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|Resort Le Grand Bornand ( Le Chinaillon)
Domaine Aravis - La Clusaz/Le Grand Bornand
Dates 25th Feb - 3rd March 07
A motley collection of a dozen mixed ability skiers with 3 kids thrown into the pot.
Basics 45 mins - 1hr or so from Geneva airport or a dead easy drive from the channel ports. Some of the party flew and we, living in Kent, drove. Stopped overnight in Annecy and had dinner in the Brasserie hotel du ville - flashy neon outside lighting just off the lake, delicious food (a mean creme brulee!) and all the staff dressed up in a venetian theme. I know it doesn't sound very tasteful but it was - honest! You have the option either to take the Annecy route and then through Thones or down the A40 to Bonneville and up the D12. The latter is the more dramatic and scenic route - but the former is without question less perilous on the nerves!
When you get there you have around 90km of local pistes from 1300 - 2100 and a further 110km if you venture over to La Clusaz
Lift sytem A mix of chairs and drags with a gondola down to Le Grand Bornand. Nothing stood out as being either particularly bad or good. There were however virtually no queues anywhere....and this was the first week of the Northern French school hols.
The Terrain A good combination of long, short, treelined, narrow, wide. Some 'interesting' piste gradings - a lot of the greens are bluish and a lot of the blues are decidedly purple. Reds generally though were red or even bluish. Although our absolute beginners more than survived I'd pitch the terrain at 2nd weeker plus to get the most out of it - It suffers from pistes that require some very big leaps in progression and it's not easy for a beginner to get from one side of the resort to the other. La Douche a definite red (though marked as blue) over the other side of the mountain was good fun and had a cracking chocolate stop at the end. Never made it over to La Clusaz ( well not strictly true, a couple did but they went Saturday morning on the bus and hit the tail end of a 3km changeover day tailback, so looked at it rather than skied it!) - Chinaillon had plenty to keep us entertained.
The snow Well, being 2007 and having had intermittent rain and +8 temperatures all week, it could have been better. That said there was snow right down to the village which is more than can be said for Le Grand Bornand itself. Porridge, wallpaper paste and treacle were some of our favourite similes but nonetheless 99% open all week and perfectly skiable.
Off piste With avalanche risks of 4 most of the week and 5 on 2 days not even the normally crazy amongst the party were tempted to even go looking....and while it's not my bag I'm not sure there would have been much to find in the current conditions!
The resort Without question the prettiest, friendliest least busy little resort that I've ever had the pleasure to visit. It's described as a 'ski station' but is a proper little village with soul and a big heart. Enough bars and small restaurants - The Green Monkey is extra friendly and does a great tarte a la tartiflette if you want the taste but can't manage the whole fat and calorie laden affair. Probably not enough for the die hard party animals but if relaxed apres in really beautiful chocolate box, twinkly lit surroundings staffed by people that really seem to want you there is your thing you'll love it here. A mention here for reves d'hiver ski hire at the bottom of chatelet lift. Prompt and professional, no argument about the shoulder/chin height skis for beginners, free ski storage, easy exchange and when we came to pay asked us how many days we'd skied and only charged for that number. ( so 1 of the party that had the skis for 7 days only paid for 4)
The food Well I self catered for the 12 of us so of course the food was flipping marvellous! For lunchtime, in addition to the Green Monkey, The Solaret ( Starski hangout) just above the main chatelet chair deserves a mention - both salade paysanne and tartiflette were very good and the restaurant at the bottom of the Terre rouge was nice. I'd give Le Neve (?) a miss ( bottom of violettes) cold, the only miserable resort worker we met and the food was poor.
Accommodation We stayed in Les Refuges des Outalays apartments via www.grandbornand.com. Best self catering accommodation I've stayed in by a country mile with a terrifically practical and well equipped kitchen down to food mixers the lot! The ski in ski out description stretches the definition a little but not by much. Only downside was it was a little remote from the village which was a pain as the last bus was 7pm. On a similar theme, if you missed the last lift the ski bus only takes you to the bottom of what is a not insignificant hill kitted out in the whole ski regalia with your planks over your shoulder. All perfectly work aroundable though.
Costs Flights, transfers, accom, ski school, local pass, ski hire, mainy self catered food around ¬£500 - ¬£550 per person
Conclusion I really loved it here. Absolute beginners may find it a bit challenging and probably not the place for high mileage party animals but if pretty, friendly and traditionally French does it for you I'd recommend sticking it on your list of places to try
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