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Looking for France holiday recommendation?

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
I'm determined to ski France this year, still have not been and I'm looking for a recommendation of what resort to go to? There are soooo many to try and choose from I'm just confused as to where to go at this stage?

Expense is a bit of an issue, as I am a student and so are most of the rest of the group. I am aware that France isn't exactly a "budget" destination, so I know it won't be cheap, but if anyone could recommend a resort that is in some way reasonably priced (basically not courcheval etc). Age wise we are between 20 to 22 so good nightlife is a essential. Decent food is a must, probably not hard to come by in France I'm sure, but it is a pet hate of mine when you go to some ski resorts and it is impossible to have a nice dinner. Short transfer would be nice too, but not essential. There will be some beginners so a decent amount of high altitude easier slopes for them so they aren't stuck on the same low nursery slopes all holiday.

If anyone has any ideas on a suitable resort, apartment/chalet etc they have been to please share. I have heard good things about Avoriaz/Morzine too, sounds like it may suit, anyone been?

Thanks guys
post #2 of 23
I have not had the pleasure of multiple visits to France but I cannot imagine anywhere being much better than Chamonix. It's easy to get to and a great place to be while you're there.
post #3 of 23
In recent years, I've become very specialized to Val d'Isere, so I can't give you a detailed and up-to-date comparison, but here is some advice.

First, if you're concerned to maximize value, it's not so much where you go but when. Every resort is packed for Christmas and New Year, then demand falls off drastically. This is reflected in tour companies' prices, but the reality is that, even at lower rates, accommodation is by no means sold out. How companies deal with that -- offering discounts over the phone at the last minute, selling holidays over the internet/teletext -- is a black art. But, believe me, you can stay more cheaply in Courchevel in the middle of January (by the way, it's only Courchevel 1800 that is very pricey) than you can in Morzine over New Year. This is my TOP TIP.

So let's look quickly at your criteria.

Quality of Skiing You don't say how advanced the best skiers in your party are but I'm going to guess that, if you had any real super-experts (and you weren't crossing the Atlantic) you wouldn't need my advice. For any intermediate to advanced on-trail skiers, most French resorts will be fantastic. I think, though, that you're right to worry about beginners. I'm afraid that the nursery slopes in Val d'Isere are lousy (as they were when I was last in Meribel) and I think that this is something that is often the case in France. You'd be well advised to get them up the hill to one of the big wide green runs as soon as possible.

Transfer If you're travelling as part of an "all in" holiday, your tour company will take you to the resort in a bus. Then it doesn't make that much difference if it's a two or four hour transfer. You're not skiing that day anyway, so it doesn't matter enormously if you get to the resort at 3 pm or 6 pm.

Food My experience is limited, but, if VdI and the 3 Valleys are anything to go by, you can't generalize -- you need to know where to go. Most of the food up the mountain is lousy and over-priced while, in town, it's variable. My solution is to come down for lunch if I want to eat -- the lifts are so quick you can easily get up high again. The time spent on the lifts is easily saved if you pick the right time and place to eat. I eat VERY well in Val d'Isere!

Night Life Not my area of expertise, but I stayed in a chalet with 6 Irish girls over the New Year and they had no complaints about VdI (provided you don't mind dancing with a lot of young Swedes ). I've heard good things about Meribel and Chamonix, but serious party people also say that Austria and Italy have France beaten when it comes to night life.

Two things you don't mention

The Look of the Resort Many French resorts were purpose-built in the 70s and 80s and are, to be blunt, butt ugly (Flaine, La Plagne, Tignes, I'm looking at you). If you don't mind that, you can have a good time in them (and they have great skiing and are snow sure) but they are not Lech or Zermatt or St Moritz.

Ski Teaching I would put this at number one in my choice of a beginner's resort (and why I can whole-heartedly recommend VdI). Trying to teach yourself skiing (or learning from a boyfriend/girlfriend) is a really good way not to enjoy the sport. Unfortunately, the ESF (Ecole de Ski Francais) operates as a cartel and, although there are some very good ESF instructors, customer service is by no means a priority in my experience. Beginners I've known in VdI have had terrific instruction from non-ESF ski schools. In other French resorts, I've heard, things are worse.

