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Thonon (Geneva) - a week exploring the smaller resorts nearby

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
I'm starting to plan next year's holiday (mid- to late-January 2019). Flight times / costs probably mean we'll be flying into Geneva. One of the more unusual options would be to stay in one of the lakeside resorts on the south side of Lake Geneva (probably Thonon) and drive to a different ski area each day - with a focus on smaller ski areas with cheaper lift passes.

With good flight times we'd probably be able to get 7 or 8 days skiing. Ski areas would probably be something like:
- Thollon
- Bernex
- Hirmentaz / Haberes
- Les Brasses
- Praz de Lys / Sommand
- St Jean d'Aulps
- Abondance

Lift passes would be significantly cheaper (<£157p/p for 7 days, one at each of the above areas, compared to £256 for a 7 day Portes du Soleil pass, for example), and accommodation might be cheaper down by the lake too (low season).

Questions are:
1. does this sound like a good / terrible idea? Is the skiing any good?
2. the ski areas are mostly very low - is snow generally reliable in mid- to late-January?
3. are there any winter road / pass closures in the area which would make access from Thonon to any of the above areas difficult?
4. any other advice?

Just an option at the moment and by no means certain, but thought I'd sound it out.


Last edited by Poster: A snowHead on Wed 11-04-18 11:58; edited 2 times in total
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@denfinella, we live in Les Gets most of the winter, we are retired so plenty of time, and we ski Praz de Lys/Sommand quite a few times during the winter, we tend to buy a season pass there in addition to PDS just for ease. The only problem this year has been the road up to Praz being closed quite a bit or only accessible at certain times due to road repairs. Very quiet there and we like it.
We also go to St Jean d’Aulps probably once a week, that is on our PDS pass but I believe there is one day a week where there are reduced prices so look out for that.
We spent a week in Chapelle d’Abondance at the end of January and really enjoyed it, very quiet again. And went to Abondance for a couple of hours on our way back to Les Gets.
Haven’t been to the other resorts you mention.
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Les Brasses is very busy at the week-end as all the Geneva people who don't go up to Flaine etc go there. Nice ski area but small, some interesting on piste restaurants.
Haberes Poches is alright - long thing ski area along a ridge with views of the lake, bit windy at times
Sommand is a nice ski area
Hirmentaz - small

They are all a bit low so conditions can be variable but should be ok by mid January.

Not sure I'd stay in Thonon, it is a bit like Mogadishu by Sea.
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At that time of year you'll be fine snow-wise.
The St Jean - Rock of Hell circuit it much improved since they put in the new lift.
Thollon and Bernex are great little resorts with fantastic views across the lake.
If you can add La Chapelle, then do not forget Cret Beni, and also Torgon has been pretty much cut-off from the PdS since the lift was removed, so now you have to get a navette, but it's easy enough from La Panthiaz.
@davidof, a bit harsh on Thonon ( The veterans Rugby club is a very friendly place), but the town is very much the ugly ginger brother of neighbouring Evian.
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Thanks all. Sounds fairly encouraging then. I suppose if the snow was poor we could drive to somewhere like Morzine (for Avoriaz) or Chatel instead.

@Pamski, yes, quite a few of the resorts seem to have reduced prices on particular days. Not factored into my price comparison above, so could be even cheaper!

@davidof, @WindOfChange, I've stayed in Evian (in summer) before and assumed that Thonon would be similar. But perhaps not Laughing

Which lift was removed at Torgon, and why? If it's one of the lifts used to access the PdS that must be a big problem for business owners etc.?

We're also looking at either St-Gervais (for Megeve & Les Contamines) and La Clusaz (for La Clusaz & Le Grand Bornand) plus a few other options. But the Thonon (or similar) plan would probably be the cheapest one.

Do you think the skiing at each of the areas is interesting enough for what might be our only skiing holiday next season?
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@denfinella, Its the Grand Places and La Jorette lifts ( I have drawn red lines showing where they were ).
Now you can see just a drag lift on the face, and a navette link to the PdS:




TBF the resort was financially crippled before this.

The skiing would certainly be varied, but you would need to be leaving Thonon / Evian around 8AM each day.
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@denfinella, I don't have experience of many of the places you mention but if conditions are good, it sounds like a great 'alternative' ski trip... several years back, I visited St Jean d'Aulps for the day and had great fun skiing around and doing the circuit... Was amazingly quiet and the full circuit was really lovely. Think you'd be bored after the day there though...

Me personally, I don't really like St Gervais as a place to stay... You just don't get that 'alpine feel' there... Biased, but I'd stay up at Les Contamines. If you cant be bothered to drive down to St Gervais to ski that part, you can halve the4 distance and head up to St Nicolas de Veroce and head into the EMB from there...

