Ski Destinations: Montgenevre, France

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Montgenevre was popular in the 1930s with the Parisian jet-set together with Cocteau, Gabin and Colette.  Nowadays, it may have lost the glamour of its earlier years, but it remains to be a pleasant little resort having a wonderful snow record.

The first draglift in France was opened here in 1936 and they certainly chose the correct spot; with high, north-facing inclines and westerly storms pouring huge amounts of snow as they churn across the valley, Montgenevre gets some of the ideal snow in the southern Alps.

The cluttered up main street along the busy road might not make it the most charming of resorts, but the old town behind the main road contains some appeal. Accommodation is cheap and cheerful, and generally no more than five minutes walk from the slopes.

When you get up there, an immense area of great skiing in two countries lies waiting, and if your wish to explore the far end of the Milky Way circuit – Sauze d’Oulx and Sestriere- it’s quicker to go by car; unless you prefer to spend all day going up and down lifts.

Going up the mountain from the village is easy; nine lifts await you leaving from the area just off the main road. Two of these are gondolas – one, right near the tourist office gets you up into the Chalvet area north of the village; the other, Les Chalmettes, is the quickest way to take you to the mid-mountain station in the main area, above the nursery slopes.

Montgenevre is excellent for novices; the nursery area above the village is far-reaching, having a mix of wide open slopes and more narrow but really gentle runs through the trees -great for honing technique. It’s also great for some intermediate cruising, having a couple of friendly reds below Les Anges offering a bit more of a challenge for those wanting it. This is a popular region, but the number of lifts indicates there are rarely queues.

To embark further into Italy, get on the Rocher de I’Aigle chairlift, which brings you over the prominent scenery of the Massif du Chenaillet, a vast open bowl having breathtaking rock formations and outcrops. The top of this lift sits on the France-Italian border; heading east into Italy takes you to a few fantastic high-mountain reds and a black. Lower down, the Claviere and Monti della Luna regions have a lot of nice trails through the trees. Monti della Luna has some truly long runs that are easier compared to the black grading given on the piste map. In fact, experts will discover that pretty much all the runs are easier than their gradings, so the best bet is to head off-piste or to the Chalvet section, which has a couple of challenging runs down from Col de I’Alpet.

Restaurant Les Anges is large and functional rather than cutesy, but offers a wide range of crepes and bruschetta. In the Chalvet area, La Bergerie is like the French edition of a greasy spoon, but it’s an excellent place to stop for a cafe au lait. On the Claviere side, the best restaurants are in Italy ; the small, cosy hut at the top of Colle Bercia is a great place to stop and warm up.

There is a snow-sure terrain park having a quarter-pipe, jumps and a tow just below the Gondrans chairlift on top of Les Anges. Unfortunately, there are also a bit much draglifts around, so pick your route carefully. There is an outdoor ice rink at the bottom of the slopes, and walking trails and snowmobiling. The more adventurous should try out ‘ruisseling’ – climbing up frozen waterfalls – in the Rio Secco canyon. The less adventurous may go to the cinema.

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