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Resort advice for 1st week of April

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Hi,

I'll cut to the chase, Morillon Les Esserts vs Les Carroz vs Notre Dame de Bellecombe?

I'd appreciate some resort advice for a family trip we have planned for the first week of April (starting April 1st). We are on a tight budget and restricted to this week, which is a little later in the season than I would like. We will drive from the UK so I've pinpointed looking at the Northern French resorts near'ish Mont Blanc. I am a reasonable intermediate, happy on all pistes but a bit rubbish off it, my wife is a timid, but experienced intermediate and my two boys are basically 2nd/3rd week skiiers aged 15 and 12 years. My search has thrown up options in each of the above (but restricted to those really). Any thoughts on the suitability of the terrain and snow reliability that late in the season? We like great views too, but not too interested in nightlife, although a shop or two and a couple of restaurant options would be nice.

Or is it worth driving a little bit further to find a more suitable resort? Again my budget has thrown up options specifically in Valmorel, Les Sybelles, Valmeinier (higher but soul-less?), La Norma, Val Cenis or Chamrousse.

Any advice would be gratefully received. Thank you.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Maybe it's a bit of an open question.

If you have been to one of the above would you go again with your family? How did you rate it? We need lots of greens and blues for confidence building. Would you go in the first week of April? I quite like the look of La Norma (and the deals there are amazing at that time of year) but would it's size be restrictive for us? How much longer is the drive?
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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?
We have often been to the French Alps at this time or even the week after.

Of the resorts you mention Les Carroz is probably the best option. It is one of the closest resorts in driving time and has the village amenities you are looking for. The local slopes in Les Carroz and Morillon are treelined with some great mountain restaurants. The reason I'd go for Les Carroz over Morillon is that if conditions were poor it is a fairly easy drive from Les Carroz up to Flaine where there are north facing slopes up to 2500m. Flaine has an excellent snow record. You could of course stay in Flaine itself but we always choose Les Carroz as it is a prettier base if the snow is good and on the one occasion the snow was poor we were happy to drive to Flaine some days.

With regards to Notre Dame de Bellecombe I think you would be better off going to Les Saisies as it is a bit higher. Both are part of L'Espace Diamant which has a good snow record. However the ski area only goes up to 2100m so I think the Grand Massif is a slightly safer bet for Easter.

In the Maurienne area I'd recommend Val Cenis which is an easy drive from the motorway exit and is good value all round with high north facing slopes. It will be a bit slushy at the bottom in April but you should get good skiing higher up.

You could also look at Montgenevre which is usually very good in early April and is also good value. It is a longer drive with the cost of the frejus tunnel (I think you can get a discount on that with the lift pass) but worth the extra journey for high north facing uncrowded slopes in my opinion.

In terms of good value accommodation I'd recommend the following: Chalets Leana or Chalets de Jouvence in Les Carroz (the former is newer but Chalets de Jouvence is ski to the door if the snow is good). I would choose between Les Balcons Platinum and Chalets de Flambeau in Val Cenis. In Les Saisies Les Chalets de Cimes are well placed although we stayed in Residence Amaya. Le Napoleon is good in Montgenevre but Le Hameau des Airelles is ok and cheaper. There are plenty of cheaper options in Val Cenis that are probably good enough eg Les Balcons du village.

If you are thinking of self drive I'd highly recommend Peak Retreats. We have been to all the above resorts and more with them and the price includes Eurotunnel Flexiplus. They will also book the ferry at a cheaper cost.
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Thank you, that is a great reply. Some more research to do. You make some good pros for Les Carroz that I didn't consider, especially the ease in which you can drive to Flaine if the conditions are really poor. I guess you can get there on lifts/pistes too quite quickly, but in the event conditions are horrendous the driving option is a good one. (But I'll be crossing all my fingers that the late season in 2023 is a pearler of course. Please oblige snow gods!)
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benboski wrote:
But I'll be crossing all my fingers that the late season in 2023 is a pearler of course. Please oblige snow gods!