Some thoughts on Chamonix (which I don't know well). Pro. Amazing resort for serious helmet-heads -- incredible off-piste/mountaineering culture. Very close to Geneva. Famous night life. A real town, not just a bunch of tourist hotels. Con. Does not have a good reputation for beginners. I've heard from several who went there for their first skiing holiday and were disappointed. Communication from one ski area to another can be difficult without a car. Heavy traffic from the Mont Blanc tunnel (diesel fumes). I would seriously check before going to Chamonix with beginners in the party.

OK, final suggestion. If you're coming from Ireland, find a reputable British company and see what they have to offer at an off-peak time at an all-in price. Don't worry too much about the resort. Then hop over from Dublin and travel with them from Gatwick.

Long post -- I'll leave it there. Cheers.
post #4 of 23
Le Clusaz looks nice

close to Geneva easy to get to
nice preserved village with decent nightlife and good food
less expensive than many other french alps resorts
large and somewhat high ski area
would need to speak french probably as it doesn't seem to be Brit package tour destination as yet
Time Out (London) magazine has a (inexpensive) guide to ski resorts in Europe which is incrediby informative, I don't know if it is available in stores in Ireland but suspect it could easily be ordered
post #5 of 23
I'll chime in since the two resorts I've been to in France have been mentioned.

Chamonix would be ideal except that you have a mixed group with beginners. I would think that would pretty much rule it. It ticks all the other boxes, but it's too inconvenient if you've got beginners in your group.

La Clusaz is great, but you'll find the nightlife lacking (and a touch expensive). The skiing would suit well (although most of it is not terribly high), the transfer is short and the village has a lot of genuine French atmosphere. Great food both in town and on the mountain, too. But if nightlife is that important, there are only two discos, and both look pretty bad in my opinion. There are only a handful of bars, too, none of them truly slopeside. After skiing in Austria, it felt strange to the area at the bottom of teh slope deserted by about 4:00. There is one pub relatively close to the slopes that I found to be nice, but the rest you can pretty much forget.
post #6 of 23
Ski school: the ESF is no longer a monopoly, and there are plenty of other ski schools in France which will offer you something that actually resembles customer service - and English-language instruction.

Examples (not comprehensive by any means): Snow Fun and ICE in Val d'Isere, New Generation in the Three Valleys (Meribel/Courchevel), BASS in Morzine/Portes de Soleil.

For a mixed group there are plenty of options ... particularly if you can get your beginners to do a few hours on a dry or indoor slope before you go, thereby opening up a much wider range of slopes. In Val the early intermediate slopes are high, which is great, but the nursery slopes are pretty average. Courchevel 1650 can be a great, great budget option, particularly in January, and has wonderful wide open slopes to learn on. Nightlife in Meribel can be fun ... and you could stay, for example, in Brides-les-Bains down the valley (that would, alas, rule out the nightlife, and it's about 45 minutes in the bubble every morning, but it's a lot cheaper).

Also look at La Tania for slightly cheaper accommodation but the beginner slopes aren't great.

Consider La Plagne, particularly the outstations; lots of intermediate skiing for the better skiers and beginner slopes ... but the nightlife not so great. You could try to stay in Bourg St Maurice and ski Les Arcs - go up by train or cable every morning.

The options are many and varied!
post #7 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sandgroper61 View Post
Ski school: the ESF is no longer a monopoly, and there are plenty of other ski schools in France which will offer you something that actually resembles customer service - and English-language instruction.
Yes. If there is a group of ESF moniteurs posting on a French web site about how to give their clients the best possible experience in a short lesson space, I'll eat my lift pass!

Great post, by the way.
post #8 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sandgroper61 View Post
Ski school: the ESF is no longer a monopoly, and there are plenty of other ski schools in France which will offer you something that actually resembles customer service - and English-language instruction.

Examples (not comprehensive by any means): Snow Fun and ICE in Val d'Isere, New Generation in the Three Valleys (Meribel/Courchevel), BASS in Morzine/Portes de Soleil.

