Category: Winter Page 1 of 3

Starting Young On Skis

Start skiing early enough and the benefits will remain with you for life. That’s one theory which makes perfect sense, so when our granddaughter turned three years old ahead of another ski season, we wanted to give her the kind of start on snow we never had. Like families everywhere, we then began pondering which resort to choose for a ski break to satisfy both her and the adults in our party, who were already seasoned skiers.

ESF children’s Piou Piou Club at Les Eucherts, La Rosière

France offers a mind-blowing choice of mountain resorts, whose ESF (Ecole du Ski Français) instructors are adept at welcoming raw beginners from across the globe and getting them off to a confident start on skis. Here and there, though, some teams and facilities had particularly impressed us, and not necessarily in big-name resorts. When we began to factor-in considerations like transfers from budget flights, dependable snow conditions and proximity of self-catering accommodation to debutante areas we opted for La Rosière. It’s a medium-sized, family-friendly resort with extensive cross-border skiing for the adults and the prospect of returning clinched it.

Toddlers learn to snow plough on skis at the ESF Piou Piou Club in Les Eucherts

As our trip would take in more than one resort rail travel wasn’t an option for us, so we drove across France to La Rosière while 3 year-old Edie and her parents flew from the UK into Chambéry airport and hired a car for the transfers. Both journeys went smoothly and our self-catering apartment at CGH Les Cimes Blanches was as spacious and well-equipped as expected. It also has an on-site SkiSet rental shop, whose staff knew exactly what Edie would need for the ESF La Rosière Piou-Piou Club.

Having mastered some basic skills the young skiers proudly receive their ESF certificate and badge.

We’d booked her into six days of morning sessions, and on Day One joined the other families arriving with their own youngest members. After an upbeat, smiley welcome and handing them over to the team of instructors we were asked to head somewhere  out of sight, so as not to be a distraction from what was planned for the session. We got that, and so did the kids, who simply trotted  off to meet their new friends.

Of course, “out of sight” didn’t stop us sneaking an occasional peep at how things were going between our own runs on the mountain, and while riding the nearby Roches Noires chairlift. The kids, though, weren’t in the slightest bit interested in what might be happening outside the dedicated Piou-Piou area – to them it was just a fun playgroup with added snow.

Reassured, we then spent each morning skiing further afield before returning to collect a hungry Edie and have lunch together back at the apartment. As for the afternoons, at first we just played around in the snow, but as Edie gained confidence on skis we were able to venture onto a nursery slope together.

Toddler in ski gear, La Rosière, French Alps

Free learner slopes and a play area make the most of the sunny aspect of La Rosière and provide fun activities for the whole family.

For the confirmed skiers it was a fun week, and for Edie and her fellow Piou-Pious it was a turning point. At the end of the final morning session  each new skier was awarded an ESF certificate and a medal as proof of her ability to move around on skis and descend a gentle slope unaided. It also means that next time she’ll be able to join an Oursons (Little Bears) group to learn to ski gentle green pistes and make mini-slalom turns. After that she can progress through another five levels if she wishes, and out-ski us all.

We stayed with Alpine specialists Peak Retreats at 4-star Les Cimes Blanches in Les Eucherts area of La Rosière. 7 nights self-catered accommodation includes return Eurotunnel crossing with a free upgrade to Flexiplus on most dates. Accommodation only packages available. Ski equipment, lift passes and transfers also bookable. Holidays are fully ABTA bonded.

Toddler in ski gear, La Rosière, French Alps

Ski Clothing for Children

Four packing tips for your child’s first ski holiday

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Skiing holidays are great fun for the whole family, but if you’re taking your child for the first time, knowing what to pack for them will be incredibly important. Here, Steve Cochrane, Managing Director at Childrenswardrobe shares his top four packing tips for your child’s first ski holiday.

1.5 million UK residents go on at least one ski holiday per year

Skiing holidays are among some of the most popular holiday types, with reports revealing that 1.5 million Brits flock to ski resorts at least once a year (LHM Marketing). Along with learning a new skill, there’s a great opportunity for the whole family to get in some exercise and be out in the fresh air. Check out our feature on Ski Holidays with Kids to help you make the most of your family holiday.

Keeping your child happy with the right gear

Once you’ve booked your holiday, it’ll be time to get everybody’s ski gear. And, when you’re taking your child for the first time, it’ll be very important that you pack the correct things for them. Here, I will be sharing my packing tips for your child’s first ski holiday.

Buy their ski gear in off-peak seasons

Children grow incredibly quickly, and while you’ll want to invest in reliable gear for them, you have to be prepared for them to outgrow these things pretty quickly — especially if they’re particularly young. So, I would advise planning ahead and buying their ski clothes during sale periods for these items. For example, try shopping the after-Christmas sales in non-specialist shops as they tend to rotate their stock quicker than ski shops do.

