Arrive in style on the ski train...
Enjoy extra days on the slopes and no surcharge for skis or boards with Eurostar Direct Ski Trains.
Self-drive ski holidays in France
Travel to France by ferry and some of the best self drive skiing in the world. Enjoy the freedom of taking unlimited baggage and up to 9 people per car via .
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Why pay for your skis?
Book tickets to Grenoble and take Monarch Flights to this undiscovered destination from Leeds Bradford, Manchester, Birmingham and London Gatwick. There are plenty of cheap flights available to help you get the most out of any holiday to Grenoble, whatever season you travel in.
Experience complete comfort on SWISS flights to Geneva and enjoy the added bonus of taking your skis at no extra cost.
Pick up and ski this winter
Forget about queuing for a bus at the airport, low cost car hire - with a ski rack if necessary, will get you to where you want to go with a minimum of fuss. Click below to take advantage of special offers.
Pushing the boundaries...
Set high above the Tarentaise valley, where it looks across to Les Arcs, La Rosière is easily accessible from Bourg Saint-Maurice, which itself enjoys good onward road and rail connections. In summer the route continues to the Col du Petit Saint-Bernard (2188m) where Savoie meets The Aosta Valley in Italy, but in winter heavy snowfalls close the route just above La Rosière.
La Rosière’s ski area is for the most part south-facing, and is integrated with that of its Italian counterpart La Thuile to form the extensive area covered by the Espace San Bernardo lift-pass. Closer to home there are accessible novice areas and lots of Blue-graded cruising, along with some more challenging Reds, including the wooded Fontaine Froide which drops right down to 1176m. More experienced intermediates, though, will head off to Italy in search of fresh challenges, new surroundings and often better snow quality. There’s also plenty of off-piste, to which cross-border heli-skiing brings near-instant access - at a price...
The purpose-built ski village of La Rosière 1850 is linked by a pedestrian footpath (an agreeable 10-minute level stroll) to the newer Eucherts development, expanding the possibilities for both accommodation and access to the skiing. Les Eucherts, the original mountain hamlet, has in recent years been rediscovered by developers and skiers alike. Either makes a good base, although so far the 1850 village still has the edge in terms of services and general energy levels, particularly once the lifts close. Architecturally things are pleasing to the eye, and becoming more so as the few outmoded structures are gradually replaced with more traditionally-styled creations.
La Rosière’s premium quality image is well-founded, in terms of both accommodation and services, but it clearly has no intention of becoming another Courchevel. It's a fun place, with no sense of detached exclusivity for those on a real-world budget. Skiing-wise, it will suit those happy to take it easy or fit and confident skiers prepared to ski over to Italy, where the real challenges (and greater sense of freedom) lie. And, like nearby Les Arcs, La Rosière's proximity to Bourg Saint-Maurice makes it an obvious contender for anyone thinking of taking the rail option for their travel.
We’d glimpsed La Rosière’s broad, south-facing slopes shimmering in the distance during our visit to Saint-Foy Tarentaise. Sadly, though, on that occasion bad weather had thwarted our attempt to ski there, a situation we'd resolved to remedy as soon as another opportunity presented itself. Several seasons later, we're finally here, and rolling into the village of Les Eucherts with more than our usual sense of curiosity at just what might await us this time.
After installing ourselves in our apartment we head back out to stretch our legs by taking the forest path over to La Rosière 1850. When we get there the late-afternoon buzz is palpable, and we grab one of the last available tables in the hugely popular Arpin's Bar and peruse the piste-map over a vin-chaud before returning to Les Eucherts as an evening chill rolls down from the mountain.
No time to lose...
If our countless ski visits have taught us anything then it's that when the weather's perfect go for it; you never know what tomorrow might have in store. So a brilliant sunrise and barely a breath of wind tell us in no uncertain terms that today we should aim high and head straight over to Italy to see what the Espace Saint Barnardo's La Thuile section might offer. The Eucherts Express lift drops us onto Tetras, a blue-graded run over to the Roches Noires Express, which offers a more direct haul up to 2330m. From here we take Belette, a long blue piste which drops us at the base of the Fort 4-seater chairlift* serving the 2383m Col de la Traversette, still dominated by the ruins of the 19th-century Fort de la Redoute.
