3 Valleys History
The three Valleys (Les Trois Vallées) as we know it today is a magnificent resort, with its large well-groomed slopes, countless off piste routes, fine dining, luxury accommodation and shopping.
However, the story of Courchevel has its roots.
The birth of the three valleys came about in 1938 by a man named, Sir Arnold Lunn- a skiing promoter and inventor of the slalom course. He marvelled at the potential of it being a great ski resort.
Back in 1925 Sir Arnold Lunn travelled through the French Alps to look for a promising site to practise his hobby, he was in awe at the potential of the St Bon, Les Allues and Les Belleville valleys becoming a large ski resort and to rival those existing in Switzerland.
Years later on July 8th 1952, Sir Arnold was knighted by the Queen for ‘services to British skiing and Anglo Swiss relations’.
It was during the winter of 1936/37 Scottish Major Peter Lindsay approached Sir Arnold to get his opinion on the skiing opportunities in Vanoise and Tarentaise. Sir Arnold Lunn directed him to Emile Allais (Olympic medal winner at the 1936 games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen) and Andre Tournier (famous French mountaineer) with whom Lindsay would explore the three valleys and plan the establishment of a ski resort in the Les Allues valley.
In 1938 a first hotel, Le Doron was being built above the hamlet of Mussillion. This hotel was associated with the 3 Valley’s first ski lift, called the “Red Dragon” a 19-seat cable sled. As the name Mussillian was too difficult for the British to pronounce, the Major renamed it Meribel.
Peter Lindsay moved to Meribel permanently where he created the Société Foncière de la Vallée des Allues, where he gradually developed the resort.
In December 1938, the Saint Bon municipal council voted in a land development on the Courchevel and Moriond sites. Even though during the First World War in 1940, the ski industry came to an abrupt halt, never the less the planning went on as this project was being privately financed.
Laurent Chappis was a young architect whom was being held captive in an interment camp. Laurent had a plan to create a three interconnected ski resort so therefore based his work on the 3 Valleys site and received the support from another man held in captive named Maurice Michaud whom was an engineer, in charge of the French Structural Engineering Department since 1936. The council appointed Laurent Chappis as the architect -urban planner for the municipality and charged him with the task of drafting the plan to develop the resort.
In March 1946, Laurent and Emille had been realesed form imprisionment. They drew up the first plan for ski lifts above St Bon, assisted by Jean Blanc and Jean Pomagalski with the layout of the lifts.
During the summer and the fall of the same year the Courchevel – Les Tovets draglift commissioned in December 1946 and the Les Tovets- La Loze lift inaugurated in January 1947, Courchevel would thereby become the first link in the departments 3 Valleys. From that moment on things moved very quickly for the valley and the departmental resort: the opening of the Hotel Departmental des 3 Vallées happened in December 1947 and the Hotel de la Loze in January 1948.
The resort needed a name, Chappis wanted it to remain the ‘Plateau des Tovets’ but others in the resort believed a new resort needed something punchier. Pierre de la Gontrie suggested Courchevel, the name of a hamlet situated someway down the mountain. Pierre ran past the idea to Francis Mugnier, the mayor in whose commune the old hamlet was situated. Mugnier was not opposed to the idea, therefore it was decided the real Courchevel would be changed to Courchevel-Dessous (Lower Courchevel).
Although it was few in number, some residents were incensed! The name implied they were situated way down, and the community feared hope in sharing the tourist boom.
A meeting took place in the hotel du Roc Merlet in the real Courchevel.
The matter was resolved with the real Courchevel being called Courchevel 1550, and le Tovets baptized Courchevel 1850.
Everyone was now talking about another project to connect the 3 Valleys, the Haut-Tarentaise and the Maurienne by ski lifts with extensions to Chamonix and Briançon.
In December 1951, the first link between Courchevel and the Les Allues valley was connected via the Burgin Saulire lift.
At this time, the Allues valley was in the early stages of developing the new resort Meribel. With already three draglifts, the valley was being connected to the electricity grid for the first time.
In August 1952, the Saulire cable car was being commissioned and in November 1954, Emille Allais took over the management of Courchevel.
Four years later the first 3 Valleys ski passes were sold. In addition, the winter of 1972/73 saw the beginnings of Val Thorens located at the foot of the glaciers, at 2300m and of Meribel Mottaret located at the bottom of the valley of Les Allues.
There are smaller resorts amongst the 3 Valleys but these did not develop until the 90’s.
It was discussed that after the success of Courchevel, the resort Les Menuires would be developed.
Later, La Tania was born, once known as a little hamlet halfway between Meribel and Courchevel called “La Tagna”. It was not until the 22nd December 1990 it was soon to become a ski resort baptised as “La Tania”. The famous architect Jacque Labro and his team worked hard to preserve this beautiful location by using perfectly integrated constructions, using wood and traditional materials wherever it was possible.
The ski resort Orelle is part of the 3 Valleys, situated in the Maurienne area of the Savoie department in the Northern Alps region. Orelle is a back way into Val Thorens ski resort but more challenging runs have developed on the Orelle side of the mountain. It also features some excellent off piste. There are 186 apartments, set in two buildings and to be complete in December 2008.
In February 1992, the Albertville winter Olympics made the three Valleys famous worldwide.