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Les Menuires is a big and bustling purpose-built ski resort in the Belleville Valley, with good links into the Three Valleys (Trois Vallées) ski area in the French Alps. Overall, it's a more affordable mid-range resort compared to the other more upmarket Three Valleys ski resorts, yet it is surrounded by some of the best ski terrain in this region.

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Although brutal in appearance, particularly around its central quarters of huge hotel and apartment blocks, Les Menuires is not actually as soulless as many cursory commentators would have you believe. The resort attracts a cosmopolitan mix of nationalities and has an animated urban buzz about it; it's popular with families with young children; has a good programme of regular events; and there's certainly no lack of services or facilities. The ambiance is unpretentious, and Les Menuires is consistently rated as the best-value holiday base in the Three Valleys.

Many attractive new chalets and chalet-style hotels have also sprung up over the past couple of years, mostly in the quieter surrounding suburbs away from the brash and busy original resort centre, and have done much to improve the look and standing of Les Menuires. There's no denying that much of the resort is still unattractively utilitarian, and its sprawling suburbs have fragmented the once convenient layout, but the local ski area is great for progressing beginners and intermediates and has good links with Meribel, thus mitigating most of the resort's negative factors.

Ski area

The greater part of Les Menuires' ski area is draped over the west-facing flanks of the chain of summits and ridges that separates the Belleville Valley from the neighbouring Les Allues Valley, which houses Meribel. Les Menuires shares these slopes with interlinking pistes from Val Thorens and Saint-Martin-de-Belleville; the links towards Meribel and back are also good.

The pistes flow right down into the conveniently arranged base areas, at central Les Menuires and at neighbouring Reberty and Les Bruyeres. Most of the runs are wide, well-groomed motorway pistes with fairly accurate blue and red classification, providing great skiing for intermediates and good long traverses for able novices, with acres of ungroomed inter-piste terrain too; there are however quite a few lengthy flat sections on some of the key link routes, and the busy lower slopes are often slushy in the afternoons.

Les Menuires' best terrain, and arguably some of the best in the entire Three Valleys, is found in the quieter east-facing La Masse sector on the opposite western side of the valley, with great reds and some fair blacks, plus lots of inter-piste and off-piste terrain; particularly noteworthy are the off-piste routes into the Vallon du Lou off the back of the Point de la Masse.

Off the slopes and apres ski

Les Menuires has a great range of off-slope activities and attractions: its big municipal leisure centre features a lagoon-style swimming pool; Jacuzzi; sauna; steam room; fitness suite; squash courts; multi-sports hall; and a children's fun-park. The resort also houses a number of spas, each offering a comprehensive range of 'wellness' therapies, massage and beauty treatments.

Outdoor activities include a 4km toboggan run, snowshoe treks, mountain biking, tandem paragliding, and snowmobiling. Youngsters love the resort's huge outdoor snow castle play area; indoor play zones for children are also provided.

Warren-like malls of shops, cafes, restaurants and bars fill the ground- and lower-ground levels beneath Les Menuires' central apartment/hotel blocks; they have a weird subterranean feel to them but house a surprisingly good range of shops, including a number of boutiques, well-stocked delicatessens and a large supermarket.

Les Menuires' apres-ski scene is primarily just happy-hour drinks at busy terrace bars, a few offering live music and/or some unsophisticated entertainment inside later on in the evenings; some of the better venues, such as Le Medz'e-ry, are in the outlying suburbs, so aren't easy to reach on foot from the central resort.

There are plenty of bars, but some are in dingy corners of the malls and most close early; there are a couple of disco-style clubs though, one ['Le New Pop'] in central Les Menuires, the other ['Le Leeberty'] in Les Bruyeres.


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