You are not the ony one! It is the only time our daughter can join us (or indeed, ski at all this season).
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@benboski, from a position of liking all the GM villages (no intention to be critical of the others) I'd favour Morillon Les Esserts 1100 as particularly good in meeting your desired attributes.
Small but perfectly formed, with all the accommodation covered in 100mtrs radius of principal chair lift, it's,ultra convenient in just stepping out onto the snow. Coupled with the piste in that area being ideal for all levels of skier approach and progression too, it makes an ideal base to ski from.
Acess to Les Carroz area is only that one chairlift, and so skiing both areas from here is very simple. Although having long and wide approach with easy gradient back to village it has more packed into the immediate slopes than generally appreciated from raw km numbers.
Three of the best regarded restaurants in the GM are here too, L'Beu and La Combe being in 1100 village with L'Igloo at top of immediate ski lift. These are great locally owned and run places with really good food.
Also a well stocked small supermarket there for self catering that is fine without having to go out anywhere else for supplies, although driving to Samöens is only about 15 mins and worthwhile after lifts close for the evening with more food shops on the way.
We've returned many times as a family to ski there and it does have a very family and friendly atmosphere with a relaxed feel to it. Snow conditions allowing, it has much to offer in very subtle way that plain numbers in comparison to alternatives don't really illustrate. We've always really enjoyed it there.
La Norma, we've visited but not stayed there, smaller overall ski area, village a little larger and good direct access to skiing.
As mentioned above, Val Cenis is probably a better choice in staying within Maurienne valley. Maurienne a little further to travel than GM but a very easy drive nonetheless and reasonably comparable for total journey. We've usually driven to Chambery then local roads to VC as it's a nice drive along that valley without traffic concerns.
Val cenis easily holds the largest ski area in those immediate villages with particularly good higher level access all on blue piste for progressing ski skills, and right to the summit of ski area. Prices are usually good, for accommodation, with decent ski pass too. Here, again, are good restaurants on mountain and in village at reasonable cost. It's a very good area to visit.
If considering La Norma, then Val Frejus should also be added to the list. Not so villag-eee but with good aspect and lift/cabin straight to higher altitude bowl for good snow conditions.
I like both of these but would favour Val Cenis in this valley and returned to there with family and good experiences, weve had great ski holidays there.
If driving you can easily visit Bonneval Sur Arc (easy from VC) for a different day's skiing, very worthwhile too.
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@benboski, I would possibly add Les Contamines to your mix - it's an easy drive and would meet your tight budget requirements - it looks as the family lift pass would be just over €715 for that week and am sure at the levels of skiing you mention, the immediate area would be enough for 6 days. We had a bizarrely "cheap" week there at half term by booking accommodation through the tourist office for under €700, I should imagine the first week of April would be comparably less. I don't know about the snow cover at that point of the season but it's no less high than some of the other options you mention.
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Quote:

With regards to Notre Dame de Bellecombe I think you would be better off going to Les Saisies as it is a bit higher. Both are part of L'Espace Diamant which has a good snow record. However the ski area only goes up to 2100m so I think the Grand Massif is a slightly safer bet for Easter.


I know the whole Espace Diamant very well and strongly concur with @snowymum. The runs in the lower Arly Valley are highly likely to be pretty slushy/frozen by then. I am going to be in Saisies for that week, but only because that's where ALL my 8 grandchildren want to go. I would not expect to ski down to Notre Dame that week, though the higher ND slopes should be OK.

I'd be tempted to go for somewhere a lot higher - maybe Tignes or Val Thorens. A basic apartment shouldn't break the bank, as it's low season for French accommodation (though very expensive for flights and packages from the UK). Economise on other things - eating out, for example, is ruinous with young kids. Ski passes are not hugely cheaper in Saisies than other places, especially if you can get family deals.

Of the other places mentioned, Les Contamines would be a decent bet, holds it snow well, but count on skiing only above the top of the gondola and going both up and down in the lift.
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@benboski, You seem to indicate that budget is important to you and I say this every year for folks with Teenagers but never know how many listen? Very Happy

Ski Passes could well be a deal maker or breaker. A quick look on the Les Carroz Website shows Adult Passes at €289 and Youth at €256. There is the possibility of a 10% Discount if you book by the end of November. Here in Ski Amade (other resorts are available!) Kids born in or after 2007 ski free from 18th Mar 23. That's a local saving of €400 for two, or nearly €500 on Les Carroz, plus another €50 on Mum and Dad's. Factor in Road Tolls (€160 vs €9.60) and that's another €150 saving, take off €50 for the extra fuel though.

