Val Thorens – A Brief History
Photo courtesy of valthorens.com
In the 1960s Val Thorens was a small mountain village. The mayor of St Martin de Belleville, Joseph Fontanet (previously part of the French resistance, who was later assassinated in Paris in 1980), and a property developer Pierre Schnebelen recognised its potential as a ski resort and championed its development. The project faced some opposition, due mainly to the expense associated with the construction. The building of the resort was a gamble that paid off and on the 18th of December 1971 Val Thorens’ trio of draglifts officially opened.
The resort was a great success and attracted an increasingly large amount of visitors and investment. In 1982 the Cime cable car was completed and at the time, was the largest cable car in the Alps, carrying 150 people. The cable car was an impressive feat of engineering and a feather in the resort’s cap.
In 1994 Val Thorens hosted a stage finish in the Tour de France. The stage was won by Nelson Rodriguez Serna of Colombia. The victory was well earned by Rodriguez who raced the 93 mountain miles in a stage with the 2nd highest elevation in the Tour’s history.
Jean Sulpice became the youngest chef in France to win a Michelin star for L’Oxalys restaurant in 2004. This cemented Val Thorens’ reputation as a gastronomic hotspot. In 2009 his hard work and drive for culinary perfection was rewarded when he won a second Michelin star.
Despite being purpose build in the 1960s and 70s the resort is not the concrete eyesore that you might expect. A large amount of investment has flowed into the resort over the last 10 years, making it much more aesthetically sympathetic to its surroundings. Many of the drab monoliths built in its early history have been replaced by more attractive buildings.
In 2005 SETAM set out to improve the resort’s lift system and in turn, the ski area. In recent years this has seen the upgrading of older lifts to high speed lifts. It has not only been the resort’s lifts that have been modernised but also the environmental policies. Val Thorens’ town council have been funding environmental initiatives such as grass seeding pistes, setting out conservation areas, holding spring cleaning days and improving local awareness.
Val Thorens has certainly come a long way since its first three drag lifts opened in 1971. This has been recognised by the World Ski Awards who awarded the resort the ‘Best Resort in the World’ in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Val Thorens is a fantastic resort and Ski Total are very optimistic about the resorts future.
If you have chosen Val Thorens, you are in for a treat this winter!