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Resort near Geneva at half term that's quiet(er)

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Hey everyone Smile

This year the family and I went on our first ever ski holiday, and loved it. We went to Avoriaz .... if you want the background - see here : http://snowheads.com/ski-forum/viewtopic.php?p=3218876
We loved Avoriaz - ski in / ski out, pretty (we liked it anyway - I hear it divides opinion!), with some Greens and lots of blues close by. We didn't really explore much of the PDS area though - since we were all beginners.
We went Easter this year - but with Easter next year being so late we've thought it would be better to go February half term week instead, as this would more likely have better snow/conditions.

As soon as Easyjet released their flights for next year we booked up (Glasgow to Geneva).

Anyway ... we're wondering ... do we go back to Avoriaz, or do we try somewhere else? We didn't make use of any of the PDS this year ... and some the family are still sticking to green and blue runs so larger ski areas like PDS are a little wasted on us.
Also, Avoriaz was expensive, and looks to be more expensive at half term next year.

So while we'd be happy to go back to Avoriaz (finances allowing!) I was wondering if any of you friendly experts out there could recommend somewhere that would tick our boxes:

* Reasonable travel distance from Geneva (with 2 kids in tow!). We land in Geneva at 8 p.m. so I think max distance is 2-3 hours. We did private transfer this year - but could book a car next year if needed.
* Quiet resort - or at least, not as likely to be affected by half term crowds. Potentially smaller / not attached to larger ski area (like PDS), since we're not likely to be skiing too far. That is, of course, if smaller = quieter on the slopes?!
* Plenty of blue runs / wide pistes.
* Ski in / ski out. It was so great being able to ski right back to our apartment each day, but now we're a bit more sure of ourselves this isn't a must have, but would be great.

I've read that if we avoid France at half term that might mean the resorts are quieter ... but when flying into Geneva that does restrict us somewhat! Some of the Swiss resorts I've read about on snowheads seem a little too far from Geneva - but obviously having only been skiing once my knowledge is very limited.

So ... Any advice on where (else) might suit us? Or ... stick with Avoriaz?

ZedZed
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Praz-de-Lys?
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In Switzerland Villars / Les Diablerets might tick your boxes or Saas Fee if you don’t mind a slightly longer transfer - and would also be snow sure at Easter
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Grand Bernand and/or La Clusaz would fit the bill but someone else would be in a better position to advise re Feb half term.
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I'd stick to Avoriaz at Easter.
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I was going to suggest Grand Bornand, though less available ski in ski out than Avoriaz. Samoens also a suggestion. Swiss ski resorts quite a bit more expensive than France.
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Full season lift pass for 255chf at Saas Fee!

https://www.saas-fee.ch/wintercard/en/
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Morillon 1100? Part of the grand massif. I went at half term about 5 years ago and other than odd bottlenecks.....one lift in Samoens and the top of the mountain at the end of the day......seemed as quiet as France gets in half term. Valmeinier too was surprisingly easy to get round at half term and ticks most of your boxes other than the transfer. I have only ever driven or snowcoached there so never tried a GVA approach
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La Clusaz whilst being quieter than some of the bigger resorts does get busy in the Feb half term. Lift queues are on the whole not huge and the Beauregard and Manigod area are very good for improving skiers. We have been a couple of times and really enjoyed the area. The town is lovely traditional town. Restaurants get very booked up during half term so book ahead if you plan on eating out.
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^^^ What he says. We skied La Clusaz three years in a row at half term and I'd say Alan's post is pretty much spot on. The drive from Geneva is only about an hour (just watch out for the toll queues on the way back) and while ski-in/ski-out accommodation might be limited there's plenty within walking distance of the lifts and there's also storage lockers at the Beauregard and Bossonnet lifts so you don't have to be carrying your skis and boots if you don't want to.
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@zedzed_uk,
A belated welcome to Snowheads!
I think Italy is a lot quieter than France, so you could drive through the Mt Blanc tunnel to the Aosta Valley, for Courmayeur, Pila or La Thuile (all on the 1 lift pass). Aosta is a lovely town, with its Roman ruins.

shep,
Is that an attempted p155 take? The OP has already booked flights for half term...
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
@zedzed_uk, I’d book a car. Do Aoste. Any would be good. Courmayeur pricier. Champoluc 2.5 hours but poss long tunnel queue.