Ah but the resort is lower and the snow will be crap. Not so unless we have unseasonable warming. Most of the runs face NW-E and the bottom run in Zauchensee finishes at 1300m. We skied through until 01 May Last season and its reliable enough that Wagrain hosts the Belgium Schools Ski Clubs Easter week too.

Ski Amade Pros: That's €650 of savings vs Les Carroz. Beautiful crusing runs for Low Intermediates. Much cheaper on Mountain eating. Decent Apres and they don't speak French.

Ski Amade Cons: 3 hours extra in the car and you have to drive through Belgium.
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@RedandWhiteFlachau, Every time we have been to Les Carroz we have bought a family lift pass which has worked out cheaper. There are sometimes discounts for April.

I have not checked the Grand Massif prices this year as we are going to a different resort. My kids are also beyond the age of family lift passes now.
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Quote:

they don't speak French

You make some good points, @RedandWhiteFlachau, but why end with this bit of jingoistic nonsense? It just detracts from your points.
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
snowymum wrote:
@RedandWhiteFlachau, Every time we have been to Les Carroz we have bought a family lift pass which has worked out cheaper. There are sometimes discounts for April.

I have not checked the Grand Massif prices this year as we are going to a different resort. My kids are also beyond the age of family lift passes now.


I did check the Grand Massif prices before posting and the 10% off a Family Pass is the best offer on the Website for the OP.
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pam w wrote:
Quote:

they don't speak French

You make some good points, @RedandWhiteFlachau, but why end with this bit of jingoistic nonsense? It just detracts from your points.


What about the "Driving through Belgium" quip, or did you agree with that one?


Last edited by 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 on Wed 23-11-22 19:04; edited 2 times in total
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
I didn't notice that one. An extra three hours driving is certainly a penalty and though I've not driven through Belgium (or Luxembourg) for some years I would certainly prefer three hours on the French autoroute. Though the experience of "Madam Pipi" in Belgium was a novelty.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Val Cenis pass @ euro 160 (age 12~64) for six days beginning 1st April.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
@ski3, Do you have a link for that? Their website shows €243 for adults, which the OP's family are all classed as, until 21 Apr 23. Reduction from the 15 Apr of 30% but that's when the resort is partially open.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
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I was looking here https://www.valcenis.ski/en/products/val-cenis-6-day-lift-tickets link resets to current date, just click across on month tab to see.
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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 replies and all of the fabulous information.

We love Austria but the extra time / distance is off-putting. We are veterans of long journey driving (at least in France) as my wife's family have a second home in the Languedoc, but the extra few hours do cause significant fatigue and pain. BTW my wife's mum is French and she was brought up speaking French, so the French speaking comment is not a concern. Smile

Val Cenis does look really interesting however. It looks to be a big area spread over several mountains, with lifts up to lofty heights (snow sure?). As the crow flies it appears to be only a few miles from Val d'Isere, albeit in another valley, so it may benefit from a similar micro-climate. What is also interesting is that from the piste map it appears to have easy blue options off most of those high lifts. If only it was 2 hours closer ... ! It is still worth considering.

The deals I'd seen were with Snowtrex, where the ski passes are inclusive. We may need to deal with living in a rabbit hutch apartment for a week, but that's fine, we're a close family.

So now it is between Les Carroz, Morillon 1100, i.e. plan A, or plan B in Val Cenis right at the end of the Maurienne Valley. Has anyone got experience with 2nd/3rd week skiers in Val Cenis? I've made some big assumptions based on a piste map (which can be mis-leading to say the least).

Thanks again.
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@benboski, shouldn’t the title of this be “French resort advice for the 1st week of April” ?
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Can thoroughly recommend Val Cenis (and if you don’t mind short drives, the nearby areas of La Norma, Valfrejus and Aussois) but am biased as have a place nearby.

