Archive for October, 2009

Top Ten Affordable Ski Resorts in France

October 29th, 2009


As the new ski season beckons, it’s time to air out your woolly hats, blow the dust off your skis and grab a great deal to the slopes. In the chilly economic climate, the French Alps are still your best bet both for quality resorts and accessibility.

Just a couple of hours’ flight away from the UK, the French Alps offer a vast choice of resorts catering for absolute beginners, intermediates and pros.

Here’s our guide to the top ten most affordable ski resorts in France

1. Les Corbier
Best for: Families
Located in the Les Sybelles region of France, the resort of Les Corbier is purpose-built, compact and traffic-free. Designed in the 1960s by architect Le Corbusier, the resort has become the fourth largest ski resort in France. Nearly all of the accommodation is ski-in/ski-out apartments and with two supermarkets in resort, self-catering ski holidays are a breeze. There are several bars and restaurants.

Hot deal: Pierre & Vacances Residence Maeva Les Pistes is located 500 m from the slopes, the ski lifts and shops and offers fully-equipped apartments with mountain-view balconies. A week in a one-bedroom apartment for up to four people, costs from just 199 Euros.

2. Chamonix
Best for: Experienced skiers
Chamonix is a much-loved ski resort due to the variety of outdoor activities you can participate in here. The summit of Mont Blanc is the third most visited natural site in the world and the mountains hosts activities such as ice climbing, alpine mountaineering and extreme skiing. There is all sorts of terrain, but this is the perfect destination for the expert winter sports enthusiast and the adventurous. Chamonix is famous for its cable car up to Aiguille du Midi as well as the panoramic restaurant at the top station of the Brévent cable car, which boasts impressive views of the Mont Blanc Massif.

Hot deal: The Residence Maeva La Riviera is located in the district of Chamonix Sud, 300 m from the Aiguille du Midi cable car and five minutes from the resort centre.

Studio apartments for up to four cost from just 244 Euros for seven nights.

3. Valloire
Best for: Intermediates
Valloire offers the combination of an old mountain village mixed with modern architecture. Valloire is the best known of the Maurienne valley resorts and its narrow streets, bustling shops and various restaurants makes it a charming location for your winter holiday. The slopes spread widely across three sunny sectors and are particularly good for intermediates. 70% of the Valloire/Valmeinier ski area is above 2000m and it offers 150 km of slopes.

Hot deal: The Pierre & Vacances Chalets Valoria at Valloire is located on the heights, overlooking the valley and the resort. A high standard residence built in a style typical of the region, these spacious apartments are located 300m away from the ski lifts.

Studios for up to four cost from only 279 Euros per week.

4. La Clusaz
Best for: Intermediates
The French ski resort of La Clusaz is one of its kind as it is still, essentially, a genuine mountain ski village. This ski resort exudes rustic charm and an infectious Gallic atmosphere. La Clusaz offers 200km of largely intermediate slopes, above and below the treeline, and makes a fantastic base for an enjoyable, relaxed week.

Hot deal: Residence Maeva La Perriere overlooks the resort on the southern slope and is available at 320 euros per week for a 4 person studio apartment.

5. Serre Chevalier
Best for: Snowboarders
Serre Chevalier is one of the major ski resorts in France. Located in the Haute-Alpes region, Serre Chevalier is a large valley between the Lautaret and Briançon passes. Its 13 villages and hamlets, which blend tradition and modernity, are scattered across the valley with its large skiing areas covering 250km. The resort also offers a wide range of activities for the whole family, and with its large natural terrain is also considered one of the best snowboarding destinations in France. Serre Chevalier lies at the foot of the most beautiful peaks of the Ecrins National Park and boasts approximately 300 days of sunshine a year.

Hot deal: Résidence Pierre & Vacances L’Alpaga , situated in the mountain village of Villeneuve, has comfortable, spacious apartments close to the shops and ski lifts.

Studio apartments for up to four people costs from 378 Euros for a week’s ski holiday.