Another hack for finding discounted ski gear is to buy it in off-peak seasons, like the summer. But, just make sure that if you’re buying in advance, you take into account how much your child can grow in the period leading up to your holiday and sizing up.

Packing Tips

 

Your child will need plenty of outfits for your trip: something to keep them nice and dry while they’re on the slopes, and clothing that they can wear on an evening for your family meals.

Although they’ll be out playing in the snow all day, it can be very warm and sunny at the top of the mountains, so it’ll be best to go with lots of thinner layers rather than thick ones. When you’re packing your little one’s case, you should make sure you have the following ski essentials:

The Ski Essentials for Children:

  • Thin thermal tops and leggings for a base layer.
  • Fleeces or sweatshirts for mid-layers.
  • A waterproof ski jacket.
  • Ski trousers (known as salopettes).
  • Plenty of thick socks.
  • Ski helmet — these can be rented if you don’t want to splash out on one.
  • Goggles.
  • Ski gloves and glove liners.
  • Ski boots — these can also be rented.
  • Snow boots
  • Après ski outfits

As well as planning their ski outfits for the duration of your trip, you’ll also need to think of what they will need for evenings. Depending on what you plan to do, you should make sure you at least have a few pairs of smart and casual trousers, tops and comfortable shoes for them to dress in. It’ll also be worth checking whether your resort is holding a themed night, so you can pack an outfit that’ll make your kids feel part of the fun.

Choose the right materials

The clothing you choose for your child’s skiing gear should be insulated enough to keep them warm, but made from breathable fabrics that will wick away any moisture. So, make sure you’re looking for materials that have both of these properties: nylon, merino wool and polyester will all work great. For your outer layers, like your salopettes and ski jacket, these will need to be waterproof to keep your little one dry while they’re out on the slopes.

Don’t forget warm accessories

When you’re all taking a break from skiing or relaxing on an evening, you’ll need to make sure your child has enough cosy accessories to keep them warm. This should include a pair of woolly gloves, a scarf or buff to keep their neck and face warm, as well as a hat with flaps to cover their ears.

If you expect the sun will be beaming down when you visit, you’ll also need to prepare them with a pair of sunglasses to shield their eyes from the UV rays and some high SPF sun cream to prevent your little one from being burnt.

Your child’s first skiing holiday will be one to remember, so make sure you get them prepared for the fun times ahead with my top four packing tips.

Skiers looking at mountain scenery above Les Gets, French Alps

Why Spring is the Best Time to Learn to Ski

Springtime in the mountains and the ski slopes beckon those who want to make the most of the snow before it melts. But learners can benefit from starting to ski in the spring and we’re going to tell you why.

Skiers relax in the spring sunshine at the Roches Noires skilift, La Rosière, French Alps

  • The snow

The conditions in spring are usually ideal for learners. The snow is soft and generally easier to ski than in mid-winter when the slopes can be hard and therefore, faster. And if you should fall, then you’re likely to have a softer landing.

  • Fewer people

The most popular time to ski in France is traditionally around Christmas and New Year, then the half-term school holidays in February. In springtime, such as at Easter or outside of the main school holidays, there are generally fewer people on the pistes. Learners can start to ski in safety, without having to look out for other skiers.

  • The psychological barrier

Sometimes the main barrier when starting to ski, especially for adults, is psychological – you’re afraid! Ski resorts have therefore opened more and more safe, fun spaces where learners are well looked after. These areas are often at altitude so there’s no problem with lack of snow as the ski season draws to a close.

  • The price

By level or by sector, there is almost certainly a skipass that will suit you. This year is a particularly good time to make the most of the Skiing into Spring special offer by France Montagnes at many French ski resorts. For every ski package purchased, you can get an adult beginner package completely free*.

  • The diversity

On those long, stress-free days of spring, make the most of the sunshine and relax! Two hours of skiing now and then, taking part in other activities alongside, then a pause on a café terrace….there’s no pressure. Learners can please themselves – ski at your own pace and it becomes a pleasure.

  • Freedom

In springtime when the sun’s rays are warmer and days are longer, there’s no need to wrap up like Michelin man! Learners will be more comfortable and relaxed wearing technical,  lightweight clothing. Without all those layers, feel lighter, more relaxed and ready to enjoy learning to ski.

*Skiing into Spring

To celebrate Skiing into Spring, ski resorts are offering an exclusive new deal: For every ski package purchased, no matter the age of skier, you can get a adult beginner package completely free.
This package includes ski lessons, equipment hire and the ski pass. See the list of resorts and to book http://www.skiingintospring.com/free-for-beginners

 

 

Health Benefits of Skiing

“Skiing can change lives” say experts

  • An average day skiing will see you burn three times as many calories as a normal day
  • Skiing is proven to help deal with depression
  • “Pushing limits can do wonders for self-confidence”, ski fitness expert
  • Plenty of physical and mental benefits to skiing

Skiing helps to develop valuable life skills and carries plenty of physical and mental health benefits, leading experts have said.

