Skiing in France – where should you holiday next?

January 17, 2015

Ok so we all know it has been a slow start to the 2015 ski season in Europe. The warm and dry conditions made slopes look a little too green in some Alpine resorts over Christmas and New Year. But winter always arrives and early January has seen some big dumps across the main French resorts. So if you haven’t yet booked your next ski holiday don't worry as there is still 3 months of skiing in most resorts.

France is always a popular ski holiday destination.  There are actually over 80 major ski resorts in France so it is easy to see why it is a constant favourite with skiers and boarders. With such a range of resorts it can be difficult to choose so we have created a short graphical overview of the top 4 ski destinations in France. We hope it helps !!!

Skiing in France Infographic

 

 Just to recap here are our overall findings about the 4 largest ski domains in France;

3 Valleys France

The 3 Valleys:

This is the largest ski domain in the world and links the 8 villages of Courchevel, Meribel, Val Thorens, Les Menuires, St Martin de Belleville, La Tania, Brides les Bains and Orelle. There are over 600km of linked ski runs and some  180 ski lifts. 85% of the skiing is above 1800m and the minimum altitude is 1300m which makes this a very snow sure option for your next ski holiday.

Portes du Soleil France

Portes du Soleil:

In the Portes to Soleil you can choose from 12 different ski villages which are all linked together to give 285 slopes, 196 lifts and 90 slope side restaurants. This area is perfect if you like to ski from valley to valley and stop of a different ski villages. You can even ski across an international border as the Portes du Soleil links ski resorts in both France and Switzerland. If you ski across to the Swiss side just make sure you head home in time for the last lifts as it is a long taxi ride around the mountain if you miss the last lift. The area is also home to the “Swiss Wall” a crazy 55 degree off piste run. The 12  resorts in the Portes to Soleil are Abondance, Avoriaz, Chatel, La Chapelle d'Abondance, Les Gets, Montriond, Morzine, St Jean d'Aulps, Champéry, Morgins, Torgon, Val-d'Illiez - Les Crosets – Champoussin. Oh and they get almost 8m of powder here every year so you can find some awesome off piste.

Espace Killy France

The Espace Killy:

Named after the famous French Olympic skier the Espace Killy is the oldest ski region in the Savoie Alps. Made up of the resort of Val d’Isere and Tignes the domain has 156 slopes that span over 300 km. 821 snow cannons guarantee snow from November until May and with 2 glaciers you can even ski in the summer. Our tip: Le Fornet at the far end of the Val d’Isere valley is a little gem of a village if you are looking for an authentic mountain experience. If you want more glitz, glam and radical action then Tignes is the place to be. 

Paradiski France

Paradiski:

This is the second largest ski domain in the world. This area has just 3 ski villages (Les Arcs, La Plagne and Peisey-Vallandry) but don’t let that fool you as there is still a crazy amount of skiing to do here. With 232 pistes totaling 425 km there is more than enough skiing or boarding for the most experienced travellers. A key factor here is that Paradiski is a high altitiude snow sure destination. 70% of the skiable area is at an altitude of over 2000 m and there is no less than 263 hectares of manmade snow making sure that you have perfect conditions throught out the ski season. 

 

So there you have it, the 4 largest ski areas in France. All you need to decide now where to book your next French ski holiday.

 

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Bad news for ski holidays in Switzerland as the Franc soars

January 16, 2015

In an unexpected and somewhat surprising move the Swiss central bank has removed the currency supports between the Swiss Franc and other foreign currencies. This prompted chaos on currency markets yesterday with some financial firms even going bankrupt as a result.    

The bad news for the financial markets is also bad news for anyone planning a ski holiday in Switzerland. With the currency rising almost 30% against both the euro and sterling the price of everything in Switzerland just got 30% more expensive.

Due to a recent change in local labours laws Swiss ski resorts are already seeing reduced interest from UK ski holiday companies and as a result less UK skiers and snowboarders. This new hit of an additional 30% price increase is not what the local ski industry needed just now.

Only time will tell but it seems that Swiss ski resorts might be looking a little quieter for the foreseeable future.

