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Live TR: Embrun, Provence Alps, 12-19 Mar 2020 - now with photos

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Mike Pow wrote:
Looks magic

On the list

Call me when you go!
ski holidays
 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
BobinCH wrote:
Mike Pow wrote:
Looks magic

On the list

Call me when you go!

First in the rolodex
snow report
 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?
@Schnorrr, @Hurtle, thank you! @Hurtle, how's the piano playing coming on (and the relationship with your neighbours? Laughing )?

I've now waited long enough for any refunds to come back (or not) from our coronavirus-affected March trip, so thought it about time I finished this TR with my usual summary and costs. The budgeting section might be a case of TMI, but some people have expressed an interest in the past, so here goes...


Well, this'll certainly go down as one of our more memorable trips! French lockdown limited us to just 3 skiing days in the end (plus 2 more sightseeing days), but those 3 days were some of the very best we've ever had.

Skiing: The Foret Blanche (Risoul / Vars) was a revelation, and has become my favourite mid-sized ski area so far. The variety, sense of travel, scenery, different slope aspects and gradients were just wonderful, and lots of long runs. 2 days wasn't enough to explore the whole domain, so we'll definitely be back. Our other day at Les Orres was also very enjoyable, with a good lift system and (again) a welcome variety of open and wooded terrain. A couple of negatives from both resorts which I'll mention below.
Weather / snow: Pretty much perfect for piste skiing, which was a godsend considering our limited skiing time and lack of winter tyres / chains. Full sunshine on all 3 days (and indeed, for the rest of the week), but not excessively warm, and excellent snow cover on all of the pistes in Risoul / Vars (and 99% of those in Les Orres). Avalanche risk (after a little overnight rain) unfortunately closed some of the sunniest slopes in Les Orres on our day there, though I think they re-opened the next day.
We liked: As above: the skiing, views and generally decent lift systems. Also worthy of mentioning is our excellent lunch in Les Orres, which ended up being our only meal out. Very cheap ski hire (and decent kit / service), some good lift pass deals, big supermarkets in Embrun for self catering. Fantastic scenery, not only in the ski areas but also on our days out after the resorts closed. Decent accommodation for the price.
We didn't like: Coronavirus disruption, obviously. In Risoul / Vars, a few long and slow lifts could do with upgrading (Mayt, Crevoux, Razis, Cesier); also lots of ungroomed blacks and reds which were basically no-go areas so long after snowfall (yukky crust / ruts).

Resorts / areas visited:
Fri - Les Orres (discounted day pass, bought in advance)
Sat - Risoul / Vars (discounted day pass, bought in advance)
Sun - Risoul / Vars (full price day pass as we weren't sure they would be open)
(Mon-Wed - resorts shut, but should've had further days in the areas above, plus Crevoux & Reallon)

Embrun was a good base, with Les Orres, Crevoux and Reallon all quite close by (~30min drive). It was a bit further to Risoul.


Breakdown (total for 2 adults, 8 days): (italics = if trip hadn't been curtailed by Covid-19)

Flights (Ryanair EDI-MRS, incl. 1 hold bag): £150
Car hire (Interrent, incl. fuel / tolls but no winter tyres / chains): £158
Accommodation (2-person studio just outside Embrun): £169
Lift passes (Les Orres online day pass, Foret Blanche online Sat pass, Foret Blanche day pass): £178 (6 days, various passes £365)
Ski & boot hire (3 days): £21 (6 days £67)
Extra costs incurred to leave France (flight to London Gatwick, train to Edinburgh): £259 (would have been £0)
Total: £935 (would have been £909)

Comparison with previous trips: italics = divided by no. of days skiing = cost per day skiing, for 2

This is our 10th ski trip together (discounting Scotland day trips). Hyperlinks to previous trip reports are in the first post on this thread. Prices are in total for 2 people, for flights (incl. baggage) + transfer (incl. petrol, tolls, snow chains etc. if hiring a car) + accommodation + lift passes + ski & boot hire. Food is excluded. Trips have all been DIY except 2014 (Crystal) & 2017 (Sunweb for accommodation and passes only).

Feb 2014: Soll (SkiWelt), Austria £1125 /6 = £188
Jan 2015: Alpe d'Huez, France (+ day trips to Les 2 Alpes) £1098 /6 = £183
Jan 2016: Les Carroz (Grand Massif), France £1036 /7 = £148
Mar 2017: Belle Plagne (Paradiski), France £1148 /7 = £164
Jan 2018: Notre Dame de Bellecombe 1150 (Espace Diamant), France £1094 /7 = £156
Mar 2018: Ponte di Legno (Passo Tonale), Italy (+ day trips to Pejo, Monte Altissimo & Aprica) £1043 /7 = £149
Jan 2019: St Gervais (Evasion Mont Blanc various areas), France (+ day trip to Cordon) £1116 /8 = £140
Mar 2019: Varena, Val di Fiemme (Dolomites various areas), Italy £1087 /7 = £155
Jan 2020: Abondance (Portes du Soleil), France (+ day trips to Bernex, Praz de Lys & Thollon) £1074 /8 = £134
Mar 2020 with Covid-19: Embrun, Provence Alps (for Les Orres & Foret Blanche) £935 /3 = £312
(Mar 2020 without Covid-19: Embrun, Provence Alps (various areas) £909!! /6 = £152)

I can't deny it was a rather expensive 3 days' skiing. In terms of total costs, the extra money spent "escaping France" was basically cancelled out by that saved on the days 4-6 lift passes which we ended up not buying. Notwithstanding the exceptional circumstances, this could have been an exceptionally inexpensive trip. Almost all the holiday components were cheaper than usual, but the one which really stands out for me was the cost of £67 (in total for 2 people!) for 6 day ski hire.

We certainly hope to return to this part of the Alps in coming years - appetite well and truly whetted.
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