A brand new guide reveals the benefits of skiing extend far beyond spending a bit of time with family and friends, and can actually help shape you as a person as well as improving your physical shape.

The Health Benefits of Skiing, produced by award-nominated ski agents Ski Line, breaks down all the key benefits of a ski holiday and offers hints and tips from top instructors and fitness gurus on preparing, as well as advice on how to avoid injury for first-time skiers.

Lynn Mill, a former professional skier and current instructor at www.valdskiinstructors.com, said on behalf of Ski Line: “The lifelong skills learned just by being out in the mountain environment are priceless and many of my students have grown up to be adventurous, proactive and successful even in areas with no connection to snowsports.”

“It planted life skills for them.”

She added: “It clears the mind, allows people’s heads to get away from the everyday worries for a few hours and is really fun once you’re up and running. It also does wonders for your core and leg strength as well as your cardio system and proprioception.”

Physical benfits of skiing

Neil Maclean-Martin, a ski-fitness expert of BeFitApps, says skiing can change lives “in many positive ways.”

“The beauty, for many, is the amazing mountain environment and that it is so easy to push limits and conquer fears. The rush is hard to beat.

“Pushing limits can do wonders for self-confidence, satisfaction and helping you to set perhaps new unforeseen goals in all aspects of your life.”

Skiing is a very active sport, and an average day on the slopes will see you burn around 3,000 calories. To put that in perspective, that’s around three times as many calories as you would burn on an average working day!

Skiing helps free yourself from every day worries

Aside from potential weight loss, working out at altitude and the physical exertion of speeding down the slopes will leave you much fitter than when you started, with the lower body in particular undergoing a strenuous workout.

But the mental benefits might be the most revealing aspect, with a survey from BMC showing that not only did 99% of skiers claim to have a higher fitness level than their peers, but 93% were reported to be freed from depression.

The slopes can be an ideal place to let go of the tensions of home life and experience an adrenaline rush, while it can also help you get to know your body better.

Mental benefits of skiing

For more information on the physical and mental benefits of skiing, as well as hints and tips on how to prepare ahead of a first trip to the slopes, visit Health Benefits of Skiing, by award-nominated Ski Line.

Gondola ski lift, Meribel, French Alps

How to Stay Green On and Off the Slopes

If you’re a long term, dedicated skier, you may have noticed some changes to your usual skiing haunts. Lack of snow and shorter seasons brought about by global warming are threatening our beloved sport.

While this huge issue can sometimes feel overwhelming, and as though nothing can be done to reverse the tide, there are some simple changes you can make.

We’re not suggesting you stop skiing altogether. Although regular flying can cause damage to the environment, there are ways to continue your passion for the slopes a greener way.

Here are some of our top tips on how to stay green on the slopes and play your part in saving them.

Where to Ski

The first thing is to choose a responsible ski resort that takes sustainability seriously.

Try to avoid heading to the other side of the world to get your skiing fix, as there are probably some fantastic skiing opportunities closer to home.

If you live in the UK, for example, the Alps are home to some world-class ski resorts that are doing their bit for eco-friendly skiing;

  • Chamonix ski resort in the French Alps has its own climate and energy action plan in an attempt to cut carbon emissions.
Mont-Blanc-Express train at the station in Argentiere, Chamonix Valley

Skiers staying anywhere in the Chamonix Valley can use the Mont-Blanc-Express to access Argentière (pictured) and the other resorts.

  • Flaine, the purpose-built resort in the Grand Massif ski area was a pioneer in sustainable development and  became the first Green Globe certified ski area in 2016.
Flaine

The car-free resort of Flaine was a pioneer of renewable energy and continues to initiate new environmental measures.

  • Méribel in France has invested in several green initiatives, relying on renewable energy sources for most of its facilities and is dedicated to a thorough recycling system.

How to Get There

With flights contributing heavily to our carbon footprint, is there a greener alternative to getting to the mountains?

TGV high-speed train, France

Car-free travel via the Eurostar to Paris then a high-speed train to the Alps can give you extra time on the slopes.

For skiing around Europe, the train is a great alternative, with the added benefit of stunning alpine views as you travel. You can even plan your train journey to the Alps with a relaxing stopover in Paris and arrive at your destination with plenty of time to ski the same day. More information on rail travel to ski resorts can be found at independent guide, Snowcarbon

Or why not drive to your resort? This way you have more flexibility over leaving times and can stop for a rest break whenever the mood takes you! Although not ideal for the environment, driving has less of an impact than flying.

