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The best French resorts people (unless they are Snowheads) have never heard of

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2022/jan/20/fresh-powder-the-best-french-ski-resorts-youve-never-heard-of?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Other

Several of these regularly feature on Snowheads. Not Hauteluce, perhaps - the first - but it's just over the hill from Les Saisies. And down the valley (bus but not lift-linked) from the Belleville back door into Les Contamines.
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Les Sept laux.

But there are loads of really good places that just don't feature on the UK casual skiers radar.

Who, for example, has been to Vars.
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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?
I have been to five of the resorts in the Guardian article.

@johnE, Haven't been to Vars but I think Vars/Risoul sounds an interesting area. I have been to nearby Les Orres and Puy St Vincent neither of which get much of a mention on snowheads. We tend to keep going to Montgenevre rather than trying other southern french alps resorts as it seems the most snow sure and we are often travelling at the beginning or end of the season.
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La Clusaz is surely quite well known? I've always wanted to go there but it's rather expensive, at least for accommodations.

There are a TON of French stations, some quite large, that are frequented mostly by the French. The thing is, there arena't a lot of of differentiating factors between midsize stations, so you'd have to be a fairly discerning skier to want to go to some of them that aren't on the beaten path (meaning Pyrenees stations, southern Alps such as Puy St. Vincent, Vars, Isola 2000 etc, smaller north/central Alps like Areches or Semnoz, or anywhere in the Jura/Massif Central). A lot of the southern Alps stations are frequented by Marseilles/Nice/South of France residents.

We have French friends who in fact do go to Vars every year! I once asked why, since it's a haul (9 hour drive!) from Paris, and they said that's where they've always gone.

I personally enjoy some of these stations, especially liked Valloire, but I think Snowheads have sussed out almost all of them worth going to.
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Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
None of those are particularly obscure. Lazy journalism.

Next week we are popping down to the well known mega-resort of Valberg.

No, I’d never heard of it either.

Road trip!
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under a new name wrote:
None of those are particularly obscure. Lazy journalism.

Next week we are popping down to the well known mega-resort of Valberg.

No, I’d never heard of it either.

Road trip!


I only heard of Valberg this year as it was a stage finish in the Mercantour Classic bicycle race, won by Guillaume Martin (French, rides for Cofidis). It looked quite nice on the TV, but rather far south. I suspect being only 1.5 hours from Nice that it gets pretty busy on weekends.
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Valberg looks nice (only seen in summer) but the runs do seem very, very short. A report will be very interesting, if you have time!
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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!
@Pasigal, @under a new name, it would have been much less lazy journalism if they'd featured Areches - which has to be a FAR better destination than Gérardmer. Most of the time, at any rate! And particularly for ski touring. When OH and I lunched there one perishing cold day ours were the only "downhill" skis in the racks outside. We felt very suburban....
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pam w wrote:
@Pasigal, @under a new name, it would have been much less lazy journalism if they'd featured Areches - which has to be a FAR better destination than Gérardmer. Most of the time, at any rate! And particularly for ski touring. When OH and I lunched there one perishing cold day ours were the only "downhill" skis in the racks outside. We felt very suburban....


Oh, I agree it was a lazy article. I think the takeaway is that an extra 30 minutes/hour travel time can make all the difference, for example with Areches vs Espace Diamant (which isn't really known at all to the average British skier, I think).

We live in Paris and have a hard limit of 7 hours' drive. I just won't spend that much time on the road to ski. (have taken overnight train to Serre Che a few times) After that, we head to Italy via plane...so unless you have time to kill, ski stations like Areches or in the southern Alps don't really pencil out as far as the time investment. I'd love to rent a camper and take a month going south to north from Nice and visiting 10-15 new stations...
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@balso, will be my pleasure. It will, I suspect, be a bit of a gastro-oeno-ski weekend wink

@pam w, oh, Areches looks nice - and cheesy! (had a lovely bit of Beaufort with my onion soup at lunch wink
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I had onion soup and toasted cheese for lunch too! It was v good, but a different gruyère.
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
When I retire one of things I want to do is check out some of these places.
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
I have been to a lot of small stations in France for races, they organize them in part for publicity.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
@pam w, can't go wrong with onion soup wink
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:

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Poster: A snowHead
It was delicious. In Areches-Beaufort one day (it's always cold there....) we had big bowls of soup and took advantage of the opportunity to hang our jackets up above the big fire (hangers provided) and warm the boots up too, whilst wearing the slippers provided in a big wicker basket. When we first went to Saisies you could get a 5 day pass, very good value (80 euros, IIRC), for up to 2 days in Areches, Saisies or Les Contamines. Several of our visitors had them, and we drove them around. Normally it was a bit of a schlep to go to Areches - right down into the Beaufort Valley, and up to Areches. Very beautiful in summer up there, too, driving up to the Cormet d'Areches
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Bring back 'The Good Skiing Guide'.
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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?
johnE wrote:
Les Sept laux.


