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A snowHead
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Location: snowHeadLand
Resort - Nice Airport: Well not really, more the resorts most closely accessible from there.
Auron,Greolieres, Isola 2000, and Valberg

Country - France: Alpes Maritime, but get lost and you’ll be in Italy!

No Domaine: although Valberg- Beuil is one location and Auron and Isola do liftpass ‘swaps’

Author: Me (Agenterre) :.

When ? - 2005-2007: Coincides with my skiing ‘life’ but have known all of these places longer ‘cos I live here . I haven’t covered ‘Audibergue’ or 'La Colmiane' although they're closer to me, slightly different area.
How Often? - Various weekends/days etc : Have actually stayed in all but Greolieres but never done any resort for longer than a couple of days at a time
A few links for you :
Greolieres
Valberg
Auron and Isola2000
If you want to know what it’s like to ski there snowHead Davidof has a video Here on his own site, Pistehors, skiing Valberg. You may wish to read his accounts there as well. A regular bus service to all the ski resorts is available from Nice airport. Timetables are Here
Getting There : Unless you live on the Cote d’Azur, the best way to get to these resorts is by air. The drive from the UK is a long one … think another 5 hrs to resorts after Lyon. Nice airport is well served by BA, Easyjet and BMI from lots of UK airports --- the really adventurous might like to take the train from UK – but you will have to change station in Paris.
From Nice Airport you can either hire a car ( Easyjet terminal slightly easier than BA or BMI) or, if you are staying in just one of the resorts, then there is an excellent ski-bus from the airport directly to 3 of the stations. It doesn’t take much longer than driving yourself.
Driving to all the resorts is relatively easy. The first 50 km is on excellent dual carriageway up the Var valley and all roads are subject of contra-flows during busy periods. Valberg ( 75km) has a very narrow , windy last 20km . Auron and Isola re both about 90km and ‘around the corner’ from one another ..again the last 20km or so are rather difficult with loads of hairpins.
Lift systems and Terrain :
Isola 2000 Isola is the highest of the resorts. Its name is however a little misleading as it is only the resort that is at 2000m. The rest of the pistes are between 1650-2650. It claims 140km of pistes, the majority of which are Blue and Red graded, so very beginner/intermediate , spread over 5 discrete areas. The domaine is primarily served by gondolas and chair lifts , most of which are quite modern. Isola is possibly the most snow – sure of the resorts and it does have a view of the Med from the Cime de Sisteron, my favourite slopes are all in this area . Isola’s greatest strength is that it is superbly equipped for 1-3 week beginners. It is ski in-ski out directly onto a number of excellent nursery slopes and gradual ‘improver’ slopes. It is howver practically treeless so not a place to be when winds are high
Auron SSShhhh, you’ve never heard of it. Auron is the other side of the valley ( around the corner as it were ) from Isola but nowhere near as well known to UK audiences. The domaine can be accessed from St Etienne de Tinee ( 1110m?) by gondola but you can drive up to the resort itself (1600-2450m). The same company as Isola manages Auron so I understand but is a similar size but a tad more demanding. The 135 km claimed is really focused on 4 areas all served by decent chairs. The pistes are more demanding than its neighbour – although it has a similar number of pistes. ‘Locals’ go here out of choice. My favourite pistes are Rionet, Clavelet and Melezes ( sp of all !! )
Valberg Valberg and Beuil are one and the same resort in effect. Think VDI and Tignes and divide by 5 ! The resort is really 6 discrete areas which are joined at the ‘uplifts’ … it claims 95km spread over 52 pistes of which nearly 1/2 are ‘red’ or ‘black’ but don’t let that deceive you, it really is a beginner/intermediate resort! Valberg now has modern chair lifts throughout the domaine and ‘claims’ 90% artificial snow coverage. You might ask why, but for some strange reason the area is very ‘cold’ but doesn’t seem to get quite as much natural snow as its neighbours. The downside of the resort is that the only ‘links’ are back down in the valley , so the links get quite crowded and queues can form.
Greolieres This resort is really only of interest if you live here or have a spare day or two ( if you happen to be golfing here for instance !) The resort has stunning views ( of the Bay of Cannes) and doing that is very special ( compared to the limited view from Isola) . It is however a very small resort ---- it has about 30 km and is anything but snow-sure. It had a brilliant year in 2006 but this year was awful… I only went once and it was awful. Runs are spread over 3 areas and the uplifts are ‘old-ish’ with only 3 chairs. However skiing the bowl – which never seems to be pisted is great fun ! Runs are ‘Blue-ish’ by any ‘standard’ with ‘blacks’ being mogul-hell!
The snow : I have to generalize here. First of all , you are very close to the Med; so it has to be said that you are likely to be skiing in the sunshine whatever is under-foot ! Isola is reputed to be the most snow-sure of the resorts … I’m not sure. Although Auron is a bit lower , in my limited experience it enjoys equal or better conditions.