Energy Saving Tips for the Slopes

There are plenty of small changes we can make in the Snowsports community, that collectively can foster big results;

Invest in a flask: If you normally carry a disposable water bottle in your backpack, why not buy a smart, re-usable  stainless steel vacuum flask for hot and cold drinks and avoid single use plastics.

Smokers use a pocket ashtray: Resist dropping ash on the pristine snow and take it away with you in specially designed pocket ashtrays.

Take your rubbish with you : This way, you can recycle it properly back at your ski resort where you can sort it in the clearly marked bins.

Carry your own shopping bags: Shops and supermarkets in France do not provide single use bags at the checkout. Stay away from plastic carrier bags by packing your own fabric ones instead.

Mountain restaurant La Paika, Les Gets

The mountain restaurant La Paika at Les Gets serves a great selection of local food.

Dine locally: The nearer our food comes from; the less energy is spent on transport and packaging. Avoid the well-known fast-food outlets and seek out the growing number of independents serving everything from locally produced sandwiches and burgers to gourmand restaurants serving delicious local delicacies.

Eat less meat : The message is becoming increasingly clear – our excessive meat consumption is harmful to the planet. Just cutting back could make all the difference. Look out for the wholesome Alpine pasta called Crozets, or the infamous Tartiflette made from layering potatoes with Reblochon cheese. Both are tasty made without meat and are easy to make if you’re self-catering.

Buy second hand: Save the planet and your cash by buying your ski gear second hand.

Alpine skis on rack, French Alps

Save money and reduce wate by buying second-hand equipment.

Put Your Money Where your Heart is and Invest in Green

Helping to reverse the damage to the planet’s best skiing spots doesn’t just stop on the slopes. There are also ways to help inspire action from home.

One way to preserve the skiing industry for years to come is to take responsibility through your investments.

Here’s how;

  • Use a bank that invests in reversing climate change. If your bank benefits from fossil fuels, ask them to change, or leave.
  • The more pressure large companies receive on investing their pensions in renewable energies, the more will follow suit. Contact your pensions provider and lay on the pressure!

Demanding action from these large companies could have the greatest impact on reversing climate change.

Meribel, Three Valleys, French Alps

Méribel is one ski resort in the Alps dedicated to becoming more environmentally friendly.

Eco-Friendly Skiing in the Three Valleys

Now you’re well-armed with these tips on how to stay green on the slopes, it’s time to go out and enjoy them.

Méribel is one ski resort in the Alps dedicated to becoming more environmentally friendly.

Alpine Infusion offer a range of luxury catered ski chalets in Meribel to choose from. Enjoy locally sourced meals and incredible skiing opportunities in a beautiful alpine setting. After all, who said going green means compromising on luxury?

Alpine Infusion luxury Chalet Genepi, Méribel

5 Tips for Having A Luxurious Ski Holiday Experience

A luxurious ski holiday is all about relaxing and indulging yourself. When you’re not taking part in an adrenaline pumping activity, you can be unwinding back at your lavish chalet.

A ski trip isn’t only about your time on the slopes. It’s also about getting an all-round luxury experience.

Here are 5 tips for having a luxurious ski holiday.

Alpine Infusion luxury Chalet Genepi, Méribel

Relax in the cosy lounge at Chalet Genepi, Méribel

Choose the Right Resort

To have a truly luxurious holiday, you need to stay in a beautiful resort and the French Alps are home to some of the best resorts in the world.

Stay in either Courchevel or Méribel this season if you want to experience stunning scenery with pristine snow, world class skiing and the finest hospitality around.

You can even brush shoulders with celebrities and millionaires as you ski down the various Alpine pistes. A ski holiday in The Three Valleys offers a true VIP experience and is sure to leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

AlpineInfusion luxury Chalet Iamato breakfast table, Méribel, Three Valleys, French Alps

The breakfast table in Alpine Infusion’s luxury Chalet Iamato in Méribel.

Stay in A Luxury Chalet

Start your holiday right. Stay in a luxury chalet.

Your home away from home should be somewhere you can truly unwind and treat yourself. After your day on the slopes, you need a place you can come back to and spoil yourself.

Booking a luxury chalet comes with its benefits. Kitted out with a swimming pool, hot tub and – that’s right- a wine cellar, you’re sure to experience a luxury holiday. Make sure you have all your essentials to get the most out of your stay.

To live the luxurious lifestyle to the fullest, take advantage of these services available with your chalet:

  • A Nanny
  • Lift Passes included with your booking
  • A Private Ski Instructor or Guide

With these great amenities you’ll almost never want to leave your chalet, almost…

Alpine Infusion Chalet Les Sorbiers, Courchevel, Three Valleys, French Alps.

The stunning lounge with open log fire at the luxury Chalet Les Sorbiers in Courchevel 1850.

