Suggestions for the discerning IMC visitor to the French Alps
A fine way to enjoy skiing without taking out a mortgage is to stay in mountain huts or gîtes. Although more basic than 4* chalets or hotels they are frequently more convivial, and food is often better, while expertise and friendly advice is always to be had from the warden or visitors: local, skiing, mountaineering.
Access: Train, St Gervais-Martigny line, or bus from Geneva airport.
Le Moulin: gite-chamonix.com
Cosy gîte between Argentière and Le Tour, dormitories, very accommodating. Ski
bus 1 minute walk. To learn: Chosalet at Les Grands Montets and Le Vormaine at
Le Tour. A good 5 km of easy snow at about 15€/day. To improve: Le Balme, 50 km
of easy-going pistes and a long descent to Vallorcine. Harder: Les Grands
Montets, Le Brévent, Flégère; steep, as is the valley, challenging. Several long
descents red and black. Off piste: To get going and practise: almost anywhere,
but especially Le Balme. Huge variety elsewhere, mostly rather serious; hire a
guide. 110 km of piste on a single pass. Les Houches, lower, not so steep, and
attractive for a day, requires a separate pass. The various areas are separated,
but connected by an effective free bus service and train.
LES CONTAMINES: lescontamines.net
Access: SNCF train to St Gervais and then bus: sat-montblanc.com or bus from
CAF hut: chalet-caf-contamines.fr
Marie and Olivier, very good local cuisine, dormitories. Five minutes to centre
of the village, five minutes to ski lift, free ski bus at the door. 120 km of
piste: blue and red ideal for a second or third ski trip, good selection of
black. Excellent snow cover, especially for the beginning and end of season.
Irregular bus connection to St Gervais giving 400 km around St-Nicolas de
Véroce, St Gervais, Megève: fine skiing at all levels, particularly l’Épaule du
Mt Joly. These areas all enjoy spectacular views of the Mont Blanc. Also two
fine spots above St-Nicolas, accessible via red pistes: refuge-mont-joly.com, porcherey.online.fr
Access: Train Martigny-Le Châble, ski hire and bubble lift at station.
SAC hut: cabanemontfort.ch
At 2500m, modern refit to a high standard, dormitories: 2, 4, or six beds.
Access via the Jumbo lift, last car 4pm, followed by a red piste which is rather
steep at the start. Allow one hour from the station at Le Châble. 400 km of good
skiing from the door, mostly red or harder but quite wide. Four or five fine
COST: Budget on £40/day for half board. Lift passes about £40/day at Chamonix and
Verbier, £25-£35/day at Les Contamines and St Gervais, depending on area.
YOUTH HOSTELS: fuaj.org Comparable to UK, although food figures more
highly and is more copious! Book via internet. Budget as above, although all-in,
full board / ski pass / ski hire, might give a better deal. Four
well-recommended, and giving good intermediate skiing are:
Access to each is by SNCF train and then local bus.