View of ski lifts, bar and mountains at La Norma

La Norma

Haute-Maurienne, Savoie, French Alps.

La Norma is situated in the Haute-Maurienne valley just 10 minutes’ drive from Modane, with one of the easiest and shortest ascents to a ski station we've come across.

Beyond the head of the valley lies Val d’Isère, so snowfalls here tend to be dependable.

It’s easily accessible via the A43 autoroute which penetrates the valley almost to the town of Modane, on the French side of the Fréjus tunnel and last stop for TGV high-speed trains before reaching Italy.

Wide view of piste with two skiers in distance.

The Ski Area

  • Varied skiing on north-west facing slopes.
  • Families with young children will love La Norma.

North-west facing slopes, some high altitude and snow-making should assure skiing here until the end of the season. Experienced skiers and boaders will find entertaining black and red runs off the Norma II chairlift which climbs to 2750m. Take the Piste des Crêtes Red run over to the Clot sector for a steep but wide Red, a more demanding Black (Arcosses) or a Red cruise through the trees (Arlette). There's a freeride area below the top of the Carrelet lift and some challenging off-piste around Arcosses.

Alternatively, intermediates can take the Red-graded Perdrix from the top of Norma II. It's worth the ascent as the snow quality here is superb, as are the magnificent panoramic views over the Massif de la Vanoise. Below is a choice of Red and Blue routes back to the village, or a gentle Green to take you over to the Arlette sector. There's a small leaner's area above the Plateau de la Repose, with a choice of short Green and Blue pistes or the long Sainte Anne through the forest and right back to the village.

The ESF children's ski school is situated where infants can be easily observed by parents. They quickly progess to the nearby learner's slope, then the mid-mountain debutante area.

Good skiers will probably want a change of scene after a few days. You could head over to Aussois on the other side of the valley (about 15 mins drive via the outskirts of Modane, or slightly longer on a more picturesque route). Or, you could drive up the Valley to the Val Cenis-Vanoise ski area. Finally, Orelle is about 20 minutes away, with gondola access to Val Thorens and the vast Three Valleys ski area.

Resort Information

Altitude : 1350m - 2750m
La Norma
Pistes Total:
65 km
7 Green
7 Blue
11 Red
2 Black
Ski Resort Lifts : 14
6 Draglifts
6 Chairlifts
1 Gondolas

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Evening in village centre, showing bars and shops.

The Ski Village

  • Purpose-built ski village with easy access from Modane.
  • The "cosy station", is friendly, convenient and compact.

La Norma calls itself "the cosy station" for good reason. It doesn't take long to arrive, unpack and settle into an apartment here and feel very much at home.

Opened in 1971, the village is perched on a plateau surrounded by larch forest at 1350m. It was well planned so that none of the accommodation is far from the lifts and the shops. All are centrally located just behind the front de neige. Traffic management is good, giving convenient access to accommodation, while keeping things car-free elsewhere. The majority of buildings are 4-5 storey timber-clad apartments, with chalet style homes occupying a quiet area away from the village centre. Visitors enjoy free parking, including in the covered car park.

The village centre has shops, bars and restaurants, crêche and Tourist Office, which also serves as a post office and internet point, and whose friendly staff offer a varied programme of family activities every evening.

There's a pretty good small supermarket in the village, although Modane is an easy 10 minute drive, for a good selection of shops, supermarkets, bars and restaurants.

Staying There

Value for Money Accommodation Dining Out Nightlife Village Charm

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Bird's-eye view of ski instructors teaching children on the snow.

Why go skiing in La Norma ?

Families return here because they know that this small ski station is unpressured, safe for children and has some surprisingly good skiing. It has a safe and friendly car-free village, excellent child care and ski school, moderate prices and free family based activities. We frequently saw three generations enjoying the relaxed atmosphere, and the steeps make this an option for mixed-ability groups. There's plenty for all ages and non-skiers to enjoy too with well-marked snow-shoeing routes, soirées in one of the mountain restaurants, cultural visits and activities. Couples and young people should not be put off - the La Norma friendly welcome extends to everyone – and where else can you eat on-mountain for as little as €5, with panoramic views over the Massif de la Vanoise?