For a mixed group there are plenty of options ... particularly if you can get your beginners to do a few hours on a dry or indoor slope before you go, thereby opening up a much wider range of slopes. In Val the early intermediate slopes are high, which is great, but the nursery slopes are pretty average. Courchevel 1650 can be a great, great budget option, particularly in January, and has wonderful wide open slopes to learn on. Nightlife in Meribel can be fun ... and you could stay, for example, in Brides-les-Bains down the valley (that would, alas, rule out the nightlife, and it's about 45 minutes in the bubble every morning, but it's a lot cheaper).

Also look at La Tania for slightly cheaper accommodation but the beginner slopes aren't great.

Consider La Plagne, particularly the outstations; lots of intermediate skiing for the better skiers and beginner slopes ... but the nightlife not so great. You could try to stay in Bourg St Maurice and ski Les Arcs - go up by train or cable every morning.

The options are many and varied!
Agree with most of this and like Bourg St. Maurice for many people, but the night life is not great in town (but likely better up in Les Arcs 1800 or 2000)
post #9 of 23
You do not indicate why you want to ski France.

Nightlife you mention is often better or cheaper in Austria.

French station de ski have long transfers from Geneva.

Pyrenees may be cheaper than Alps but more clues needed as to exactly what you want and why you are not looking in more promising locations.

If you had said I want kilometres of piste and hundreds of lifts, or big name resorts and I am willing to spend a bit, it would be easier to fix you up.
post #10 of 23
I don't think you can do much better than the Three Valleys anywhere in Europe. Val d'Isere is a nice town. Good skiing in the Deux Alpes- Alpe D'Huez- La Grave area.
post #11 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Latchigo View Post
You do not indicate why you want to ski France.

Nightlife you mention is often better or cheaper in Austria.

French station de ski have long transfers from Geneva.

Pyrenees may be cheaper than Alps but more clues needed as to exactly what you want and why you are not looking in more promising locations.

If you had said I want kilometres of piste and hundreds of lifts, or big name resorts and I am willing to spend a bit, it would be easier to fix you up.
Last time I skied with some of this particular group we did Austria, so thats the only reason I wont be looking there, some want a change.

Have skied Pyrenees twice before so want to do Alps this time. I don't have a particularily solid reason as to why I want to ski France, its just somewhere I have not skied yet. I'll be doing Italy aswell, it's an old favourite, so for my second trip I like to explore places I haven't been yet. Big well kept ski area's do appeal also, thats not to say that other locations don't have them too...but I just want to ski the French Alps, thats all, can't really give you any other reason...do I need another reason??

Ow also I know I said price was an issue here, but I didn't mean I have nothing to spend(although re-reading my first post I can see how it was picked up like that). So let me re-word. We are willing to part with our cash, and are aware it is a pricey destination as opposed to some other places. So we know it won't be cheap, and we are not expecting a "budget" holiday, and we are willing to spend ...just not LOADS. Thats one of the reasons I wanted to post the thread, to get peoples idea's on suitable locations and any tips on gems that people found/ stayed in that were good value etc.

Hope ya can still hook me up
post #12 of 23
In that case, just get a last minute chalet booking and save yourself a bit.

Tignes Val d'Isere or Three Valleys are sound. La Plagne Les Arcs is probably best if you have beginners with you. Plagne Bellecote has nursery slopes outside the main block of flats. You head off but come back to a self-catered lunch with them in the middle of the day. They will be easy to find and faclities are close at hand. No good for nightlife so bring plenty of board games etc.

Links on portes de soleil are not always great. It is a bit lower. I spent a fortnight in Chatel and never managed to get to Avoriaz.

Last minute chalets are your best bet for extending your ski horizons. If you have not been to a destination pick it off when you know what snow cover is like and it is at a good price. When you have done that you will have a better idea what suits and where you want to spend your cash.
post #13 of 23
One question: WHEN exactly do you intend to go? Essential for proper advice.

