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2019 ideas, relatively affordable French Alps?

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
As this season winds down, we're looking ahead to Feb. 2019. We splurged this year, went to Valloire over Xmas and Val Gardena at half term. So...we can't spend that much next year. We're looking for a medium sized, affordable French station (preferably a village) with plenty of easy terrain for my wife, and easy access to that terrain (meaning, skibus or walking distance, would like to avoid driving). Night life is not an issue. Us: Two adults, two kids who will be almost 11 and 13 next February and who went thru ESF system. We don't need a ton of hard terrain, but a few accessible blacks and interesting reds would be great. We plan on driving from Paris in two days, so the southern alps are a possibility.

We've normally done bigger areas (ED, PdS, Serre Che). Valloire was the smallest station, and we liked it, but I wasn't a huge fan of the exposed terrain in mixed weather. So lots of tree runs are a plus. We'd be renting an apartment and cooking in except for pizza/fondue one or two nights.

I've made a longlist, below, loosely ranked. Anything rise to the top, and are there areas I'm missing?

La Clusaz/Grand Bornand (not small, I know, but easy drive)
Risoul/Vars (terrain looks good)
Les Contamines (I like the Beaufortain)
Other Maurienne resorts: We liked Valloire, so this seems like a good area to explore again.
Puy St. Vincent (too small?)
Montgenevre/Via Lattea (maybe too far for a drive?)
St. Veran (looks charming, but too small?)

Thanks in advance. Only thing better than planning a ski trip is the trip itself. Smile
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@Pasigal, a bit mostly above the tree line but Aosta used to be French and e.g. Champoluc you can usually get by in French or English, tick most of the boxes. And better vfm (at least, restaurants are, than France).
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@under a new name, Thanks, have considered Aosta before as the drive shouldn't be too bad, minus the Mont Blanc tunnel. Restaurants not a huge factor, but I do love me some Italian lunches.

We're focusing on France, one reason being that we'd like to start letting our kids ski by themselves a little bit, and as they are bilingual they will feel more comfortable in France.
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Les Contamines sounds perfect. PM @Brock for an apartment which is handy for pizza and lifts. It is on our 'to do again' list (along with everywhere else tbf). Only about 6ish hour drive from Paris. Plenty of tree runs. Some a bit more exposed up to the right side. A bit of 'off piste' (beside piste would be more accurate). Always seems to have decent snow. The only fault I could find was that the apartments near the lifts weren't near a decent supermarket. A five minute drive every couple of days to stock up on beer and pasta wasn't really a massive inconvenience though.
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@Thornyhill, Super, thanks for the endorsement. Definitely on the list. The only thing that gives me pause is a relative lack of easy home runs but perhaps I'm not reading the piste map correctly.
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Another positive for view for Les Contamines.

My TR from 2012

There is a Sherpa near the lift station. Many download in the cable car rather than tackle the run home which is narrow and busy. Although we skied it most days.

Another place to look at is La Norma. My TR from 2012

Both good small to medium size ski areas with some skiing below the tree line - though IMO the bigger resorts over better options if that is a priority.
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@Pasigal, You can get the gondola back down. Can't remember the names now but one of them spits you out about a 3-4 minute walk away from the apartment mentioned above. I don't know the guy. Found him through here. Don't even bother with the home runs. Fair drop in altitude, mucky manky slush and tired legs make it a chore rather than skiing. Think of Signal as your start and end point for skiing.
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^^Mucky manky slush sounds horrific. But yes, I know it well! Thanks for advice about downloading.
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Layne wrote:
Another positive for view for Les Contamines.



Grevettaz is a bit of a pain in the nuts....'scuse the pun Laughing Laughing
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Thornyhill wrote:
Layne wrote:
Another positive for view for Les Contamines.



Grevettaz is a bit of a pain in the nuts....'scuse the pun Laughing Laughing

My daughter still talks of the ride on the skidoo with the hunky pisteur to this day Happy
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@Pasigal, about time, surely, to start them on language #3, non? snowHead
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Pasigal wrote:
We're focusing on France, one reason being that we'd like to start letting our kids ski by themselves a little bit, and as they are bilingual they will feel more comfortable in France.

Interesting. Our kids are a year younger than yours and we were discussing this last week. Although there aren't too many circumstances where it would be necessary.
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I'll throw Saint Gervais into your list, gives you the Les Cintamines option but with trees as well & a slightly larger town.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Pasigal wrote:
@under a new name, Thanks, have considered Aosta before as the drive shouldn't be too bad, minus the Mont Blanc tunnel. Restaurants not a huge factor, but I do love me some Italian lunches.

We're focusing on France, one reason being that we'd like to start letting our kids ski by themselves a little bit, and as they are bilingual they will feel more comfortable in France.


FWIW we are letting our 11 and 13 daughters do this in Flaine . It's all pretty much 95% ski in /out and one big bowl all leading down to the "village" forum.
Very polarised views on it (architecture etc etc) but we find it excellent for family skiing.
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Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Quote:

Think of Signal as your start and end point for skiing.

