The History of Les Menuires Ski Resort
The Trois Vallées in the French Alps is the largest ski area in the world. Many people make the mistake however of associating the Three Valleys with 3 resorts; Meribel, Courchevel and Val Thorens. You would think the good people of Les Menuires would be rather peeved at this but to be honest they enjoy the exclusivity that comes of being a less touristy resort. This is the history of this most picturesque ski resort.
Ironically, it was the success of neighbouring Courchevel which saw Les Menuires rise from the snow laden landscape. Nicolas Jay, the then mayor or Saint Martin de Belleville, took the initiative and with his council began to study further tourist development within the valley. Following Courchevel’s example they brought together the town and district councils and private partners to form the SODEVAB; the Society for the Equipment of Belleville Valley.
Their first step was to acquire the property control for the entire upper valley, designate areas for both skiing and urbanisation, and develop their first plan. This was a hugely ambitious project for the time which they based, optimistically, on a market in full growth. The plan included the creation of 100,000 beds in the valley split between 2 main resorts; Les Menuires and Val Thorens, and 5 satellite resorts.
The creation of Les Menuires began in earnest in 1964 with the installation of 3 drag lifts and the construction of Le Solaret. The Belleville Valley Building Company; SCIVABEL, was founded to assure both the accommodations promotion and the operation of the ski lifts. By 1967 the first accommodation opened at the Croisette as well as the 2nd stage of La Masse cable car which gave access to the fabulous, high altitude snow fields.
By 1969 Mont de la Chambre was born as well as the Tourist Office and Les Menuires’ first hotel. 1973 is seen as a pivotal year and its easy to see why. The Allamands drag lift was opened which gave access to the pistes of Meribel, at 2300m work began on the development of Val Thorens. In short, this was the year that work started in earnest on what was to become the Trois Vallées.
There was a complete rethink of the area in the early 80’s after this intense period of construction and development and the town council made the decision to revise their original scheme of development. The new plan, which was voted in during 1984 brought about a new vision for the development of the valley with the main focus on controlled development with a view to preserving the environment.
Under these new plans the satellite resorts were abandoned altogether and the tourist beds were dramatically reduced for both Les Menuires and Val Thorens to 26,000 and 20,000 respectively. An addition was to create a small, tourist area at Saint Martin de Belleville in order to give the valley the village resort it was lacking. Add the 1200 beds planned here to those earmarked for the other 2 resorts and the total came to only 47,000 beds; less than half the originally planned 100,000.
This ethos continues to this day and even though it is the largest area of its kind in the world everyone involved takes as good care of the environment as they do of the visitors. This not only makes it unique but one of the most beautiful areas to enjoy a winter break, and it doesn’t get much better than that.