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TR - Montgenevre March 2018

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Booking and getting there:

First week of March 2018. Just back a couple of days.

The TO was Neilson, booked through IgluSki which was cheaper than booking through Neilson direct. It was still quite a bit more than our normal budget but we decided to push the boat out for the 4 star Self-catering apartments at MMV Hameau Des Airelles.
Flights were with Titan Airways and were very good, comfortable seats and good legroom.
Transfers were in a minibus rather than the normal full size coach. This was probably because there were just two parties, total of eight people for the apartments. It made sense as the final approach to the apartments is a bit narrow for a full size coach. While maybe not as comfortable it made a quicker transfer as we didn’t have to wait for as many people and no other drop off and pick up points.

Ski Conditions:

First couple of days low cloud, visibility not great but skiable, then a few days of absolute blue skies and the last day low cloud and snow making visibility in the morning almost zero. It snowed every night so the pistes were superb.
The resort:
Montgenevre is a small town with not much going on. As we were self-catering, eating out wasn’t a priority but we weren’t prepared for when we went out on the Wed evening and found every restaurant that was open was fully booked. Luckily we had a few scraps left at the apartment to make do. Couldn’t even book the ones we fancied the next day, so we booked our last night out two days in advance.

Ski Hire:

We booked through, the shop was Sno7 in the town centre. Have used Snowbrainer a few times as they have been cheapest. Never had an issue. This time one of us had a problem with a loose binding, only manifested when putting on for first run, luckily not during. Returned to shop and got another set of skis, albeit with a degree of nonchalance, no concern or 'sorry about that' expressed.

The slopes:

Really liked the slopes here. For perspective I’ll call our group mature intermediates, our legs now shy away from black runs. The blues and reds were a nice combination of cruising and challenging. A lot of green runs too. When I’ve seen green runs before they tend to be very flat and needing lots of polling, but the ones here were mostly not like that. In fact there is one, Sagnes, which starts at the top of Les Gondrans, continues to another green called Lac going right down into town. A nice long cruise for beginners or tired legs at the end of a long day.
You could say the resort has three main areas:
Secteur de L’Aigle & Secteur Des Gondrans at the front;
Secteur Du Chalvet at the back of the town;
and the linked Italian resort of Claviere.

One pass (215 euros for 6 days + 3 Euros, non returnable, for the card which can be recharged in future) covers all and also includes a day in a linked Via Lattea resort – we didn’t do that so can’t comment on how easy that is or how it’s done.

Secteur de L’Aigle & Secteur Des Gondran at the town front have the most runs and lifts and easiest to access from the town. It has tree lined wide gulley type runs mid-way up and open space at the higher levels. Nice variation and great views from the top.

The Chalvet secteur at the back of the town is mostly treeless and less busy. The scenery had a wow factor in that the snow covered surrounding mountains looked more like massive snow dunes.
Access from the town takes a little effort. There is a gondola, TC du Chavlet, from the back of the town which I never saw anyone get on probably because it’s a bit of a walk to get to. I only saw it used by those who were already on the slope skiing down and using it to get back up.

The main access was on the Tx Serre Thibaud combined chair/gondola (yes gondolas on the same mechanism as the chairs – first time I’d seen it). If you are based in town, you can get the free bus (Green route 2) up to the car park – it has a name but I can’t remember it, might be Car Park de l’Obélisque – and then a short little walk up to where you can walk on to the Pharo piste and ski down to the lift. On the piste map you’ll notice a bridge with a P sign next to it, access is just a little up from there.

You can also get there by skiing down the blue Vallon run from the Secteur de L’Aigle to Tx Serre Thibaud.

I found the piste map a bit unclear here as to which way some of the runs actually go. The blue Pharo is a long circuit run that goes from the top of the Tx Serre Thibaud back round to the chair/gondola and the Ts Tremplin chair to get up to Secteur de L’Aigle to get you back to town centre.