Any Swiss, take the train.
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I think you are being quite smart looking to go for a smaller resort where the accommodation and lift pass will be cheaper. And in Feb altitude less of an issue for decent snow conditions which opens up the options.

Here is a guide to distances/options La Clusaz, Samoens, Les Gets all seem to be decent shouts.

Arriving at 8pm you'll have to make sure you have access to the transfer/accommodation - are you self catering? At least the traffic will have died down by that time.
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Thanks for all the suggestions so far - very much appreciated. Thanks especially to Layne for saying I'm "quite smart" ... that's what I've been telling everyone for years, but no ones believes me Laughing

We went self catering this year ... the whole holiday was "DIY". Easyjet flights, arranged private transfer, AirBnB for accommodation, ski hire, lift passes, lessons ... all booked direct. Seemed to be the cheapest way to do it, although it was a little stressful when our flight out was delayed by 3 hours. The person who rented to us (via AirBnB) had left the keys in one of those keypad lock boxes, and so even though we got there are at around 1 a.m. we were able to get into the apartment no problem. Would need to make sure I got the same arrangement again next year.

If it keeps costs down again then will probably do the same this year. That said ... if there are operators that bus you from Geneva to the resort, and arrange accommodation, lift passes etc. and it's not that much more expensive, I'm all for leaving a little stress behind.

Hiring a car definitely a possibility ... I assume that the main roads & access roads to resorts are kept relatively clear, so I'm not likely to get stuck in a snow drift somewhere?? I never put on a pair of snow chains on tyres, and not sure I'd want to start with a hire car, in the dark, in a lay-by off a busy road, with 2 kids in the car tired and moaning Confused But YOLO, right? Laughing

I'll start looking at the options suggested so far tonight. Keep them coming if anyone else has suggestions! Cheers!
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@zedzed_uk, renting car from Swiss side gets you snow tyres so it’s a bad night if you need to fit chains.

Main roads usually kept cleared but recent years have seen the problem being idiots minus snow tyres and chains. Or with chains tbh.

This year may be different as the authorities have, allegedly, expanded the limits whereby you require appropriate kit.

I would still be thinking Italy. Maybe stay in Aoste and ski Pila? I have never done it so...
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
@zedzed_uk, if you've done the DIY thing before I'd stick with it as it's the most flexible and at peak times most cost effective. And people often find the TO's, certainly the budget ones, don't shine in a crisis.

Personally I wouldn't hire a car unless you have to simply on account of the faff and the fact that you only need it to get there and back. Other than it sits there for a week. And as you've duly noted if it's snowy you have to be thinking about chains, parking, potentially digging her out at the end of the week.
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Car hire for a family frequently considerably cheaper than transfers.

La Rosiere. La Clusaz, Chatel and Tignes les Brevieres are all worth considering. It is a while since I did a comparison shop but Swiss resorts usually work out costing more.

Next year consider somewhere in the Dolomites if you are forced to go Feb half term. It will be quieter.
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Another Swiss option Lenk Adelboden, easy on the train from Genf. The terrain particularly suits beginners early intermediates for clocking up the miles.
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La Rosiere has less bed capacity than many others and surrounded by Paradiski, Espace Killy gets less local day skiers. A cheaper alternative same area also La Thulle.
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No idea about La Rosière, nor La Clusaz, but I would be avoiding Tignes or Chatel in the middle of French holidays, if I had the choice...

I would be heading to Italy.

Praz de Lys not a bad call actually as it’s rather more XC focused, but accom etc. still will feel the vacances effect.
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There is more to the Portes du Soleil than the crazy busy French side. I can understand why people go there but for the skiing it’s ridiculously busy during holidays.

On the Swiss side is always quiet with no queues. 1hr 30ish from Geneva to Morgins for example. If you want more info drop me a line, I’d be happy to help.
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Bergmeister wrote:

shep,
Is that an attempted p155 take? The OP has already booked flights for half term...