Pamper Yourself with a Spa Treatment

As exciting as an adventurous ski holiday is, it can also be physically demanding. Treat yourself to a spa treatment to get yourself back in peak condition.

We bring our spa services right to your doorstep, so you don’t need to move a muscle.

Our slope side serenity massage and facial will revitalise your weathered skin and our beanie and boots massage targets your head, shoulders, knees and toes.

Once you’re prepped and primed what you do next is up to you. Have a cosy night with your family or hit the bars. Whatever you do, you’ll feel good doing it.

Alpine Infusion's luxury Chalet Genepi pool with a view

Pamper yourself in Alpine Infusion’s luxury pool with a view in Chalet Genepi, Méribel

Have a Fine Dining Experience

Worked up an appetite? It’s time to explore your resort’s dining options.

If you opt for a catered chalet you will be waited on hand and foot. Trained chefs will cook your restaurant quality meals in a luxurious setting. You don’t need to plan a thing.

Have children? You can have delicious and healthy specially made meals planned around your schedule.

The Alps also have many renowned restaurants for you to sample. Get better acquainted with the local wine or taste a Michelin star awarded delicacy.

There’s a reason French cuisine is celebrated the world over. Try the traditional dishes to have an authentic French dining experience on your ski holiday.

Bon Appetit!

Alpine Infusion luxury Chalet Genepi's dining room, Méribel

Fine dining every evening in the luxurious dining room at Chalet Genepi, Méribel

Let Your Hair Down with Après-Ski

The French Alps are a great place to party! Once you’ve taken off your ski boots and had a relaxing massage, make sure to explore the nightlife.

Famous DJ’s regularly grace these parts and there’s always an event going on. Pop open the champagne and enjoy a high-quality musical act if you want to experience real luxury.

You don’t have to be in a club to experience the entertainment. The restaurants and bars regularly have live bands and are a great place to go with your family or friends for a calmer but equally fun evening.

Alpine Infusion offer a variety of luxury chalets in Méribel and Courchevel, perfect for an unforgettable holiday. Whether you’re with family, friends or a partner, you can be sure you’ll get the full luxury experience.

Wide overview of skiers on ridge with ski lifts and mountain background, Meribel

Skiers at Saulire, the heart of the vast Three Valleys ski area in the French Alps.

Walker with dog in snow. Photo Daniel Frank

5 Practical Tips for Taking Your Dog Hill and Mountain Walking

The French Alps offer many grand adventures for those that seek them out, including skiing, as well as activities like dog-sledding, and mountain walking. But people aren’t the only ones that can experience the beauty of the Alps. As a pet owner, you know there’s nothing better than enjoying one of your favourite pastimes with your best friend, Fido. For advice that will make your first (or next) outing together stress-free, check out these practical tips for taking your dog hill and mountain walking.

Woman snowshoeing in snow with dog. Photo Bonnie Kittle

Is Your Dog Ready?

If this is the first time you’ve taken your dog mountain walking, start with a short, easy trail that’s appropriate for his size and stamina. Remember, Fido doesn’t have shoes to protect his paws, so choose terrain that’s not too harsh, preferably with dirt versus rock paths. It’s also important to ensure your dog knows and responds to all commands appropriately. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you need him to listen, but he’s busy smelling the flowers instead.

Women walking on a mountain trail with dog. Photo Holly Mandarich

Beware of Other People and Animals

One of the main reasons to make sure Fido responds to commands is that you may run into other people, pets, or wild animals on the trail. If your dog chases anything that runs away from him, you’ll want to keep him leashed for his safety and yours. You may also wish to consider researching the local plants in the area so you and Fido will know what to avoid.

Avoid Excessive Cold or Heat

With a thick layer of fur to protect them, many people don’t think dogs experience cold as we do. That’s not always the case. Smaller breeds can get cold easily, so if you’re taking a tiny Fido along with you, check the weather forecast and “dress” him appropriately. The same applies in cases of excessive heat. Do your research in advance and choose a trail with plenty of shade for your dog to rest out of direct sunlight.

Dog wearing coat in snow, on lead. Photo by William Moreland

Pack a Bag for Your Dog

You likely already have a few things in mind to pack for your dog’s adventure outdoors, including a collapsible water bowl, first aid kit, lead, insect repellent, paw balm for his pads, and waste disposal bags. You might even want to consider purchasing a pack for your dog to carry since you’ll have your own to manage. If you do, take your dog along shopping so he can try on different options and you can make sure the final choice is a good fit. You’ll want to train him to wear the pack without argument, so let him sport it around the house and on short walks to get used to the idea.

Doggy ID

Probably the most important thing you can do to protect your dog on your mountain walking adventures is to have him micro-chipped. It’s also best to ensure he’s wearing proper identification on his collar and a GPS tracker. The last thing you want is to lose Fido in the Alps. That certainly would not be a good ending to a grand adventure with man’s best friend.

