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|Resort: Val Cenis (village of Lanslevillard particulalry)
Date: 11th - 18th March 2006
Our holiday: A week family holiday. Participants were
Pendodave - intrepid off-piste adict, speaker of dodgy French, trip organiser (for sins).
Wife of Pendodave - skier of gentle blues/greens.
Three children 10 (quite handy skier), 7 (becoming quite handy) 4 (never skied before this).
Trip was all DIY - arranged own Eurostar, metro, TGV, bus and apartment.
Website : They have got one, off the top of my head it's valcenis.fr, but if it isn't it would be easy enough to google. Site is in English as well as French and contains links to skischools, nurseries and allows booking of properties (we used this to book ours).
Basics : It's in the Maurienne valley, about 30 minutes by bus from Modane railway station. We took the TGV from Paris to Modane which takes pretty much bang on 4 hours. Bus links seamlessly in with train departures and we were able to book it online at transavoie.fr (I think). Tickets for both posted to the UK well before the hols. I get trains aboard cheap because I work on the railway, so it was a both a pleasant way to travel and cheaper than flying/driving. Apartments booked via the Valcenis website are all pretty reasonable priced (see below).
Lift system : Not a vast lift season, but worked well enough. A couple of gondolas, a few high speed chairs, ordinary chairs and drags. Few queues of any note except at the bottom of the gondola and the connecting high speed chair in early morning and afternoon, but cleared soon enough. Quite a cheap ticket (<100 euro for adults for 6 days). We also got one child free becuase it was off-peak. 4 year old was also free.
The terrain : I though for a smallish resort (80km) it had a really good mix of pistes. There were excellent green learning pistes above Lanslevillard and particularly Lanslevillard le Haut. Don't think it was as good for learning above Lanslebourg where the runs were a bit steeper. There were then a number of nice runs of various levels of difficulty through the forest and then a good alpine bowl area above the tree line. In summary, for a mixed family group it was pretty well perfect (but see comments about snow). The variety of terrain also gives options for all different types of weather, unlike the above-the-tree-line resorts.
The snow : Brilliant. It had a snowed a lot the week before and we then had 6 solid days of sunshine and low temperatures which meant that the snow stayed good all week. Unusually good for March considering the sunshine. Meant that all impressions of the place were as favourable as they could possibly be !
Village altitude is 1450m, slopes are north facing, but I would imagine that lower down it gets a bit soft/rainy as the season progresses. However, there is quite a bit of skiing above 2000m all the way up to 2800m accessible from than main gondola, so you'd be pretty unlucky if it was all rubbish.
Off-piste : Not bad at all, being not skiied out to any degree and having easily accessible o/p above the trees and a number of good lines through the trees as well. The presence of a meandering (and very pleasant) run through the trees meant that you could strike out pretty certain that as long as you kept going downhill you would hit a piste sooner or later. Not exactly Chamonix, but good fun for a competent off pister who finds the odd couple of hours to himself or gets the chance to do a run here and there while the rest take a rest or do a blue. Bureau de guides runs a guided program through the week which may offer cheap guiding for those not able to group together and hire a guide, but unfortunately family committments prevented me from checking out the service !
The resort : Lanslevillard is a quiet, attractive village off the main road up the valley (which isn't particularly busy anyway). It has the normal range of French shops, a couple of bars and a few restaurants. No nightlife beyond these, but for families it is perfectly adequate. There is also a good public swimming pool and ice rink in the village. There are a couple of apartment complexes on the edge of the village which are either new or being built which are not quite as scenic as the old village, but not quite Les Menuires either.
Food : Standard savoyard fare available. Not that many on piste stops that I saw (but we self catered for lunches).
Accommodation : We paid about ¬£400 for a place 80m2 with two seperate bedrooms, a mezanine with beds and a good sized main room. It also had a balcony and you could walk out out of the front door onto the Lanslevillard front-de-neige. As the place is French, I always think you need to overbook apartment occupancies. They'd sleep people in the bath. I think that apartments generally are quite cheap and easy to book. Not sure that there is much hotel or chalet accomodation in Lanslevillard, but there may be more (including the snowcoach hotel) in Lanslebourg. Not many Brit operators in either.
Costs: Cheap for what you get. Without travel, our accomodation/lift pass/skischool for 3 and ski hire for 5 came to about ¬£1000. Sundry expenses (beers/coffees) were cheap too.
Conclusion: Really good resort for a family trip. Which isn't meant as damning with faint praise. We had a great time and the ski area is good for all abilities providing the better skiers are prepared to exercise a bit of imagination. Ability to speak some French is definitely handy, as even esf desk staff are not all that fluent with English. When booking ski school you really need to investigate the english speaking capabilities of the teachers, as there are not as many anglophones as bigger resorts. Particularly impressed by the esf school in Lanslevillard-le-haut who took my never-skied 4 year old and turned him into Herman Meier on 5x21/2 hours group sessions !
I think that Lanslevillard might well be a better place to stay than Lanslebourg for families as it is more compact, has better access to the easy slopes and has a gondola rather than a long chilly (albeit quick) chair up to the mid mountain. It also has the pool/rink complex. However, there are more shops/restaurants in Lanslebourg.
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