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Skiing There

Beginners / Families Intermediates Advanced / Expert Mountain Scenery


Handiski...

Handiski, La Norma
  • Experience the sensation of skiing in a Tandemski with a qualified ESF instructor
  • Traffic-free village centre with easy access to front de neige.

icon-smileyYes please...

  • Friendly, relaxed atmosphere.
  • Free WiFi throughout the village.
  • Budget accommodation with easy access to the slopes.
  • Free underground and overground parking.
  • Reasonable prices.
  • Ten minute transfers from Modane (TGV high-speed rail link).
  • Family-friendly activities.
  • Snow-making helps keep things moving.

icon-frowneyYes but...

  • Not enough skiing to entertain good skiers for a week.
  • Some apartment accommodation now needs updating.

icon-winkingOur Tips

  • Visit Aussois on the opposite side of the valley for a day's skiing.
  • Relax - there's plenty of time to ski everywhere.

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Practical Information

Seen, tried and tested.Las Balcons d'Anaïs

La Norma

Les Balcons d'Anais apartments, La Norma

We stayed in a cosy 2-bedroom apartment with balcony and views over the beginner's slope and front de neige. Easy access to the front de neige from the ski-locker room is really convenient, and ideal for families with small children in ski school. In fact, most of the apartments overlook the ESF children's learning area, which is one of the safest and most well supervised we've seen.

The Piou-Piou Club is directly under the Balcons d'Anais apartments, La Norma

The accommodation is quite basic, the bedrooms in particular being disappointingly bare. The twin beds are also narrow (we actually switched to the sofa bed in the lounge). However, the bathroom was good, with bath and overhead shower, the apartment was warm and the kitchen well-equipped. The apartments are great value for money, though beware extra charges such as linen hire, TV (French channels only), and WiFi (€20 per week). Washing machines (€5.50) and driers available. There's free roadside parking outside the residence and there's free covered parking at the village entrance.

After the slopes have closed toddlers play on the snow, and the sledges come out or there's a little luge run which is very popular. Most evenings there are fun activities staged by the Tourist Office aimed at families. Evenings are quiet (there's no nightclub for example) but there's a nice range of restaurants to suit all budgets. For shopping there's a very good mini-market and a couple of bakeries, plus shops selling regional specialities.

More information and booking:
Peak Retreats
023 9283 9310
reservations@peakretreats.co.uk


La Norma promises something to discover or to do every day, and they're not joking. There's Snake Gliss (interlinked luges), volley-ball, football, torchlight descents, ski-joëring, huge inflated sumo wrestlers (you have to see that one), karaoke, Wii competitions, ice-skating, free night-skiing with music....the list is endless. After the lifts close, youngsters bring out their sleds and head over to a special luge area, and beginners practice their turns on the floodlit debutante slope.

Family entertainment every night after the lifts close at La Norma.

Promenade On and Off The Mountain

Many people choose to take either the Mélezet gondola or La Repose chairlift to enjoy a meal in the restaurants and to take in the stunning views. The ski station maintains a number of marked footpaths which start from near each lift and which return to the village through the forest. There are also routes to the Chapelle Sainte Anne and further afield to La Barrière de l'Esseillon, the Alpine Maginot Line, and Baroque art in nearby village churches. The paths are graded for difficulty and the detailed map and directions (in English) provided by the Tourist Office indicate whether you will require snow-shoes.


Follow the Sculpture Trail

Discover the artistic side of La Norma on a sculpture trail created by the Alpine Sculpture Symposium in 1997. The sculptural works which adorn the road up to La Norma were each created by internationally renowned artists in a variety of local stone and natural materials and reflect the beauty and diversity of the Alpine landscape. Follow the map provided by the Tourist Office to view the sculptures close up.


Seen, tried and tested.Restaurant L'Eterlou

Le Melezet
La Norma
Tel: +33 (0)4 79 20 35 46

Situated at the top of the Melezet gondola, this popular meeting point has a restaurant and self-service with large terrace and has panoramic views towards the Massif de la Vanoise. For those in a hurry, the Eterlou Express menu costs from €10 for three courses otherwise main courses cost €12-15 or there's a skier's menu for €23.