Two skiers on cruising piste at Vars, French Alps

Time to ski the southern French Alps?

Lone skier on wide tree-lined piste in Les Orres

There’s a good reason why virtually all the media attention focuses on French Alpine resorts in the north, either in Savoie or Haute-Savoie.  They’re only part of a much bigger picture, of course, but for skiers flying to France, choosing a ski resort  involves factoring-in easy transfers from budget flight destinations like our old friends Lyon and Geneva.

No surprises there, except that recently our previously most-visited page – ‘Best Resorts Near Geneva’ – has been overtaken by its counterpart ‘Best Resorts Near Grenoble’. Hmm…

“Grenoble opens up all kinds of possibilities…”

Well-kept secrets don’t stay that way forever, and once you’ve discovered what’s on offer in more southerly resorts than you’re accustomed to skiing, you can’t help wondering what might lie even further south. I certainly did, which why I ended up putting a lot of mileage under my skis in fun places like Albiez, l’Alpe d’Huez, Les 2 Alpes, Chamrousse, La Norma, Orelle, Saint-François Longchamp, La Toussuire, Val Cenis, Valfréjus, Valloire, Vaujany, Termignon, etc.

It’s a long list (and there were others..) and got me thinking: ‘This is great – why don’t we just keep going..?’.

Lone skier on piste between Val Thorens and Orelle, French Alps

Late afternoon return to Orelle from Val Thorens.

“Over the Col du Lauteret and…”

So on my next ski trip I did just that. I headed over the Col du Lauteret and dropped in on Serre Chevalier, long considered as something of an alternative choice, since the name refers to the ski domain shared by a straggle of villages spread along the valley. That means you get big-mountain skiing with a choice of bases – friendly, year-round communities with their own individual personalities.

I’ve also stayed in neighbouring Briançon (France’s highest city, and probably the smallest) which has masses of character plus direct access to “Serre Che’” via a high-speed gondola lift.

Skier on tree-lined piste between Montgenèvre and Clavière

Leaving Montgenèvre’s own extensive terrain en-route for Clavière, Sestrière, etc.

“Lunch in Italy, anyone..?”

Just beyond Briançon is Montgenèvre, my all-time favourite medium-sized ski resort. Why? Well, apart from it having become just a nice place to be, since through traffic was consigned to a tunnel, there’s the killer bonus of being able to ski straight across the adjoining border into Italy, to enjoy the pistes of Clavière, Cesana, Sansicario, Sauze d’Oulx and Sestrière.

Down here, despite often epic snowfalls, the Mediterranean influence is already evident, with the same clear blue skies which characterize skiing further south in the Hautes-Alpes and Alpes d’Haute-Provence. Places like Le Dévoluy, Les Orres, Orcières, Pra-Loup, Puy Saint-Vincent, Risoul, Val d’Allos and Vars have all given me truly superb skiing among some of the most dazzling scenery I’ve ever encountered. You won’t hear their names dropped casually into conversation – or at least, not yet – but they offer fantastic, unpressured skiing to locals and others who take the trouble to discover them.

Private ski lesson, ski-lifts and mountains atVars, French Alps

One-to-one early morning ski lesson, Vars (Hautes-Alpes)

“I’ll be back…”

But the rewards don’t stop there. Away from the spotlight things are more down-to-earth, with lower prices plus a warmer welcome, from people who for the most part aren’t just there for the season. Oh, and let’s not forget those steely-blue skies.

I’ve recounted my experiences at all the resorts I’ve mentioned above in the Insight section of our detailed, independent resort reviews – take a look and I think you’ll understand why I’m a genuine fan, and why I plan to go back to ski them whenever I get the chance.

Skiers looking at mountain scenery above Les Gets, French Alps

5 Of The Best Resorts for Relaxed Skiing In The French Alps

White-knuckle skiing isn’t for all of us, so if you ski purely for pleasure where exactly do you go? After skiing over 60 resorts in France, I reckon I now have a pretty good idea. The French Alps attract countless skiers from all over the world, so most of them head for areas which attract media attention and get star billing in ski brochures.

For the rest of us that’s good news, since lots of ‘second-league’ resorts (in terms of skier numbers) are less-pressured and therefore perfect for relaxed skiing, outside French school holiday periods. With that in mind, I thought I’d share a quick rundown of some of the most memorable places where I’ve enjoyed laid-back, scenic skiing in the French Alps:

COMBLOUX

Rear view of skier on wide piste with forest and valley at Combloux, French Alps

You’ll find Combloux in Haute-Savoie below the Aravis Massif between Chamonix and the Val d’Arly – just across the valley from chic Megève, in fact. That means it’s easy to reach, either via a 1 hr transfer from flights into Geneva (or 15 min more from Chambéry Savoie Mont-Blanc) or by road from Sallanches or Albertville.

