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.
Ever skied down the side of a volcano?
The Massif lies 50km southwest of Clemont-Ferrand in the heart of the Auvergne’s dramatic volcanic landscapes and is dominated by the 1866m Puy du Sancy, highest peak in the Massif Central.
The Sancy Massif has four downhill ski centres: Le Mont Dore, SuperBesse, Chastreix-Sancy and Chambon-des-Neiges. The main downhill areas are Le Mont Dore and Super-Besse, which are linked to create 85km of groomed terrain.
The combined piste networks of Le Mont Dore and Super-Besse should be varied enough to entertain a relaxed, mixed-ability family group for a week, or a more experienced intermediate for a couple of days’ break.
For traditionalists the choice really boils down to Le Mont Dore or (rather less convenient, distance-wise) La Bourboule, each of which is a charming and historic spa towns with lots of character and plenty of choice for dining out and shopping. However, there’s no denying the convenience value offered by SuperBesse, which was purpose-built at the foot of the slopes, removing any need to drive or bus to and from your accommoodation. And nearby is the village Besse, which is high on traditional Auvergnat ambiance and well worth visiting while you’re here.
The Massif du Sancy is worth considering for anyone looking for a quiet, unpressured ski break which combines solid value for money with an interesting and generally uncrowded setting. The appeal broadens further with the radically different settings of traditional Le Mont Dore and purpose-build SuperBesse. While there are currently no budget flights into nearby Clermont Ferrand (despite it being a major domestic hub for Air France) the area’s central location represents the closest skiing to a lot of people based in France. In which case it’s a useful ski-break destination.
While the Auvergne may lack the sheer gravitas of the French Alps, it offers one unique attraction: the chance to ski down the flanks of an extinct volcano in the startling landscapes of the Parc Régional des Volcans. Stop and think about some things and you find yourself wanting to do them, and this was one of those things; we couldn’t wait.
The drive down proved similarly refreshing, with higher sections of the A89 autoroute southwest of Clermont-Ferrand dusted to Quebec-like whiteness long before the Le Mont Dore exit. The historic spa town, one of the oldest winter sports centres in France, sits at the foot of the 1886m Puy du Sancy, a sitting target for any passing snow-clouds. Sure enough, by the time we reached our accommodation the nervous flurries had built into steady snowfall, creating a familiar silence as night closed in around us. Tomorrow was already beginning to look promising.
Sure enough, f linging back the shutters next morning revealed the snow-covered Massif towering over the upper end of the valley. After a fortifying breakfast we wasted no time in heading up to the Val d’Enfer cable-car for the long haul to just below the 1825m Pas de l’Ane. The final, near-vertical ascent revealed how far temperatures had plunged overnight, the huge rocks below the top station all but hidden beneath steely-blue ice as yet untouched by the early morning sunlight.
After alighting we snapped eagerly into our bindings and surveyed the vast winter landscape spread out at our feet. There was no mistaking the volcanic origins of these mountains, which rise so assertively from the much flatter surrounding landscapes, or the uniqueness of the skiing experience.
Thanks in no small part to to a calm, wind-free night, the freshly-fallen snow looked and felt just perfect — as good as we’ve ever skied in France, in fact, proving once again that altitude alone is far from being the whole story. Better still, we seemed to have this small corner of paradise pretty much to ourselves and spent all morning floating around the peaks and valleys in near-silence.
Footnote: an intriguing dual personality...
Le Mont Dore is not only an ideal place in which to build confidence, but is also hauntingly beautiful beneath a pristine blanket of snow. Mile-hungry skiers, though, will soon want to seek out fresh surroundings in neighbouring Super-Besse. Getting there means taking a drag-lift link, which can close during adverse weather conditions. The alternative is a 40minute drive, through the kind of scenery which makes this less of a chore than it might appear.
The resort, which sits high above the remarkable medieval village of Besse, is purpose-built and has, unsurprisingly, a very different feel from that of its neighbour. But if the architectural style isn’t exactly inspiring, the terrain most certainly is. Most of it radiates from the 1850m Puy de la Perdrix, and accommodates most tastes and abilities with a selection of runs which drop down through forest glades above the village and the frozen Lac des Hermines.
Super-Besse is deservedly popular with families, including those with mixed interests. We joined a guided snow-shoe walk and during the course of a couple of hours gained a whole new insight into our natural surroundings, in the agreable company of appreciative fellow trekkers. Snow-shoeing enables you to get to places even skiers never see, and this is a good place as any in which to make a start.
© Roger Moss