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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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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.
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Superb off-piste – and what else..?
Tucked away discretely in the Tarentaise valley above the Route des Grandes Alpes and close to Les Arcs, La Rosière, Tignes and Val d’Isère, Sainte-Foy is nothing if not well-located. Its own ski area looks modest on paper, but in reality feels more extensive and is very enjoyable. One for relaxed intermediates in search of quality rather than quantity. Off-piste, though, is virtually limitless, and a 6-day pass brings cut-rate skiing in the neighbouring resorts. The wealth of premium serviced accommodation leaves you in no doubt about the target clientèle here.
Old habits are hard to break, and turning off the valley road instead of pressing on towards Tignes or Val d’Isère just didn’t feel right. Instantly, though, the road began climbing steeply through dense pine and larch plantations. As we emerged we glimpsed a young dog fox frozen momentarily in the headlights, before diving back into the darkness.
Reaping the rewards
Although not quite the welcome we’d anticipated, this was never going to be a typical ski visit. Sainte-Foy Tarentaise hasn’t exactly established a place for itself in the minds of mainstream skiers yet, and no doubt if it had been around for longer then it would have done many things differently. Made a few mistakes, perhaps. But while the concrete was flowing elsewhere, Sainte-Foy was still being discovered by a select few, including ski professionals lured here by the off-piste potential of an as-yet undeveloped mountain. When the commune did sanction development things began slowly at first, with individual chalets, groomed pistes and a modest lift system. Result: initial investments were repayed handsomely on both sides, spreading the word and attracting other potential suitors.
A few years further on the results of Savoyard developer MGM Constructeur’s involvement are particularly impressive, even at night. After checking into our apartment in Les Fermes de Sainte-Foy we were intrigued by the prospect of what lay out there in the gloom.
Surprises in store
Next morning we found out, and it surprised us. The ski village apartments all but surround the gentlest of beginner slopes, served by a simple-to-use magic-carpet lift. The main ski terrain, though, lay out of sight further up the mountain, so we took the Grand Plan chair-lift to get our bearings. Sainte-Foy’s first chairlift lift allows novices to enjoy a gentle wooded descent back to the village, while we transferred to a second, the Arpettaz, which offers intermediates a choice of blue and red options.
But it doesn’t stop there. After skiing down to l’Aiguille, the third of the original lifts, we’re on the final stage of the long haul up to the 2620m Col de l’Aiguille, launching pad for the off-piste terrain (left) which made Sainte-Foy a legend. Not that it’s visible from here, of course, unlike the promising potential for future expansion of the groomed terrain.
For now, though, we set off to explore the existing network. It may look modest on the piste-map but gains an extra dimension when experienced against the vast backdrop of the Tarentaise valley. Our first run, a long red cruise, takes us over to join La Marquise, an impressive detachable six-seater which has opened up some useful new terrain. At the top we peel off onto Grand Soliet, a superb scenic blue which just begs to be repeated. Full marks.
The following season saw the addition of a further red piste (along with a more direct black-graded descent) to the existing runs back to each of the three earlier lifts. But it already felt well conceived and, just as importantly, provided entertaining and varied skiing. Add the fact that it was also ideal for intermediates wanting build confidence and get some mileage under their skis and Sainte-Foy’s advanced-skiers-only image was looking decidedly outmoded.
So, despite the previous season’s disappointing snowfalls, we came away with happy memories. Sainte-Foy has class, and is growing up fast, with further construction in the pipeline, and new detachable lifts planned to replace the faithful fixed units from the early years.
© Roger Moss