All you need to know about ski holidays by train

Val Cenis - village

As befits authentic year-round working communities, the style here is far removed from the high-rise of purpose-built ski resorts. On the approach from Modane the first sign of life in the Val Cenis fold is Termignon, which looks cheerful without being twee and is clustered around an old  church in a broad valley setting with the river Arc for company. Essential day-to-day services rub shoulders with bars, hotels and restaurants plus a few boutiques and a couple of artisan cheese-makers. Most of the ski accommodation lies across the river, at the foot of the mountain, where it’s close to lifts, ski-school, etc.

Five km further on you’ll reach Lanslebourg, by far the largest of the villages and equipped with more of everything. Much of it straggles appealingly along the broad main road, which is com-pletely snow-covered around mid-January each year when Val Cenis hosts a stage in La Grande Odyssée Savoie Mont Blanc, an international dogsledding event (www.grandeodyssee.com). Once again, just across the river you’ll see much of the visitor accommodation, sited close to the ski lifts and the front de neige.

After crossing the river the road next passes the apartment developments of Les Champs (a.k.a. Planchamp), which is connected to the ski area by chairlift. There are more lift-served recent de-velopments between here and Lanslevillard – signs of steadily-growing popularity and a gradual move upmarket. Again there are essential services, a friendly tourist office and a couple of chair-lifts. Most of the older part of the village lies across the river, where the mood is relaxed and un-pretentious. Effectively an upper extension of Lanslevillard, the area known as Val Cenis Le Haut (it sits at 1500m) has more apartments, a ski school and a gondola lift.

To reach Bonneval sur Arc you’ll have to press on for another 12km or so over the Col de la Madeleine and past the village of Bessans (home of cross-country skiing), but it’s well worth seeing and skiing. It’s picture-postcard perfect in summer and simply magical in winter, and while the remote location means more limited services, you’ll probably find all you need for a stay.

Accommodation

Like Serre Chevalier, the Val Cenis ski area is accessible from a succession of access points spread along a broad valley, and deciding exactly where to stay begins with your choice of village. All have lift access to the skiing and are served by shuttle buses also stopping at apartment devel-opments sited between villages (essential when you need to get to and from shops).

Termignon feels cosy, and is probably a solid choice for budget-conscious families, with a beginner area which is about as accessible as it gets. For ski apartments at the foot of the slopes and close to the ski school try Les Terrasses de Termignon by Lagrange or the Residence le Petite Mont Cenis. Or Les Balcons de la Vanoise are located in a quieter location, but still right next to the pistes.

However, there’s a whole lot more extensive intermediate ski terrain rapidly accessible from both Lanslebourg and Lanslevillard. For hotel accommodation, La Vielle Poste is in the centre of Lanslebourg, close to shops and restaurants and just 100m from the nearest lift.

Midway between the villages are Les Chalets de Flambeau luxury apartments and the adjacent residence Le Criterium. Both have easy lift access and a nearby ski school meeting point.

Just beyond Lanslevillard, Les Balcons de Val Cenis Le Haut are great for families, with a re-turn green piste bringing skiers almost to the door – and the ski school and gondola are just 100m away. Guests enjoy free access to the nearby swimming pool and ice-rink.

As for Bonneval sur Arc, its remoteness and sense of authenticity have enabled it to carve out something of a niche for itself in the market, and making it a worthwhile day visit for most skiers.

The tourist office online-booking service - Haute Maurienne Vanoise Reservation - works with many of the accommodation providers in Val Cenis – local rental agencies and holiday residences for self-catering apartments, hotels and holiday centres - so is a great point of contact for information and booking.

Ski/snowboard equipment hire

The major ski-hire chains are represented in Val Cenis. Intersport has shops in Lanslevillard (www.intersport-valcenis.net ) and Lanslebourg (www.intersport-valcenisvanoise.com) and take advance bookings. For extra convenience look out for Skiset shops (www.skiset.com), which are generally within or close to residences. Sport 2000 La Poudreuse is a family-run business with two outlets including one at the foot of the pistes in Lanslevillard. They take advance bookings and offer free ski lockers. The Skimium shop in Lans-levillard offers a free delivery and collection service from your apartment and also stocks reasona-bly-priced clothing and equipment from France’s favourite sports chain Decathlon.

In Bonneval, Mulinet Sports (www.bonneval-mulinet-sports.fr ) offers a specialist equipment hire service and is run by a couple who are ski instructors and a mountain guide. Mélèzes Sport is a few steps from the lift and ski school. For beginners there’s useful overnight storage for equipment. Moulin Sport (+33 4 79 05 97 43 ) is a Skimium.com shop close to the slopes.

Termignon’s hire shops are in the centre of the village. Chris et Phil Sports, on the Rue du Savoie, is a Skiset shop (+33 4 79 59 20 19) and Ski-Way  is on Rue de la Parrachée, about 500m from the slopes.

Non-ski activities

You name it. The long list of outdoor activities includes: parapente, kite-skiing, Yooners (light-weight snow-scooters), AirBoards, X-Bikes (a cross between mountain bike and a scooter), snow-tubing, Snowscoot, wingjump, airboard, big-airbags, ice diving, ice-climbing (in Bonneval sur Arc), night-skiing, microlight flights and more besides. For wholesome family fun there’s snowshoeing, ice-skating, dog-sledding, plus a 900m luge run, on which you can also try SnakeGliss (linked toboggans) and traditional ‘parets’.

Indoors it’s a similar story, with bowling, swimming and a whole range of relaxation and wellbeing pampering. Everything is listed, along with detailed descriptions, at: www.haute-maurienne-vanoise.com

Childcare

In Val Cenis, children are welcomed by the ESF ski school (visit the ESF information desk for de-tails) which has Les P’tits Loups (+33 4 79 05 96 72 ) nurseries in Lanslebourg and Lanslevillard. They accept children from 3 months up to 6 year-olds, providing care, midday meals and playtime, with ski tuition for children over three years. Children aged 6 - 12 years advance to the Les P’tits Durs kids’ club. Apart from ski lessons, there are other junior activities including snowshoe walks, farm visits and dog-sledding. For details visit the website.

At Bonneval Les p’tits Chabottes, at the Résidence la Ciamarella (+33 4 79 05 80 01), offers childcare from three months to six years, with a kids’ club for children from 4-12 year-olds. Les Croës kids’ club at Termignon doesn’t offer infant care but does provide activities for children from 4-12 years.


 

Val Cenis piste map

Ski area
Village Altitude
1460
m
Ski Altitude
1300m - 2800m
m
Pistes
125
km
Green Runs
12
Blue Runs
19
Red Runs
21
Black Runs
5
Total Runs 57
Terrain Park
4
Cabin Lifts
2
Chair Lifts
13
Drag Lifts
13
Total Lifts 28