+1. All the best skiing is above Signal. Some v nice spots to eat lunch.
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 Poster: A snowHead
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mishmash wrote:
Pasigal wrote:
@under a new name, Thanks, have considered Aosta before as the drive shouldn't be too bad, minus the Mont Blanc tunnel. Restaurants not a huge factor, but I do love me some Italian lunches.

We're focusing on France, one reason being that we'd like to start letting our kids ski by themselves a little bit, and as they are bilingual they will feel more comfortable in France.


FWIW we are letting our 11 and 13 daughters do this in Flaine . It's all pretty much 95% ski in /out and one big bowl all leading down to the "village" forum.
Very polarised views on it (architecture etc etc) but we find it excellent for family skiing.


I think it's time to let them loose a little bit. My son is a bit of a scatterbrain but letting him get a little bit lost (so long as he's on piste) might not be a terrible thing.

Hadn't thought of Flaine but we've spent 3 summers in Samoens. I've looked at winter accommodations in Morillon and haven't been blown away, but Samoens is a great town for sure.
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Jonny996 wrote:
I'll throw Saint Gervais into your list, gives you the Les Cintamines option but with trees as well & a slightly larger town.


Ah, thanks. We had briefly consider SG this Xmas but couldn't find affordable housing. Maybe with an earlier start something will come up in the area. Megeve always intimidates me, not for the terrain but for the perceived cost.
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Also, any thoughts on La Clusaz/Grand Bornand vs. Les Contamines? Especially price-wise...thanks.
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I'll throw Les Gets into the mixture because I live here, and I work in an estate agents here Wink I'd say it ticks all your boxes plus there are well contained areas for kids to go skiing by themselves but not have to go too far. My 9 year old went by himself for the first time this year...

We've got great reds, lots of tree runs, very accessible freeride areas and some fun black runs.
It's a village with everything central
If you stay in the La Turche or Les Perrieres area you pretty well never have to queue at the start of the day
Access to the Portes du Soleil
Loads of easy, wide cruisey runs with strategically placed restaurants for a fortifying drink
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@MeMyselfandI, I've thought about LG for a while, have skied it as part of a PdS pass a few years ago and visited in summer. The one time I skied it, was mobbed during the French vacations (which we're sadly linked to).

I'm a little concerned about lack of altitude, but I'll add it to the list again, and add your site to the list Wink . We have French friends with a studio apartment there who rave about it, and I know it's a really easy drive from Paris.
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Pasigal wrote:
I'm a little concerned about lack of altitude

Why would that be an issue in February?
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@Layne, Because it has been in the past in the PdS for us. There were a number of days in February when snow level was 1500m, with rain below that. We stayed in La Chapelle d'Abondance and Chatel, which are (IIRC) at 1000 and 1100 m.

If you're staying high, no problem, but LG is what, 1100 m or so? From 2013-15 we stayed in Les Saisies, at 1650 m and had only 2-3 rainy days.
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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!
@Pasigal, I believe Les Gets sits at an altitide of 1170 and yes the skiing is relatively low altitude but in your OP you said you didn't want exposure and wanted lots of tree skiing. You pays your money and takes your choice. If you go to Les Contamines for example you will have a bit more altitude and probably better snow but there isn't much tree skiing. And February is generally a good bet for colder temps and plenty of snow i.e., peak season. If people didn't go to Les Gets then, they never will.
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@Layne, Yeah, I know. It's a trade-off. But there are some stations that have tree skiing and relatively high altitude.

I want it all, at an affordable price, and with good on-mountain food too!
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I think Montgenevre has everything you are looking for. The two mountain restaurants are good but they could do with more. We had some lunches in Claviere in the same ski area. There are also lots of places in the centre of the village at the foot of the main slopes.


Last edited by Ski the Net with snowHeads on Fri 6-04-18 16:23; edited 1 time in total
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Can I throw in Les Carroz. Easy to reach from Paris (our neighbours from Paris regularly drive down on a Friday night and back on Sunday night), lots of options on s/c accom (Carroz Immobilier lead the pack on rentals), regular ski buses that run all day, lots of tree-lined skiing and also several 'you go down the blue, I'll go down the red/black and we'll meet at the bottom' options. There is a relatively nice blue down to the village, but also the option of downloading in the telecabine.
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You mentioned Vars/Risoul as a possibility; I'm now hankering after going there again next year, as you have spotted it has excellent terrain. Higher than you might think with trees up to well over 2000m, loads of accessible off piste above that. We were there the first week of half term and it was busy but with no big queues other than the gondola first thing. It seems like a small resort but with a big ski area, I'd compare it terrain-wise to La Plagne but much nicer and less busy.

Bit of a drive but probably cheaper than other resorts.

ps. I spent 2 months in Valloire last year, Vars has a much more varied ski area.
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Pasigal wrote:
@Layne, Yeah, I know. It's a trade-off. But there are some stations that have tree skiing and relatively high altitude.

