Most keen skiers have heard of, and many skied, the vast Three Valleys ski area, but not many are aware that much of the famous ski region is actually located within the Vanoise National Park.
Established in 1963, Vanoise was France’s first national park and was initially set up to protect the local ibex population.
Although some areas of the park are very remote and inaccessible, thanks to the popularity of skiing and winter sports generally, there are actually several resorts set in the heart of the national park. The presence of resorts like Courchevel, Les Menuires, Val Thorens and Méribel within the park’s parameters means that skiers staying in Three Valleys chalet accommodation have access to its stunning mountain scenery and wildlife.
Ways to Explore Vanoise
Of course, when you wake up in the morning and set foot out of the door of your Three Valleys chalet, you are actually exploring a part of the Vanoise. But those who really want to immerse themselves in the rugged, remote beauty of this area will need to go a bit further afield than the chair lifts and telecabines will take you.
A great way to get off the beaten track and discover the hidden beauty of the Vanoise National Park is to take a guide and go ski-touring or backcountry skiing. This usually involves using either Nordic or Telemark skis to venture into areas not served by the lifts and pistes.
The true ski-tourer will journey for several days, travelling from mountain hut to mountain hut to discover the most unspoilt areas of the park.
Be warned, however: there will be a fair amount of uphill walking and climbing to be done. Some guides will provide skins to cover skis so that they can grip uphill. But the rewards will be worth it: a stunning mountain landscape untouched by modern human life…
Wildlife to Look Out For
Sharp-eyed skiers in the spring may have already seen marmots emerging from their winter holes from the windows of their Three Valleys chalet, or spied the tracks of ibex and chamois in the snow from a chairlift.
The truth is that, once you manage to get away from the built up resorts and busy slopes, there is plenty of fascinating wildlife living in the Vanoise National Park – even during the snowy months of the ski season.
Wildlife of Vanoise National Park include:
• Alpine ibex (known as bouquetin in French)
• Alpine marmots
• Eurasian lynx
• Mountain hares
• Eurasian Badgers
Bird lovers should also look out for some of the 100 bird species which nest in the area including golden eagles, bearded vulture eagles, the Eurasian eagle-owl, black woodpeckers and Alpine accentors.
So next time you step out of your Three Valleys chalet and look around, don’t forget to look beyond the buildings and ski lifts, restaurants and pistes to the beautiful natural world that lies around you in the Vanoise National Park.
Belinda Smythson works for Ski Amis, a specialist ski travel agency and booking service that has been helping avid skiers craft their perfect winter holiday in The Three Valleys, Paradiski, Espace Killy or Chamonix Valley for over a quarter of a century. If you're planning a ski getaway in a Three Valleys chalet, in resorts like La Tania or Les Menuires, Ski Amis is the go-to company for winter sports fans searching for the holiday of a lifetime.
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