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Trip report - Valfrejus Xmas 2014

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
We've just got back from a week skiing in the resort of Valfrejus, and as there doesn't seem to be lots of information available about Valfrejus on here I thought I'd post up a trip report in the hope that anybody who is thinking of going in the future might read and find useful!

Firstly, Location. Valfrejus is located in France on the edge of the Vanoise National Park, very close to the Italian border, approximately half way between Grenoble and Turin. Nearest Airports would be Chambery, Grenoble and Turin I suppose. We drove to the resort, and found that both outward and return journeys took around 12 hours from Calais - mainly because of poor driving conditions (traffic and weather). I suspect a good run with fewer holdups would be in the region of 9 hours from Calais. Valfrejus is one of 5 ski areas that are covered by the ESKI-MO ski pass, comprising Valfrejus, Aussois, La Norma, Val Cenis and Bonneval Sur Arc which are linked by bus giving an aggregated 300kms of pistes. Slightly further afield but still within reach of day trips by car are the larger resorts of Val Thorens, Les Menuires, Trois Vallees etc. The drive from Calais to Valfrejus is all autoroute the whole way to Modane which is around 5 miles from Valfrejus - I haven't had the bill for the toll charges yet, so can't say how much the tolls cost! The last few miles are on quite a steep mountain road with many hairpin bends which was exciting on the way up but not very much fun coming back down in the heavy snow.

Resort - The village is situated at around 1550m, and is a lovely little collection of individual chalets, larger apartments and various shops and restaurants centred around the main gondola and ice rink. Pretty much all your basic needs are covered in terms of shops : several ski hire shops including Ski Set, Ski 2000, intersport etc. There are around half a dozen restaurants in the village, mainly pizzeria/informal type places, and several bars/taverns. Both ESF and ESI have ski schools in the village, and we found the local Tourism office very helpful - their website is also quite informative. There is a crèche in the village, but we didn't use it so couldn't comment on it. Additionally there is a small Sherpa supermarket with a great value wine section, and various other gift shops, spa etc.

Accommodation - We stayed at the La Turra Residence, a collection of around 100 apartments, in two buildings. La Turra is classed as a 4 star property, and features an outdoor heated pool (our kids loved it!), sauna, fitness room, bar and lounge. All was kept well presented and clean and tidy during our stay. The apartment we had was supposedly for 6 people, but that would have been quite a squeeze and the living room would have been used as a bedroom. As we were self catering, the little kitchenette is probably the most important aspect - it was well equipped with a large dishwasher, small oven, hob, fridge freezer, and all the usual tea/coffee machines. The view from the balcony was absolutely stunning, and the apartment was cosy and warm throughout - given that we had booked through Snowtrex and paid a modest price for the holiday we thought it was terrific value for money. La Turra is around 300m from the main gondola, and is about the furthest away in the village.

The snow - we arrived on the 20th December, which is the first full day of the season in Valfrejus. Arriving at 4pm, we collected the hire skis and booked our son in to ski school. we also met the rep from Snowtrex who provided the lift passes and some useful local information. Having watched the webcams for weeks, we were well aware that there were some lovely groomed piste awaiting us at above 2000m where the main part of the pistes are located. Unfortunately, at Village level there was not enough snow to open the return pistes during the week we were there, and the Gondola had to be used to return. This was doubly unlucky for us, as one of the return slopes went right past the apartment we were staying in and would have saved walking in ski boots at the end of the day - however this was a fairly minor inconvenience all things considered. On the main pistes themselves, there was excellent snow coverage and in fact I believe Valfrejus had the deepest snow of any French resort when we arrived (according to the local tourist office anyway!) There was a small snowfall on the morning of the 21st, then nearly unbroken blue skies for the remainder of the week until we awoke on the 27th to a major dump of snow, which has been well documented elsewhere (see the 'snowmageddon' thread for details).

The Skiing - I'll start off by saying that I am in no way qualified to judge what makes for good skiing, as this was just our third week of skiing in the Alps - however I can say that we had a wonderful time on the slopes, and I personally noticed a huge improvement in my skiing abilities and confidence. The number of pistes was quite limited, partly as its a small resort, but crucially because the 6 lowest altitude slopes remained closed whilst we were there, leaving around 18 pistes open in the resort. As a novice/intermediate skier this was absolutely plenty for me, and I found that repeating some of the slopes each day was quite a good way of charting progress. My son, Alistair, who had his second week of lessons also improved greatly, and his highlights were doing his first parallel turns and his first ever red piste. I would suggest that the resort is absolutely fantastic for families like ours where we are all still at the lower end of the skiing ability scale, and that perhaps more seasoned pros would need a little more variety to make the most of their time. I am quite sure that we will go back to Valfrejus again, but next time, I will upgrade my pass to cover the rest of the Eski-mo area and take a couple of days to ski Val Cenis etc. The lifts were quite quick and modern, with an 8 person gondola up to the plateau, then 6 person lifts to the top of the mountain and on the busiest traffic areas. There were a couple of 4 person lifts and a few button lifts but they were mainly in the ski school areas. Both ESI and ESF had a little kindergarten area on the 2000m plateau, and there were some kids play areas there as well as a large café/sun terrace there. At the top of the highest chair lift (punta bagna) there was another café/bar, with the most incredible views over the mountain tops into Italy. My little boy is now the world's foremost expert on Hot Chocolate, having tried every one in the resort!
One of the victims of the lack of good snow coverage at lower levels was the 'Bob-Park' which we had all been looking forward to - it's a 2km sledge race track that has been separated from the return pistes and features tunnels, jumps etc. it looked great fun, and we made up for it by completely smashing up 3 of our 4 sledges that we had taken with us on ever more dangerous jumps.
There was a queue to get on the first gondola of the day, and occasionally on the button lifts in the ski school areas, but generally once up the hill there was never more than a minute's wait to get on a lift.

Costs - As I mentioned we booked through an online TO called Snowtrex, and I think we paid c. £1200 for a 6 person apartment, 4 x lift passes, and 3 x ski hire included, over Christmas week. The shops and restaurants in the resort and on the pistes were also quite reasonable in comparison to other resorts, for example Steak hache and frites was around €9 on the mountain, hot chocolates were €3, and 500cl of biere was around €5.

In Summary- Valfrejus is a beautiful little resort, quite easy to get to, and very well suited to beginners and young families, though more experienced skiiers may need to spread out to the other resorts if they get bored. Perhaps later in the season would be better, but that is true of any French resort. We had a fantastic time and may very well find ourselves back again next Christmas - I can highly recommend it to anyone looking for a smaller resort. Very Happy
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Sounds as though you had much more, and better, skiing than in many resorts at Christmas. v helpful report on a resort little known amongst brits. Very Happy
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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?
@M535man, top TR.
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Thanks, I am thinking of Val Cenis as one of my options for this years Christmas, primarily because of avoiding the busy crowded ski resorts and like to go somewhere village feel like and prettier. I have been Alpbach, Saas Fee (for learning to ski) and Wengen (for a weekend to ski learning) and Ortisei/Val Gardenia (Dolmities). I like to go somewhere we can go around after skiing as just me and my older girl (10 yrs) ski while the younger girl 7 yrs started to learn and my wife doesn't want to ski. So I like to go a prettier place.

In the past I use to look for resorts which has tobogganing so that my kids and wife enjoys I am unable to find if Val Cenis has any tobogganing runs.

How is the snow making in Val Cenis during poor weather.
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