Been watching this for a while... also Orcieres after the TdF went through
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@Kenzie, or try Undiscovered Slopes by Tania Alexander. As others have said Areche is really nice, used to do overnight trips there from bigger stations. Bareges is hardly obscure - spent many weeks there via Thompson’s back in the day. The second oldest ski resort in France as I recall.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Pasigal wrote:
There are a TON of French stations, some quite large, that are frequented mostly by the French. The thing is, there arena't a lot of of differentiating factors between midsize stations, so you'd have to be a fairly discerning skier to want to go to some of them that aren't on the beaten path


I would completely disagree with you.

It is the big Savoie mega resorts that are very samey, big wide boulevard pistes and lack of challenges, some riding a bit on past reputations. Horrible purpose built apartment blocks that wouldn't look out of place in a Siberian mining outpost. Mountain restaurants serving up the same diet of cheese and potatoe stew and everything designed to extract the maximum amount of money from undiscerning Brits.

I've skied most places in France, the only one I've not skied on the Guardian list is Mongtenèvre because it is too far. Even among our local ski areas there is a lot of difference - les 7 Laux has one of the most efficient lift systems in the French Alps. If you want to ski 1000 meters of vertical and do laps on some challenging terrain it is the go to place. Just to the north the Collet d'Allevard has easier pistes but you can ski the whole mountain with very little risk; great for aspiring off pisters. Chamrousse is great if you don't just want to piste ski, easy lift served ski touring and a wide range of other activities. St Pierre de Chartreuse - endless terrain through the trees on a day when the weather closes in and dumps big time but great for kids who want to learn.

Barèges, on the Graun list, and the Pic du Midi, a mini Chamonix in the Pyrénées with some gnarly descents. Try the north facing Poubelles from the observatory. Soak up the Victorian atmosphere of a traditional spar. Le Mont Dore, steep chutes a gogo off the Puy du Sancy or ski the cruisy pistes over in Super Besse with its town built out of black volcanic rock.

Lots of places built around a traditional village serving up local food and wine at reasonable prices.

Valberg is an interesting place. The skiing is pleasant and you can see the sea in the distance. It is a bit of a wild west town built along a long road with a strange Swiss chalet at one point. Restaurants were good. Ski touring and cross country are good too. Nearby is l'Audiberge - a hill, a restaurant and some drag lifts. Le Roubion is more developed as is Gréolières les neiges with pretensions to be a real ski area but a mecca for snow shoeing and nordic touring.
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@Kenzie, or try Undiscovered Slopes by Tania Alexander. As others have said Areche is really nice, used to do overnight trips there from bigger stations. Bareges is hardly obscure - spent many weeks there via Thompson’s back in the day. The second oldest ski resort in France as I recall.
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
One resource to find new places is this. the marked runs and lifts stand out a bit more than other mapping sites.
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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!
For beginners, timid intermediates: https://www.onthesnow.co.uk/northern-alps/notre-dame-de-bellecombe/pistemap

I went here on a school trip many years ago
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Valmorel? Nobody Brit seems to go there - it is chocka full of blue pistes. Isola 2000 (my personal fave for a long weekend, super easy to get to via Nice). Val Cenis/Lanslevillard - sweet, again very French. St Gervais les Bains (the better side of Megeve). Praz d‘arly - up the road from aforementioned. There’s a few. You’ve prob all heard of them, but they’re more French than Brit.
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Quote:

Praz d‘arly - up the road from aforementioned.

That's kind of covered in the Guardian article, as part of the Espace Diamant. I've long been surprised by the lack of mention of Valmorel on SHs.
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@Kimski44, The tour operator we use, Peak Retreats, offers these resorts (Isola is under their ski collection brand) and we have been to the places you mention apart from Isola 2000. However you are right that they will not have large numbers of British people as the large flight package TOs probably don't feature them.
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
@davidof, I've been reading about Mont Dore recently. Never realised it was there until a few weeks ago. Sounds like you think it's genuinely worth a look. Also been looking at the nearby resort of Le Lioran. Have you been there too? If so, what are your thoughts?

Between Mont Dore, Super Besse and Le Lioran there's seems to be enough for at least a few days of decent skiing. The main thing that stands out to me is that it is a good 2 hours closer to the channel if driving, so could good for a self-drive short break. I like the look of the scenery and the old volcanoes too.
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
Pasigal wrote:
La Clusaz is surely quite well known? I've always wanted to go there but it's rather expensive, at least for accommodations.


We went about 4 seasons ago and booked through the tourist office website - https://en.laclusaz-tour.com/ - and managed to find a relatively reasonable Feb HT apartment for the 4 of use (1 bed + coin montagne so all proper beds~€1,200), booked only in January so I should imagine if you book early you'd have more choice.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
@pam w, If you think Valmorel is rarely mentioned then think of its partner the other side of the pass st Francois Longchamp.

I have skied Valmorel but cannot remember a single thing about it.
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