6. Isola 2000
Best for: Skiers of all abilities
The little known Isola 2000 is a ski resort in the southern region of the French Alps that offers great skiing for all levels. This modern resort’s altitude is at 2000 metres and pisted runs reach the height of 2610 metres on the summit of Sistron where, on a clear day, it is possible to see the Mediterranean sea.
Isola 2000 has an excellent snow record too. Snowboarding is popular in Isola and there are plenty of ‘board-friendly’ lifts and a dedicated snowboard park. There are lots of shops, bars, clubs, restaurants and supermarkets adjacent to the slopes and there are numerous cafes and restaurants should you wish to take a break and bask in the Mediterranean sun.

Hot deal: The Pierre & Vacances Les Terrasses d’Azur residence in Isola 200 is in perfect keeping with the resort’s natural environment of pines and larches. It overlooks the resort and is close to the ski runs and shops. The apartments are very comfortable and have a panoramic view over the skiing area and the Chastillon valley.

Studio apartments that sleep up to four people, cost from just 441 Euros per week

7.  Les Carroz d’Araches
Best for: Families
Les Carroz d’Araches is an expansive, sunny and traditional resort with plenty of terrain to suit everyone. It has the lived-in feel of a real French village and its array of pavement cafes and restaurants around the main square offers a homely and lively atmosphere. 
The resort caters particularly well for families, offering excellent facilities for children so is perfect for a family ski holiday. There are good woodland runs immediately above the village for bad-weather days, with a scenic setting to enjoy when the sun shines.

Hot deal: Pierre &Vacances Residences MGM Les Fermes du Soleil is a luxury 4-star residence, just a stone’s throw from the centre. Each apartment is designed to offer you maximum comfort with large bay windows giving exceptional views over the village, the valley or the skating rink. The closest ski lifts, 800m from the residence, are accessible via a free shuttle bus.

One-bedroom apartments for 3-4 people cost from 630 Euros per week.

8. Flaine
Best for: Intermediates and families
Flaine is a high-altitude resort sharing a big, broad area of varied slopes with more rustic alternatives.  Flaine is a resort proud of its Modernist and artistic design, which is a dramatic contrast to the natural landscape of the French Alps. As well as the architecture, several large public art works adorn the base of the resort, including a Picasso.
Loved by many, due to the extent of its ski area and range of runs, this is a resort ideal for intermediate skiers as well as being one of the most family-orientated ski resorts in Europe.

Hot deal: Pierre & Vacances Terrasses d’Eos residence is a brand new addition to our ski residences for the 2009/10 ski season. Built in 2008 by Intrawest, this top-of-range residence is located in a new, entirely car-free hamlet of Flaine Montsoleil and features 145 comfortable apartments.

The two buildings that make up the residence have direct access to the pistes and chairlifts, providing you with a direct link to the Flaine and Grand Massif ski areas.

One-bedroom apartments cost from just 572 Euros for seven nights and sleep up to four people.

9. Valmorel
A great choice for first-timers and families, Valmorel is a purpose-built French ski resort comprising several small satellite villages in the Grande Domaine. Valmorel and St Francois Longchamps together offer 165km of marked pistes.
Valmorel’s resort centre is car-free and it also scores top marks for families as most of its pistes cater for beginners and intermediates, and there are plenty of designated practice areas.  The ski area is on your doorstep which means you can literally ski to your door – another big plus if you’re skiing with kids. While it is great for families, those who also want lively après-ski should go elsewhere as there are only a handful of restaurants and bars.

Hot deal: P&V is offering seven nights in a studio apartment at Résidence Maeva Planchamp et Mottet in Valmorel from just 405 Euro.

