Fresh powder: the best French ski resorts you’ve never heard of | french holidays
The recent change in travel advice allowing British citizens to travel to France again has put the country back on the agenda for the ski season.
While skiers jostle for passes to famous mega-resorts, there are dozens of smaller, lesser-known ski villages that offer great value while combining thrilling skiing with old-world charm. and a beautiful natural setting. Here are some that offer a change of scenery and an exotic rhythm.
Haute Luce, Savoy
You would hardly know if this traditional farming village, tightly clustered around a tall baroque church spire, was a ski resort. There are no large hotels or pylons, but a chairlift rises discreetly from the back of the village, connecting to Espace Diamant, a surprisingly large ski area given its low profile, at 192km of tracks through six village resorts. Located 1,150 meters above sea level in the Beaufortain region with an epic view of Mont Blanc, Hauteluce has an “ecomuseum” displaying historical objects of everyday life. Nearby is the elegant La Ferme du Chozal hotel (double room from €175 per night, 6-person apartment from €1,600 per week) with spa and restaurant.
The traditional Alpine town of Valloire is famous as a point on the classic Tour de France route between Col du Télégraphe and Col du Galibier – one of the highest cols in cycle racing. It’s lesser known as a ski resort, but the sport has developed a lot here over the years and benefits from a link with the modern resort of Valmeinier, together creating a varied ski area of 150km of pistes at through the Maurienne valley. The Résidence Odalys le Hameau (from €405 per week for 4 people), 10 meters from the slopes, offers simple self-catering apartments and an indoor swimming pool.
Holy-vehad run, High mountains
Many smaller ski resorts are at a lower altitude than the big hitters, but not Saint-Véran in the unspoiled Queyras Valley, which rises to 2,040 meters and claims to be the highest (and, it is said, most beautiful) village in France. Located in the beautiful regional natural park of Queyras and known mainly as a place for ski touring enthusiasts wishing to embark on the hinterland, it also has a small network of ski lifts for alpine skiers. Try the Chalets du Villard, whose rooms and independent gîtes have access to the sauna and restaurant (studios from €102 per night for 2 people or €160 for 4 people in a room only; gîtes from €465 per week for 4 people).
Nakedges, French Pyreneesare
Of the 40 ski resorts in the French Pyrenees, the high mountain town of Barèges is an excellent choice, renowned for its thermal waters and its proximity to the Grand Tourmalet ski area, the largest in the region, which also includes La Mongie . Freeriding the 2,877m Pic du Midi, with 10km of descent, is a big draw, although it’s almost as fun to ride the cable car to the top just for a cappuccino on the sun terrace. Spa centers offer a relaxing immersion in the famous waters, while kids might prefer an igloo-building lesson. The recently renovated 13-room Hôtel le Central (double rooms from €75 per night, room only) has a swimming pool and on-site ski rental and maintenance.
Country of Gex, Jura Mountains
A good all-round resort for a variety of snow-related activities, Pays de Gex connects four characterful ski areas in the Monts Jura mountain range, 30 minutes’ drive from Geneva and covered by a €19 ski pass. £ per day. There is great diversity among them: the Lélex-Crozet challenge has an 800 meter vertical drop, Mijoux-La Faucille offers a dream cruise, Menthières has family slopes, while 160 km of cross-country ski trails wind through the Domaine de la Vattay. Be sure to try blue from Gex-Haut Jura, local blue cheese. And think of the Hôtel-Restaurant Bois Joly in Crozet, with a magnificent view on the balcony and serving traditional cuisine with morels, chestnuts and snails.
A seven-night stay costs from £506 for a double room only, booking.com
Aravis valley, Savoie/Haute-Savoie
The Aravis Valley resorts of La Clusaz, Manigod, Saint-Jean-de-Sixt and Le Grand-Bornand are a serious option for skiers of all levels, linked by ski bus, with 230km of varied runs between them . La Clusaz is a good all-rounder with some gnarly off-piste on the Massif de Balme. The wooded learning slopes of Manigod are pleasant for beginners, while Le Grand-Bornand is suitable for intermediates, with some black slopes. The region also excels in unusual extra-curricular activities, such as a 7km nighttime torchlight sled or an electric bike descent at dusk in Le Grand-Bornand. All are easily accessible from Aravis Lodge (three nights half-board from £429 pp, skiweekender.com), a chalet hotel with sauna that offers a free shuttle.
This snowy resort on the French-Italian border sits at one end of the Milky Way ski area, where its 60km of pistes are extended to 400km under the Grand Montgenèvre ski pass, which also covers the Italian resorts of Pragelato , Sestriere, Cesana, Sansicario and Sauze d’Oulx; the cultures of the two countries mingle here. Montgenèvre has two boardercross courses, and some offer day trips to the extreme off-piste resort of La Grave an hour away. Try Napoleon’s modern collection of self-contained apartments, with shared access to an indoor pool, steam room and sauna.
A seven-night self-drive package costs from £420 pp, including the Eurotunnel crossing with Ski Solutions
Holy foy, Savoy
More and more ski families are heading to Sainte Foy, to the north of the Vanoise en Tarentaise National Park, as a fantastic alternative to its bustling neighbors of Vald’Isère and Tignes. Beautiful cruising trails cut deep into the valley making it hard to get lost, while experienced skiers and skiers can discover great off-piste lines in the backcountry by hiring a guide when conditions are right. good.
Peak Retreats offers seven nights of self-catering accommodation centrally located Peak Star Sainte Foy Ski Apartments (from £656 per week including Eurotunnel crossing), which has an indoor pool and spa
One of the lesser-known resorts among 110 resorts spread across the Savoie Mont Blanc region, Pralognan-la-Vanoise is only a valley away from Courchevel but a world apart in terms of cost and ambiance. This underrated gem of Parc de la Vanoise combines a decent run (10 reds, four blacks, 10 greens, five blues) with beautiful terrain for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. One of France’s few curling rinks is open to visitors here, or try Toumo cold yoga, which originated in Tibet and is practiced outdoors in the snow and glacial rivers. The Edelweiss hotel, with spa, sauna and gym, has become the resort’s first four-star hotel this season (from €980 a week B&B for two people, five-course dinner €35 pp). Or gear up in an apartment in Les Hauts de la Vanoise (from £500 a week for four people).
For those whose idea of a winter break involves lots of cozy time around a log cabin watching the snowflakes, rather than pounding the kind of slopes you see on Ski Sunday, maybe that’s the one. A 10-minute drive from Gérardmer, whose ski area has 21 runs, night skiing and 30 km of cross-country ski trails, is Vosges Cabin, a modern and minimalist refuge in a nature reserve in the Vosges. The owner describes the area as closer to the German Black Forest than the Alps, and the cabin has huge picture windows to admire the woods and the sparkling Gérardmer lake, as well as a hot tub and sauna.
Can accommodate up to 16 out of five people more bedrooms and a bedroom with bunk beds, from €200 to €450 per night depending on the number, welcomebeyond.com