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Resort preview: Villard de Lans

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
We're off here on Sunday for a week, taking our 4 and 6 year olds for their first Alpine adventure. I've read some great reviews over on snow-forecast, no crowds, no Brits, friendly locals, reasonably priced, etc, etc. It's not exactly small at 120kms of piste but it's not in the high Alps and off the beaten track.

We have friends who live in Grenoble who have kindly lent us their apartment there, so it's a real bargain of a holiday. Going next week is immediately before the French holidays start and most UK half-terms too, so we've been told by our friends, the tourist office and the ski hire shop that we'll have the place to ourselves. Could be bliss.

Forecast is looking good and there's plenty of snow even though it's at 1050m to 2300m. Cold with heavy snow just as we arrive then sun peeping out and after that... well, we'll see but we'll be reporting back when we return. And if anyone has been there and has any tips, they'd be gratefully received. Just need to find a babysitter there as I believe there's a Michelin starred restaurant in the vicinity for Valentine's evening wink Shhh...
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
It's a nice place - if you have a yen for cross country, the forest is really good, and you can ski to a couple of amazing sites (including Valchevriere, a village where the Resistance took refuge; it was destroyed and has been kept in that state, except the church, as a memorial).

I've not been there for a few years, but I really liked the museum in town, particularly the extensive collection of yokes, upstairs. Not been to the swimming pool, but it looks good from the outside - our son has always liked a swim at the end of a day's skiing.

A drive through the Grand Goulets is worth it and, if you're taking time off from skiing, I would even suggest going to the Col du Rousset for the view to Provence. Much of the other sightseeing stuff in the area is linked to the horrific events just post D-Day, so probably not a good idea to take young children, even though it's very moving - and worth reading up on the history.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
You also have another couple of alpine ski areas a short drive away, Autrans & Meaudre.

Not sure if a 4yo is too young to skate, but there's a good ice rink there. Sometimes ice hockey games too.

Sledging & luge park on the edge of town for the little ones.

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There is also Lans en Vercors, quite a good ski area with views right over Grenoble from the top of some of the lifts / runs which shows you why, I believe, Grenoble is the flattest city in France.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
thanks for the tips everyone. our 4 yr old is a dab hand (or is that foot?) on skates so that could be fun.

one of our customers mentioned autrans the other day. unfortunately we won't have a car to get around at will but our friends might come up for a day, so we could cram everyone into the 2 cars and go for an afternoon out.

must go to bed now, very, very early start. lots of snow forecast for tomorrow pm through to tuesday. can't wait!

looking forward to reviewing a resort from a family perspective!
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I'm off here next week (half term) with an 11 year old.

Do you (or anyone else) have any tips. On anything ski related, but particularly on restaurants. In the town for the evening or on the slopes for lunch.

Would love to do some cross country with him, but only going for 2 1/2 days, so will probably just stick to the downhill.

Weather for us looks a bit calmer. Which is nice - fresh snow is good, but sun is better !!

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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
there are lots of restaurants in town. the centre is very compact, so you won't need to walk far. we had good pizza at 'le p'tit bar' on the place de la liberation (main square). essentially directly opposite the mairie and at the bottom end of a pedestrianised shopping street. our friends recommended 'la vieux forge' but you will have to book. we didn't and even though it was pre-french holidays, we couldn't get in. we also had crepes at a new restaurant on the same place. 20 yards from the pizza place on the main road right through the square. can't remember its name but it was fitted out in pale wood in a modern style.

we had a bit of a disappointment at la vieux chaudron (next to the sports complex and bus station). food was good but when my cheese plate arrived, the bread basket also contained the crusts which my daughter had eaten the bread out of at the start of the meal! naughty, naughty! we had words but suddenly the female owner could no longer speak english. her husband (i assume) stepped in and accepted what had happened and apologised. but it left a bit of a sour taste, so to speak.

up the mountain there are only 3 restaurants. 2 directly above VdL and one over above Clos de la Balme. The restaurant at the top of the Pre de Preys gondola is nothing special. it's ok. the one further up at the top of the cote 2000 gondola is better (but slightly more expensive). specialises in pizza (there's a theme here!) and has a wonderful selection of puds! we didn't eat over at clos de la balme, so can't help there.

if you fancy a bit of DIY there is also a picnic area and a good-sized picnic room at the top of the pre de preys gondola, immediately under the arrival area.

