Wide view of mountainside with snow-covered Haute Maurienne valley at Val Cenis Vanoise

Val Cenis Vanoise

Haute-Maurienne, Savoie, French Alps

Above Modane on the ancient route to Turin via the Col du Mont Cenis (2081m) - and the ski area is linked to that of Termignon.

In winter the upper end of the valley beyond Bessans and Bonneval sur Arc is snowed-in, removing through traffic and creating an appealing, away-from it all setting.

Val d’Isère is just the other side of the Col, so a good season produces substantial snowfalls. Just down the valley lie the family ski resorts of Aussois & La Norma.

Wide view of two skiers descending high piste

The Ski Area

Val Cenis has enjoyed a loyal following among skiers since well before the addition of Termignon-la-Vanoise to the lift-pass. The link has proved to be an inspired move, broadening the appeal rather more than the piste-map alone might suggest. Much of the terrain is above 2000m, with a respectable 2800m on offer just above the 2665m Ouillon de la Tomba above Lanslevillard. The scenic highlights, though, are the near-panoramic overviews of the Lac du Mon Cenis, which you can admire from the red-graded Goulet piste served by the Mont Cenis chairlift.

As for the Termignon sector, the link is via the Turra 6-seater high-speed lift, after which you’ll find some surprisingly long cruises, not least the Traverse blue piste run down through the forest to the base of the lift. If you’re pressed for time, though, you can take the lift back - it carries skiers in both directions. Press on, though, and a 4-seater chairlift will drop you at 2300m for more options (including the very worthwhile drag-lift-served runs from just below Le Grand Coin (2796m)).

Finally, there’s limited but surprisingly good downhill skiing further up the valley at Bonneval (which is not lift-linked), plus some 80km of groomed cross-country terrain around Bessans.

Resort Information

Altitude : 1300m - 2800m
Val Cenis Vanoise
Pistes Total:
125 km
12 Green
19 Blue
21 Red
5 Black
Ski Resort Lifts : 27
13 Draglifts
13 Chairlifts
2 Gondolas

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View of snow-covered village rooftops with mountainside

The Ski Village

Val Cenis Vanoise is centred on the cheerful, year-round working villages of Lanslebourg, Lanslevillard and Termignon.

Spread out though this sounds, in practise it all holds together well, and any lingering doubts about this being a fully-fledged ski area were removed a few seasons ago by the addition of luxury self-catering accommodation by prestige Savoyard developer MGM Constructeur (now managed by CGH). All the signs point to things moving steadily (and deservedly) upmarket. That said, the fact that it remains a working village serves to keep its feet firmly on the ground, and meal/bar prices refreshingly affordable.

Termignon sits lower at 1300m, but has a similarly unpretentious, welcoming vibe, with good access to the pistes via the 4-seater Girarde high-speed chairlift.

Staying There

Value for Money Accommodation Dining Out Nightlife Village Charm

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Two skiers on wooded mountain trail

Best For

The presence of Europe’s longest Green piste is something of a mixed blessing, for while the area is a highly-attractive option for beginners, you might expect that it’s all going to be a bit tame here. Not so; there’s also plenty for intermediates to enjoy.

The terrain is also varied enough to satisfy both fans of steeps and those who prefer to take it easy among the shelter of natural, wooded settings. As it’s such a good place for novices, it's also a solid choice for families and mixed-ability groups, who will also appreciate realistic pricing in more traditional village location.

Finally, it’s readily accessible from Modane by those who prefer the TGV high-speed rail option.

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Skiing There

Beginners / Families Intermediates Advanced / Expert Mountain Scenery

Snowboarding

Easy to intermediate level parks, Freeride zone for experienced riders.
2 Snowparks
2 Snowboarder Cross


Cross-Country Skiing

Free access to trails.
27km Cross-Country and Nordic Ski Trails

Handiski...

  • Specialist instructors and adapted equipment (Tandemski..) - www.esf-valcenis.com
  • Range of adapted self-catering and hotel accommodation available. Les Balcons de Val Cenis have easy access to the Val Cenis Le Haut gondola.
  • Other activities include dog-sledding and paragliding.
  • Accessible public toilets at Tourist Office, reception at Val Cenis Le Haut and Les Chalets de Flambeau. Some restaurants already have adapted toilets. Listings and detailed guide available on www.haute-maurienne-vanoise.com (in French)
  • Parking: 1 place at the foot of the piste Val Cenis Le Haut and Tourist Office Lanslevillard.

icon-smileyYes please...

