The history of a challenge

Val Thorens was created 40 years ago when an exceptional natural environment was discovered by a group of visionary pioneers (some of whom are still involved in the life of the resort); the story of an harmonious and epic adventure, which has continued day by day for the last four decades...

1969 - 1971:the birth of a project

An unconventional gamble from a visionary engineer, the resort of Val Thorens was thought up by Pierre Schnebelen at a time when the development of winter sports resorts was causing something of a controversy. This property developer and contractor, who had already been involved in the development of a number of integrated ski resorts, used his indefatigable skillset to source funding and obtain the correct authorisation so he could get a project off the ground which was considered ambitious to say the least at the time: building the highest-altitude resort in Europe.

Under the political authority of Joseph Fontanet, the Mayor of the Belleville Valley, President of the Savoie General Council and Minister, and with the help of the head of the SODEVAB, Bernard Reverdy, the General Councillor, Ferdinand Martin, as well as the assistance of Pierre Josserand, one of his young friends from the National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts, Pierre Schnebelen undertook the required research and work. Not to forget those who also played a determining role in the resort’s creation, people such as Pierre Le Blanc from Cernex, Michel Herenger, Francois Buisson, Jacques François, Georges Cumin and many,many more. The on-site adventure started with a small, isolated but determined team who set the wheels in motion so they could harness the enormous potential of this exceptional site.

1971 - 1981: a gamble on the future

In the spring of 1971, the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the president of the SODEVAB, Joseph Fontanet, and the president of the La Henin bank, Jean Lamey, marked a significant foundational step in the creation of Val Thorens. The initial measure of installing 3 ski tows was carried out that summer and opened to the public on the 18th of December 1971.

Marie Aline Josserand and Jean Hauteur were then put in charge of selling the resort’s property projects. Jean Béranger, after his departure from the French Ski Team, went on to create the Tourist Office, the French Ski School and the Sports Club in 1972. In December 1972 Claude Loubet opened “Le Gloulou”, the resort’s first restaurant.

1981 - 2010: the era of innovation

Technical and commercial innovations, bold approaches and human challenges, the history of the resort is punctuated with high points which all played their part in turning it into the exceptional destination it is today.

1980: The Sports Centre was built and developed by the SODEVAB.

1981/ 1982: Despite being heavily in debt at that time, SETAM took on the project of building the largest cable car in the world, the Cime Caron cable car which ascended to an altitude of 3,200 metres. This development marked the beginning of a new era for Val Thorens and positioned the resort amongst the leading major winter sports resorts.

1985: Committed to quickly being able to commercialise Val Thorens’ product offer, SETAM set out and financed an ambitious hotelier plan and created the Val Thorens Tour travel agency, the goal of which was to organise group stays and to sell the resort through tour operators.

1987: On the initiative of the ski lift company, Val Thorens became one of the first resorts to boast a central bookings office.

1990: In collaboration with Denis Creissels, SETAM engineers invented the Funitel lift concept (a bi-cable unit boasting excellent wind resistance) and installed the first of its kind at the foot of the Péclet glacier. SETAM then handed over the patent to ski lift manufacturers who exported the concept throughout the world.

1995: A double embarkation chair lift was created which simultaneously provided a higher transportation rate, and improved passenger comfort by allowing more time to get seated. At the same time, the link between the Maurienne/the 3 Vallées was built, via Orelle, with the construction of the longest gondola lift in the world in one section, which amongst other things provided access for locals and assisted property development in Orelle.

2004: At the Oxalys restaurant, Jean Sulpice received his first Michelin star and became the youngest chef in France to have the honour. He helped to put Val Thorens on the mapas a high-altitude gastronomic hotspot and blazed a trail for a number of establishments which then began to develop higher and higher qualitycuisine. In 2009 Jean Sulpice was rewarded by a second Michelin star.

2007: SETAM installed 2 automatic “ESO” (driver-less) gondola lifts: thanks to a video and safety system, using just one driver for both gondola lifts, as well as for the Caron cable car.