Tag Archives: MountainPassions

Puy Saint-Vincent: don’t tell everyone…

Skier on piste with Puy Saint-Vincent 1600 visible below
Even the highest pistes filter safely back onto sheltered tree-lined return runs.

Why do I love skiing in France – apart, obviously, from having some of the world’s greatest mountain terrain from which to choose? Well, after having visited around fifty French ski resorts (and counting) I’m still surprised at what I discover along the way. A couple of seasons ago we decided to head over to the Southern French Alps, to discover just what most mainstream skiers, who tend to set their sights rather further north, might be missing. Great snowfalls, clear blue skies and unpressured pistes were just some of the things which bowled us over and convinced us that we’d stumbled upon a huge but relatively undiscovered area which deserves to be much better known among leisure skiers.

Places like La Joue du Loup, Superdévoluy, Pra Loup, Foux d’Allos, Les Orres, Orcières, Vars, Risoul, Montgenèvre and Serre Chevalier all revealed to us their own distinct characters, and we’d still only scratched the surface. Obviously it’s just not possible to press on and do it all at once (but we can dream..) and in any case we try to maintain a balance in our resort review coverage. So our first trip of this season would take in just two ski visits in the Hautes-Alpes area: one involved returning to complete unfinished business in Serre Chevalier, and the other would take us to somewhere much smaller nearby, and which had so far eluded us.

The phrase “small is beautiful” could have been penned with Puy Saint-Vincent in mind. The original village, clinging to the sides of a deep valley, is nothing if not authentic, with centuries’-old chalets at every turn. Continue up to the ski villages at 1400, 1600 and 1800m altitude, however, and things begin to look more like a serious ski resort should. Even so, first impressions give little hint of the vertical drop on offer: 1350m or around 4430ft, much of it below the tree-line, where safe glade-skiing opportunities beckon among silent larch and pine forests.
True, the lower villages have much of their accommodation in large units, but in their respective settings they’re not unattractive. Skiers staying in the 1800 village, though, have not only chalet-style architecture but also the welcome bonus of ski-in/ski-out convenience.

We enjoyed our time here, as you’ll see just as soon as our full Resort Review goes live. For now, though, I’ll merely say that while big-league Serre Chevalier grabs all the media attention, its near-neighbour Puy Saint-Vincent quietly gets on with offering great, high-value skiing in a truly beautiful setting…

Our base in Puy Saint-Vincent 1800 was a cosy piste-side apartment in La Dame Blanche, for which we thank SARA and our friends at French Ski Specialists Ski Collection.

Published today, on Amazon and Apple iBook Store: ski writing par excellence…

Today sees the publication of Skiing The Edge, a compilation of what Editor Jules Older describes as the work of:  ‘great writers, not just great ski writers, and they’re at the top of their game…

As Editor of MountainPassions.com I’m delighted to have been asked to contribute a chapter. Not being, if I can help it, a near-to-death skier, I hesitated initially, unsure of precisely what I could bring to an exacting brief. And then I recalled an experience which happened to me years ago, while  en-route to an appointment with fate in Québec. Or, more precisely, a few days spent learning to ski from zero.

I’ll spare you the details (I know, I’m such a tease), except to report that along the way things didn’t turn out quite as planned. To say the least. Despite which, the trip was a turning-point – once I’d learnt to turn – in my life, for I did indeed become a skier.  And at last I’m coming clean about how I very nearly didn’t.

In the book you’ll also share other people’s life-changing moments, whether humorous, humiliating, heart-stopping or bordering on the holy. In short, it’s a great read…

Skiing The Edge is available from Apple iBook Store and Amazon

Cross-Border Skiing from La Rosière

The fine weather has followed us to La Rosière, whose snow cover remains surprisingly good despite the long period since the most recent falls. It’s just as well, since we headed off yesterday in high spirits to ski over the Franco-Italian border to La Thuile.

Our previous attempt had been thwarted by mist and high winds, not a happy combination. This time, though, we accomplished all we’d set out to do and more, including a pause for lunch at Lo Riondet, in every sense the definitive Italian mountain restaurant. In summer it’s beside the road over the Petit Saint-Bernard Pass, but in winter the road is transformed into a long, sweeping cruise for skiers heading to La Thuile and the Aosta Valley.

Not that we took it easy all the time, you understand. La Thuile isn’t exactly novice territory, and we dropped in via a steep Black piste and a couple of entertaining Reds which took us through pine forest.

We had a fantastic day, skiing much of the area’s varied piste network, all of which is set among the most dramatic mountain scenery we could wish for. The adventure finally concluded with a glorious run back to France against a lazy,  sinking sun.

Once back in La Rosière we knew exactly why this place is so popular with British visitors – and many other nationalities, it seems. And we’ll see a little more of it today, just in case there’s anything essential we missed first time around.

Our thanks to La Rosière’s Office de Tourisme and to our friends at Ski Collection for organising our visit, including our stay at the excellent 4* Le Refuge. http://www.skicollection.co.uk/Ski/La-Rosiere.htm

Valfréjus: more great Alpine snow…

Maybe like us you know the name, but little else about this great ski area in the Maurienne Valley of the French Alps. Well, our knowledge has just expanded considerably, after we spent a day skiing around the varied slopes we’d been itching to try for some time now.

Brilliant sunshine (and a shiny new high-speed gondola lift) minimised the effects of the early morning bitter cold, as we climbed from the village to the Plateau d’Arrondaz. Even before we emerged we knew that we’d found another great snow-magnet, and one which can hang onto what it receives until the next falls.

It didn’t stop there. An onward chairlift haul to the Punta Bagna (2737m) rewarded us with a vast snowy panorama of the surrounding mountains, both French and Italian. If the long-term plan to link to Bardonnechia ever comes to fruition Valfréjus is certain to be one place we’ll all be doing much more than merely hearing about.

As it is, the 65km or so of groomed terrain are varied enough to keep us entertained, and on our toes too – there are some longish steeps to go with the expected Red and Blue-graded cruises. Add a nicely planned (and maintained) village and you see why we’ve come here specifically to add Valfréjus to our expanding list of Independent Resort Reviews.

Next stop: La Rosière – and another foray into Italy.

Here we go again…

This week our new, completely-redesigned website finally went live – an important and timely event, for another winter season is just around the corner. It’s already been snowing in the French and Italian Alps, and is set to spread to the Auvergne too.

Image of MountainPassions.com welcome page.
Above: The new welcome page for 2010/11

Meanwhile, we prepare to make our annual visit to the Metro Ski & Snowboard Show at London’s Olympia, and look forward to meeting friends and colleagues in the industry and the media. It looks like being quite a show once again, and the perfect opportunity to cast aside the widespread economic gloom of the past year and instead look forward to getting away and spending some quality time in the mountains.

The idea of snapping into our skis once and laying our first tracks of the season has never looked more appealing…

Welcome!

Tarine cows in the Beaufortain, French Alps
Tarine cows in the Beaufortain, French Alps

Welcome to MountainPassions blog pages. Keep up to date here with all the latest news about skiing and mountain holidays in France. Get an insight into how we do our independent reviews of ski resorts throughout France. Plus, if you are interested in seeing the French mountains in all seasons, stay with us as we find out what a summer mountain holiday can offer you.