This review may be of help to you and may answer some of your questions

https://www.powderhounds.com/Europe/France/Val-Cenis.aspx
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Ribble,

Sure, that appears to be more apt. Unless someone has a suggestion less than 9 hours drive from Calais in another country. We have considered Feldberg previously, but early April is too late in the season for there, with no high altitude pistes. I guess the resorts near Aosta are reachable too, but I've skied in Courmayer, Pila and Cervinia and although they were great they're not worth passing the Grand Massif for IMO.
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I've also skied in Megeve, St Gervais and that would be perfect with a few extra 100m's of altitude, hence I'm leaning towards the GM. For the record, I am fairly experienced with several resorts. Just not with the family Wink. For example, Les Contamines, Chamonix, Morzine, Les Gets all from close by (as well as the Mont Blanc Evasion). And also several of the mega resorts in the Tarantaise, but I'm priced out of them for this holiday. I was in Austria last year, Reit im Winkl for Steinplatte, access from the German side to take advantage of more relaxed covid rules (hopefully not an issue this year). I've also skiied several other places in Austria and to be honest if the travel was easy in a car I'd snap up Ski Amade straight away. It's lovely there, I agree!
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
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I've noticed a common theme on SH thread's, they often turn into a France vs Austria argument (they are both really nice), or someone goes off topic to recommend La Rosiere. Laughing
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benboski wrote:
I've noticed a common theme on SH thread's, they often turn into a France vs Austria argument ...

Or helmets vs bobble hats. Or 4WD vs chains. Or anything argumentative really.
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I know you are quite set on driving. However, have you considered Scandinavia? Although the food is more expensive when you get there (we self cater and don't eat out as we go as a big group of about 15), the accommodation is usually a good price. I'd recommend checking out the Skistar website before you make a final decision!
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First time I visited Norway and Sweden (as a child and we went in summer) my parents drove over and took a ferry. I was too young to remember the port names (just remember my Dad shutting my finger in car door when we got out car on the ferry). Is this route still available?
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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.
@benboski, "So now it is between Les Carroz, Morillon 1100, i.e. plan A, or plan B in Val Cenis right at the end of the Maurienne Valley. Has anyone got experience with 2nd/3rd week skiers in Val Cenis? I've made some big assumptions based on a piste map (which can be mis-leading to say the least)."

I wouldn't envisage a difficult time with that experience in Val Cenis. They routinely have raw beginner in ski school groups up on main/higher bowl of ski area.
It's a green (actually a fairly wide road outside ski/snow season) that's L'Escargo piste back down from mid mountain to village. There's very good provision for skill levels at any stage of progression. It's characteristics are predominantly wide spacious piste access to most of the mountain with absolutely minimal parts that traditionally worry an early skillset skier.
If you seek advanced skiing there's provision, but you've got to specifically head for it. It's not a place that trips up the unaware.

Personal experience has been to stay in Llansvillard village (specifically Val Cenis Haute) wich has direct green slope access back in and small gondola out, there's no travelling to the slopes from most accommodation with virtually all areas having direct immediate access.

Llanselbourg and Llansvillard are effectively at either end of "Val Cenis" area with ski bus connections to all the intermediate areas between the two, along with piste connection running from highest point villard to lowest bourg too. It's very easy to use the whole area whatever skill level.
Various small supermarket, patisserie and other food supplies dotted around along with Intermarchè en route (modane and near Termignon) to get larger supply on the inward journey. Food cost overall is much more normal than some of the more famous ski areas.
The whole is a nicely relaxed area to visit with pool and ice rink in Llansvillard too.

Clear view of ski skills needed, genuinely accessible from top to base and very safe to ski with very early skills. The view out across Italy and the piste up at the highest point is a great place to reach without spooking or giving concern about suitability.
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benboski wrote:

The deals I'd seen were with Snowtrex, where the ski passes are inclusive. We may need to deal with living in a rabbit hutch apartment for a week, but that's fine, we're a close family.


Have you had a look at Sunweb too as they do lift pass inclusive prices - for example, they have 12 pages of deals (over 100 at a rough guess) under £260, including Val Cenis and the Sybelles, both of which you've mentioned. I don't think I would go for Morillon 1100 in April but have a look at Flaine in the same ski area as that's at 1600m.
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ski3 wrote:
I was looking here https://www.valcenis.ski/en/products/val-cenis-6-day-lift-tickets link resets to current date, just click across on month tab to see.


Had a look. Val Cenis only with one day elsewhere. Only 6 left at that price. Very Happy
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@benboski, I'll do the traditional snowheads thing of responding with another suggestion once you've made a decision. Toofy Grin

Have a look at Alpe D'Huez and it's satellite resorts. Above the main resort is a large bowl of greens and blues so meeting your requirements for confidence building. Around the rest of teh area are plenty of varied runs to progress to.

