What lift pass should I buy for the 3 Valleys?

Writen by Jason Gibson.

Ski LiftWe are frequently asked which, from the considerable list of options, is the best lift pass to buy so we thought we’d put together a little summary of what is on offer and what to think about when making the decision. Here is a quick overview of the type of tickets that you can buy.

  • Resort Specific Passes – These are available at each of the individual resorts within the Trois Vallées area (Courchevel & La Tania, Meribel, Les Menuires & St Martin, Val Thorens) and enable you to only use the lifts in that specific resort.
  • 3 Vallées Passes – This pass will give you access to all of the lifts and resorts in the entire Trois Vallées area without restriction or need to upgrade your pass on a daily basis.
  • Mini Pass – A Mini Pass provides access to many of the smaller lifts in and around your specific resort. It is ideal for younger children who are just starting out using lifts and who would not get full value from a full Vallée lift pass.
  • Morning or Afternoon Pass – As the name suggests this is a perfect choice for anyone who just wants to ski in the morning or the afternoon or sneak in a cheeky few runs on their day of arrival.
  • 3 Vallées Daily Extension – This will allow anyone that has already purchased a minimum 2 day Resort specific pass to upgrade to a full area 3 Vallées pass for one full day.

However it isn’t that simple as there are a variety of discounts available especially if you are skiing with friends or family and looking to buy multiple tickets.

  • Duo Pass – This is available to two people buying a full 3 Vallées lift pass together (and purchased in the same transaction). It offers a reduction in the overall price of a 6 day lift pass and is great for friends or couples holidaying together.
  • Tribu Pass – If you are skiing in a group of 3 or more friends then this could be the pass for you. It offers a discount on either a resort specific pass or a 3 Vallée pass of 6 or more days duration. Once again the tickets must be bought together and processed on the same transaction.
  • Family Pass – Buy this pass and everyone in your family pays the child rate. It is available for 2 adults and a minimum of 2 children (under 18) and can be used to purchase resort specific and 3 Vallées type passes of 6 days or more. Proof of age will be asked for each of the children and we recommend having your passports available to show.
  • Liberte Pass – Are you lucky enough to ski more than 8 days in the 3 Vallées each season? If so the Liberte online pass may offer you savings of up to 20% per day as well as the chance to ski every 9th day for free.

Now that we have that out of the way these are the other factors which we believe you should consider when deciding what pass you should buy.

What level are you at?
In our experience there is little point in a beginner buying a full 3 Vallée pass as they will find that there is plenty of terrain and uplift available to them in the resort that they are based in. It is easy at the start of your holiday to get carried away especially if you are skiing with a group of more experienced friends and do not want to miss out on the opportunity to ski further afield but realistically your first week will be spent getting to grips with the lifts closer to home.
Equally an experienced skier is likely to want to ski further afield and visit some of the other resorts that make up the 3 Vallées. In this case it makes more sense to bite the bullet and buy a full 3 Vallées list pass.
This leaves the group of skiers who would classify themselves as intermediates and who are more than capable of skiing to other resorts but may not want to do this every day. If you fall in to this category you must decide on how many days you are likely to want to leave the resort you are based in. If it is only for one or two days then you are probably best buying a resort specific pass and adding a daily extensions on the days required.

Which resort are you going to be based in?
This, when coupled with what level of skier you are, can have a massive impact on how likely you are to want to ski further afield. Meribel for example is at the heart of the 3 Vallées and it is very easy for an intermediate skier to find themselves skiing across in to other resorts without even realizing it. You can access Les Menuires within 2 lifts and Courchevel using only 1!
Courchevel tends to be a little more self-contained and you can already ski to a number of different villages using only the Courchevel specific pass (Le Praz, a Tania, 1550, 1650 and 1850). There is a clear dividing line between Courchevel and the rest of the 3 Vallées and this tends to make it a very conscious decision to ski further afield.
La Tania really does sit between both Courchevel and La Tania. Turn left out of resort and you are in Courchevel but turn right and you are in Meribel. This offers a tremendous base to ski from and the best of all worlds in terms of choice. With this in mind we often recommend any skier staying in La Tania that is an intermediate or above buys a full area pass.

What time of year are you traveling at?
The 3 Vallées is the World’s largest linked ski area but it can still get busy. At peak periods bottlenecks do occur that can lead to queues especially towards the end of the day when heading back to your accommodation. The only way to avoid this is to ski with an instructor who has priority on the lifts but even then you may just find it is far more enjoyable to stay in your own resort during the busiest weeks.

Although all of the resorts do offer discounts for early season skiing you should consider whether a full area pass is going to offer good value for money if the conditions aren’t so good.

Are you skiing in a group?
If you are skiing in a group it is normally better to agree as a group which is the best pass to buy. Buying a single valley pass when the rest of the group have a 3 Valley pass could be very frustrating.

Are you taking lessons?
Check with your ski school what type of lift pass you need for the lessons that you have booked. At Sweet Snowsports all of our group ski lessons only require a resort specific lift pass. If you have opted for private ski lessons then your ski instructor will structure the session around which ever pass you have opted to buy.

What are your aspirations?
Whilst some like to ski across all 3 Vallées daily others will enjoy skiing just a few runs per day on familiar slopes. Remember that the 3 Vallées is a vast ski area and that skiing from Courchevel to Val Thorens is for most, a whole day out. The views are spectacular, the skiing sensational and the sheer distance involved an achievement. Above all remember that you are on HOLIDAY and that skiing should always be fun.

This information reflects the personal opinions of the author and is not intended as a definitive guide. Individual circumstances, environmental conditions, ability levels and physical fitness should be considered when deciding on which lift pass to purchase.

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Sweet Snowsports Ski School