Saint Martin de Belleville
© Gilles Lansard
Saint Martin de Belleville is often marketed as part of neighbouring Les Menuires. However, this charming old village – part of the huge Three Valleys ski area – is a distinct resort in its own right.
Savoie tradition is what you'll find in abundance in Saint Martin. The village has stayed true to its origins, and that is what makes it so attractive to the local fans who come back year after year. Here you'll find an authentic Savoyard village with a clock tower, narrow streets and stone and wood-clad farms.
© BD C.Cousin
Don't let the position on the Three Valleys piste map fool you. Although the village of Saint Martin appears to be low relative to its neighbours, it actually sits at a respectable 14O0m, the same altitude as Meribel Village over in the next valley.
The village has developed quietly over the years to be able to welcome guests without losing its authentic feel. Farms have been converted into cosy chalets, former stables have been turned into restaurants, the church is now a concert venue, and the village has plenty of 'soul'.
Saint Martin provides a base to access a massive 600km of pistes, ranging from 1,400-3,400 metres in altitude, so there's plenty to explore. Access is via the Saint Martin gondola and then a chairlift, which whisks you up to the top of the Tougnete peak.
From there, the ski area is your oyster: you can drop down into the Meribel valley on one side, or carve your way over to Les Menuires and Val Thorens in the other direction. When you've completed your adventures, you can ski back to Saint Martin via the blue-graded Biolley piste.
The charm of the village of Saint Martin makes it a very sweet location for families. For those who can already ski, the relatively gentle and quiet local slopes will suit fine, while and more advanced have plenty of terrain to go for.
First timers would probably do better to choose a resort with easier nursery slopes, however. There's also plenty to keep children entertained, including tobogganing and husky sledge-rides. The Ecole de Ski Francais operates a slope-side Piou Piou club for children from age 30 months upwards.
© G.Lansard Office de Tourisme de Belleville
After a day on the slopes, pamper yourself at the "La Bèla Vya" spa, which offers a swimming pool a sauna, steam room, outdoor Jacuzzi, as well as "the Solant" - a steam bath infused with Alpine pasture hay, and "the Bain de Marie" using milk and honey from Saint Marcel.
You can also take a daytime or nighttime husky-dogsled ride, and there are plenty of winter-walk trails through the tree-lined scenery. The village museum traces two centuries of Belleville Valley history.
Chalet La Loy is on the Piste du Biolley in an attracive location by the old church of Notre Dame de la Vie.
At the top of the St Martin gondola, Le Corbeleys restaurant offers local favourites and Le Chardon Bleu is a good spot for a hearty lunch. In the village, Le Lechenal has a traditional atmosphere warmed by an open fire – and has a reputation for sumptuous cheese dishes.
Meanwhile the pride of the resort is La Bouitte restaurant, awarded its third Michelin star in 2015: serious gastronomy combined with a formidable wine list.
Apres ski and nightlife
Nightlife in Sainte Martin de Belleville is more low-key than in most of the other Three Valleys resorts.
However, Le Dahlia, at the bottom of the ski area, is a convenient first port of call when the slopes close.
Cosy P Bar has live music several times a week, and the Joker bar has two sections: the quiet upstairs bar popular with village locals, while downstairs the bar - with pool table and karaoke - is frequented by seasonnaires and holidaymakers keen for a late night.
You'll find some wonderful chalets in Saint Martin de Belleville, with many beautifully converted from old farmhouse buildings.
Two companies that specialise are Ski Talini and The Alpine Club. The 4-star Hotel Saint Martin is located at the foot of Saint Martin's slopes, with rooms that combine traditional with elegance, while 3-star Alp hotel is also well positioned by the gondola.
Les Chalets du Gypse is a 4-star self-catered residence with a spa, in a ski-in/ski-out location.
From Moutiers station
- By bus: around 30 minutes; Adult 12€, Youth (U26) 9.50€ (www.altibus.com)
- By taxi: around 25 minutes; about 90€ for an 8-seater taxi.