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Domain: Foret Blanche (Risoul/Vars)
Date: March 03 & 05
Our holiday: Cheap late season cheeky second ski holiday - three of us.
Website : www.risoul.com is the tourist office website.
Basics : Itâ€™s in the southern French Alps (nearest bigger / better known resort is probably Serre Chevalier). Risoul is linked with neighbouring Vars over the mountain, offering a reasonable sized area. We have been two different ways - flew to Paris then caught the night train to Montdauphin De Guillestre, and flew to Turin and hired a car for the 3 hour drive across the border, over the mountains and far away. Not a very convenient place to get to by air and the train was by far the better (and cheaper) option.
Lift system : Huge variance in standard of lifts - there is a mixture of fast chairs, very slow and old chairs, and horrendous long drag lifts that can take you by surprise as they are not gentle! Due to a knee problem though I try and avoid drags where possible and itâ€™s possible to get most of the way around the resort using chairs.
The terrain : The skiing is relatively extensive: On the Risoul side there are slopes of varying difficulty (although nothing out of the scope of a confident intermediate), above and below the tree line, which almost all end back at the village, due to the â€˜bowlâ€™ type mountainside. There are lots of easy and very easy pistes for beginners and near beginners to build confidence, but not much on-piste to challenge experts. However, due to the bowl effect itâ€™s a great place to start to explore safely off-piste as itâ€™s almost impossible to get lost. The Vars side is more open and treeless, and most slopes seemed to be of fairly similar pitch and length. There are some great high runs over the Col Sans Nom which are usually quiet but can be terribly cold and exposed.
The snow : Both times there has been plenty of snow, but Risoul gets more than the average amount of sun so the quality can deteriorate by about 2pm. Grooming has on both our visits been poor with pistes and lifts not opening for sometimes days after falls, with no obvious explanation.
Off-piste : As stated above, itâ€™s a good place for those looking to start venturing off-piste , as on the Risoul side at least, you would have to go seriously wrong to end up anywhere other than the village. Skiing is above and below the treeline so some variety.
The resort : Itâ€™s purpose-built, but not as ugly as many other purpose-built resorts. Most buildings are wooden clad and the village meets the piste on a huge sun terrace area. Thereâ€™s not much to do in the village apart from ski, but itâ€™s a great place for beginners and families and kids in particular at very well catered for. However, not much English is spoken so in terms of skischool / kindergarten etc. perhaps that would be a big drawback. I know that some of the tour ops go there though so maybe they would have some options.
Apres is not particularly special, but there are a couple of nice bars open until late and a few nice restaurants selling local specialities.
Food : There are not many restaurants on the mountain - most people return to the village for lunch, where there are about a dozen options all with sunny terraces next to the piste. Menus are pretty much the same at most of them though, but food is tasty and inexpensive. In the evening, the piste-side restaurants are quiet and most people seem to eat in their apartments. On this note, there are several fab pizza takeaways and chicken rotisseries plus shops selling â€˜homemadeâ€™ meals in trays like lasagne etc. So lots of choice for self-caterers who donâ€™t want to eat out every night.
Accommodation : Most accommodation is self-catering although there are a couple of hotels and a couple of tour op run chalets. SC apartments are like many French resorts fairly poky and shoe-box like, but adequate and very reasonably priced.
Costs: This is a low-cost place to go, except that getting there isnâ€™t easy. We have paid around Â£100 each per week for accommodation in an apartment and the train from Paris costs around Â£70 so you can put together a fairly cheap holiday here.
Conclusion: We went back for a second time , because the skiing is pleasant, itâ€™s sunny and cheap. Itâ€™s not in my top 10 list but has its attractions, especially for beginners.
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