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Domain: Milky Way
Date: 9th-16th February 2008
Our holiday: We were a mixed ability, broad age range (16-60) group of 8 - 3 skiers and 5 boarders. We wanted a resort with something for everyone. We went semi DIY, booking flights independently and the rest with a small company called Ski Etoile.
Website : http://www.montgenevre.com/accueil.html?&L=?&L=4
Basics : Montgenevre is the only French part of the Milky Way ski area. Itās 2 miles from the Italian boarder and links directly with Claviere and from there on to Sansicario, Sauze DāOulx and Sestriere. We flew from Stansted to Turin with Ryanair. Ski Etoile arranged a minibus transfer for the group and the journey time was approx 1 Ā½ hours.
Lift system : On the north facing side there were 5 button drag lifts on the lower slopes, which some of the boarders in our group didnāt like, but these could be avoided by taking the Chalmettes gondola or the Prarial 4 man chair lift. The latter was the most convenient and centrally located and therefore busy, particularly at the start of ski lessons. The Prarial linked to 2 other fast chair lifts ā Le Brousset and Tremplin. In Les Gondrans bowl there were 2 further 4 man chair lifts. The faster of the 2, Les Gondrans, was out of action for 3 days, but by Tues a new motor had been helicoptered in. Also in the bowl there were a further 4 drag lifts which made some runs inaccessible to a couple of the boarders in our group who refused to use them!
The south facing side, Le Chalvet, was reached by a gondola which looked quite old. At the top there were two 2 man chairs (one belching out smoke one day!) and 4 drags.
Lifts in Claviere were modern and all chairs.
I was less impressed with lifts in Cesana, Sauze DāOulx and Sestriere. Some investment in new, faster lifts wouldnāt go amiss.
We experienced very little queuing, in fact Montgenevre and Claviere were so quiet it was hard to believe it was half term. The first weekend was quite busy (mostly Italian day trippers/weekenders) and the last Friday was becoming busy, but the rest of the week there were no queues to speak of.
The terrain : The local ski area is split between north and south facing slopes. The north facing area is the more extensive. A mixture of tree lined runs and runs above the tree line up in Les Gondrans bowl. A good mixture of easy greens, blues, reds (some more challenging than others) and blacks (again some more difficult than others). The link over to Claviere via Eagleās rock involved either a difficult red or a difficult black leading to a red. I was told that this black was one of the only true blacks in the area. On the first occasion I took the red ā it started as a narrow track which was patchy/rocky in places and led on to moguls. On the second occasion I was persuaded to take the black. I have never been more scared on a pair of skis, but I made it down with only one fall but needless to say very little style!
The link back from Claviere from the Col Boeuf chair involves a fairly flat section at the end, which wasnāt popular with some boarders (theyāre never happy are they?)
The piste from Eagleās rock back in to Montgenevre, is a lovely long red with fantastic views from the top.
The south facing slopes in Montgenevre are mostly above the tree line, so quite exposed and the area is less extensive. The gondola is a little way out of the centre of the village, so a walk carrying skis is required. Iām told there is a navette which connects the 2 areas but I didnāt see it! For these reasons the area is a lot quieter.
The snow : The snow conditions were very good. It had last snowed in Montgenevre on 4th Feb and this was topped up every night by snow cannons. We had blue skies and sunshine every day. By the end of the week some pistes were hard packed and would have benefited from new snow. We skied the Milky Way circuit on Thurs and can confirm that Montgenevre and Claviere had by far the best snow conditions of all the resorts. Cesana and lower parts of Sansicario were patchy with some pistes closed. Sestriere was quite icy and in higher parts there was a lot of bare ground, presumably where the snow had been blown away.
Off-piste : Cannot comment.
The resort : Apparently the first ever ski resort in France. Small but not too small. Very French. We had 4 fluent French speakers in our group and Iām not sure how well we would have managed without them. There were very few English people around as not many of the large tour operators go there, thankfully! Lots of Italians in town, particularly at the weekend, as itās only 2 miles from the border.
Plently of ski hire shops. Plenty of cafes and restaurants, mainly along the main street facing the main ski area. 2 supermarkets, pharmacy, newspaper shops, bakery, butcher etc. An outdoor skating rink. No swimming pool.
Food : I was surprised at how few mountain restaurants there were. There was just one in Les Gondrans bowl ā canāt comment on the food but the hot chocolate and the vin chaud were good. Most people seemed to ski down to the village for lunch. Le Graal was one of the most popular places at lunchtime. This has free wi-fi also.