 

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Heavy snow fall across the Alps

December 28, 2014

It looks like winter has finally arrived in the Alps. Up to 70cm of snow has fallen in 24 hours and while the snow is more than welcome it has caused travel problems across the region.

The worst of the travel chaos is in France and Switzerland where it snowed very heavily on Saturday. The snow storm is now moving eastwards across Austria although it is gradually loosing strength. 

Needless to say the snow has been very welcome in resorts across France which were suffering from a lack of snow so far this season. Many resorts which were closed or had only partially open runs will now be able to open fully for the busy New Year period. Val d’Isere saw some of the biggest dumps with 70cm of powder, Meribel and Verbier had 55cm and Les Gets saw some 30cm.  

Traffic conditions on the French motorways are particularly difficult and all travellers are adviced to use extreme caution when driving.

Heavy snow on the French motorways

Image: AFP: Jean-Pierre Clatot

At Chambery airport heavy snow forced British skiers and snowboarders to seek emergency accommodation as travel was disrupted.

Despite the travel problem even one in the resort is more than happy to finally see a good amount of fresh snow. With a drought of snow during December most resort had been relying on artificial snow on high altitude runs. This dump will finally see most resorts fully and just in time for the ski holidays. Roll on the winter season.

Morzine earlier in the week. Looking a little green ...

Morzine needs some snow 

And now. What a change !!!

Morzine village with fresh snow

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Crazy off piste run - you have to watch this

December 21, 2014

With the season just barely kicking off we already have one of the most amazing ski videos of the year. Watch Cody Townsend straight line the couloir know as The Crack in Tordillo Mountains in Alaska. 

The chute is so narrow it is hard to believe that someone can actually fit through the gap, not to mind doing it while skiing at over 70 km/h. This is one ride you definitely don't want to mess up.

Check out the video below.

 

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Solden to get the 007 treatment

December 7, 2014

With the launch this week of Spectre, the latest James Bond film, is seems like the charming secret service agent is getting back on skis. Earlier this week director Sam Mendes revealed that the latest film will be produced in Pinewood Studios and shot on location in London, Mexico City, Rome and Tangier and Erfoud, in Morocco. Mr Bond will tackle the snow once again, this time in Solden and also in Obertilliach and Lake Altausse in Austria.

It will be interesting to see Daniel Craig’s technique on skis but for sure it will be hard to beat the classic ski chase from The Spy Who Loved Me. Interestingly this was also shot in Austria in 1977 with Roger Moore as the star. Could the yellow onesie make a comeback ?

Of course skiing, snow mobiles and indeed general mountain craziness has always been part of the Bond stable of tricks.   

Here is George Lazenby in a night time ski chase from On Her Majesty`s Secret Service (1969)  

And Pierse Brosnan also showed us his off piste skills in The World Is Not Enough (1999). 

If you are a Bond fan and would like to time you ski holiday around the same time as the filiming then you should check out these dates. According to the Solden Cable Car company the expected times of fiming for the Spectre movie are as below. There may be road closure and lift delays at certain times.

Estimated filming times in Sölden are as follows:

  • 10. – 12. Dec. 2014:  Road up at the Glacier, road tunnel at the Glacier
  • 07. – 10. Jan. 2015:  3S Cable Car and ICE Q Restaurant
  • 12. – 13. Jan. 2015:  Road up at the Glacier, road tunnel at the Glacier
  • 09. – 17. Feb. 2015:  Road up at the Glacier, road tunnel at the Glacier

 

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We need more of the white stuff

December 6, 2014

It has been a slow start to the snow in Europe this season. Despite a reasonable fall of snow in many Alpine areas during November the warm weather has meant that lots of pistes are looking at little too green for this time of year. Some resorts which were due to open this weekend have been forced to cancel due to poor snow cover.

Courchevel, Meribel and Les Menuires announced that they would not be opening as planned this weekend. Tignes and Val d'Isere are open but only at the higher altitude glacier sections.

Val Thorens in Les 3 Vallees is also open but with reduced runs and terrain. Both Alpe d’Huez and Les 2 Alpes are partially open with reasonable skiing at the higher levels.