Haha, no, I'd like to think I'd make a better job of it wink . Simply a failure to read the OP properly, followed by trying to help.
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I would third Praz de Lys- a hidden gem- cheaper ski passes and enough to keep you occupied if only skiing greens/blues. If you then get confident by the end of the week, you could always pop up to Les Gets for a day (20 mins away) or down to Morillon/Samoens (25 minutes).

Same would equally apply to Les Houches- I skied this half term (before I had a car crash and broke 15 ribs and a verterbrae).. and apart from the intial morning queue at the bubbles (this can be bypassed by taking a series of chairs up from Bellevue) there was never a wait of more than 5 minutes at a lift.-Plenty to keep beginner/intermediates busy for a week.
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Anyone ski'd Les Contamines-Montjoie at Half term? Praz de lys still in the running ... but not found any accommodation that's suitable yet.

I like the look of Les Contamines - smaller resort not linked to anything else so hopefully quieter. However, staying in town it looks like a bus to the lift in the morning and then everyone gets the same lift up the mountain ... so I guess could be some queues at the start of the day? Or ... looks like we can stay a 5 minute walk to the cable car but then it's a 10-15 minute walk into town (essential to get supplies as we'll be self catering and likely with no car).

Is the skiing/terrain suitable for "2nd week-ers"? I doubt I'll get the Mrs. down any red runs ... so greens and blues important. Well .. the kids will ski the reds with me and have no fear (while I'm mildly bricking it) ... but we need to cater for all skill/bravery levels Very Happy

Any advice greatly appreciated ... I've dithered around for ages and I need to make a decision soon Smile
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paging @jedtster to the tourist phone ....
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mishmash wrote:
paging @jedtster to the tourist phone ....


@jedster I assume. Quick search and it would appear you own a place in Les Contamines?
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Great little place.

Runs are fine for both your levels but there is a hairy bit of the blue to Etape that should be avoided. Easily done though.

And for a red, plans is fairly benign and could be worth a punt to get her on it.

Why no car?
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No car rationale: we arrive at 8 pm into Geneva (with 2 kids) .... so don't really fancy navigating my way to a resort, driving on the wrong side of the road, in the dark, with the possibility of snow etc. So private transfer into Les Cont and then just walk/bus within the resort. I don't think we'll do more than Les Cont. in a week ... first holiday last year to Avoriaz and I think we only did around 50k of runs (greens and easy blues many, many times Smile ).

Any thoughts on whether to stay in town and get the bus to Montjoie Cable, or to try to stay within walking distance to the cable, but bus it into town for supplies etc? If the bus is likely to be crammed early in the morning then I think I'd rather avoid that (2 kids, with boots on, carrying their ski's etc.).

As for the hairy blue ... which run would that be?
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You know it makes sense.
Fair enough. We got into Geneva about the same time and got a car. Most of the journey was straightforward but then the Satnav took is on a rather odd ( but I guess direct) route where but for the snow tyres I might have had to put on chains in the dark. There was an easier flatter route but understand why you wouldnt want to have the hassle.

As we had a car we drove to the cable car so dont know about the bus. Looked like a lot of people would drive. But to give you an idea my wife and 8 yr old walked once from the main cable car to where we were staying which was near Mermoud Sports ski rental shop if you find that on the map which they found an ok walk (in boots but not carrying skis). I am not sure there eas much of a pavement though. From where we were we could walk into town but the car was definitely handy. Jedster might know about the bus.

The blue run was village. There are quite a few steep bits mid-way down to Etape which is the first stage of the cable car. But no need to do it, just take both stages of the cable car down.
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We (wife and two kids) stayed near the lift as we had no need for the town. As you say getting a bus is no fun. You can get supplies locally.

A lot of people recommend getting the lift down rather than skiing down. We didn't mostly but it's certainly an issue (though relatively minor overall) if you don't like a busy ski down or downloading in a lift at the end of the day.

Watch out for steep drags lifts!

My TR from 2012
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 Poster: A snowHead
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@zedzed_uk, save yourselves a fortune and hire the car, if you rent from Swiss side it’s a very easy drive to LC.
LC is great but the pass you get for that ski area also allows you onto Saint gervais ski area & they are not ski connected so you need car or bus & bus isn’t great, I would say you’re likely to ski 4 days in LC & 2 in StG,
It also gives you the option to go to Chamonix or Annecy if you’re wanting a day off skiing
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As ever - thank you for all the replies

Layne: great trip report - we'd definitely steer clear of some of the tows (given our relative inexperience) - I don't want to be trying to chase after a child sliding down a 50+ degree slope!