i don't know what the queues will be like during the frenchies' holidays but once up there we never queued. take the pre de preys gondola and then the fast 6-pack chair. this will give you access to 2 reds, loup and canyon which take you across the resort, opening it up. a favourite piste was coq, served by the cretes chair, and the perdrix blanche which takes you over to clos de la balme is a good blue for most of it.

above clos de la balme are some good blues, reds and blacks. rhodo is a fabulous long, coulour-like black and was our piste of the week. beware that if you miss a lift, you will probably end up on the catch-all green transport route back to the base of VdL.

for 2.5 days, it'll be perfect. we had to ski like crazy each morning whilst the kids were in ski school, so didn't ski everything but thought it was a great family resort.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Thought I'd update this for posterity (and anyone negotiating the search facility next year when planning a trip).

Just returned from a trip to Villard de Lans. All a bit last as had nothing particular planned for half term, but the weather looked too good to ignore. I went with my son (aged 11) who is a competent enough skier.

We REALLY enjoyed the place. For a not particularly well known resort, it has a number of good points :

- pretty easy access (train to grenoble and a bus, or a pretty straighforward drive up from the motorway to Grenoble)
- Attractive compact village with plenty of shops/restaurants
- really plush public swimming pool complex + full sized ice rink with the odd ice hockey fixture
- A surprisingly good area, with decent lifts and a sizable number of enjoyable runs. There is about 125km of slopes, but for a medium size resort there is a pretty good vertical (about 700m on average, though one or two manage a 1000) with plenty of red and black runs going top to bottom with a bit of jiggery-pokery here and there. Easy to get about with a couple of greens running across the resort in each direction to make sure you can get from one side to the other pretty simply. All the reds and blacks offer an enjoyable hack down the hill. A couple of the blacks hadn't been pisted too much, so bumps available if required. some nice long blues too, particularly down to Lae Glovette (though the slowest chair in the resort back up!).
- Lift pass prices pretty competitive (152 euro for 6 days).
- nice nursery area at top of the gondola.
- Really not at all busy for mid feb. Hardly any lift queues and almost no-one about on most of the pistes we skied. Having said that, although it was UK half term, not many brits go there. There was one 'sector' of Frenchies off, but the busy weeks started the week after we left.
- fantastic cross country area if you want a bit of a break from the downhill.

Possible drawbacks :

- Although there is some accommodation near the lifts, the main town is a bus ride away. (or car trip if you have one). Navettes are free and about every 20mins in peak weeks. On balance, I thought it best to stay in the town and travel.
- When we were there, snow and weather were fantastic top to bottom, but the altitudes are not high (1000m bottom to 2000m top), so any time after feb might be a bit dodgy.
- not very exciting mountain eating options (see post above). We picnicked (there is a large but subterranian room provided), but 11 year old boys are prepared to suffer a bit for a few days of skiing...

We managed to book at short notice at a chambre d'hote (actually quite a large auberge, but no evening meals) just outside the town (val de la moliere). Lovely hosts, nothing too much trouble. 66euro a night for the two of us including breccy. clean, simple room with good shower. No telly or modern fripperies ! There were about 10 rooms there, and never more than a couple used during our stay, so if they stay in business I reckon you could get a room there at will. Only downside for public transporters is that it's about a 10minute walk into the village centre.

All in all, heartily recommended for something a bit different from the normal brit half term fare.
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We're just planning our third consecutive trip to VdL. Our friends, whose apartment we've borrowed for the past 2 years, will actually be using it for our half-term week this year, so we're about to book another apartment to stay in this year. NB That means that the French holidays start early this year, ie from 7th Feb. It also means that we'll have them to ski with all week, which will be great.

Last year had very different conditions to the previous year. We had to walk around town rather than pulling the kids in a sledge!. However, up the mountain, the snow was fine and with a lot of snow making lower down, skiing back to base should never be too much of a problem. We got a lovely day of fresh snow and as per the previous year, reds and blacks were generally left unpisted, so there was fun to be had.

Who knows what we'll get this year but having seen what the skiing is like when there's virtually no snow in town, I'm not concerned.

So again, if you're looking for something off the beaten track and aren't requiring masses of steep and deep, then I can strongly recommend Villard-de-Lans.
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