Over in Austria it is more of the same with the Ski Welt area also cancelling its official opening this week. Ischgl has fared a little better and held its official opening last weekend with James Blunt ringing in the season with a concert in the village. Just about half of the resort runs were open with most of the coverage being above 2000m

Some of the best conditions at the moment are in Switzerland where the November snow in Zermatt and Saas Fee is sticking will and conditions at the higher altitude runs are reasonable for this time of year. The high runs across in Cervinia are also skiable at the moment.

Of course the very best conditions are in North America where the recent snow storms have ensured excellent coverage.

Don’t worry too much, it is still very early in the season and as many experienced seasonaires will tell you “the snow always comes”. Let’s hope so and we will keep you posted when it does.

Here are some photos from ski resort saround Europe.

 

The high levels in Iscghl are not too bad

6th Dec 2014 - ski runs in Ischgl

but the village is looking a little bare !!!

6th Dec 2014 - Ischgl village

The higher runs in Cervinia and Zermatt are looking ok

6th Dec 2014 - Cervinia Plan Maison ski runs

6th Dec 2014 - Zermatt Rothorn ski runs

Between 2000m and 3000m in Alpe d'Huez and Les Deux Alpes you can enjoy some early season skiing and the glaciers in Tignes and Val d'Isere are also open

6th Dec 2014 - Alpe d'Huez 3000m

6th Dec 2014 - Tignes Grand Motte ski area

but don't try any skiing at the low levels in Val D. It needs little more powder first

6th Dec 2014 - Val D'Isere Front de Neige  

This time last year we were reporting over 1.5m snow base in some of the higher resorts so lets hope the snow gods are listening and send us some nice white powder soon. 

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Ski Holidays 2014-15 - which resort will you choose ?

August 26, 2014

With the ski holiday booking season starting to ramp up we thought it might be useful to take a look at some of the popular ski resorts across the Alps. France, Austria and Switzerland remain as popular as every this season. So far this year in terms of individual resorts the most enquiries have been for the resorts of Meribel, Chamonix and Val d’Isere in France, Verbier and Zermatt in Switzerland and St Anton in Austria.

To help you choose the best resort for you next ski holiday we have listed the important factors such as

  • Total ski area – number of pistes and number of km
  • Highest Lift
  • Longest Vertical Drop
  • Longest Ski Run
  • Number of Snow parks
  • Airport Transfer Time
  • Average Annual Snowfall
  • Average Beer Price

Check out our infographic below to see the pros and cons of these six ski resorts. Click on the image to see a larger version with all the facts.

 Ski Resorts 2015 infographic

Here is a summary of the major facts and figures.

Ski Resort

Meribel

Chamonix

Val d’Isere

Verbier

Zermatt

St Anton

Total Pistes

268

81

121

205

128

79

   - Beginner

121

36

64

79

29

37

   - Intermediate

114

31

35

106

72

36

   - Advanced

33

14

22

29

27

6

Total KM

600km

155km

300km

412km

313km

276km

Highest Lift

3200m

3842m

3450m

3330m

3899m

2450m

Vertical Drop

1750m

2807m

1700m

1830m

1620m

1350m

Snow Parks

9

2

2

3

1

4

Longest Run

5km

22km

10km

15km

13km

11km

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 Day Adult Pass

€241

€286

€226

CHF345

CHF480

€247

Airport Transfer

109km

Chambery

88km

Geneva

144km

Chambery

160km

Geneva

244km

Geneva

100km

Innsbruck

Average Snowfall

5m

6.7m

6m

4.3m

5.6m

6.4m

Average Beer Price

€6.00

€5.00

€5.50

€6.50

€5.50

€4.50

 

Hopefully this gives you something to think about when you are planning your next ski holiday. If you need ski accommodation in these resorts we have a huge selection of chalets or ski apartments. Check out the links below to view the accommodation in each resort.

Chamonix – Meribel - Val D’Isere – or try all chalets and ski apartments in France

Verbier – Zermatt – or all ski accommodation in Switzerland

St Anton – or try all ski chalets and apartments in Austria

 

 

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Cross-Country Skiing – tips on why and where you should ski

July 16, 2014

Cross country skiing (also known as known as “ski de fond” in France and “langlauf” in Austria) was originally conceived as a means of transportation in the mountains of Northern Europe; however, today it has evolved into a very popular winter sport and leisure activity. Of course the alpine farmers in Austria still use their skis to get around in winter and herd their mountain goats and sheep so the original format still exists. The only difference is that instead of two homemade planks of wood, these days the farmers “ride” on Salomons, Rossignols or some other hi-tech brand.