Restaurant L'Eterlou pasta bar at the top of the Melezet lift, La Norma

Just beyond the main building is a Pasta Bar with its own seating area and serving an excellent carton of pasta (choice of sauces) for €5, or €7.50 with a soft drink and a dessert. They will also provide a rucksack takeaway for a deposit of €5 - just return the bag with all your rubbish to reclaim your deposit.
L'Eterlou is open two evenings per week - go up before the gondola closes, enjoy a sunset snowshoe walk followed by an à la carte meal, and then descend on foot with a guide. On Thursdays, there's a very popular Savoyard evening – diners go both up and back down via the gondola, which opens specially. Bookings essential, gondola rides free.


Seen, tried and tested.Restaurant Le Grizzli

La Norma
Tel: +33 (0)6 60 17 64 00

The Grizzli Bar and restaurant with sunny terrace, La Norma

Situated at the foot of the Granges chairlift and overlooking the mid-mountain learners area, Le Grizzli has a sunny terrace and a friendly welcome inside. Upstairs there's a comfortable lounge area. You can enjoy a relaxing drink at reasonable prices (vin chaud or large coffee around €2.60). There's plenty of choice on the menu with snacks and sandwiches, pasta or burger/sausage and chips all around €8, or Savoyard specialities at around €18.


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Getting there

By Car
For Dover-Calais ferry travel, other cross-channel routes, offers and bookings visit P&O Ferries

Take the autoroute A43 to Chambéry Savoie Mont Blanc, then follow direction Turin. Exit at No.10 Modane and follow the D1006 for 5.5miles where you turn right to La Norma at the roundabout. The station offers free outdoor and covered parking.

By air
La Norma is less than 2 hours from Chambéry Savoie Mont Blanc, Lyon, Grenoble and Turin. Shuttle buses are available from Chambéry Savoie Mont Blanc, Grenoble and Lyon, see Altibus for details.

By train

The TGV service from Paris direct to Modane (4 hrs) is a great option. There's a regular Transavoie bus service between the station and La Norma, see Altibus

Book your TGV fast train from Paris or Eurostar’s ski train direct to the French Alps with OUI.sncf

Transfers
Visit Ski-Lifts for the best range of ski transfer destinations from airports and main rail stations.

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Insight: La Norma

High view of piste with skiers with forest and ski lift at La Norma

Insight: La Norma

There are compelling reasons for our having come here: La Norma has long figured on tour operators’ listings and, on a more personal level, the layout of the ski area on the piste map has intrigued us. It’s high time we satisfied our curiosity. We always like discovering areas which offer skiers some high altitude terrain backed up with more sheltered runs down below the tree line, and La Norma certainly seems to fit the bill. We’ll see.

Things begin well. The drive up to La Norma from Modane turns out to be one of the quickest and most straightforward we’ve experienced, and almost before we know it we’re entering the very heart of the village. Better still, La Norma is one of the few ski villages to offer free undergound parking – a worthwhile feature we’d like to see elsewhere. However, as our accommodation is some way from the car park and we have bags to transfer, we drive on and instead park outdoors very conveniently, just across from our apartment.

The run is a beauty, taking us around the mountain through the kind of pine and larch forest we’ve come to love in the Alps.

Beginners area and front de neige, La Norma

La Norma is known for its safe beginners area for small children, conveniently sited near the apartments.


A view of the topmost ski pistes at La Norma.

The highest pistes at La Norma offer more advanced skiing.

Pasta on the piste

The next day we pick up our lift-passes and climb aboard the Melezet gondola lift, which drops us at 1985m in a snowy clearing from which it’s possible for even novices to ski all the way back down to the village via two long Green-graded pistes. There’s also a mountain restaurant here (L’Eterlou ), with a cheerful and affordable pasta bar with a panoramic terrace. We’ll be back, but for now press onward by dropping down on a short Red piste to join the Carrelet chairlift for a ride up to 2332m. From here intermediates have a Blue-graded run back down among the forest on Marmottes, but this sector also demonstrates that La Norma also has some quite steep terrain up its sleeve. After a gentle run on Marmottes to the Norma II chairlift (which replaced the difficult Norma I draglift some years ago) we enjoy views of skiers tackling La Norma’s topmost slopes before laying some tracks of our own.

