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french school hols effect on queues / slope numbers

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
We usually go to France end of Jan / start of feb and always try and travel the week before the french hols. We may have to go a week later and wondered about the real practical effect on lift queues and general slope numbers. I have heard rumours that it can be stupidly busy but would be good to get some feedback from people who have experienced it directly. We usually go to large resorts such as three valleys / PDS / Paradiski. 4th feb 2017 is start of Paris & Southern Central region hols. thanks
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
I went to Samoens this February just gone during the first week of Paris holidays as friends of mine have kids (we don't) and wanted some sociable skiing amongst old friends whilst the kids were in ski school. I'd not do it again. Even though we were stopping at 1600, the queues for lifts over towards Flaine were full on pretty much from the start of the day, though you could always queue for slower lifts as most people gravitate towards the high speed chairs.

It wasn't unusual to have to queue for 10 to 15 minutes. Worst queue of the day was when a lift broke down meaning all the traffic got funnelled to one lift resulting in about 45 minutes being jostled to get on. Not a pleasant experience.

I'm not sure if Samoens is particularly bad as it's more accessible than the southern resorts to Paris families, but if I had the option I'd avoid French holidays. This year their kids are going to grandparents for a few days and the grown ups are going for a long weekend. Parents are then taking them away for a week at Easter which is not only a lot quieter but also nicer for the kids as better chance of the weather being nice and sunny too.


Last edited by Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person on Wed 2-11-16 11:48; edited 1 time in total
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
take a good book and elbow pads!!

Generally we find something else to do other than go skiing in the Peak weeks unless we really have to.
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We went to Les Contamines at February half term a couple of years ago, and although there was a bit of a crush in the morning to get the gondola up, once up on the mountain we found the pistes very quiet and generally very small lift queues. We had a great time and would definitely go back.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
I was at Tignes last year during UK half-term (11-18 Feb or thereabouts), which coincided with French holidays but for non-Paris regions (can't remember if it was both other groups, or just one of them, though I think both). Blame my brother, who's failed at life and become a teacher Toofy Grin. I was rather dreading it, due to having gotten used to going out of holiday time, but it was actually fine. Going into more detail:

Lifts were no problem. The bigger resorts tend to have invested in fast efficient lift systems. There were only two occasions when we had any real sort of queue (i.e. more than a handful of people in front of us). One was when getting back into Tignes from the Val d'Isere side late-ish in the day, where you have to get the Tommeuses chairlift back over the mountain, which obviously creates a bit of a bottleneck when people have to get home. Queue was ca 10 mins IIRC, so not stupidly long either (and one of the rare occasions they had a lift attendant actively making sure chairs were full Twisted Evil). The other occasion was when the bubbles coming up from Tignes Breviere broke down. We got the next door chairlift (queue OK as some were waiting for bubbles to start again), and by the time we got to the top the bubble had re-started. Since there was already a long queue at the other bubble at the top of the chairlift we thought we might as well ski back down to Brev and get the re-opened bubble (which went up higher than the chairlift we'd just taken). Bit of a queue there too, though again not too horrible (I'd say 10-15 mins).

Business of pistes. Some pistes could get busy, particularly the blue runs back down into resorts late in the day, favoured by many. However, in general it was perfectly manageable. The key was to get out early (ahead of ski schools), and in general stick to the red/black runs which are less crowded than the blue ones. School holidays in my experience have a greater proportion of beginners/early intermediates, since IMO once you become a more committed skier you make more effort to go when it's less busy Very Happy, so avoiding the easier runs gives you a better chance of avoiding the crowds. There will still be more people than outside school holidays, but nowhere near enough to bother me (obviously this is a personal opinion only).

To summarise, queueing was IMO absolutely fine. Expect more people on the pistes, but you can minimise this effect and have a great time nonetheless. Obviously it's more expensive, and not much can be done about that. Also, as I said we were there when Paris wasn't, so that could make a difference also (though you'll be avoiding the UK holidays).