  • Friendly, traditional villages with cosy, welcoming restaurants.
  • Terrain for most tastes, with good snow record, too.
  • Extensive skiing (125 km) since the Val Cenis and Termignon ski areas were lift-linked.
  • Wide range of accommodation.
  • Superb scenery, particularly above Termignon and the frozen Lac du Mont Cenis, right on the Franco-Italian border.
  • Short transfers from Chambéry Savoie Mont Blanc & Modane (TGV high-speed rail link).
  • Beginners ski pass (5-74yrs), from 14.50€ per day (93€/6 days) a learners' Débutant Village pass gives access to easy slopes and lifts.

icon-frowneyYes but...

  • Village nightlife on the quiet side.

icon-winkingOur Tips

  • Ski and visit Bonneval-sur-Arc — the definitive historic mountain village.
  • Discover the ski area above Termignon, returning via the express chairlift.
Jump to Insight

Jump to Insight

Practical Information

Getting there

By car
Take the autoroute A43 to Chambéry Savoie Mont Blanc, then follow direction Turin. Exit at Modane and follow the D1006 to Termignon and Val Cenis ( Lanslebourg and Lanslevillard).

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

By air
The nearest airport is Chambéry Savoie Mont Blanc, with a transfer a time of 90 minutes. Lyon, Grenoble and Turin are all possible but transfer times and occasional delays make them less convenient. Shuttle buses are available from Chambéry Savoie Mont Blanc, Grenoble and Lyon, see MobiSavoie and Altibus for details.

By train
The TGV service from Paris direct to Modane (4 hrs) is a great option. You could also travel from Lille Europe via Lyon.

Book your TGV fast train from Paris or Eurostar's direct ski train to the French Alps with Voyages SNCF UK.

Buses run from the station to villages in the Haute-Maurienne, see Altibus


Where to stay

Tried and testedLes Balcons du Val Cenis Village

Val Cenis-Lanslevillard

Les Balcons du Val Cenis Village, Lanslevillard

Les Balcons de Val Cenis comprises 9 chalet style buildings situated at the foot of the pistes and with easy access to the Val Cenis Le Haut gondola. The ESF ski school has its meeting point here as well. Some of the chalets are conveniently ski-in ski-out, given the right snow conditions and skier ability (the return piste is graded green), though most have doorstep skiing.
The apartments are comfortable, warm and spacious with a pleasant lounge with balcony and a good kitchen with full-sized appliances including an oven, but we thought it lacked some basic utensils and had a limited number of oven dishes and saucepans.
Our two bedroom apartment (one double, one twin) with a sofa-bed had two bathrooms, one with a good shower, the other en suite with a Jacuzzi bath, but only one WC. We were impressed by efforts at energy-saving and recycling, and making walkways safe in icy conditions.
Free WiFi is available in the reception area during opening hours. There's a very good small supermarket, a bar restaurant and ski hire all on site. Underground parking costs €35 per week.

The Les Glières leisure centre and swimming pool is 10 minutes walk from the complex and you get one free access per person per day. The shuttle service between Lanslevillard and Lanslebourg stops just outside the residence and runs every half hour during the day.

More information and booking:
Peak Retreats
0844 576 0170 (UK) or +44 23 9283 9310
reservations@peakretreats.co.uk


Les Chalets de Flambeau

Val Cenis-Lanslevillard

Chalet Flambeau, Val Cenis

 This prestige residence is ideally located in a sunny setting at the foot of the slopes, close to the Pré Novel chairlift, and mid-way between the village centres of Lanslebourg and Lanslevillard.
The Leisure Centre has a free private indoor heated swimming-pool and paddling-pool with Jacuzzis, saunas, steam room and fitness room. You may also find time to be pampered in the superb Spa and Beauty Care Centre where you can enjoy a selection of massages and beauty treatments (payable).
The lounge area has an open fireplace and pool table, all the services you'd expect from a luxury residence, its own outdoor car park, and WiFi access.
All the stylish apartments are fitted and furnished to a very high standard of comfort and convenience. They have a living area with a double sofa bed, a fully equipped kitchen area, bathroom and wc. All apartments have satellite TV, telephone, WiFi and a balcony.