The strange thing is that we do seem to get snow both ‘earlier’ and ‘later’ than further North … no, it doesn’t make sense to me ! However at the end of the day , the season seems very similar to the rest of the ‘Alps’. Greolieres being lower is the exception. When it’s good it’s fun; but last year you really needed a MTB , just – in- case!
Off-piste : I don’t do off-piste other than playing at the edge of pistes. Isola and Auron have opportunity but Valberg seems, to the uninitiated, to offer more. ( Diarmuid and Davidof know a lot more than I)
If you want to heli-ski then it can be arranged ex- Nice airport. No need to go near a resort at all !
The Resorts :
Isola Isola200 was conceived by a Brit and the resort reflects our culture of the 60s/70s – ie it is a concrete monstrosity with the charm of Jack-the-Ripper. It is built as an inter-connected ‘snake’ meandering down the valley albeit ski-in ski-out. Perhaps I’m a little unfair as over the last 5 years the resort has tried to go up-market with chalet and apartment accommodation – failed!
Auron Auron 1650 is also purpose-built ( but much nicer!) , it’s saving grace for me is that is connected via-Gondola to St Etienne- de – Tinee , a real Provencal alpine village. I love the place ---
Valberg Breuil is a real ‘old’ village and again very Provencal. Valberg was developed sometime later around one ‘main street’ but is still a real village that is occupied year around. A bit like L2A without the neon and ‘boom-boom’. A very small village but enough stuff going on.
Greolieres The ‘resort’ is no more than a few apartment blocks and the village is some 12 km away …… if the doctor says you need peace and quiet then a great place to stay … otherwise stay closer to civilization . It isn’t far away and some of the most beautiful hilltop villages are less than 1/2 hr away !
Food : Oh dear … my views are somewhat biased as I ‘expect’ some of the great food that you get during the winter months near the coast. Alas our ‘winter resorts’ serve up the same stuff you get in the winter further North and the quality we get July / August! So, if you like the ‘-lette(s)’ and Steak frites you’ll love it! Isola has a couple of ‘mountain’ restaurants but nothing to write home about. It does however have a couple of ‘on slope’ restaurants that are very good near the monstrosity that is the ‘village’ . Good for both lunch and dinner , but prices are mid-Summer. Isola is the most expensive of these resorts.
Auron has the benefit of St Etienne–de-Tinee, that means that you can eat more cheaply (and better!) … don’t expect Michelin !
Valberg has no mountain restaurants to speak of apart from a small café. However as all slopes lead home then they’re a number of restaurants at the foot of the pistes. Prices are excellent (i.e. cheap). Greolieres has , afaik, just one poxy café/restaurant. Over-priced ‘Hot Dogs and Frites’ …. Take a sandwich and eat elsewhere at the end of the day!
Accommodation : Not an expert here obviously but a few comments on where I have stayed, this limited to hotels
Isola Apartments which are ski-in / ski-out predominate the bed-stock. However I have stayed in The Diva and the Druos. The former is very nice and does an excellent 1/2 board negotiated) rate. The latter is part of the main apartment complex. Ski-in and out but very ordinary
Auron Never stayed in the resort but several B and Bs in St Etienne are great.
Valberg There are several hotels here. Chalet Suisse is good – although its ( unconnected) bar is a dump. Our favourite is ‘Cle des Champs’ --- very cheap and cheerful and excellent is you like ‘local places for local folks’ … also at the bottom of a couple of pistes so best place for lunch imho.
Greolieres Stay elsewhere and drive up there ... it's hardly difficult!
Costs: Isola is as expensive as any other mainstream alpine resort. Auron’s ‘costs’ are 80% of that and Valberg 20% cheaper gain ime. Greolieres is cheap … but so what , it’s small and somewhere different occasionally.
Conclusion: Oh Heck ! I suppose I have to draw comparatives that others can relate to! Firstly , you will undoubtedly see the sun if you’re here. Secondly , flying to Nice in the winter is invariably cheaper than GVA for the independent traveller , coupled to easy bus/car transfers hen it has a few things goinf for it.
Isola – most snowsure skiing but the place is a dump. I personally don’t like the way they make ‘2’ pistes by putting a rope down the centre of 1 slope. If you like Avoriaz you make like it here --- maybe. Excellent for weeks 1-3 skiers. Ski school has a good reputation ( so I’m told!)
Auron A tad more demanding , better accommodation , cheaper …. Enough said.
Valberg My favourite because it’s different! It’s pisteing is ‘occasional’ ; it’s anything but snowsure ; you ‘may’ be the only Brit you hear ( but everyone speaks English in the SoF!) ; it’s a bit quirky ; no mountain restaurants but …. I like it !
Greolieres You won’t go there unless you know about it ‘cos you live there , or are touring or just want to put another ‘notch’ on your skis … or take a photo of the Iles des Lerins and the bay of La Napoule !

Would I ‘choose’ to come here ? I really don’t know … mid-week and less than 7 days is a real option as the resorts are only ever busy during ski holidays and weekends … the flights are invariably ‘cheap’ …. and the hotel accommodation is available. Given the ‘vagaries’ of the snow I wouldn’t book ‘months’ ahead but I would say that about anywhere! I’m just lucky … it’s easy for me I can look out of the round or square window and go when I like !



Feedback Thread on 'Alpes Maritime' Resorts


Last edited by A snowHead on Sun 13-01-08 19:25; edited 1 time in total
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