Karen from our Reservations Team has just returned from a week’s holiday in Montgenèvre; a hidden gem in the Southern Alps and the southernmost of our French destinations, sitting right on the border with Italy. Here’s what she made of it.
Karen’s Montgenèvre Ski Resort Review
I had visited Montgenèvre before, but a long time ago and out of season, so this was effectively new territory for me. For those interested in the geography and history Montgenèvre is one of the oldest ski resorts in France and it sits on a submarine volcano (long extinct) on a strategically important pass in the Southern Alps between Italy and France. The Romans and Gauls fought out some good battles there in the past and there are some pretty interesting forts and relics around the place too. How often can you combine a skiing holiday with a history lesson? And the southern Alps location makes for plenty of sunshine and plenty of snow too.
Where is Montgenèvre?
The resort sits at 1800 metres above sea level and is best accessed from Turin (1hr 30mins away), where transfers are available from. We flew to Grenoble Airport and rented a car for the 3 hour drive. The direct route is a fairly mountainous drive – over the Col du Lautaret at 2100 metres – and even after a period where it hadn’t snowed for 10 days there were 5 foot snowdrifts at the roadside! Winter tyres and chains may be an ‘option’ from the car rental company in France, but they should be regarded as a necessity if you’re hiring a car. Trust me on this one – slithering around hairpin bends with French drivers tailgating you is not a relaxing way to holiday!
Where to stay
We stayed at the 4-star Residence Les Chalets des Dolines. This is about 3 years old now and has an ideal position in a quiet part of the resort. It’s a 5 minute walk to the resort centre and there’s a SkiSet ski rental shop just a couple of minutes away, as well as a convenience store and bakery. You can ski to the back door (blue run) and there’s a small Poma tow right outside the back door, so for anyone except complete beginners it’s ski-in/ski-out.
It’s also ideal for families with teeny tots as the Piou Piou snow garden is right next door. The ESF ski school office is also in the neighbouring building. We were really impressed with the residence: in common with most CGH residences it is made up of 3 chalets and there’s a swimming pool and spa as well as underground parking, heated ski and boot room and bread delivery service. We were also able to borrow a raclette machine and DVD player from reception. Particular thanks to the staff who were really friendly and helpful.
The Ski Area
The ski area of Montgenèvre doesn’t fit well on a piste map. The paper version doesn’t make a lot of sense due to the contours and peaks of the mountains. Luckily there’s a large map at the top of most lifts that’s angled to reflect where you are! There are three lift pass options:
- Montgenèvre only
- Les Monts de la Lune (‘Craters of the Moon’): includes Clavière
- The full ‘Milky Way’ pass: includes Sestrière and Sauze d’Oulx
We opted for the Monts de la Lune pass and the 6 day version comes with an awesome benefit: the pass is valid for unlimited skiing in the Montgenèvre and Clavière area, but for no extra charge you can get a voucher from the lift pass office that allows you to substitute one day at each of Alpe d’Huez, Les Deux Alpes, Serre Chevalier, Puy St Vincent, Bardonnecchia and the rest of the Milky Way. That’s more resorts than days!
Even without these excursions I don’t think we’d have got bored: there’s so much skiing in the Monts de la Lune area – with slopes oriented in all directions so you can follow the sun. I’d heard that the lift system was a bit old, but they seem to be investing a lot of money in new chairlifts and ‘chondolas’ and although some of the lifts are a bit slow, it’s pretty efficient. On the French side there’s a slight lack of mountain restaurants so we headed over to Italy for lunch and this proved rewarding: low prices, quiet sunny terraces and delicious food!
We tend to go away at the same week each year – the first week after the European school holidays finish. It’s quite a popular week as the prices drop down after the month long holiday period. Having skied in North America the past couple of seasons and been spoilt with quiet slopes I was braced for lift queues and crowds, but I’m delighted to report that the slopes were empty! Sunday was the busiest day of the week and we stood in a line for a maximum of 2 minutes! The rest of the week we skied straight onto every lift, had pistes to ourselves and often went for 10 minutes without seeing another soul. We had to seek out the slower chairs to get a rest! Talking to locals it seems that this is normal, and outside of the local holidays crowds are rare.
I think the thing that most impressed us was the scope of the area: the runs are really long and you can cover a lot of ground really easily. The volcanic terrain makes for a really nice mix of open bowls, jaggedy peaks and larch tree lined gullies. There’s nothing seriously steep and scary, but there’s a good amount of challenging terrain as well as excellent beginners slopes.
So Montgenèvre definitely won me over and I think it’s somewhere that a lot more British skiers should be considering. A traditional village with good value, high quality, ski-in/ski-out accommodation in a large ski area, with a good snow record…what’s not to love? But don’t tell everyone! It can be our little secret…
For more information on ski holidays to Montgenèvre with Ski Independence call our expert team on 0131 243 8097 or request a tailor-made quotation online.