10.   Alpe-d’Huez
Best for: thrill seekers and skiers of all levels.
Home to La Sarenne, which at 16km is Europe’s longest ski run, Alpe d’Huez is often thought to be the sole preserve of ski pros and adrenalin junkies. While the infamous ‘Tunnel’ run remains a must do ride for experienced skiers, the resort also has a good choice of gentler runs for beginners. The best of the less challenging slopes are found on the outskirts of the resort and there are plenty of blues and reds for intermediates.
Situated in a large sunny bowl, Alpe d’Huez is known as the ‘l’Isle au Soleil’ (‘The Sunny Island’) thanks to its high levels of sunshine throughout the year.
This resort is a great choice if you’re travelling in a group which has mixed abilities – leave the pros to La Sarenne while the novices play it safe.

Hot deal: Situated in Les Bergers district of Alpe d’Huez, the Pierre & Vacances Bergers residence has comfortable apartments and a heated outdoor swimming pool.

Seven nights in a studio that sleep 3-4 costs just 405 Euros.

All P&V residences featured are ski in/ ski out and are self-catering apartments with fully equipped kitchens and cooking facilities. 
To make your Euro go even further, P&V has extended its hugely popular ‘Eurobuster’ offer to include the winter ski season – giving at least 15 percent off all properties on all dates over the winter period, including the school holidays, Christmas and New Year.

The Eurobuster deal can also be combined with any other P&V deal currently on offer, including the 20% early booking discount, leading to savings of up to 35% on your winter ski holiday.

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Heavy Snow in North America, More In The Alps, 30+ Resorts Now Open

October 29th, 2009
Fresh Snow October 2010

Fresh Snow October 2010

Continents With Resorts Open For Skiing: 3
Countries With Resorts Open For Skiing: 10
Ski Areas Open (Approximately):  35

* Heavy snow in Western Canada
* A dozen ski areas open in Scandinavia.
* Bormio opens this weekend.
* Still skiing in New Zealand.
* Les 2 Alpes opens for a big party.
* Diablerets Glacier opens.

There is heavy snow in western Canada and a week of fresh snowfalls in many northern hemisphere ski areas including Colorado, parts of the Alps and Japan.

With Kitzbuhel’s earliest ever opening at the weekend, following the Planai above Schladming the week before that, as well as seven glaciers areas to choose from, Austria continues to offer the biggest choice of skiing in the Alps.  The heavy snowfall there last week has set up some great conditions with most areas reporting a 90-150cm (3-5 foot) base. The other ski centres to choose from include Dachstein, Hintertux, Molltal, Kitzsteinhorn (Kaprun), Pitztal, Solden, Stubai, Tux).

In Switzerland the latest ski area to open is Glacier 3000 above les Diablerets near Gstaad. Currently the Dôme ski lift and the snow park are open where there are several lines of a different level with tables, rails as well as boxes ready for use. The area joins the Engelberg, Saas Fee and Zermatt glaciers which are all already open.

Exciting news from Italy too as Bormio has announced it will open early from this weekend, Halloween, too and the country has reported some of the best new snow this week, Livigno, not yet open, noting more than 30cm of fresh snow accumulated.

Bormio will run a cable car and a high speed chair serving 18km of slopes between 2,500m and 3,000m altitude.

It joins Cervinia (20cm) which will now be open daily after weekend opening through October, and still open summer ski areas Passo Stelvio and Val Senales.

In France les 2 Alpes is open this week for its new festival week, but will close again on Monday for four weeks until opening for the winter on November 28th.  It has 20m of snow, a little more than Tignes, the other French resorts that has now been open for six weeks this season but is currently suffering from a snow shortage and needs more.

In the Pyrenees there are no areas open yet but the first heavy snowfalls have been reported. Formigal in Spain has reported the first snow of the season on their ski mountain’s slopes. The 5cm dusting at Spain’s largest resort is a good sign for the coming season and forecasters are predicting a further 15cm tonight. The Pyrenees received some of the best snow in decades at many resorts last winter, and it all began in Autumn last year, so the region is hoping for a repeat of winter 08-09.

There are more than a dozen ski areas currently open in Northern Europe. Sweden currently has five   ski areas to ski or board – Funäsdalen, Kåbdalis, Tänndalen,  Tärnaby and Hemavan. Tänndalen is the only area that is open daily. 