I want it all, at an affordable price, and with good on-mountain food too!

You remind me of my wife Happy

The only places that I have found that have it all (kinda), skiing wise, in France at least, are Paradiski and 3V. Specifically staying in Les Coches and La Tania. When the weather closes in you still have great skiing below the tree line. They are at reasonable altitudes in themselves for most times but if the freezing level is high there is a good altitude skiing within easy reach.

However, bear in mind. If the freezing level is 1500m and there is actually precipitation you are always going to struggle as the tree line is always going to top out at around 2000m. So you will have a fairly thin band of skiing that is actually pleasant where ever you are. The last day we were in La Tania at Christmas it was snowing but temps were warmish. The snow was only good above the treeline. Below just got heavier and wetter. So it was a choice of accept the wind and poor viz to try and ski the better snow or drop down the runs below the treeline, with better viz but hard to ski snow. We ski at the bookends of the season so often have to deal with these issues but I have always assumed February was more consistent.

Unfortunately nature has dealt us a cruel blow by not enabling trees to survive at high enough altitudes!

Les Gets I suspect will be cheaper accom and lift pass wise but yes will be a bit low if the temps aren't good and lack of bit altitude if the weather is clear.

Let me know when you find that perfect place Happy
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@snowymum, @sj1608, @BoardieK, So much good advice, thanks to all of you!

Good to hear about Vars.

I hadn't really thought about the Grand Massif resorts, not for any real reason but just a feeling that we wanted to avoid that area. I love the Giffre Valley but frankly, not the Cluses area. It doesn't quite have that feel of getting away from it all probably because it's so close to the "flatlands." (Though, as you say, it's probably the closest "real" ski station to Paris by car.)

I think it's these "Tier 2" stations that are the hardest to decide on. You have to compromise on something, whereas with the big interconnected ski circuses there's something for everyone.
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@Layne, If I find that perfect place, I ain't tellin' nobody!

Maybe ski stations need to plant artificial trees up high. My aging eyes seem to struggle more with contrast every year.
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@Pasigal, you'd never need to know that Cluses existed if you were in Les Carroz! We use Sallanches as our local town and ignore Cluses. Happy
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Quote:

@Pasigal, You can get the gondola back down. Can't remember the names now but one of them spits you out about a 3-4 minute walk away from the apartment mentioned above. I don't know the guy. Found him through here. Don't even bother with the home runs. Fair drop in altitude, mucky manky slush and tired legs make it a chore rather than skiing. Think of Signal as your start and end point for skiing.


Personally I almost always enjoy the run down to resort. I've only ever caught the bubble down a handful of times in >100 ski days and that was when there was no snow and only from Etape rather than Signal! Of course at the end of the day at a busy time of year it will be fairly crowded below Etape and it is relatively narrow so I do appreciate why not everyone is a fan.

On the original question - I haven't been but I hear great things about Sainte Foy
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if you want to save some money, look outside the French Alps IMHO.
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@kitenski, Don't need to go bare bones, but we do live in Paris and enjoy the ski culture here. Our kids are going thru the ESF system and we'd like them to finish. Just looking for something less expensive than the big interconnected stations.
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@Pasigal, I know you've said smaller, but Serre Chevalier ticks a lot of your boxes.
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@Hells Bells, Loved Serre Che, especially Monetier-les-Bains, where you are. I'm envious! It's a possibility, but the Monetier section might be a little hard for my wife -- she's really still on greens and gentle blues. She wouldn't be able to make the Cuccumelle (sp?) link to the rest of the area, I'm pretty sure.
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We've been to both Vars and Montgenevre. Both are really good for family trips though we chose them specifically to be too far south to be popular with the Parisian hordes, so potentially too far to drive. Vars was certainly noticeably cheaper than the big French resorts and is awash with snowparks.

We let the kids (then 11 and 10) loose in Vars for the first time one afternoon and they were fine. It was off a lift that serves a snowpark one way and some more cruisy stuff the other, so we regularly regrouped at the bottom of the lift. By the end of this year's foray to Montgenevre (15 and 14) they pretty much abandoned us other than to get fed! FWIW I think common sense and natural navigation ability are more important than language skills. My eldest doesn't speak French but has a natural ability to know where she is on the piste map. My youngest has the navigational skills of a housebrick but has just enough common sense to stick with her sister when they are "unleashed".
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@The Flying Snowplough, thanks, definitely seriously considering Vars. We'll do the drive in two days so it's within reach of Paris.
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@Pasigal, if this kind of thing is of interest, both Vars and Montgenevre have sizeable natural half-pipes. Our kids love them, and both parents liked the proper pistes than run alongside so there's no necessity to go into the confounded things.
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kitenski wrote:
if you want to save some money, look outside the French Alps IMHO.


From Paris I'd drive down to Super Besse or Le Lioran, snow permitting but there are very cheap places in the French Alps too.
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