Drive-wise, its around 10 -11 hours from Calais, so a bit further than the GM, but looking at google maps, about the same as Val Cenis. It's also an easy drive. Autoroute from Calais to Grenoble, then along the Romanche valley to Bourg d'Oisans and then up the famed hairpins to ADH - Oz and Vaujany are on a turn off before Bourg. Plenty of supermarkets along the road around Grenoble to stock up on beers and wines, cheeses and snacks etc
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
benboski wrote:
I quite like the look of La Norma (and the deals there are amazing at that time of year) but would it's size be restrictive for us? How much longer is the drive?

Here is my TR for La Norma trip in 2012.

It is quite small I would say that but certainly cheap as chips.

My kids were quite young at the time and hence I was happy to try somewhere smaller.

Your wife may struggle a bit but I wonder how the group skiing dynamic works given you are decent and the kids teenagers who are going to rip things up?

The drive to La Norma was no issue.

Seen Les Contamines mentioned. Been there also . It's a bit more extensive. Convenience depends where you stay.

Staying in these smaller ski areas is a mindset thing. Also depends on whether you like to really travel and do long days. If you don't and like to pootle, stop for lunch, a vin chaud/beer/hot choccie every now and then probably not an issue.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
I've booked Val Cenis for the first week in April, so I'm going to suggest Sunweb. Loads of options, all with lift pass included.

Yes the drive is a little further, but I've decided that the North facing higher slopes will be offering decent skiing for me and my 2 teens for a very late season trip.
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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've been to Val Cenis a couple of times in April, it's North facing and holds its snow well with decent altitude though the lower slopes will soften quickly each day.
Very good intermediate skiing and a good atmosphere, definitely recommended for what you're looking for.
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Thank you for all of the great feedback and advice.

I put the final suggestions to the family this weekend, I proposed Val Cenis or Valmeinier 1800 to tick all our boxes, and they chose Notre Dame de Bellecombe 1150, which as we know is far from ideal for late in the season (snow-wise). Their thinking. The wife wants Savoyarde charm, chalets and 'Sound of Music' and the kids want easy, unintimidating skiing. The in-laws had a great holiday in the Espace Diamant in February this year (I'm pretty sure that's not a good representation of what we'll get in early April!). I'm happy to go along with this, but I told them it'll likely be green fields in the valley and slush and brown snow on the lower slopes (if anything). Not off-putting to the wife. In my opinion it's likely we'll have to head over to the higher parts of the area above Mont Rond and Les Saisies daily. At this point I was going to end posting on this thread to a chorus of head shaking, but the knowledge on here is amazing, so please one last question ..... actually there is more than one ... Smile

What are the links like from NDB 1150 to Les Saisies and the wider Espace Diamant area? I'll have the car, but I'd prefer to use a skibus. The web says NDB 1150 and Crest-Voland have a shuttle ski-bus. Is this correct? Is there a good lift/piste link into Les Saisies from Crest Voland (there appears to be one on the piste map). Are the villages of NDB 1150, 1350 and 1450 linked by bus? If we can get to Mont Rond in NDB 1350 it looks like we can access the higher areas. Are there other areas worth visiting too at this time of the season, like above Praz Sur Arly for example? Thank you!!
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Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Apologies, I realise this has now turned into another Les Saisies / Espace Diamant thread. But I have specific questions about getting around on piste or by skibus late in the season (specifically from NDB 1150) and I don't see too many threads covering this. Blush
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@benboski, I have finished shaking my head now snowHead snowHead

Well at least you didn't go for Valmeinier which is purpose built (I think) and south facing. Valloire is the attractive village in that ski area.

Les Saisies lacks a pretty church but is a beautiful ski area with lots of tree lined slopes. If you haven't actually booked I would book Le Chalet des cimes in Les Saisies itself rather than Notre Dame.

There is a regular ski bus between Notre Dame 1150 and Crest Voland but check it doesn't stop for lunch as my husband once got stranded in Notre Dame for a while waiting for it to restart. Both notre dame 1150 and crest voland have some easy skiing but you are taking a risk with the conditions given their altitude. The best snow is likely to be on the Mont Bisanne north facing side and in the Bellasta area (near the sommet de l'espace diamant). You will be able to get from notre dame 1150 to mont rond by a chair lift which goes both ways over a road.

I would not count on being able to ski praz or flumet but I have always skied in early season in Les Saisies so Pam W will be able to give you better feedback on what it is like there at Easter.
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