While the farmers just did it to get around, there are a number of benefits associated with cross-country skiing: everyone can master it quite easily and quickly; it provides one of the best workout opportunities; and skiers enjoy gliding over silent slopes empty of the irritating crowds of downhill riders. In comparison, the traditional downhill skiing is characterized by certain disadvantages including busy slopes, cold lifts, long waiting lines and busy expensive cafés with every seat full. Don’t get me wrong, both forms of skiing are enjoyable, just in different ways.

When escaping from the hustle and bustle of the crowded downhill pistes to the peaceful environment of the lower mountains, most skiers choose either well developed cross-country routes or serene off-pistes trails. As far as routes are concerned, the majority are properly graded for distance and difficulty, thus allowing skiers of every age group to enjoy the sport for recreational as well as intense competition purposes. If you are worried about being eco-friendly then cross country is the skiing for you. Since very little infrastructure is involved in creating cross-country trails, the sport has minimum ecological effects on its surroundings. In reality you are just going for a stroll in the mountain environment with some fancy plastic tied to your feet.

Cross-country skiing delivers extraordinary health benefits. Above all, it is the least risky winter mountain sport when compared with other skiing activities like downhill alpine skiing or free riding.

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Seven reasons to go skiing in Italy

July 8, 2014

More often than not, when planning a ski holiday people focus on the high profile French and Austrian ski resorts like Chamonix, Morzine and The 3 Valleys in France and places like St Anton, Mayrhofen and Zell am See/Kaprun in Austria. Less known skiing resorts and in fact whole countries are overlooked in favour of more popular resorts.  This is a mistake as often the well known resorts offer nothing more than crowded pistes, exorbitant prices and poor quality purpose built accommodation. If you are looking for a more authentic ski holiday, what to save some money but at the same time get quality accommodation and quality skiing then you should really consider some of the less publicized resorts. One great option that is often overlooking is skiing in Italy. With alpine borders to France, Switzerland and Austria it is no surprise that Italy offers top quality skiing.

Here are seven reasons that distinguish Italian ski resorts from its counterparts located in more traditional countries like France and Austria.

1. Cross-Border International Skiing

Did you ever think of crossing the border and enjoying skiing at the same time? It is not a difficult task in Italy and even skiers with only a week’s experience are more than competent to “go international” and ski across borders. By the way don’t forget your passport !!!

Claviere and the Milky Way to Montgenevre

Low key Claviere is a small commune located on the Franco-Italian border and offers an ideal environment for “cross country” skiing. If you are staying here you are lucky because the border post is just outside your chalet or apartment.  The combined lift passes for Claviere and Montgenevre (in France) will help you get the most of this ski region, which is both high in terms of altitude (good for snow cover)  and perfect for beginners as well as intermediates. A word of caution though – when returning from Montgenevre you will have two routes: one, involving a very reasonable piste that runs at valley level; the second, a black run with some tricky vertical drops, so before making a choice about how to head home check your level of your energy and courage.

La Thuile to La Rosiere

The La Thuile lift pass also includes all the lifts and runs just across the border in La Rosiere (France). International skiing here is a matter of daily routine as the pistes are regularly interlinked across both countries, although the majority of skiers are of the view that the Italian side is the best as it faces the North and East slopes and therefore carries the best snow.

Set off on your tour early in the morning, which will give you maximum time to enjoy the red runs that are located after the Napoleonic fort just at the outskirts of La Rosiere. Don’t forget to visit one of the slope side restaurants for famous ‘dejeuner en Francais’ (breakfast) before decamping for home.

Cervinia to Zermatt

If you are staying in Cervinia you can reach Zermatt (Switzerland) within an hour and enjoy skiing on the slopes of Theodulgletscher yet at the same time evading the expensive Swiss costs and irritating queues for the cable cars.