If you go down the Chemin du Rocher Rouge (it’s a blue) and branch off to the Baisses to the Ts Montquitaine chair, it goes from open scenery through a nice narrow-ish tree lined section. From the top of the Ts Montquitaine chair, you can only take the green Suffin which gets you down to the TC du Chavlet gondola or to re-join the Pharo to go back to Tx Serre Thibaud (or the Ts Tremplin chair to get up to Secteur de L’Aigle to get you back to town centre).

Highest point is Le Chalvet and is accessed by the slow two seater TS Chavlet chairlift or the steep dog legged Tx 3 Fourneous drag lift. The drag lift is labelled as ‘difficult’ and does give a good old jolt but is faster than the chair.

The biggest slope disappointment is the fact that there are only 2 eating places in the whole Montgeneve area. One in Chavlet and one in Gondrans. The one in Chavlet, La Terasse, is like a proper restaurant with waiter/waitress service. Nice view over the town from the terrace. Our rep said it also has an outdoor snack stall but I didn’t see it. We just had beer or hot chocolate with self-added tipples. The one at Gondrans is more standard self-service affair with large terrace/decking areas.

Accessed from the Secteur de L’Aigle by going down blue Vallon, turning right at the bottom of the Ts Tremplin chairlift down the green Liaison Claviere/Montgenevre.
From the Chavlet Secteur, down the blue Pharo and straight past the bottom of the Tx Serre Thibaud on to the green Liaison Claviere/Montgenevre.
It requires a stretch of polling along the green Liaison Claviere/Montgenevre, enough to put us off going twice, so we were only there for a half day. But the runs were good and had a more secluded feel. Have to say that Italian hot chocolate is vastly superior to the French, with or without added tipples. Even though we were there for just a half day, the restaurants were more appealing so we had three different stops for food/beer/hc.

One thing to note about the run names: they are numbers rather than names, some runs have branches with the same number suffixed by Bis/Tris/Alta/Bassa. I know that Alta means ‘high’ and Bassa means ‘low’ but no idea what the Bis/Tris refers to.

The return back to Montgenevre feels longer. Requires going up the Ts Col Boeuf chair, taking runs 99Bis Alta and 99Bis Bassa (make sure you don’t make a right to 99Tris as it goes straight to 99 Black back down to the bottom of the lift). Run 99Bis Bassa takes you to the bottom of chair lift Ts Tremplin to get up to Secteur de L’Aigle to get you back to town centre.
When coming down run 91 to the Ts Col Boeuf chair, keep left. Taking either of the right hand branches will take you down to the Ts La Coche, needing an uphill pole/skate/walk to Ts Col Boeuf chair. It’s do-able but a pain.

MMV Hameau Des Airelles Appartments.

It was quite a bit more than our normal budget but we decided to push the boat out for the 4 star Self-catering apartments. Two couples (one non-skier) in 2 x one bedroom 4-person apartments, paying under occupancy supplement.

This was the major disappointment of the week. These apartments are NOT 4 star. In the last few years we have gone SC in Planibel La Thuile, Olympic Village Sestriere and Campo Smith Bardonecchia, all 3 star. MMV Hameau Des Airelles may be a little above Planibel in cooking facilities but not on comfort, on a par with the Olympic Village Sestriere but is below Campo Smith Bardonecchia (I did a review of Campo Smith before).

Check-in was unpleasant. Reception wasn’t open until 4 pm, we arrived in the morning. There was a store facility for suitcases, boots etc but not big enough to hold everyone’s – there were lots of other people including Crystal clients. At least there was a lounge area to sit and wile away the hours. Then just before the reception opened, a cheese and charcuterie counter opened right in the middle of the (small) reception area, where everyone was queuing. After getting our keys, receptionist gave us poor directions on how to get to our building. We got lost and a cleaner helped us find it.

There is no bar or food outlet in the complex.

The apartment;
There was a really good cooker/hob set up but only two small dishes provided for the oven.

