It had been three seasons since I last snowboarded in Les Menuires, but for all purposes it seemed a lifetime away. This was my first time away since the covid pandemic changed the world we live in and I was itching to hit the slopes early season. This Les Menuires snowboard holiday review was carried out early December 2021 and it proved to be an epic return to the slopes!
Les Menuires in the Three Valleys
Les Menuires is part of the colossal Three Valleys in the French Alps. The plan was to use Les Menuires as a base to explore the whole ski area, but a freakish early season heavy dump of snow ensured that we were limited to the local slopes. Not that it mattered, with so much fresh powder to play in we couldn’t have wished for more.
Before travelling we had to navigate through all the different covid legislation and red tape. Armed with a folder of paperwork (the poor trees!), I made it through all the checks at Gatwick, Geneva, and then into France.
We flew into Geneva early morning and within a short transfer time of 2 hours we arrived in time for a late lunch. Eager to hit the slopes, we suited up and made it out to enjoy a couple of hours snowboarding in the glorious afternoon sun. It was the first time I had been out in the mountains for nearly 2 years, so I wanted to take it easy with a few meandering runs.
Straight out onto the slopes!
Straight from the boot room of our accommodation, the HO36 Hostel, you can snowboard directly down to the Doron lift. The first hurdle was a short, but steep, off-piste stretch with untouched deep snow. Not the ideal start and we both found it hilarious as we fell into a heap on the first turn!
We soon got into our stride and from the top of the Bruyeres we snowboarded all the way down to the bottom. With a combination of blues and reds it was the perfect start to get our legs warmed up. There was also a lot of untouched powder on the sides which was way too tempting and a lot of fun.
It was almost too much fun as we only managed to make it down to the Roc 1 gondola with a minute to spare before the lift was closed for the day! At the top we capped our first day back on the slopes with a beer at the Le Roc 7. With a DJ pumping out tunes and the sun setting over the mountains, it was bliss and made me realise how much I had missed being in the mountains. For the first time in ages I felt everything was getting back to normality with the only constant reminder that we were in covid times being that we had to wear a mask on ski lifts and in indoor public places.
All the link slopes to Val Thorens and across to Meribel were actually open on our first afternoon but foresight is a wonderful thing. We were not to know what the night would bring!
Let it snow!
We woke up to about 1.5m of fresh snow! For early December this was extraordinary and seemed to catch everyone by surprise as most of the resort roads were closed. But with fresh powder beckoning we couldn’t wait to hit the slopes.
Unfortunately, what we found was that none of the lifts were running. Undeterred, we met up with our ESF guide who kitted us out with avalanche gear. The first few lifts started running mid-morning, so we headed for the Doron.
This was the only lift accessible, so we just kept lapping it. In usual circumstances we would have been bored of doing this, but with deep untouched powder to play in, we were in snowboarders’ heaven!
After about an hour the Bruyeres opened so we headed up higher. Visibility was poor but our guide was excellent, and we headed off-piste a few times. It was exhausting, after having a few tumbles and having to dig myself out a few times, I quickly realised my fitness level was much to be desired, but it was so much fun.
After lunch the Roc 1 was open and we could head to the top. With so much powder it was hard to distinguish what was piste and what was not. With hardly anyone else on the mountain we were making fresh tracks on the slopes.
During the days that followed it just kept snowing and snowing! It was quite extraordinary, and I felt quite blessed with the perfect timing of our trip. We were snowboarding on-piste in thigh high powder in December!
Review of Ho36 Hostel
A short walk from the main Les Menuires centre, Ho36 is a basic, affordable and relaxed hostel. The reception is very welcoming and it has an open plan bar area that doubles up as a restaurant. The atmosphere is cosy and friendly with a decent selection of drinks at the bar. They even had imported pale ales from London including my favourite Meantime beers on tap!
Ho36 is a hostel so the rooms were basic, but were of a decent size with comfortable beds. We slept in a twin room with an ensuite which was pleasant enough, although everything seemed slightly tarnished and unfinished (e.g. pipework exposed and not boxed in).
Other facilities include a bootroom with direct access to the slopes. Unfortunately the boot racks were not heated which was not ideal after a powder day!
Overall, I enjoyed by stay at Ho36. It is an affordable choice and although basic it felt more like a budget hotel than a hostel.
Review of vegan food in Les Menuires
Of course, I am @thevegansnowboarder on Instagram, so it would not be right if I didn’t review the vegan food! I have been reviewing vegan cuisine for a few years now and although French ski resorts were slow to take up the mantle at first, there has been a huge shift, with many restaurants having plant-based options on the menu. Overall, I was very impressed with the vegan cuisine at Les Menuires.
Having said that, I was very disappointed with my meal at the Ho36 Hostel. While Luke tucked into a massive rack of pork chops and then dessert, my meal consisted of a couple of roasted artichokes on a plate and a choice of sorry-looking fruit from the fruit bowl for dessert. It was disappointing as I had been told that in previous years the Ho36 Hostel had catered well for vegans, but this was certainly not my experience.
Review of La Brasserie des Belleville
Located at the end of the Les Menuires main complex, the La Brasserie des Belleville restaurant was so good that we ate there twice! The restaurant is sizable with a friendly atmosphere and great service. The menu is varied with some good vegan options including a pasta dish and pizza without cheese. I highly recommend the vegan burger, which is delicious, as well as the tantalising berry pie dessert.
Book a table at www.brasseriedesbelleville.fr
Review of La Comptoir
We had lunch at the La Comptoir which is also in the main Les Menuires centre. The menu is a mix of typically traditional mountain food with firm favourites such as a burger and chips. I chose the ‘vegan poke bowl’ and was not disappointed! Deceivingly filling and absolutely delicious.
Review of Restaurant L’Antigel
Up on the slopes at the midstation of the Bruyeres gondola, the quirky L’Antigel is worth visiting. With some unusually funky décor, even a trip to the toilet is an experience with a ski museum en-route!
The staff were welcoming, attentive and friendly. The dishes are served finesse with a modern twist. My vegan pasta bowl was very tasty, and the apple pie should not be missed as it was delicious. Book a table at http://www.lantigel-lesmenuires.com/
Review of Le Roc 7
Near the top of the Roc gondola, Le Roc 7 is a stylish Italian restaurant. Maybe not the best choices for vegan food but I really enjoyed a vegan pasta dish. With incredible views it is worthy of a visit. Check out their website at https://www.rocseven.com/en/
Review of Snowboarding in Les Menuires – Final Thoughts
It was incredible to get back on the slopes again, and where better than Les Menuires. I would usually be writing about how epic snowboarding expeditions across the vast Three Valleys are, but the incredible snow conditions meant that we had to laser focus our attention to Les Menuires. Rather than writing about it being a gateway, it was our focal point.
I felt that I had finally got to know Les Menuires, even though I had been before. I realised the charm and authenticity of this French resort as a standalone entity.
Check out a previous review of Les Menuires here
Mark is also the manager of Jamie Barrow (Britain’s fastest snowboarder)