Combloux’s ski area and most accommodation are tucked away on the mountain, well-hidden from those driving through the valley en-route to Chamonix. They don’t know what they’re missing. When you get there it feels small-time and down-homey, but your very first chairlift ride tells you that there’s lots of fun to be had here, on sheltered, tree-lined pistes topped-off by wide cruising pistes with a dramatic backdrop of nearby Mont-Blanc. I reckon there’s something of the wild, natural spirit of Canadian skiing in the long forested runs over to neighbouring La Giettaz.

Here’s my full resort review: https://www.mountainpassions.com/winter/ski-resort-reviews/alps/ski-combloux/


LA TOUSSUIRE

Skier on gentle piste above La Toussuire, Les Sybelles ski area, French Alps

Just about the friendliest place I’ve ever skied, La Toussuire sits just above the Vallée de la Maurienne (home to Valfréjus, Valloire, Valmeinier and Albiez-Montrond) and close to the Franco-Italian border. La Toussuire is the largest of six linked villages of Les Sybelles, the 4th biggest ski area in France. Over the years they’ve worked hard to bring it all together, with a highly-capable, modern lift system serving lots of great, well-groomed cruising terrain. Just to the north are Val Thorens and the 3 Valleys, so Les Sybelles are in the firing line for frequent heavy snowfalls.

Getting there is straightforward via transfers from flights into Chambéry Savoie Mont-Blanc, Lyon and Grenoble airports, or high-speed TGV rails services direct from Paris into nearby Saint-Jean de Maurienne.

Here’s my full resort review: https://www.mountainpassions.com/winter/ski-resort-reviews/alps/ski-la-toussuire/


LES SAISIES

 

Wide view of young skier amid big-mountain scenery above Les Saisies, French Alps

I’ve no idea why the Espace Diamant, which unites the ski areas of the Val d’Arly and Hauteluce, remains one of the best-kept secrets in the French Alps. Thanks to the nearby presence of Mont Blanc it has a great snow record, and it’s one of the very few places where it’s possible to ski a satisfying full circuit. Along the way there’s a wealth of varied terrain, which passes through some pretty spectacular scenery.

Les Saisies is the largest of the villages, a year-round living and working mountain community, with a welcoming traditional appearance. But if you want something smaller and even more relaxed then you’ll love neighbouring Crest Voland. They’re both located between Megève and the Beaufortain valley, so enjoy quick transfers from flights into Chambéry Savoie Mont-Blanc and Geneva airports, plus a shuttle connection from Albertville’s  TGV high-speed rail services from Paris.

Here’s my full resort review: https://www.mountainpassions.com/winter/ski-resort-reviews/alps/ski-les-saisies/


LES GETS

Group of skiers beside piste above Les Gets, French Alps

Sited just south of Lac Léman (a.k.a. Lake Geneva), Les Gets is a mere 15min drive from the A40 motorway exit at Cluses (which has high-speed rail links from Paris) or around an hour’s transfer from Geneva airport, so it’s among the quickest and least-stressful ski resorts to reach. It’s also one of a dozen villages in both France and Switzerland which together produce the vast Portes du Soleil ski area. For distance-freaks, the attraction is near-limitless skiing on some 600 km of slopes amid fantastic scenery. Others, of course, just take it easy and enjoy the local terrain, set on both sides of the village.

Given such a wide choice of villages in which to stay, why go for Les Gets? Well, in many ways it’s a tough choice between here and Châtel (another firm favourite of mine, whose ‘Petit Châtel’ sector is great for relaxed, cross-border skiing) but ease of access, combined with a charming, traditional Alpine feel to the village and some superb hotel accommodation just edge it.

Here’s my full resort review: https://www.mountainpassions.com/winter/ski-resort-reviews/alps/ski-les-gets/


SAINT-FRANÇOIS LONGCHAMP

Ski village and mountains, Saint Francois Longchamp, French Alps

The name isn’t exactly stick-in-the-mind snappy, but bear with me on this one. Think of Saint-François Longchamp as the sunnier and more reasonably-priced sidekick of neighbouring Valmorel. Their combined terrain, known as ‘Le Grand Domaine’ sits on the either side of the Col de la Madeleine (a familiar name to Tour de France followers), which finds Saint-François in the Maurienne, while Valmorel is in the Tarentaise.

Things are always more relaxed in the sun, and sure enough, Saint-François feels friendlier, more down-to-earth and its lift system has the edge, too. Oh, and there’s plenty of varied skiing, with the emphasis on wide, blue-graded cruising. Getting there is pretty straightforward, too – it’s readily accessible by road from Albertville and Grenoble, with flight transfers from Chambéry Savoie Mont-Blanc (nearest) or Grenoble airports.

