Ski resorts by train

St Martin de Belleville - introduction

Time was, France’s 3 Valleys, famously the world’s largest lift-linked ski area, was all about the big three – swanktastic Courchevel, with its designer boutiques and oligarch-rich clientele, middle-class Brit-magnet Méribel and the more utilitarian (although now with five-star flourishes aplenty) Val Thorens. Recent years have seen the rise of Les Menuires, with a friendly and laid-back lifestyle offer.  But perhaps the most new and refreshing resort story lies a little further down valley, in the picturesque Savoyard mountain village, Saint Martin de Belleville.

Saint Martin and the surrounding hamlets that make up Les Belleville retain an authentic rustic charm that’s a rarity for big-hitting French ski areas. Dominated by the 17th-century  church bell tower, the village’s tranquil streets are lined with traditional stone and timber farm buildings, and peppered with unpretentious but high-quality restaurants and quaint shops run by friendly locals offering the glorious local produce its residents have been savouring for generations. (The hamlet of Villarabout is also, racy fiction fans, the setting for the Marquis de Sade’s infamous novel The 120 Days of Sodom.) And while the last few years have seen a boom in newly built lodgings, mostly in the luxury chalet mould, the village’s community has taken care to neither overdevelop its tourism credentials, nor overpolish the honest, rough-hewn aesthetic that still evokes the area’s rugged pastoral history.

Truly local slopes are limited and green run-free, although they include Jérusalem, which we reckon is the most uplifting wide, rolling blue run in the 3 Valleys. But hop on the rarely queue-bound St Martin 1 gondola and within minutes you’re perched at 2400m, with the unparalleled glories of the area’s 600km playground at your ski tips. Routes down to Méribel and Les Menuires offer both challenging and cruisy options and put the ski area’s furthest corners – and all its various dining destinations – within reach of any solid intermediate or advanced downhiller. It’s a uniquely relaxed way to sample the 3 Valleys’ dazzling delights, with guaranteed peace, quiet and gracious living wrapping up each day. And sitting just 25 minutes by coach transfer or taxi from Moûtiers, it’s a breeze to reach by rail. Those seeking a lower-impact ski holiday may also want to know that, as part of a shared ski area with Les Menuires, Saint Martin runs its lifts on renewable hydroelectricity and is working towards powering all its groomers with 100% vegetable oil fuel. It’s also contributing to creating a greener alpine tourism model with, among other things, a dedicated climate change observatory.

Saint Martin won the World Snow Awards’ Gastronomic Resort of the Year in 2016, and to-die-for dining is another hallmark. Run by father and son team Maxime and René Meilleur, La Bouitte with its three Michelin stars is the undisputable jewel in the Saint Martin’s culinary crown – but it’s far from the only droolworthy establishment in town. Succulent, time-honoured local produce and kinder pricing than in Saint Martin’s more established neighbours set the tone pretty much across the board. And by swerving the silliest rock-star trimmings, its growing luxe chalet sector even makes exceptional cuisine, often by Michelin-starred in-house chefs, comparatively affordable.

Après-wise, the village is both low-key and unique. Raucous ski-boot dancing is definitely not on the Saint Martin menu, but you’ll find cosy bars, friendly vibes, a little live rock and pop, and probably the only world-class, pocket-sized classical concert series in any ski resort on the planet, in the simple stone church’s surprisingly opulent baroque interior.

In short, Saint Martin takes things to new culture and comfort-rich heights. 


  • Easy, queue-light access to the biggest linked ski area on Earth
  • Charming, traditional village streets and a tranquil atmosphere
  • Exceptional, good-value dining offer ranging from staunch Savoyard staples to 3-Michelin-starred
  • Long, flattering intermediate local and nearby slopes with ravishing valley views


  • Few local slopes to ski if bad weather closes higher lifts
  • Much accommodation is far from base lifts so you may need transport every day
  • Ravers beware – nightlife is limited and low-key

Three Valleys piste map

Ski area
Village Altitude
Ski Altitude
1450 - 2952
Green Runs
Blue Runs
Red Runs
Black Runs
Total Runs 310
Terrain Park
Cabin Lifts
Chair Lifts
Drag Lifts
Total Lifts 176