Affordable family skiing in France’s Maurienne valley
The first of a series of WHERE TO TAKE THE FAMILY SKIING features for the forthcoming 2014/15 ski season…
Briony Key explores some of the lesser-known French resorts of the Maurienne valley, with high family appeal at surprisingly low prices.
Waking up in Aussois is a dream for any keen young skier who wants to improve their skills as soon as possible.
You can easily walk from the traditional village style accommodation to the ski school, which links to the nursery and easy, open slopes where mum and dad can either catch up with their young enthusiasts, or watch their latest carving skills from the café.
We’d been told this resort was popular with French schools, but hadn’t realised just how many tots we would see taking to the 55kms of slopes.
Club Piou Piou (for the very young) was buzzing, with a good ratio of staff to pupils – all busy trying out their first turns and piling plenty of fun into the powder.
The resort is ideal for beginners, with lots of long cruisy blue and green runs. Meanwhile the older children whooped down the intermediate runs, which offer great views of the National Park.
And all around us youngsters tried other snow sports – tobogganing, snow shoeing, husky riding, or simply slope slipping in a big, coloured tyre. The slopes are south-facing and sunny, making it an ideal location for little ones.
Aussois is situated in the remote Maurienne valley. Admittedly, it isn’t the easiest place to get to, but that’s also what makes it an ideal getaway for a family holiday, especially for those who want to escape the mass British market (we make up just three to five per cent of sales here, with the French, Dutch and Italians jostling for the rest). The valley accommodates up to 25,000 people, but has just 2,800 residents.
So what makes the Maurienne tick?
For starters, it’s ideal for beginners and improvers, with stunning scenery as a backdrop. It’s also great value for money, with lots of mountain café bar snacks for under €5.
Another family draw – it’s not seeking to be party central, like neighbouring Val Thorens and Tignes. The valley folk value their traditions here – it’s charming, authentic, steeped in history, and you are warmly welcome.
As well as Aussois, there are a number of other family-friendly resorts to consider – the largest are Val Cenis, Orelle and Les Sybelles.
We stayed in Val Cenis – one of the better-known resorts of the Maurienne valley. The top of the Val Cenis high mountains get pretty cold and windy: layer your kids up as it takes a little while to get up there, but the varied range of red runs which dominate this resort’s126kms of slopes make it very worth it. There’s also a world of stunning white to see off-piste, from frozen lakes to vistas where the slopes seem to merge into the sky.
Between 1803 and 1810 Napoleon built a road over the pass here, which now forms part of a gentle, scenic green run which is well used by those returning to town from the more challenging runs and early improvers’ slopes at the high end of the resort.
Anyone thinking of coming to the area should definitely check out the new Eski-Mo ski pass, as it allows you to ski five stations (300kms of piste) over six days. It costs £162 for adults, £137 for children (aged 5-11), with a free bus connecting the ski areas for holders of an Eski-Mo pass.
The stations covered by this excellent-value Eski-Mo Pass are Val Cenis Vanoise (incl Termingnon), Aussois, La Norma, Bonneval sur Arc and Valfréjus.
Last but not least, for those wishing to try something other than downhill skiing, we must give a mention to the incredible cross-country ski school in Bessans – another highlight of the Maurienne, with its 133kms of skating trails, for cross-country, dog-sledding and all sorts of other fun for all the family.
Seven nights, self-catering, including return Eurotunnel crossings, costs from £174pp. Accommodation only holiday packages from £144pp. Price based on five sharing a two-bedroom apartment (sleeps six).
easyJet flies from London Gatwick to Turin up to twice a week from 13 December 2014. Prices from £33.74 per person one-way, including taxes and based on two people on the same booking.
Sport 2000 in Val Cenis provides a good ski rental service from £48 for adults, £35 for children (six days hire price).