Praz de Lys / Sommand is always somewhere I'd love to try... Good luck dude
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@denfinella, I've stayed in Thonon in summer before (and also did train-to-bus transfer there as part of an epic journey for skiing in Chatel). There is some half-decent hotel accomodation to be had, if you don't mind random Logis, but the town is pretty run down. Definitely the poor relation to Evian, although the waterfront is okay.
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AlpineAddict wrote:


Praz de Lys / Sommand is always somewhere I'd love to try... Good luck dude


Praz de Lys is the "proper" ski town laid out on a plateau which is also good for dog sledding and cross country. Sommand is more the "wild east" part of Dodge up a long, remote dead end, it is where the day trippers go as access is easier from Geneva. There is a kind of "council estate" as you pull into the area on the right but it is pretty much hidden then the trail head with a big car park and some interesting on piste restaurants. It is a great beginners area and generally well run with good pisting. Very pretty spot and you can see le Mont Blanc.

Quote:
I've stayed in Evian (in summer) before and assumed that Thonon would be similar. But perhaps not


If you want to score some drugs it is a good plan. If you check on Google you will see that it is listed as level 4 on dangerous French towns. Avoid Collonges Sainte-Hélène and Chatelard but it is just petty criminality, stabbings, drive by shootings and such like, nothing much for France really.
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Is Thonon really that bad? It didn't seem so when I was there a few weeks ago. After all, a town with Au Vieux Campeur and a new Decathlon can't be all bad?
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@denfinella, I would try and find accommodation in Abondance or Chapelle D'Abondance and this is central to the resorts listed but will also give more options if the snow is poor, ie Chatel. As others have said Thonon is a bit industrial unless by the lake and Evian wont give easy access the the resorts listed. Hirmentaz / Haberes and Les Brasses will be a bit of a slog and probably not worth the effort. Accommodation in Thollon and Bernex is an option albeit with longer drives but you can certainly keep yourself occupied for a week in these two resorts. Also worth remembering that these smaller resorts still have a high proportion of drag lifts and what you are considering is what the populace of Thonon and Evian also do at the weekends if its sunny.
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Decathlon is in Publier.

Good things in Thonon - The port, the beaches, the veterans rugby club bar, Thonon Black Panthers American football team ( European Champions for the last 2 years), Troc de l'ile, Lanches, Bar Back, the private catholic schools the ferry to Lausanne and Amazon Locker.
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@Chamcham, Thonon is typical of any French town.
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@WindOfChange, not good for Torgon! Leaving our apartment at 8am wouldn't be a problem - we're not long back from Italy where some of the lifts opened for 8am!

@AlpineAddict, thanks, yeah, it depends on conditions really. Though a lot of the other places we're looking at aren't much higher. To be honest, if the snow reliability isn't good in mid- to late January, will it ever be?

@Ingemar_Skidmark, @Chamcham, @davidof, obviously we don't want to stay in a dump, but somewhere kind of average is OK. After all, we won't be spending a lot of time there when you take into account driving back after the lifts close, dinner (mostly in the apartment) etc. Though stabbings and drive by shootings... Shocked

@BergenBergen, I'm not convinced Abondance is very well placed for my list - too far east. Though I take your point about being close to Chatel etc. Somewhere like Onnion / Megevette might be better placed though? Not for the PdS, but with easy access to the Grand Massif as a backup...
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Yvoire is a nice spot, maybe look at staying there? About 15 mins from thonon
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 Poster: A snowHead
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@denfinella, In that region, if the snow is poor, 9/10 times Les Contamines is where you want to be... and don't forget the vast majority of the terrain is above 1800mtrs Very Happy Very Happy
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@hawkwind, Yvoire is indeed a nice spot, but is dead in the Winter.
Everything is closed until Easter.
I get the ferry from there across to Nyon every day from Sept -> Mid April, and even now only 20% of places are open.
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@hawkwind, Yvoire looks interesting, and good road access to Praz de Lys etc. around the south/west side of the mountains. Thanks - will consider.

@AlpineAddict, sorry, I was referring to your first paragraph but realise I didn't make that clear! Les Contamines would be reliable for snow for sure, but if in the Evasion Mont Blanc region I'd probably rather be at the foot of one of the wooded areas, so we wouldn't need to drive on a snowy day. St-Gervais just seems central for the whole area, even if it doesn't have an alpine feel.

@WindOfChange, thanks for the warning.

Update: flights and car hire now booked (already!), and managed to get a pretty good price on both. Accommodation next, and I think we'll go for wherever we find a good deal first, whether that's Thonon, St-Gervais, Les Contamines... or somewhere completely different!
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I like Thonon. The port area is lovely, there is a Michelin starred restaurant. My kids went to school there. Never had any problems and since they left the crime rate has come right down Shocked
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