Diner/lounge size was small but functional, dining table, 4 chairs, sofabed, foot stool, coffee table, TV (only French & Italian channels) with DvD player, wifi (sometimes needing multiple login attempts).
One of the power sockets was coming off the wall.

Small but functional bathroom with bath with shower attachment, and a sink whose plug didn’t fit.
Skirting board was coming off in the toilet.

The doors to the bathroom, toilet, diner and a cupboard all opened outward into the small hall. Any two opened at the same time were millimetres from banging together, two people and one open door meant gridlock.

Bedroom was small, barely enough room to walk sideways around the bed. Mattress was comfortable enough but at 5’ 8”, my feet were right on the bottom edge. No room for a bedside table, just the tiniest shelf-ette attached to the wardrobe. Only one power point in the bedroom, on the wall at the foot of the bed.

Nowhere to store suitcases. Mine was squeezed upright between the bed and wardrobe next to my head.

We also had to strip the bed and put sheets & towels into the duvet cover and leave outside the door on the morning of leaving. Otherwise you get charged 30 odd Euros on your credit card swipe.

Location itself not bad, a 10 min walk into town but there was little shop next to it that had all major necessities, if a little more expensive that the Spar in town.

It has a small heated outdoor pool. But as our apartment building was separate from the main building, it meant a short walk outside. I didn’t use it but the other couple with us did and they enjoyed it.

Ski out is easy. Just outside the main entrance is the lower end of the Pharo run. You just have to step up a small bank to get on it and then ski down to the Tx Serre Thibaud chair/gondola and the Ts Tremplin chair. On the piste map you’ll notice a bridge with a P sign next to it, access is just a little up from there.

To ski back to the same spot you have to go back up the Tx Serre Thibaud chair/gondola and back around the Pharo circuit. Or branch off Pharo down the Chemin du Rocher Rouge then off to the Baisses to the Ts Montquitaine chair, as mentioned previously.

There was nothing actually terrible about the apartments. If they had been sold as 3 star, we might have been fine with it, but to fork out the extra expecting 4 star was a bit much. Complaint has been raised with the rep and will follow up with an email. We weren’t the only ones unhappy. A couple of Crystal clients we spoke to were also unhappy, they were sold it as ‘Crystal’s finest’.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
@Jeraff, Enjoyed your trip report having been to Montgenevre several times.

You are not the first person to express frustration on snowheads about the poling down to Claviere! I quite enjoy that run. It also keeps the runs in Claviere quiet as a lot of people seem to find it too much effort!

I agree with your comment about mountain restaurants. there are not enough of them. I do really like the two that there are particularly les terraces. The snack bar is straight in front of you on the outside of the building as you approach it from the ski rack. However I don't think there are any loos for those using the snack bar. there are three further mountain restaurants in Claviere and we had lunch there sometimes. I think there is also a café at the Durancia pool which is not far from the piste..possibly you could go to it without taking ski boots off but we didn't go there in the end.

We stayed at the hameau des airelles a few times when it was newly built and found it ok. However we had booked it accommodation only through Peak Retreats at a very reasonable price. I am not sure what the crystal/neilson prices are like. The larger 2 bed and 3 bed apartments are better. We liked the pool but not the Jacuzzi next to it. However I then found a better spa elsewhere in the building with two decent jacuzzis was a small extra charge but worth it. The thing I did not like about this residence was the ski room as the boot warmers were not heated and there were not enough benches..that is the main reason we have started paying a bit more for the cgh places (eg. chalet des dolines opposite) instead. The hameau also has a lot of apartments now and we prefer smaller residences.

If you want four star luxury self catering in Montgenevre I think Le Napoleon is the place to go.

If you had been staying on the other side of Le hameau des airelles you would have been able to get a button lift up to ski down to the chalvet gondola to start your days skiing. However if one is staying on the main entrance side of le hameau you can go straight out onto the pharoh piste as you say.
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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?
Thanks for the report. That does not sound like a "4 star" apartment to me at all! I know there are standards but perhaps someone gamed the system to get that last star...