White on Black

Once off the lift there’s a choice of a Red (Perdrix) or the steeper Norma 2 Black. We go for the latter, which is quite wide, giving the kind of on-piste views which bring a powerful sense of skiing down rather than merely around a good-sized mountain. Since it begins at 2750m the snow has maintained its quality, so we launch off with the kind of confidence which only comes from sensing that there’s plenty of edge-grip for our turns (we don’t like icy surprises).

Eventually things ease as Norma 2 meets Norma 1, its lower Red-graded successor. Having got our legs nicely warmed up, we decide to carry on and work our way back down through the tree-line to meet the aptly-named Forêt Red piste, with a vin-chaud stop at the welcoming Grizzli mountain restaurant. The onward run is a beauty, taking us around the mountain through the kind of pine and larch forest we’ve come to love in the Alps. Being relatively low, the piste is also equipped with snowmaking all the way down to the village to assure a viable return route whatever mother nature might provide in the way of snowfalls.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the mountain

Having got back almost to our starting-point, we take the Repose chairlift from the front de neige, and during the haul up through the trees survey events on the Chalets Red piste snaking below us. This time we ski off at 1840m, and drop down to the nearby Plateau de la Repose, where we take the Arlette chair up to the 2309m mark. From here it’s a short ride on the topmost lift – the Clot 3-seater chair.

Even before the 2500m arrival point the views are sensational, and even more so from the protection of a nearby ridge beyond which the mountainside falls away with head-spinning drama in the direction of neighbouring Termignon, now part of the Val Cenis Vanoise ski area. To our eyes it looks distinctly ‘marginal’ but in the right snow conditions is a favoured haunt for freeride skiers with a taste for challenging terrain and remote-feeling natural settings.

We enjoy a nice, cruisy Red-graded descent on Arlette, which takes us on a pleasingly wayward run through the trees and drops us back at the Plateau de la Repose. By now it’s lunchtime, so we ski back to the apartment and some much-needed refuelling.

Cruising through the trees

Suitably fortified, we head back to the Repose chairlift and work our way back up to ski more of the runs from the Clot chair. Eventually, when we’ve got that out of our system we join Arlette and drop down onto Ste Anne, a gentle Green-graded piste which ambles sedately over to the Chapelle St-Anne before turning back to cruise its way back to the village. Sometimes the really gentle runs turn out to provide a surprising amount of skiing pleasure by showing you the sights without putting distractions in your path, and this is just such a run. The next day we discover another in the shape of the Route de Repose, an agreeable cruise through the trees with a useful function, namely connecting the sector served by the gondola with that accessed by the Repose chairlift. Do this and you can take a lunch-break at somewhere unexpected, in the shape of a very well-presented (and very affordable) on-mountain pasta bar, an inspired initiative on the part of the nearby Eterlou Restaurant at the arrival point of the gondola lift. With a bit of planning you could work your way around the mountain all day without having to come back to the lower and potentially less well snow-covered pistes until your final return run. Now that’s good planning.

The resort with a big heart

During our time here we test-drove the route across the valley to Aussois but didn’t manage to ski there, due to day-long white-out conditions, which nevertheless topped up the snow depth significantly. On the other hand, we were more than happy skiing around La Norma’s own varied terrain. Long viewed as merely a budget option with the compromises which this tends to imply, it surprised us with the quality of the skiing available, particularly higher up the mountain, where there’s plenty to entertain quite capable intermediates for a few very enjoyable days. As for families on a budget, we have to say we were similarly surprised, not merely by the real-world pricing and range of child-friendly facilities, but by the feel of a place with a big heart, and which is quietly but perceptibly raising its game. MountainPassions heart icon