In the north-west section of the Aravis mountain range, La Clusaz is easily one of the prettiest ski villages in France. The central square comes complete with a 200-year-old Savoyard church and the bustling streets that fan out from here are full of boutique shops, bars, restaurants and hotels. And there's still a weekly market in the church square every Monday from 8am till 12pm. Being a traditional village rather than a purpose-built resort brings a year-round vibrancy and a wider variety of shops, bars and restaurants than you'd expect for a resort of its size.
As an added bonus, unlike many big-name French ski resorts, the French make up the majority of the visitors here, so it actually feels like you're skiing in France. And it's worth mentioning that the neighbouring town of Le Grand Bornand is the birthplace of Reblochon so expect some heavily cheese influenced mountain dishes.
The fact that the resort has retained its traditional feel is a major drawing factor but equally, the one hour transfer from Geneva makes it the ideal short ski break destination. The terrain is sizable and suitable for all levels, a huge plus in our books.
Skiing in the resort
The 125km ski area is linked between five mountains (Balme, Aiguille, L'Etale, Manigod and Beauregard) offering a range of skiing/snowboarding to suit all levels. There is also an additional 85km accessible via shuttle bus to Le Grand Bornand which is included on the Aravis area pass. They built a brand new bottom station in La Clusaz for the 2017/2018 winter season as well as a six-seater chairlift to improve the lift capacity to 2,800 people per hour.
One of the biggest pluses for the ski slopes is the fact that the slopes are grass underneath so it takes little snow cover to have perfect pistes. Ideal for early season or Christmas skiing when the snow is not always in abundance.
For beginners or those looking for some easy skiing the Manigod and Beauregard mountains are your best bet, with snow gardens and family runs, even a snow park to get to grips with the easy jumps. And there's plenty of runs to progress onto.
L'Etale and Aiguille are the mountains for the intermediates out there with plenty of cruisy blue runs between the trees. Though the entire ski area is well worth exploring, some of the blues back to resort are amongst the best in the area in the mornings.
If you're looking for more of a challenge, the Balme area offers by far the most vertical with 1,500m of vertical drop back down to the town centre. There are loads of reds and some challenging blacks as well as plenty off-piste to explore if you hire a guide.
As mentioned above the year-round vibrancy of the village brings a surprising number and variety of bars. Whilst the table dancing enthusiast among us might be a little disappointed there're plenty of options to keep the party going late into the night. Starting from around 3pm, Relais de L'Aiguille is a popular stop on the ski home or Salto, near the main base station, has a lively apres atmosphere and shows a lot of the sport on TV.
There's plenty of options in town from live music venues to wine tasting shops and glass dancefloors over the river. Les Caves du Paccaly is well worth a mention and probably our must-visit spot in town. Whilst Le Bal, at the top of the village, is where to head for a quieter scene with its heated terrace and live music.
What we like:
- Just one hour transfer from Geneva airport
- Pistes to suit all levels - particularly suited to intermediates with plenty of blues and reds
- Traditional village feel, and wonderful views of Mont Blanc from the higher reaches
- Most runs are pasture land in the summer meaning it doesn't take much snowfall to make the pistes skiable
- Low-ish altitude, but the Aravis Mountains have a great track record for snow from December to early April
- Night-life is not what the resort is known for, though there's plenty of bars to enjoy including a nightclub with a glass floor over the river (L'Ecluse)
- You can get the TGV train to Annecy which is just 30 minute drive from La Clusaz