More information and booking:
Peak Retreats
0844 576 0170 (UK) or +44 23 9283 9310
reservations@peakretreats.co.uk


Les Alpages de Val Cenis

Val Cenis, Maurienne Valley

Residence Les Alpages de Val Cenis

Les Alpages de Val Cenis is a ski in, ski out residence with 221 apartments across 5 independent chalets built to a very high standard. Guests benefit from access to many facilities within the residence including free access to the outdoor heated swimming pool & fitness room, with sauna, solarium, jacuzzi and hammam also available at an additional charge (payable in resort). The residence also features a bar and lounge with log fire and a restaurant where full and half board packages can be booked (payable in resort) and a spa facility ‘Aqua-Spa’ with various treatments available (payable in resort).

More information and booking:
Peak Retreats
0844 576 0170 (UK) or +44 23 9283 9310
reservations@peakretreats.co.uk


Where to Eat

Tried and testedChalet La Ranôva

Val Cenis
Tel:+33 (0)6 84 07 50 01

Restaurant Chalet La Renova, Val cenis

 On-mountain restaurant at 2200m tucked away to the left of the red graded Arcelle piste in Val Cenis. Renovated stone building with busy dining room and small outside terrace, this friendly restaurant serves hearty Savoyard dishes, steaks, pasta and snacks. We enjoyed a warm Tarte au Beaufort (vegetarian) with salad and chips and a delicious Tartiflette. Expect to pay €13-16 for a main course.


L'Arole

Replat des Canons
73500 Termignon
Tel:+33 (0)4 79 20 53 57

L'Arole restaurant,  Replat des Canons,  Termignon

Great views from this busy on-mountain restaurant situated at the crossroads between Termignon and Val Cenis. The menu offers something for everyone, with pasta, steaks, omelettes and snacks. A plat du jour costs €12.50, pasta with choice of sauce €10.50.


Insight: Val Cenis Vanoise

Ski terrain above Termignon, part of the Val Cenis Vanoise ski area

Insight: Val Cenis Vanoise

A few snowflakes dance in the headlight beams as we leave the eerily-deserted autoroute, cruise through the frontier town of Modane, and turn onto our old friend the Route des Grande Alpes. We climb steadily through increasingly snow-laden landscapes past the brooding mountain fortress of l’Esseillon, feeling a growing sense of isolation and remoteness. Things change, though, as we reach the cheerful villages of Bramans, Sardières, Sollières and Termignon, after which a gentle run through Lanslebourg, and Lanslevillard brings us to our base in Le Haut.

“A respectable 1574m (and some 364m of vertical) later we release our lift poles amid the kind of scenery we’ve come to love, and which are much more likely to be served by discrete drag-lifts than by more intrusive high-capacity, high-speed chairs.”

Flambeau blue piste, Val Cenis

Local knowledge: we explore the silent world of an unmarked forest trail above Lanslevillard.

Going Up

Next morning we emerge from our apartment to discover that our location is ski-in/ski-out, so we can ski direct to the nearby Val Cenis Haut gondola lift, passing the local ESF ski school meeting point. Happily, there are no queues and the lift drops us smoothly at the base of the Arcelle six-seater chairlift for a second-stage haul to almost 2400m. From here it’s just a quick blue-graded swoop down to the Solert six-seater chairlift, from whose 2540m top station there’s a choice of red descents or – our choice – a gentler blue cruise towards the Mont Cenis sector. We stop, though, to take the Met four-seat chair up to 2800m (the highest point in the whole ski domain) which serves the Jacot Met black piste plus both red and blue runs. We take the red (Met), which feeds us onto the long, blue-graded cruise over to the Mont, en-route to which we leave the Québequoise blue piste and take a recently-tracked cut-through which drops us beside the historic Col du Mont Cenis.

Snail’s pace

The old road (constructed by order of Napoleon in 1805) by which the Col is accessible for much of the year lies buried under snow during the winter months, transforming it into Europe’s longest Green run, the aptly-named l’Escargot. From here the possibilities include a (very) leisurely Green-graded cruise on l’Escargot, or a steeper drop on Ramasse, a red piste which feeds onto the blue-graded Madeleine to bring us smoothly down to Lanslebourg beside the Ramasse six-seater high-speed chairlift. After taking the lift we work our way back towards the Vieux Moulin gondola, and over towards the excellent Chalet La Ranôva for a welcome lunch break.