The country’s biggest resort, Sälen, is waiting for colder temperatures along with all other resorts. One that is standing by is Åre as under the right conditions, temp, humidity etc Åre can produce a 50cm snow layer on its main down hill slope in just 150 hours.  However Sweden needs colder temps to open new areas and the weather forecast don’t look so promising for the rest of the week.

In Norway skiers have six different ski resorts to choose from the upcoming weekend. Gaustablikk and Bjorli opened already at 17th of October, and Gålå has announced their season starts this weekend. A ski season that starts in mid October is early, even in cold Norway, and this means that the first winter ski resort opened before the last summer ski resort closed (Galdhøpiggen Summer ski resort closed on 25th October).  Kvitfjell, Trysil, Hafjell, Geilo, Kongsberg and Uvdal all aim to open on November 7th.

Several areas are also open in Finland, including the first to open there, Ruka.

In Western Canada the Canada Olympic Park near Calgary in Alberta is already open and resorts across Alberta and British Columbia have been reporting heavy snow falls ahead of planned opening dates in the next few weeks.

The first due to open is Mount Norquay at Banff, which plans to open at weekends from this Saturday, Halloween weekend, onwards.  Other resorts in the region including Nakiska and Marmot Basin, both of which have new quad chairlifts, as well as Sunshine mountain will open within the next few weeks.

Resorts in British Columbia have been reporting heavy snow in recent days. “Sun Peaks Sports Director Alain Brunelle tested the powder up at Sun Peaks this morning. The last couple of days have brought 40cm of snow, bringing the base at Sun Peaks to 70cm. More storms are on the way, with snow expected Wednesday night, Thursday, and Saturday this week.” resort spokeswoman Melanie Simmons told
Fernie and Marmot Basin have also reported big snowfalls.

In the east of the Country Mont Saint Sauveur in Quebec was the first to open, thanks in part to an expanded snowmaking system, but has since had to close again because of warmer weather.

South of the border resorts in Colorado and Utah are amongst those announcing fresh snow.  In the case of Loveland, Colorado, which has already been open for three weeks, that means more new terrain has opened as a “Halloween treat” for its guests. Its neighbours, Copper and Keystone plan to open within weeks.

Arapahoe Basin remains open although there’s no  beginner terrain at the moment. Anothere two inches (5cm) of snow has fallen there is the past 24 hours and there’s an 18 inch (45cm) base mid mountain).  Three runs including Ramrod are now open along! Visit the High Divide Terrain Park with 5 features.

On the east Coast Sunday River in Maine remains open with the resort’s full vertical skiable with two weeks of the season clocked up so far.

In the southern Hemisphere New Zealand’s Mt Ruapehu is about to open its ‘Snovember’ opening schedule.  Turoa reports a base toll at over 2.4m (8 feet) so it’s anyone’s guess how long it can stay open, but the current plan is for another few weeks at least. The centre has re-opened for Christmas in recent years and more snow is expected in the next few days.

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How to get a Family ski holiday in the French Alps for less

October 18th, 2009

If you’re a ski buff looking for an affordable ski holiday in the French Alps this season, taking your brood to the mountain needn’t cost a small fortune.

The solution is simple – go self-catering!

If you usually book a catered chalet, it pays to think again. Why, oh why, would you shell out what amounts to the best part of £1000 for a family of four – excluding flights – when you can stay in a self-catering apartment in the same resort for around £450?

Opt for a catered chalet and by the time you factor in kids’ ski lessons, childcare, lunches and snacks out, and the cost of family lift passes and ski hire the average bill for a week in the French Alps totals a hefty £3000.

While there’s no denying that skiing is an expensive passion and the Euro exchange rate shows little sign of turning in our favour right now, it’s still possible to get a fantastic and affordable family holiday in the French Alps.

Follow our top tips for bargain family ski breaks….