If not too late in the year I'd second La Clusaz and Morzine for a mixed ability group. Some good bars and nightlife, younger folks and reasonable lodging available. Terrain is vast and offers variety for all levels. La Clusaz is the French freestyle Mecca fwiw. Serre Che is another option with Briancon close by.

Own transportation not essential but comes in handy.

Definitely not Chamonix, makes not much sense for novices. Thing is all major resorts with a decent nightlife are to some extend tagged by altitude - the higher the pricier when it comes down to added costs like lodging/food/beverages ect.
post #14 of 23
Thread Starter 
Hey guys thanks for recommendations, change of plan though. Spending season in Canada doing instructor course but will use advice for following year maybe
post #15 of 23
Lucky you!!!!
post #16 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nobody View Post
Lucky you!!!!

I know cant wait!

In your neck of the woods at mo, in Roma, moving on to Tuscany for 5weeks. Any recommendations???
La Dolce Vita...
post #17 of 23
Seaside or hill side bound?
Punta Ala and Isola d'Elba or Isola del Giglio if seaside.
Traditional tuscany countryside if hillside, San Giminiano comes to mind.
Plenty of "Agriturismi" (tourist-ranches ?) over there where one can relax and spend relatively less than at traditional hotels...
Is Rome as wonderful (and expensive- I once paid 18 Euro for two cappuccinos, two brioches and one fresh orange juice) as ever ?
post #18 of 23
Thread Starter 
Ill be based in Seina during the week teaching, but my weekends will be free, so I plan to do some exploring. I will definately have a look into Punta Ala, Isola d'Elba,Isola del Giglio and San Giminiano . Firenze is a given, but I do like to steer clear of the obvious tourists traps when visiting places, so any hidden gems do share.

Rome is even more wonderfull than I imagined (...and my expectations were not low!), although I have not had the chance\time I would like to cover it, as I do not finish work until late lunch. Only having arrived here Monday I found it so hard to soak it all in, as around each corner seems to be another beautiful Piazza or Fontana to be appreciated. Plus quite foolishly I have not planned my evening "site-seeing" excursions particularily well, and rather than have a vague plan as to where I am going I have opted for strolling around the streets of Rome, enjoying the surroundings, and simply happening upon the various monuments and structures. However I leave for Tuscany this evening and only now do I realise the error of my ways, so today will be a quick dash to fit in the final essentials (would you believe I have yet to see the colosseo and much of ancient Rome, and the vatican will have to go unseen I think).

Although I will definately return(more than once I hope) so I suppose whats the rush?

As regards the prices, living in "rip-off" Ireland, and at that the Capital, has somewhat aclimatised me to shocking prices. I would say it is simply on par...although €18 for your small order was extorionate!, saying that one sandwich in the mere lobby of a hotel around the corner from my old school was €19.95(a hard learned lesson by me and my friends when we decided to "pop" in for a bite one day...could you imagine our faces when we got the bill!)
post #19 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Polarbear2020 View Post
Hey guys thanks for recommendations, change of plan though. Spending season in Canada doing instructor course but will use advice for following year maybe
Now you are talking, I'll be in Canada in Jan for 2 1/2 months skiing great country. Can't wait.
post #20 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by daveskis View Post
Now you are talking, I'll be in Canada in Jan for 2 1/2 months skiing great country. Can't wait.
Either can I!
post #21 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by daveskis View Post
Now you are talking, I'll be in Canada in Jan for 2 1/2 months skiing great country. Can't wait.
Dress warmly!!!! It can get mighty cold here!
post #22 of 23
Polarbear,
I am a big fan of Val as well the lift system is great and the resort is high and know for snow. Our clinic is in March there and we always have a fun gang and ski the entire valley. There a plenty of ski in ski out hotels as well let me know if you have any questions.

Dan
post #23 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Egan View Post
Polarbear,
I am a big fan of Val as well the lift system is great and the resort is highand know for snow. Our clinic is in March there and we always have a fun gang and ski the entire valley. There a plenty of ski in ski out hotels as well let me know if you have any questions.

Dan


Saw your presentation at Henry's Avalanche Talk a couple of years ago (still haven't got over the shot of JE skiing over thin air when the cornice breaks off ...)
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