still making their way here from their base resorts. Many options let you start and finish in the village and head off-piste straight from the lifts, with no need for hiking.

For off-piste rookies and improvers, the Liberty Ride area just off the top of the St Martin 2 chair is a great place to start. Safe, patrolled, and always within sight of the lift, it doesn’t require a guide or avalanche kit. Nearby, the wide-open, gently rolling slopes close to Saint Martin’s home pistes are also perfect for those carving their first off-groomer lines – guides and kit recommended. The local area also offers some beautiful tree-line terrain – perfect when visibility’s low.

Neighbouring Les Menuires has three further Liberty Ride areas, plus more challenging routes and steep corridors down from Pointe de la Masse. A guide is vital in this area, as south-facing sections can carry high avalanche risk, and losing your way can mean you pay for your thrills with a very long hike out.

Val Thorens too offers challenging steeps and corridors, while further afield we can’t resist the rugged draw of Col de Chanarossa into the Vallée des Avals. And for the price of a short hike from the lift, the Saulire and Creux Noirs areas give good backcountry vibes.

Experienced guides can be hired through the Bureau des Guides de la Vallée des Belleville and ESF, which also offers a fantastic freestyle and freeride course for teenagers, teaching them avalanche safety and back-country skills while they shred

Ski schools and guides

Whether you want to hone your piste skiing or snowboarding, give telemarking a try or polish up your off-piste credentials, Saint Martin has you covered. And local guides’ passion for their area means you’ll learn much about the terrain and village too. Both local outfits are based in Saint Martin’s Les Grangeraies neighbourhood – The Ski School, and ESF, whose Club Piou Piou also teaches children from 18 months old – letting you take a break from childcare to flex your muscles on the mountain.

Lift system

Saint Martin’s two local lifts, St Martin 1 and St Martin 2, make quick work of the 2437m Tougnette peak, accessing the local blues and reds, direct red and blue routes down to Méribel and a cruisy blue/green run into Les Menuires. From there you’re well-placed to rinse all of the 3 Valleys’ 166 mostly fast and efficient lifts which see improvements every season.

Snow reliability and snowmaking

Saint Martin’s relatively low altitude and south-facing slopes mean that the local snow cover can take a beating from the sun, especially in late season. But heading for higher ground is quick and easy via Méribel-Mottaret or Les Menuires. Just up the valley, Val Thorens is at 2300m the highest ski resort in Europe, and its mighty local pistes, many of which are north-facing and so hold their snow exceptionally well, reach a dizzying 3230m. And beyond nature’s contribution, around 2,500 snow cannons and 2,100 groomers work hard across the 3 Valleys to optimise snow cover across the whole ski area.

Terrain parks

Park rats will need to head beyond the hood to catch their thrills. The nearest fun park is off the Becca chair or Sunny Express lift in next-door Les Menuires, complete with new-in-2018 rails and tables. Like all Les Menuires’ five fun zones, it’s on the gentler side, and families with still-learning junior jibbers can also check out the wildlife-themed Friendly Natural Park on La Masse’s lower slopes, which also offer slalom and boardercross courses.

The 3 Valleys has 40-plus parks in all, and best of all is Val Thorens’ vast, 70,000m2 contender on the Plateaux slopes, which has features for all skill levels. Another stellar hangout is Méribel’s Plattières Park, managed by DC Snowboarding. With two half pipes, a boardercross course and stacks of gnarly features, the park fills up for regular ‘DC parties’ with freestyle contests. And the colossal kickers of Courchevel’s Family Park are not to be scoffed at either.