Off-piste – back to nature in Val Censis

When we emerge our guide (who happens to be Director of the Val Cenis ESF team) shares a little of his local knowledge by showing us an unpisted trail frequented only by the occasional Nordic skier, a route which leads us through silent forests and past a frozen waterfall. Having gained some useful insight into the kind of possibilities which abound here if you know where to look, we spend the rest of the afternoon calmly exploring the sector above Lanslevillard, before skiing right back to our apartment in Le Haut.

The Arole restaurant is a welcome hideaway between the Flambeau piste and the Grand Coin draglift, Val Cenis to Termignon.
Uncrowded and natural, terrain above Termignon, Val Cenis Vanoise

Up and over

The following morning we’re on our own, and decide to head straight over to Termignon to see how the link works and what the sector has added to the Val Cenis Vanoise ski domaine. We take a similar route to that of the previous day, but this time drop down just beyond the Ramasse chairlift to take its companion, the Turra six-seater which carries skiers in both directions to provide an express return option for those not based in Termignon itself. The smooth haul up through the extensive forests brings overviews of Traverse, a long blue-graded descent, and drops us at the foot of our next lift, the Sources four-seater. This fixed chairlift provides the second stage of the link and tops off at 2300m, for an onward run down the blue-graded Flambeau piste.

As nature intended

Some way down the wide scenic run we pause at the friendly Arole mountain restaurant for vins-chauds, which fortify us for the final haul via the Grand Coin drag-lift up to 2465m. A respectable 1574m (and some 364m of vertical) later we release our lift poles amid the kind of scenery we’ve come to love, and which are much more likely to be served by discrete drag-lifts, than by more intrusive high-capacity, high-speed chairs.

Up here there’s a real feeling of remoteness, and the valley suddenly feels a very long way below us. There are noticeably fewer skiers, too, which will go some way to reassure those who for some years opposed the creation of the link from Val Cenis on the grounds of increased disturbance to wildlife in what is a designated nature reserve. As far as skiers are concerned, we have to say that it’s well worth the modest effort in coming across, even from our base in Val Cenis’ furthest outpost up the valley at Le Haut.

The recently upgraded front de niege at Termignon.
The top of the Turra chairlift in the Termignon sector

Friendly Termignon

From Le Haut you can take the Grand Combe Red piste, which feeds back onto Flambeau, or choose from blue or the red-graded options, which either drop back to the base of the drag-lift (or its steeper companion, Lac) or over to the Bleue du Lac for a sweeping cruise at the very limit of the ski domain. Take this, as we did, and you can continue all the way down to Termignon, where you’ll discover a cheerful front-de-neige area with recently-added apartment accommodation and sunny bar/restaurant terraces. There’s also the powerful TSD Girard four-seat high-speed chairlift, which we take before transferring to its higher counterpart the Roches-Blanches chair, for a slower second-stage haul up to 2042m. The drop-off point is well-planned, giving a choice of a return zig-zag plunge back down to Termignon or a transfer to one of the two drag-lifts serving the topmost terrain.

The long way down

The third option, particularly for skiers thinking of returning to Lanslebourg or beyond, is the blue-graded Flambeau, an attractive direct wooded run round to the meeting-point of two lifts: Sources (which will take you back up to the sector’s upper terrain) and the Turra two-way chairlift back down to Lanslebourg. Not that you need take this express ride if you’re still in the mood to ski some distance, as Flambeau feeds seamlessly onto Traverse, for a long, long run down through the forests into Lanslebourg. From here you can work your way back to your accommodation via the lift system or take one of the free shuttle-buses which carry skiers along the valley floor.

Parting thoughts

We enjoyed our long-overdue return visit to Val Cenis, which in its expanded Vanoise guise now offers not only a very respectable 125km of groomed downhill terrain for all levels (and served by a capable lift system), but also a steadily-expanding choice of accommodation to suit most tastes and budgets. The fact that it’s also still relatively unknown to mainstream skiers makes it one of a select group of quality ski resorts to which we’d very happily return whenever the possibility arises. MountainPassions heart icon