"Bis" generally means a branch of something, or an alternate route. For example, in Paris some metro lines have branches that are called "Line 7b." Or addresses that have been added later would be "No. 24b." You also find road alternate routes labeled as "bis."
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Excellent report - thanks so much. We are thinking of going there next half term so your info is really helpful. I’m looming for somewhere with good ski instruction to help me get my ski mojo back and with some nice easy runs to nail my technique.

I thought too with the luge, cinema and skating there would be things to do if there is a poor visibility skiing day.

Accommodation - we avoid TO’s so would be DIYing in an apartment (need more research on this). The Les Hameau isn’t featuring!!

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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
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@bambionskiis, I would suggest reading more than one review before you write off Le Hameau. The OP didn't even use the pool and spa for eg. They were also in one of the smallest apartments by the sounds of it. We once stayed in a three bed penthouse apartment in Le Hameau and it was excellent value for money. Although we went at Easter that time - I have not looked up the half term price. We also have friends who went to le Hameau three years in a row and were perfectly happy with it.

As I mentioned in my post above Le Napoleon is the most luxurious self catering accommodation on offer in Montgenevre. However you will find it is significantly more expensive than Le Hameau for half term, so I would not discount Le Hameau.

You could also look at Hotel Anova - I haven't stayed there but it looks ok.

I'm sure you will enjoy the ski area. Both ski schools are good.

Last edited by Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do. on Wed 14-03-18 16:37; edited 1 time in total
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"The OP didn't even use the pool and spa for eg"
what's that got to do with with the apartment standard? You basically say it was 'ok' when you stayed there when newly built - was it rated as 4 star then? Is 'ok' a good review of 4 star? Maybe you missed my last comment on it - "there was nothing actually terrible about the apartments. If they had been sold as 3 star, we might have been fine with it, but to fork out the extra expecting 4 star was a bit much"
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@Jeraff, As far as I know the star rating system in France is not the same as the UK. In France you'd get four star based on having things like a pool or not. I don't think they count quality of furnishings etc. However I'm not completely sure.

I agree with you that it being described as "finest" is misleading. The TO I used (peak retreats) does not describe it as "finest" or "luxury" therefore I didn't feel misled.

when I choose ski accommodation pool and spa are important to me therefore I do count them as part of the standard of the residence. If somewhere had a nice pool/Jacuzzi I would not mind if the wardrobe was small. As I said in my first post the thing I didn't like about the hameau was the ski room which was on the basic side.

It is also standard practice in any self catering residence in France to take the sheets off/ clean the kitchen area before departure. If you had booked three star you would have had to make the beds too. Toofy Grin We once stayed in a four star lagrange apartment where we had to make the beds on arrival, pay extra for wifi, and pay an extra cleaning charge on departure. In comparison to that Le Hameau was good.
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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!
@snowymum, Leaving the kitchen area clean is standard anywhere, no issue with that. Stripping (or making) the beds is not, and we never had to do it on our many stays in Morzine (France).
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Thanks for the report. We were there a month ago and it's nice to compare notes!

Re the Hameau des Airelles, we booked direct and got a 6 berth apt for a family of 4 and it was fine. Good value for money - a fair bit cheaper than the Dolines and the Napoleon. We'd stayed there 3 years previously booking via Peak Retreats so knew what to expect (including a large mark-up vs booking direct, so we didn't bother with them again!) The check-in arrangements are fairly shonky so this year we packed so that we could easily dump the bags, change in the loos and go skiing on the Saturday afternoon (no extra cost on 6 day pass or ski hire).

Talking of loos, in the basement of the lift station just below the Terrasse restaurant is a fine array of facilities, which maybe explains the lack of provision at the restaurant - there's not really much need.
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Bump - Update:

Neilson's accepted our complaints about MMV Hameau Des Airelles Apartments and have offered us £100 voucher each for next season.
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