The tiny, unpretentious ski resort of Orelle in the beautiful Maurienne mountain range in Savoie, France, is not for those who like to eat in stylish restaurants and be seen in a different trendy bar every night. This low-key ski resort is for serious skiers who don’t want to pay the high prices in the neighbouring world-famous ski resorts or change for dinner every night, but who do want to have access to the endless ski slopes in the world’s largest ski area!
Yes, it’s the 3 Vallées Express cable car, which takes you from 800m up to 2300m of altitude in just 15 minutes! Then, by taking one more lift, in less than half and hour, you have access to the largest ski area in the world – the vast 3 Vallées ski area! While you’re recovering from the rather quick altitude change, you can take in the exceptional views of the huge ski area which awaits you…
Orelle shares its ski area with Val Thorens and offers 150km of skiing, all of which is above 1800 meters! The season is surprisingly long here – the resort often opens the first weekend in December and stays open until the second week of May due to its high altitude! This also guarantees excellent snow right to the end of the season. Just at the top of the 3 Vallées Express cable car is a dedicated area for beginners and children and there is a choice of blue or red slopes to reach Val Thorens meaning access to the rest of the 3 Vallées ski area is open to all levels.
You cannot ski back down to the resort at the end of the day but it’s actually rather pleasant taking the last cable car back down to Orelle - you can sit back and enjoy the ride through the snow covered pine forest with stunning views of the valley and surrounding mountains laid out before you. It’s important to take note of the hours for the 3 Vallées Express and make sure you don’t venture too far into the 3 Vallées in the afternoon because if you miss the last cable car of the day, the only way back down is from Val Thorens – a very expensive end to the day (140km away by taxi)!
There are several different ski pass combinations available from Orelle, depending on whether you want to ski Orelle/Val Thorens (150km of slopes), La Vallée des Belleville (300km of slopes) or Les 3 Vallées (600km of slopes). Orelle also offers a special deal called the Pass Oré-Olé giving great discounts on ski passes such as 1 day free when you buy a 6-day pass. It's also well worth considering the Pass Tribu which offers a €15 discount per person for simultaneous bookings of 3 or more 6-day ski passes in the 3 Vallées ski area.
At the opposite end of the 3 Vallées ski area from Courchevel, Orelle really is at the opposite end on the ski resort scale. Low-key, genuine and unpretentious, Orelle offers a great alternative to the other glitzy and expensive resorts in this ski area. With regards to accommodation, there are a few options: private gites or chalets in the village or nearby hamlets; or modern, comfortable studios and apartments in the 3 star Hameau des Eaux d’Orelle residence. Here you’ll also find a spa centre with swimming pool, spa, sauna and special treatments to help you relax those tired muscles!
Orelle may be small but this has its advantages: free parking everywhere, free shuttle service, friendly and helpful people and complete tranquility in beautiful surroundings! Pleasant walks, local visits, trips to Turin market... there is certainly plenty to discover here. This ski resort is so small that almost everything you need is grouped together at the entrance to the 3 Vallées Express cable car: the ski pass counter, ski school booking office, a ski hire shop, a ski gear shop and one friendly bar filled with locals. A few metres away you’ll receive a warm welcome in Orelle’s tiny Tourist Office, and the child care facilities, in a lovely, chalet-style building, are tucked just behind in the back streets. Orelle is small and discreet and seems to want to stay this way.
Orelle is quick AND easy to access which cannot be said for many ski resorts! Only about 2 hours from Grenoble Airport, an hour from Chambery and 2 hours from Lyon and Geneva airports - with shuttle services directly to the resort on a fast, empty motorway that goes almost to your front door! Orelle is great for those who don’t enjoy long journeys or hairpin bends! There are direct trains from Paris and Lille and the train station of Saint-Michel is only a short taxi ride away from the ski resort! After speaking to a few holiday makers, the same phrases kept coming out – low-key, reasonably priced, easy to access, unpretentious with fabulous, endless skiing on its doorstep! Come and discover Orelle for yourself…
A note of thanks to the staff at the Tourist Office, the Hameau des Eaux d'Orelle and the ski hire shop, Orelle Sports, for their time and kind attentions.
Being lucky enough to have parents who were crazy about skiing, my love for the mountains started when I was 4 years old on our first family ski holiday to Austrian ski resort of Obergurl. One ski holiday a year was never enough and tears rolled down my face as I looked out the back window of the car on the drive down the valley on the way home!
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