After skiing for years, who in their right mind, would turn down an offer like this:
“Hey mate, how’s it going? Guess who’s going out to the 3 valleys to learn how to snowboard this New Year?”
“No way, are you? It’ll be awesome; there’s been masses of snow already this season, you’ll have fantastic conditions to learn in!”
“Really, how exciting! And… what’s even better… there’s a space in the mini bus with your name all over it!”
So, that was how my adventure to St Martin de Belleville started.
Early on Boxing Day morning whilst the family were packing up the car to go and visit distant relatives, myself and 5 others were loading up a minibus with boards, skis and the all important high-vis jackets ready to drive down to the Alps for a week in the 3 Valleys.
The trip came about as a boyfriend of a close school friend (the classic friend of a friend routine that sees you end up on many ski holidays whereby you don’t really know who else may be going) managed to find some accommodation in St Martin de Belleville for a really reasonable price! Having been in this job for 5 months by then, I was fully aware reasonably priced accommodation in the 3 Valleys at New Year was not to be sniffed at!!!
We were a real mix of abilities, some of the group had never even seen “proper snow” before, where as I, on the other hand, hand my first taste up a mountain at just 18 months old on my dad’s back as he headed down the slopes. With such varied terrain, The 3 Valleys was going to be perfect for us!
I didn’t much fancy spending a week playing about on the mountain alone so something clicked inside and said…”I know, why don’t you learn to snowboard too!” With that in mind, I found myself buying all the gear on Ebay before we set off.
I’d never been to St Martin before so was pleasantly surprised when we rolled up to a bustling Alpine village, oozing with atmosphere. By the time we arrived, most of the shops had closed and only a couple of the bars were still open. St Martin really isn’t a resort for those who want to make the most of the nightlife. We found ourselves enjoying a few après beers in La Dalhia, the bar at the bottom of the slope, and managed two later nights in Brewskis, but that was about it.
As this was the first holiday of the season for me, I decided that to make the most of it, the first day had to be spent on skis. Our apartment was no more than 20 meters from the bubble lift, so within 15 minutes of closing the door, I… was still standing in the lift queue! Why you may ask. Well there is only one lift out of St Martin so at New Year, it was crazily busy and we were queuing for up to 20 minutes some mornings. It was a pain but nothing could be done about it so, much the same as everybody else, we just got on with it.
Once at the top of that lift, you can ski straight back down to the bottom or you can make your way across the slope to another chair lift. Personally, I was on my skis and wanted a good day on the slopes so followed the masses across to the chair and joined yet another queue. I’m sure outside of peak weeks, the queues are non existent but I was a little frustrated by this stage as I still hadn’t pointed my skis downhill.
I soon forgot about the lift queues though as a few minutes later, I was standing on a peak looking out across the 3 Valleys struggling to decide which way to go! From the top of St Martin 2 (the chairlift) you can drop into the Meribel valley or head up towards Val Thorens. That was it, I was off!!
Meeting up with my friends at the end of the day, we all had fantastic stories to tell. They were rather battered and bruised from their very first day on the slopes and I was absolutely shattered from covering miles on the hill. First day down and everyone was happy!! 3 Valleys really does have something for everyone.
Having blown the cobwebs out on day 1, day 2 and onwards was all about grabbing the snowboard and going back to the basics. We all decided it would be a good idea to get as high as possible and make the most of the long run down from the top of St Martin 2. I was a bit apprehensive as I’d never been boarding before but what the hey, they’d only had one lesson.
The runs back into St Martin are fantastic for beginners. Nice wide blue runs made falling over a lot less painful than it would have been the day before. The runs were long enough that it took us all morning to get back down to the village. OK, so the day before it only took me a couple of minutes to get from top to bottom but, as the pictures show, a lot of the time that I had a board strapped to my feet, I was either on my backside or face first in the snow!
When we got a bit more adventurous on the boards, we found ourselves on the other side of the Meribel valley. I was amazed at how far you could go on blue and green runs. The network of runs in the 3 Valleys really can cater for everyone.
One piece of advice I will share… it’s definitely worth buying a 3 Valleys lift pass if you’re staying in St Martin de Belleville. Meribel and beyond is way too tempting, even for first timers, when you get to the top of St Martin 2!
Find out more information on The Three Valleys ski area.