Ster: I don't think getting the cable car down would be an issue for us, although looking at the piste map it looks like the Montjoie run from Signal splits into Village and another run (either still Montjoie or Variante) ... are both equally steep? i.e. if we come down montjoie and stay left (away from Village) is that an easier run? Would definitely get the cable down from Etape though - I think the kids and I would give the run a go but the Mrs. is still pretty much snowplowing and hates it when people flying past her (close) and it's a red run, but that's no biggie for us.

Re: location ... there's somewhere close to the slopes that I have my eye on (about 200m) ... sounds like that might be the best bet. I'm still 50/50 on whether to drive from Geneva or get a transfer. I think I can get a private return trip for around EUR350, and I can't see us heading over to another resort (or taking a day off skiing - blasphemy! Toofy Grin ). Not sure 7 days car hire would be much cheaper than that.
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@zedzed_uk, you should be able to get car hire for much cheaper than 350 euros. We've paid £146 for 8 days from Geneva (Swiss side) this year, and that was direct with one of the major companies (rather than a broker - so it was far from the cheapest option).

Ouibus (a public bus) also goes from the airport to Les Contamines for about £25-30 each way.
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zedzed_uk wrote:
I don't think getting the cable car down would be an issue for us, although looking at the piste map it looks like the Montjoie run from Signal splits into Village and another run (either still Montjoie or Variante) ... are both equally steep? i.e. if we come down montjoie and stay left (away from Village) is that an easier run?

There is a black run called Joux. Stay off that and it's all much of a muchness - and will be no problem to you.

zedzed_uk wrote:
Re: location ... there's somewhere close to the slopes that I have my eye on (about 200m) ... sounds like that might be the best bet. I'm still 50/50 on whether to drive from Geneva or get a transfer. I think I can get a private return trip for around EUR350, and I can't see us heading over to another resort (or taking a day off skiing - blasphemy! Toofy Grin ). Not sure 7 days car hire would be much cheaper than that.

I agree with the idea of not going anywhere else. Lot of hassle with kids. And I am sure you will enjoy skiing in Les Contamines.
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Quote:

We've paid £146 for 8 days from Geneva (Swiss side) this year

That was a bargain - it's usually quite a lot more. I agree that, with kids, it makes sense to stay in Les Contamines. Be sure to have lunch one day at the Roselettes.
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@zedzed_uk,
Ah you called!
I am clearly not neutral but with your specific requirements les c is a solid choice.
Apart from 930 am lifts from the valley you should only expect queues on one bottleneck drag which can be avoided. Get to the gondolas at 9 or leave it post ski school meet at 10 and it should seem MUCH quieter than is typical for France.
The piste skiing is mellow. The weakness of les c is challenging pistes (off piste compensates) but none of that should be an issue for you guys.
You have worked out the accommodation options - stay in Hameau du Lay for walking distance to lift or stay in villiage for a bit more character / shopping but get the bus. The walk between the two is pleasant (good footpath by river )but better in trainers than ski boots. Our place is in the village and we tend to have a car (drive out or fly and hire) but it is easy enough without. If you decide to get a car there is plenty of parking near the lifts.

Any other qs just ask
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I think the steep bit (from hazy memory) is before it splits. But dont worry, it wouldnt be a complete disaster to end up on it. Its a short sharp steep and although my wife (2 weeks at the time) didnt like it she did get down in the end.

As to where to stay with our lot and self catering (and knowing you will doing s/c rather than ended out eating out a lot ) I would stay nearer the lifts than the town. Organise one maybe two decent shopping trips ( easier than done) then manage. As the trip to the uplift will be the most frequent of trips you do so best if short.

Another factor could be if you renting ski gear or bringing your own. There should be a rental place near the lift but less choice (usually means more expensive) .

If you do rent a car as already mentioned check the winterisation cost when looking at Geneva French side vs Swiss. Definitely get winter tyres even if a bit more.

Don't worry about all the details. You'll work them out and enjoy it.
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