*New for 2012/2013, a new six-seat detachable chairlift replaces the old Fort chairlift cutting the time to reach the Col de la Traversette down to 6 minutes.
From here we get our first tantalizing glimpse of the snowy vastness that lies ahead. A spirited onward descent on the red-graded Bouquetin piste brings us to the famous Bellecombe I draglift whose slow and near-silent progress feels somehow appropriate to the wildness of the setting. It also allows us plenty of time to look around at the wonders of the 2188m Col du Petit Saint-Bernard and its broad valley totally subsumed in winter snows. Somewhere beneath it lie the remains of a Roman temple and possibly the route across the Alps taken by Hannibal and his troops.
Into the Aosta Valley...
Once liberated from the lift we're more than happy to pass on its steeper companion the Bellecombe II (which would drag us up to 2891m) and instead take the red-graded Col piste to our left for a jubilant schuss which finally takes us across the Franco-Italian border to explore Espace Saint Bernardo's La Thuile sector.
The run brings us to the foot of the Piccolo San Bernardo Express high-speed quad chairlift, whose snug weather-protection hoods would probably make a lot of sense over in La Rosière. At the top we peer over into a subtly different landscape, much of whose ski terrain is usefully north- or east-facing, helping to ensure good snow conditions.
First impressions are that it's also relatively gentle, although as we'll discover, more challenging terrain is out there if you want it.
We set off first to explore the terrain below Le Belvedère, most of it graded red or black, apart from a useful blue which cuts across the lot to provide intermediates with a direct route to the Fourclaz Express lift. Once across the Col du Fourclaz they have a healthy selection of red- and blue-graded runs to enjoy below several peaks: Belvedère (2641m), Gran Testa (2379m) and Chaz Dura (2579m). In practice the terrain is generally more user-friendly than the piste-map suggests, thanks to Italian grading, which (a) doesn't employ green for easier runs, and (b) takes the length of pistes into account.
The latter comes home to us when we can no longer ignore the urge to head off to enjoy a real Italian lunch. The plan takes us back to the base of the Piccolo San Bernardo lift and onto the San Bernardo piste (signed no. 7), which would qualify for gentle blue- rather than red-grading if its impressive length were taken out of the equation.
Just past the mid-point we reach the Rifugio Lo Riondet, which in winter (when snow covers the road on which we're actually skiing) feels remote enough to have real adventure value, and serves up perfect meals for appreciative, hungry skiers. We’ll do this again sometime.
Onto the steeper stuff...
When we finally wrench ourselves away and snap back onto our skis we continue down the epic piste until things finally become steeper and we enter the tree-line. It is possible to continue to red-graded terrain by switching to piste 3 for the final drop into La Thuile, but instead we take one of the black runs. Now things get really steep, but the snow quality is good, our edges bite and for the next couple of minutes we have a ball before rejoining the red piste, where things revert to cruise mode through the forest.
Down in La Thuile (originally a coal-mining town) we find temperatures falling as the ski village is about to pass into shade. We therefore take the Les Suches cable-car ( more a gondola lift, really) straight back up to 2200m for another black run, this time on No. 5 (shown on the piste map as ‘Muret’). Once again this feeds onto a red-graded lower section for the approach to the village, where we again ride the lift up to Les Suches.
This time, though, we head back towards the border. A couple of chairlift rides drops us efficiently above the Col de Fourclaz for a gentle blue-graded cruise back towards the Chardonnet chairlift, above the Col du Petit Saint-Bernard. A couple of minutes’ impressively steep haul up the north-facing mountainside brings us back to the sunlight and faced with several options for our final runs back to La Rosière. By now the blue-graded Choucas is taking most of the returning skiers, so we take the less-travelled Blaireau for a red-graded drop onto the Lauzes piste.
One gentle blue cruise later, we’re skiing back into Les Eucherts as the lifts are closing and the sinking sun is turning the peaks of the Tarentaise Valley to pale, pastel pink. We won’t forget our first day’s skiing here, and know that whatever the weather cares to throw at us from now on we’ve done the Big One. And in so doing we can also say we’ve finally got the point of skiing here in La Rosière and the Espace San Bernardo.
© Roger Moss