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Top Ten Affordable Ski Resorts in France

October 29th, 2009
Avoriaz

Avoriaz

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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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 ski-republic.com 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 (www.caxtonfxcard.com) 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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Ski Holiday Bookings – what is REALLY going to happen this winter?

July 15th, 2009

There has been a lot of talk around the internet about an impending supply disaster when it comes to booking your 2010 ski holiday. We reported on this on a earlier thread (read: Ski Holidays 2010 - Book Early To Get The Best Deals).

On the face of it, these stories have been pitched as “useful advice for consumers”. However, dig around a bit behind the scenes, and cynics might claim that these stories are just “spin”, generated by the ski industry to try and encourage early bookings for an uncertain winter season.

We spoke to an independent tour operator in Chatel, France, who claims that the theory of reduced supply is incorrect.

“Just because large tour operators have reduced the number of chalets that they offer, doesn’t mean that there will be less chalets to rent. On the contrary, there are now a large number of chalets available which were previously tied in to expensive contracts with tour operators.

In our resort, a catered chalet operator decided not to continue for the following season. On the face of it, this meant that there are now less catered chalet holidays available. However, the ski chalets which were rented by this company are now available with a number of different booking agents, in many cases at a lower price.”

So yes, book early to guarantee the right chalet in the right resort for the right week. But if you can’t commit to a ski holiday now, don’t worry. Chances are there are going to be a lot of independent chalets available at reasonable prices throughout the Alps.

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Best ski holiday destinations for groups of beginners

July 2nd, 2009

When booking a ski holiday, it is important to choose the right destination to suit the level of your group. This is especially true for beginners.

Nothing can put a beginner off skiing quicker than a week spent trying to ski down unsuitable steep terrain, or have to travel for miles to get to the beginner ski slopes.

We have therefore compiled our “Top Ten Ski Resorts For Beginners” list:

1. Les Arcs, France

Why is it good?

  • Excellent nursery slopes directly above each of the resort’s main villages.
  • Free beginner’s lift.
  • Good range of early intermediate slopes as you progress.

2. Bansko, Bulgaria

Why is it good? 

  • Beautiful World Heritage Site.
  • Modern lift system.
  • Good range of nursery slopes.
  • Great value – skiing here won’t break the bank.
  • As you progress there is an excellent 16km intermediate run from the top to the bottom of the mountain (2560 m to 935 m).

3. Cortina, Italy

Why is it good? 

  • Breathtaking views over the Dolomites.
  • Widely regarded as being one of the world’s most beautiful ski resorts.
  • Superbly groomed beginner slopes in the Socrapes area.
  • Instructors who are especially good with kids.

4. Killington, US

Why is it good?

  • No language barriers.
  • Ski schools are excellent.
  • Large nursery slope areas.
  • “Discovery Centre” for complete beginners showing how your equipment works before you start to ski.

5. Lech, Austria

Why is it good?

  • A classic alpine resort.
  • Picturesque village with fine hotels.
  • Very well regarded ski schools with good English speaking instructors.
  • Plenty of runs for intermediate and advanced as well, so a good option for mixed ability groups.

6. Poiana Brasov, Romania

Why is it good?

  • An excellent place to try skiing without breaking the bank.
  • Two nursery areas.
  • Helpful and enthusiastic instructors.
  • Excellent nearby excursions (such as Dracula’s castle).
  • Cheap and cheerful food, wine and entertainment.

7. Soldeu, Andorra

Why is it good?

  • Widely regarded as being one of Europe’s best beginner resorts.
  • Two extensive nursery areas.
  • Excellent ski instructors who are native English speakers.
  • Good range of runs to progress to.
  • Usually good weather (Soldeu means “Sun God”).
  • Excellent nightlife.
  • Duty-free zone, so can be cheap.

8. Tignes, France

Why is it good?

  • High and very “snowsure”.
  • Good range of easy to access nursery slopes.
  • Good range of intermediate/expert slopes so a good destination for mixed ability groups.
  • Lots of accommodation to choose from.
  • Lots of non-skiing activities and great après-ski.

9 Wengen, Switzerland

Why is it good?

  • Spectacular location under the north face of the Eiger.
  • A great destination for families, with a well renowned ski school.
  • Lots of non-skiing activities.

10. Chatel, France

Why is it good?

  • Easy resort to reach either by flying into Geneva, or driving from Calais.
  • Great range of beginners slopes, and good English speaking instructors.
  • Part of the world’s biggest ski area (the Portes du Soleil) so plenty of runs for all abilities.
  • Regularly receives on average the most snowfall in the alps, so one of the most snowsure non glacier resorts.
  • Beautiful village with bags of charm and plenty to do off the slopes.

We also have some tips for beginner skiers, which should help make your first time all the more enjoyable:

  1. Try and get some lessons in the UK before you leave, preferably in one of the real snow domes. This means that once you get to your resort, you already have an idea of the basics (how to put your skis on etc.).
  2. When booking ask if there are any ‘Learn to Ski or Snowboard Packages’. This may include lessons, gear rental and a lift pass if needed. 
  3. Check to see if beginners can get away with buying a cheaper “local area” of “beginner” lift pass. There is no need to buy a pass for a huge area if you are only going to ski on beginner and early intermediate slopes.  
  4. If you want to learn snowboarding, check if the schools in your resort offer beginner courses for boarders.   
  5. Check that the accommodation is close to the pistes, the lifts and general amenities. 
  6. Rent gear to start with – it’s a lot cheaper.

Above all, remember that skiing is meant to be fun!

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