Others will no doubt suggest Austria (or Italy) as an alternative to avoid the French crowds, who largely stick to France. But from my experience skiing a big French resort during hols is still great fun.
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I've been in Val d'Isere and and out of French holidays and it makes enough of a difference for me to avoid holidays where possible. Especially to the runs back to the resort which tend to be busy anyway and to the airport transfers (road traffic). The latter doesn't bother me that much but makes my travel partner snarl and fume. But I wouldn't use the school holidays as a reason not to go at all if that were the choice.
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Quote:

We went to Les Contamines at February half term a couple of years ago, and although there was a bit of a crush in the morning to get the gondola up, once up on the mountain we found the pistes very quiet and generally very small lift queues. We had a great time and would definitely go back.


We've skied Les C at Feb HT the last three years and that has always been our experience. Can be a queue at the gondola if you are setting off around ski school start times otherwise its fine. Of course if a lift stops for some reason the queues can build up quite fast.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Last year was bad bad bad due to lack of snow at lower resorts - so higher resorts were rammed; usually affects higher resorts with out of date lift systems the worst. Places with lots of modern, high speed chairs are not so bad, or at least the queues seem to move along a bit.
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@jedster, Same down in Saint Gervais, bit busier at base gondola & at 10.00 when ski school starts but apart from that the queues were acceptable. Might help that it's not one of the big tour operator destinations.
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 Ski the Net with snowHeads
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I've skied Tignes at 1/2 term for many years, and with the good lift system it's not too bad - as Mad for Chelsea says, go up ahead of ESF and try to avoid the blues. Assuming you're in Val Claret, if the queue for Fresse is long, nip up Bollin and ski round to Tufs, or head for the Aiguille Percee via Tichot instead.
To get back from Vd'I without queueing at Tommeuses, take Borsat Express, go down Fresse (green track) and duck off sharp left onto Isolee. Keep your eyes open for the sign post or you'll miss it! This also avoids Piste "H" which is horrible at the end of the day.
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Done it for the last two years (due to conditions being good at the time) at Les Arc. I was with UCPA so we skipped the line most of the the time (which made it ok to go). Most of the queues were insane on the 2000 side. No way I would want to line up in those lines...pure waste of time. Even some of the old slow lifts were rammed. If it was me I would avoid the school holidays as much as possible. Unfortunately though, they tend to be when the snow is good!
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Even when La Plagne is rammed at half term the pistes and lifts are pretty much deserted between 12.30 and 2.30. But at 2.31 its rammed again! The French do like a long lunch - 78% of visitors in La Plagne are French. Very Happy

However, avoid being in Bellecote at 2.31 Shocked
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Quote:

if I had the option I'd avoid French holidays.

Yep. It's crazy to go to a French resort in French holidays unless you have no choice. The difference is immense (especially in French resorts off the tour operator lists). The weeks before, and after, the French holidays - you just stroll onto a lift. Not queue at all. A 10 - 15 minute wait? No thanks.

I have an apartment in a French French resort and a season lift pass. In the Paris weeks I go XC skiing, or go for a walk, read a book, or go down to Lake Annecy, or go home to the UK.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
I would agree with those that say that Tignes is fine in the French school holidays. I would not agree that you can extrapolate that to the rest of the French ski stations! I've skied in a few others in the holidays and definitely wouldn't do it again. @davidof's explanation is spot on.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
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We skied at half term in the 3 Valleys for four years in a row and yes, the lift queues do get a bit longer and the slopes do get a bit busy where slopes converge but most of the time it's not a real problem. The lift queues are worst when the ski schools start, so avoid that, and if you're someplace large like the 3V the there are always some nice peaceful slopes to be found.

If it's just the French school holidays then it should be OK. My thoughts on the 'business' scale, after 9 years of skiing in France at half term, would be:

1. French holidays, even Paris - OK
2. UK Half term - getting bad but still OK
3. UK Half term and Paris at the same time - Avoid
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
I tend to avoid Feb but Espace Killy isn't too bad in French school holidays. As said above, Thomuesses at the end of the day is the only bottle neck. The Fornet valley, top to bottom, is empty whatever week you go.

La Plagne (especially Bellcote) is a nightmare. You can easily queue for 45 minutes to get up Roche de Mio.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Definitely prefer to avoid French holidays. Although you can seek out quieter areas it is usually difficult to avoid at least a couple of long queues (15+ minutes) a day.

And if anyone in your group wants lessons, watch out for places where they reduce to 2 hours instead of 3 during that period.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
based on your wonderful and helpful responses we have managed to juggle things and will go out to France on 28th jan and return on 4th feb thus avoiding French hols. thanks for all your advice.
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