  1. Book well advance to take advantage of early bird offers and deals.
  2. Research the best deals on self-catering apartments in the resorts of your choice. You’ll need a comfortable apartment with a fully-equipped kitchen and situated near the shops and main facilities of the resort.
  3. Make sure your ski residence it is ski in/ski out – this not only makes your holiday more relaxing and convenient but means you can easily head back to your apartment for lunch rather than spend big bucks at the cafes. Ski in ski out apartments are also great if you’re travelling with little ones who will need naps and play breaks.
  4. Weigh up the cost of the cheapest flight you can find versus taking your own car. Driving also means you can take prepared meals and basic supplies and foodstuffs which will also shave pounds off the food bill.
  5. Don’t get stung by expensive ski hire and ski passes in resort – book your passes and buy your ski kit online before you go. UK ski websites such as offer discounts and 2-for-1 deals.
  6. Go with a gang. Taking a ski holiday with friends who also have kids that are of a similar age to yours not only means that the little ones have playmates but allows you to share the childcare. Book adjoining apartments, take it in turns to have an evening out and you’ll all avoid pricey childcare bills.
  7. Feast for less. If you plan simple but hearty evening meal, such as pasta or risotto, and plump for vin ordinaire, there’s no reason why shopping in resort supermarkets should cost you more than your weekly food shop at home. The trick is to come up with a meal plan and shop well.
  8. Stop for lunch. Remember there’s a reason why the ski cafes and restaurants charge sky-high prices. If you get hungry at 3000ft, you don’t have much choice do you?! You’ll save even more money if you eat lunch at your self-catering apartment as well preparing your own breakfasts and most of your evening meals.
  9. Put your spending money on plastic. Not your credit but a pre-paid currency card. Load your card with Euros before you go and you’ll get the very best exchange rate and avoid hidden charges and commission fees. Caxton FX ( offers one of the best rates on the market.
  10. Roam free. Don’t run up expensive mobile phone bills while on holiday. If your network charges you extra for roaming and punitive rates for calls abroad, buy a local SIM card for your mobile phone.

P&V has a wide a choice of self-catering apartments in all the leading resorts in the French Alps, including the family friendly resorts of Meribel, La Plagne, and Avoriaz. Most of the residences are ski in ski out and all feature fully-equipped kitchens and cooking facilities.

Hot offers

To make your holiday cash go even further, P&V has just announced that it will be extending its hugely popular ‘Eurobuster’ offer to include the winter ski season – giving at least 15 percent off all properties on all dates over the winter period, including the school holidays, Christmas and New Year. This will be launched on the P&V website on the 1st October 2009. The Eurobuster deal can also be combined with any other P&V deal currently on offer, including the 20% early booking discount, leading to savings of up to 35% on your winter ski holiday.

Visit PV Holidays for further information and all the latest deals.

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New beginners ski area for Val Thorens

October 12th, 2009

Val Thorens, the highest resort in one of the world’s largest ski area, France’s 3 Valleys, has invested more than 1.5 million euros to create a new 40 hectares area for beginners, equipped with no less than four new roof-covered magic carpets.

The new area has been designed not only to provide first-class facilities for first timers, but also improved access to the Cascades chairlift, getting progressing beginner skiers on to more green and blue slopes.

The two twin magic carpets that have been installed and named “Castor & Pollux” represent a triple innovation say Val Thorens.

In both cases a single roof structure covers both magic carpets for more comfort. The carpets are also the fastest so far installed in France, meaning more snow time, and travelling at up to 1.2 metres per second, increasing capacity to 3,000 people per hour.

The carpet lifts also run in two directions, providing a ride down when needed, as well as up over the 240m length.

There are two successive magic carpets, Musaraigne (the shrew) and Campagnols (the vole) which are more than 200 m long in the heart of the “grenouillère de Péclet” area.

To discover a larger area at your own pace, a special pass for beginners is available to access an  area including nine ski lifts serving the easiest slopes at a reduced price of 50% off the full daily pass rate.

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