Again just one restaurant in Le Chalvet area (watch out for the hole in the ground loos!)
There were 3 mountain restaurants that I saw in the Claviere ski area. We had lunch at La Coche. They serve typical Italian food- I had the minestrone soup which was lovely.
Le Transalpin- Ski Etoile offered a sort of half board option here which we pre-booked for two evenings. We ate a 3 course meal with wine and coffee for Ā£12 per head. The food was good, but not fantastic, but then what would you expect for Ā£12?
Three of us ate here again on Weds as many other restaurants in the village were fully booked or too expensive for us. The menu was standard French fare ā steaks, tartiflette, raclette etc. On this occasion we paid around 20Euros each for 1 course and wine.
Le Graal ā offers food at lunchtimes only. Again standard fare; burgers, omelettes, tartiflette, croque monsieur etc. Typical cost for 1 course and wine approx 12-15Euros.
Le Capitaine ā authentic Italian pizzas. Very busy restaurant ā we couldnāt get in on the Weds so booked for Fri. One of the group said āthis is possibly the best pizza I have ever hadā. Very reasonable prices too ā the average pizza was 7-8Euros. We paid 25Euros per head for pizzas all round, salad, dessert and wine.
One evening we had take-away pizza (before we found le Capitaine). I canāt remember the name of the restaurant they came from but they werenāt the best ā they were quite odd e.g. Bolognese on a pizza, potatoes on a pizza! They were also more expensive than La Capitaine.
One night we bought freshly roasted hot chickens from the butcher. We ate these with salad and bread at the apartment and they were delicious. They were approx 13Euros each and for 8 of us worked out at less then 4 Euros a head ā a bargain!
Finally, on Thurs we ate raclette in the apartment ā the charcuterie (unfortunately I canāt remember the name but it was next door to the Free Ride ski hire shop, opposite the main ski pass & ski school offices) offered a fantastic service. For 7.50Euros per person we got hire of 2 raclette grills and loads of cheeses and meats to grill. With salad and potatoes prepared ourselves the meal worked out at about 10Euros each.
Accommodation : Ski Etoile organised a 3 bed apartment (top floor of a chalet) and a Studio flat for us. 5 stayed in the apartment. It was quite small but perfectly formed, with a fantastic view of the pistes, it even had a dishwasher and a washing machine, but no kettle. 3 (including myself) stayed in the Studio, which was tiny but adequate for us. There was a bunk room, a double in a side room (no door) and a sofa bed in the living area/kitchen. Given the lack of space on the nights we ate in we did so up at the apartment. Location of both couldnāt be faulted though ā 2-3 mins walk from the lifts and the ski hire shop where we stored our gear courtesy of Ski Etoile. Leaving equipment overnight in lockers was great - no walking up hills in ski boots or carrying skis.
Costs: Good value for Feb half term. 7 of us drove from Cheshire to Stansted (lack of flights from North West), 1 came from London. Uodate Oct08 - Ryanair now fly to Turin from Manchester and East Midlands.
Yew Tree Inn B&B for 7 near Stansted, incl 8 days parking for 2 cars - Ā£24 each
Ryanair flights Stansted-Turin Ā£215 each
Ski Etoile āpackageā, incl private transfers, accommodation & 2 evening meals- Ā£264 each
Other costs ā Mont de Lune lift pass 149Euros, equipment hire (skis or board & boots) approx 105Euros.
Conclusion: A lovely resort with terrain for everyone. John Adamson of Ski Etoile was a great host ā he met us on arrival, organised lift passes and equipment hire, checked in with us most days to ensure everything was OK, provided free ski guiding on 3 days, including a full day skiing round the Milky Way circuit and saw us off at 7am for our return to the airport. I found the ski guiding invaluable ā I went to places I would not have ventured on my own, I skied with people outside the group I travelled with and I was challenged to keep up with better skiers and to try black runs as early as my second day (I had only previously done one black), subsequently improving my own ability. I would definitely go back as there is plenty of terrain the ski and the Milky Way is a huge area, although I wouldnāt want to stay in the studio again! I hope that an airline starts to operate flights to Turin out of Manchester, Liverpool or even East Midlands. Right now you can only get tour operator charter flights out of Manchester.
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Last edited by A snowHead on Sun 5-10-08 17:18; edited 1 time in total