Getting to Val Thorens from Lyon – Skiing at Les 3 Vallées Part 1

Train serving the Rhone-Alpes
Train serving the Rhone-Alpes region

Back when I planned for this skiing trip in the Alps, information on public transport to Val Thorens was relatively scarce. I believe many skiers usually rent a car or drive up to the ski resort as shuttle buses are not very frequent. The most convenient town where buses depart from seems to be from Moutiers, thus I have decided to dedicate a section on how to get to Val Thorens from Lyon. This will also be the first part of my review of my experience skiing in the ski area of Les 3 Vallées.

Gare de Lyon Part-Dieu
Gare de Lyon Part-Dieu

From Gare Lyon Part-Dieu, I would have to take the train towards Moutiers. This is a small town from where most buses to the ski resorts in the French Alps departs from. As it is a small town, there are no express trains and limited direct train service, with some service requiring a transfer at Chambery. Thus skiers could also choose to overnight at Chambery or Moutiers so they can ski on the day they arrive at Val Thorens or any other of the ski resorts in the French Alps.

Inside the train
Inside the train to Moutiers

Having previously taken the direct train from Paris to Lyon the previous afternoon, I returned to the station to board a regional train that serves the Rhone-Alpes region. Inside the train, the seats are backed in resin and arranged in a 2-2 configuration. Since the train was not that busy, I managed to get seat without prior reservation. There was even space by the entry to the carriage for luggage storage.

Inside the TER train
Inside the 2nd class cabin of the TER train
Luggage storage area
Luggage storage area in the TER train

The train journey from Lyon to Moutiers is actually a nice scenic ride and a window view would be a great way to pass this relatively long train ride. From Lyon to Chambery it takes about 90 minutes while the continuing journey from Chambery to Moutiers takes about the same time. While the second half of the journey is slower, the views are certainly more impressive as it passes by the Massif des Bauges. From the Bauges mountain range, it signifies the Alps are getting closer and Moutiers is not far off.

Massif des Bauges
Massif des Bauges en-route between Chambery and Moutiers

Arriving at Moutiers, I had checked the schedule for the buses that departs for the ski resorts operated by Mobisavoie. With the bus station in Moutiers just right by the train station, it makes it easy to transfer from the train to the bus. On normal days, I would perhaps just buy the ticket on the day of departure as the buses usually have plenty of seats. It is advisable to allow about 30 minutes for the transfer time just in case of train delays and the need to queue for bus tickets.

Gare de Moûtiers Salins Brides-les-Bains
Gare de Moûtiers Salins Brides-les-Bains
Inside Gare Routière
Ticket counter for the buses to Les 3 Vallées

With a small bus station, it is easy to find the correct berth. The time of departure and the destination is also listed beside the corresponding bus. There was adequate luggage room for passengers even when many of them brought along skis and snowboards.

Bus station
Bus station at Moutiers
Gare Routière
Gare routière or bus station at Moutiers

As it was slightly cheaper to get a return ticket and I wanted to make sure I had a seat on the return journey to Moutiers, I had reserved a seat beforehand for the time I wanted. The bus driver acts as the conductor, tearing the tickets for the ride to Val Thorens.

Boarding the bus to Val Thorens
Boarding the bus to Val Thorens

The bus ride is pretty nice and I did get a window seat. Since it was a weekday, there were lots of empty seats. That meant I have an empty seat beside me making the bus ride more comfortable. It does have a pretty nice recline too but the legroom is certainly a bit tight. From Moutiers, the bus climbed steadily and it even provided a vantage viewpoint over the town.

Town of Moutiers
Town of Moutiers

The bus journey took about an hour in smooth traffic and good road conditions. I would certainly expect delays during times of snowstorm or when the roads are icy, since much of the distance is mountain roads. The journey has several stops along the way with the ones in the village of Saint-Martin-de-Belleville and Les Menuires being the major stops.

French Alps
Saint-Martin-de-Belleville in the French Alps

In fact at the stop in Les Menuires, the bus dropped off passengers and parked by the Centre Sportif for about 10 minutes before moving forward. I noticed the same duration of waiting time on the return journey, since it is another major resort. With Val Thorens being located in the end of the valley, it was the last stop where all the passengers will then alight and the bus makes a pit stop.

Town of Les Menuires
Town of Les Menuires

For an hour journey, the bus was adequately comfortable and it was the best way to get to Val Thorens for up to 3 passengers. If there were more people getting to the ski resorts, a rental car would have made more sense! Though the travel times and the need for transfers from train to buses certainly proves my point that Val Thorens is not exactly the easiest resort to access and it creates more incentives for skiers to stay longer in the resort!


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