Here’s my full resort review: https://www.mountainpassions.com/winter/ski-resort-reviews/alps/ski-saint-francois-longchamp/

Chatel ski resort, Portes du Soleil, French Alps

Skiing the Portes du Soleil from Châtel

The Franco-Swiss Portes du Soleil ski area attracts legions of afficionados, thanks to a killer combination of near-limitless mileage, dazzling mountain scenery and short transfers from cheap flights into Geneva.

Despite having a choice of no fewer than twelve mostly traditional villages, most skiers from the UK will  base themselves on the French side in high-altitude, high-rise Avoriaz, family-friendly Les Gets or Brit-magnet Morzine. Recently, however, an alternative, lower-profile choice has joined the party.

Chatel ski resort, Portes du Soleil, French Alps

The village of Châtel, in the Portes du Soleil ski area, French Alps

Skiers love the traditional village feel of Châtel

Châtel appeals to traditionalists, who adore its low-rise, chalet-style skyline, vibrant year-round community and a location at the head of a valley on the very outer limits of French soil. So why hasn’t it shown up on more skiers’ radar? Well, that was largely down to a shortage of the kind of spacious self-catering apartment accommodation favoured by today’s skiers and by volume tour operators.

Les Chalets d'Angele luxury apartments, Chatel, Portes du Soleil

Les Chalets d’Angèle 4* self-catering apartments in Châtel

Châtel attracts skiers looking for premium accommodation

The game-changer was Savoyard developer MGM’s three sell-out releases of premium 4-star apartments (followed by seven smaller chalet-style developments) just below the village at what is now the Résidence CGH Les Chalets d’Angèle. Cue French holiday giant Odalys, who responded by adding its own 4-star Les Fermes de Châtel in the heart of the village. Further developments are under way, as a result of which Châtel’s tourist capacity is now looking very healthy indeed.

Gabelou chairlift, Chatel, Portes du Soleil, French Alps

The Gabelou and Portes du Soleil chairlifts make the important link between Super Châtel and the rest of the Portes du Soleil ski area.

Ambitious lift upgrades speed vital connections

Meanwhile, on the mountains ambitious lift upgrades have made getting around the Portes du Soleil ski area far simpler. Skiing over to Avoriaz and beyond used to involve a shuttle bus ride to alternative departure ponts along the valley, but now the Super Châtel gondola from the village centre up to Châtel’s local ski terrain also provides access to a blue-graded link piste (or a high-speed two-way chairlift ride) to the Lac de Vonnes. From here the Gabelou high-speed, two-way chairlift drops skiers onto a blue cruise down to another high-speed lift, the Linga chair. Perfect.

Link between Petit Chatel and Torgon, Portes du Soleil, French Alps

Remarkable scenery on the Franco-Swiss border above Petit Châtel.

Skiing the Swiss terrain from Super-Châtel

Most of Super Châtel’s other lifts head straight into the Portes du Soleil’s Swiss terrain centred around Morgins, Torgon, Champoussin, Les Crosets and Champéry. There’s some great skiing on offer, and it’s currently less-widely appreciated than the French sector, although that might all change when MGM’s new development La Ferme de Suzanne at Petit-Châtel opens in 2020. We skied an all-too-quick taster session last season, joining the Petit-Châtel chairlift, transferring to the Barbossine chair and skiing off at 1913m among startling scenery. It’s a different world up there, with panoramic views and a wealth of possibilities, none of which we had time to follow up, but the red-graded descent which took us back, via the two-way Petit-Châtel chair to our starting point was enough to convince us that we really must return to ski a lot more of this intriguing sector which lies right on Châtel’s doorstep.

Wide rear view of skiers descending piste between forests above Chatel, French Alps

Skiers enjoying the beautiful descent through the forest above Chatel, Portes du Soleil, French Alps

More information

You can read our in-depth Châtel ski resort review with our unique insight, recommendations and things to do in our Practical Information section. You’ll also find links to the other Portes du Soleil ski resort reviews.

on our website. The official Châtel website offers you all the latest information, piste maps and webcams plus offers on ski-passes and loads more.

Book your ski holiday in Châtel

Interior, Chalets d'Angele apartment, Chatel

The spacious interiors at the CGH Les Chalets d’Angèle in Châtel, Portes du Soleil

Award-winning French Alps specialist Peak Retreats offers self-catering luxury apartments in the lovely traditional-feel village of Châtel.

Résidence CGH Les Chalets d’Angèle

This 4* residence offers luxurious ski apartments, combining traditional architecture with high standard modern facilities. See our thoughts about the apartments where we’ve stayed on several occasions on our Châtel ski resort review.

The company also book the conveniently situated Les Fermes de Châtel

For more details and booking visit Peak Retreats
023 9283 9310
reservations@peakretreats.co.uk

 

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