Fantastic Skiing in the French Alps
I can't possibly say just how much I loved skiing at Val Thorens, part of the Three Valleys ski area.
The location is spectacular - the resort town is at 2300m, and once you take a lift up one of the peaks, you are on top of the world. Looking in any direction gives you a stunning vista of endless peaks. I get the impression that the weather is usually very good. We skied for 4 days, and it was perfectly sunny for 3 out of the 4. This means that you can spend your lunch time or the end of the afternoon basking at the top of a mountain while you enjoy your beer.
The lift system is impressive. There are about 200 lifts. Most of the ones we rode were detachable quads and gondolas, with the odd triple and cable car. Our 4-day pass cost averaged out to around 42 Euros per day, and allowed us to ski all 3 valleys. The only time we had a line-up of any significance - about ten minutes - was a line for a gondola at the end of the day (when everyone was heading home), and there was an alternative set of lifts we took the following day at the same time which had no lines. Essentially, we skied right on to most lifts. Your lift pass is like a little cardboard credit card that you put in your pocket, which is read automatically as you pass through a turnstile - very efficient.
Europeans seem to prefer groomed piste skiiing over bumps, so the runs were generally perfectly groomed and very cruisy. We did get a dump of snow one day that gave us some moguls (to the dismay of our German and Austrian companions, who were all excellent skiers and who generally out-skied us on the groomers). The run difficulty indicators are perhaps a little exaggerated by North American standards, with the "Black" runs being what I would consider a difficult "Blue" over here, and nothing resembling a double or triple black diamond. That being said, there are plenty of opportunities to ski off-piste if more difficulty is desired, and off-piste skiing is not at all frowned upon. I don't think it is hard to rent equipment - our accomodation had a rental shop right off the lobby, and there were plenty of shops throughout the village.
As far as what to wear, I wore what I would wear at my home mountains (coastal British Columbia i.e. Whistler and Vancouver Island) and I was plenty warm - very thin long undies, a thin layer over top, a lined water-proof jacket with no extra fill, unlined snowboard pants, and a helmet. I had to take the vents covers out of my helmet to stay cool.