If you are a real skiing buff, you must kick off your journey from Cervinia right on the first lift in the wee hours to get down to Zermatt village. On returning, get in one of the mountain trains going to Gornergrat for a tasty lunch before heading back to Italy in time for tea. Keep your passport with you because the Swiss authorities regularly check it on the border!

Check out this ski video from the Teodulgletscher area of Zermatt

Courmayeur to Chamonix

One of my favourite ski tours was a trip up from Courmayeur to ski the Vallee Blanche ending up in the heart of Chamonix town.

The only cable car that heads to Punta Helbronner is presently out of order until 2015 because it is being re-fitted, therefore you will have to walk for around 30 minutes to reach the glacier. As well as getting you warmed up before skiing this way has the adding advantage of getting rid of long queues and the heart-stopping precipices on the French side.

If this option down the Valle Blanche is not quite to your liking you can take a 30 minute bus trip through the Mont Blanc tunnel and enjoy a day skiing in Chamonix. One day of Chamonix skiing is often included on your Courmayeur ski package. Thrill seekers love to ski on Les Grand Montets while intermediates will be happy with Flegere and Brevent. All the three can be accessed easily on the Chamonix ski bus.

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Top 10 Bars and Restaurants in Morzine

June 30, 2014

If you are planning a trip to Morzine then you might be interested in a few tips on where to wine and dine after a day on the mountain. These days Morzine is as popular in summer as it is in winter, with mountain bikers and hikers invading the town much like skiers and snowboarders do in winter. Even if you are busy with all the activity on  and around the mountain, dining out and having a drink or two is a good way to unwind at the end of the day. Here are a few of our favourite bars and eateries in Morzine. It’s a mixture of cheap and cheerful bistros as well as haute cuisine restaurants and a few lively bars thrown in too. Hopefully you will find something that fits the bill.

L'Passage

Named the best restaurant on the mountain by visitors that have eaten there, the charming chalet-style eatery offers a variety of delicious options for you to choose from. You can sink your teeth into some of the best burgers in town or opt for something a little sweeter like the crème brulee and a cup of hot chocolate.

Dotty’s Coffee House

Get your fill of delicious gourmet sandwiches and salads as well as fresh fruit smoothies and creamy milkshakes.  Dotty’s puts it personal touches on things like serving drinks to children in glass jars with colorful straws.

Le Clein D’Oeil

Known for its friendly and accommodating staff, the restaurant has something for everyone and has duck and tapas that customers rave about.

L’Etale

A must-have for meat lovers, you can eat chicken, steak, bacon, and as well as the ‘Meat Tree’ which is a delicacy to be devoured and shared.

Beanies Ski Shop and Coffee Bar

Part ski shop and part coffee bar, Beanies is the perfect place to drop in when you want to warm up, have a cup of coffee and eat a slice of cake.  Their milkshakes are worth trying if you can handle more cold after a long day of skiing!

Le Tibetan Café

Formerly known as the Buddha Bar, this café is a fusion of Indian, Pakistanian, and Asian influences.  Its relaxed atmosphere and rock and roll music will make you feel right at home among its ethnic décor.

Café Chaud

If you like cocktails and live music, you’ll find both here.  The fun atmosphere and in house DJs will keep you dancing the night away.

Le Babylone Bar

Small but cozy, the ‘new kid on the block’ Le Barbylone offers international football matches on the big screen, tapas, and live music battles.

Ba Bar

Live sports, DJs spinning the hottest hits, and Coyote Ugly-style dancing on the bar may be for the younger crowd but it’s what sets the bar apart from others in Morzine.

Bar Bush

One of the longest established bars in the area and certainly one of the most entertaining, the Bar Bush offers trivia nights and theme nights where you can have fun, drink, and make some new friends.


Hopefully you enjoy your stay in Morzine whether it’s a snow filled ski holiday or a warmer summer break. Morzine is undoubtedly one of the top mountain resorts in France and is filled with not only a wide range of mountain activities but also exciting restaurants to try and an equally impressive nightlife. You’re likely to walk away from the experience with more than just a full stomach and a nice, relaxed feeling.  If you need to book some accommodation for your stay in Morzine you should check out our range of apartments and chalets in Morzine. Hopefully you will find something that suits your needs.



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