In the South-Eastern part of France near the Italian border lies Sainte Foy ski area. Sainte-Foy-Tarentaise is a quaint village in the Rhone-Alps region in Savoie, France. About 4km above the old village is the small ski resort with 15 different slopes to suit beginners and expert skiers and snowboarders alike.
The ski area has four chairlifts and accommodation for up to 2500 people. One of the great aspects of this resort is that it remains a small area so the slopes are not crowded with hundreds on skiers and snowboarders. There is accommodation in the in the main village in the form of luxury hotels and popular chalets. There are also more chalets in the nearby villages of La Masure and Le Miroir.
The resort is approximately 1500m above sea level and was previously an old farming hamlet with few chalets. Most of the village is more modern being built with good quality stone and wood. You’ll find two spas at the resort which include saunas, jacuzzis, swimming pools and for those looking to spoil themselves, even massage and beauty treatments. There are five different ski shops and three restaurants with many tasty dishes on the menus to fill your appetite as well as a supermarket for those who prefer to self-cater.
For beginners there are two magic carpets on the learners slopes. There are about 20 pistes for all different levels of skiers. There are several green, blue and red grade runs but only one groomed black grade run. The resort is known for its choice of off-piste slopes of which there is a variety to suit every skier. Thankfully the powder lasts for days due to the north-west facing slopes. Guides are available to show you around the area and perhaps down the well-known descent of Fogliettaz.
There is a new automated lift pass system that allows a hands free check in. You can purchase or re-new your passes online and there are now dedicated sales points for tour operators. The resort has introduced a new piste machine of the latest technology and design to prepare the pistes in time for the peak season. The waste from the resort is treated in a biological grease disposal unit as well as a hydrocarbon separator to minimize the impact of the environment.
A picture table has been introduced, to show the surrounding summits from a top Col de l’Aiguille which is located at about 2600m above sea level. All in all the resort offers great opportunities for skiing and snowboarding and not just for advanced skiers but the whole family.
The official website offers loads of interesting links for the type of skiing, accommodation and passes available. There is a lot of information on the area as well as webcams and updated snow reports. See www.saintefoy-tarentaise.com for more information.
Image courtesy of: http://www.saintefoy-tarentaise.com/hiver/ski/pistes-et-remontees/
So you’ve mastered forwards and now you’re looking to ski backwards.
There is no doubt it looks very cool and when you see those instructors effortlessly skiing backwards faster than most of us can go forwards you decide that its time to learn.
Since learning myself I’ve picked up a few tips that will no doubt help. My own feeling is that the easiest terrain to practice on is a big wide open blue in bright sunshine and no lumps and bumps, anything less steep and you’ll not have the speed you need to keep going when things get a little wobbly and anything steeper and you might scare yourself.
Its probably worth saying at this point that you really do need freestyle (twin-tipped) skis for this. These ski’s have essentially the same upward curve on the back as they do on the front allowing you to travel backwards as easily as you can forwards.
When you’re ready to begin, start pointing downhill until you’re moving at a pace. I find it far easier to ski backwards while moving rather than from a standing start – for some reason the momentum seems to help. So when you’re travelling forwards (not more than a few mph) begin to move into a parallel stop but keep the back of the skis kicked out until you’re facing the other way.
Just as you do when skiing forwards you’ll need to have your weight on one foot and the other foot will move naturally to a position further backward and down the slope. You’ll want to be looking backwards over the shoulder of the ski furthest down the mountain. What you do with your poles are down to you but I tend to have them pointed out to the side about 45 degrees for a little stability – it seems to help my balance.
When you want to change direction (and I’d suggest you’re not doing large traverses across a slope here), you’ll need to unweight your foot and slide (or scissor) the ski downhill until you have the reverse position to that you had before. Make sure you look back over the other shoulder now.
Boom – you’re skiing backwards.
When I learnt this technique, I did it from this video which is excellent – Id highly recommend watching it.
*photo credit – My favourite rider Bobby Brown from one of his videos
When I worked for Interactive Resorts, I mostly sold chalet holidays. Because the chalet holiday is such a British thing, this means chalets are almost exclusively found in the popular and famous resorts that British people have heard of with very few available in the smaller and more obscure corners of the Alps. As a result, during my time at IR I almost never sold holidays to these lesser known resorts.
My dad, however, is an avid geographer and lover of obscure places and so through him I have managed to gather quite a bit of random knowledge about some of the more Brit-free alpine destinations, and have even visited a fair few of them. It was a running joke in the office when I worked there that I had very niche resort knowledge, and if ever anyone called in with a random request they would inevitably be passed through to me, something I was infinitely proud of!
Over the next weeks and months on this blog I will be bringing you my take on the niche ski destinations of:
Pragelato Via Lattea
Klosters and Davos
Bourg St Maurice
St Martin de Belleville
Hopefully someone might find these as interesting as I do!
The 2014/15 season was the most ski-light I’ve had since I was 17, with just the one week on snow. Thankfully it was a pretty good week!
I had skied with Dad a year earlier where we met Al and his dad Jamie in a small chalet in St Martin de Belleville. That week we were hosted by the very lovely Cookie and Lou, a French/Australian couple who were making their first foray into the world of chalet hosting, having previously been in the film catering trade back in Oz. Their hosting, and in particular, Cookie’s cooking was certainly the best I had ever had, and Dad reckons the best he has had in nearly 40 years of ski holidays, so when we heard they were heading back to the Alps for a second season, we got in touch. This year they were working for independent chalet company Ride & Slide in Morzine, running the 7-bedroom Chalet Guytaune along with a third host, Meece. Luckily for us, they had availability during the very limited window of time we had available in early February and so we booked in: myself, my younger sister Sophie and our Dad in the extremely spacious family room (bedroom 5), and my older sister Rachel and her husband Nick in the double next door (bedroom 4). This was my first return to Morzine since my ski season there 8 years earlier…I was intrigued to see how it had changed!
Being an independent company, flights were not included so myself and the other ‘kids’ decided to drive out while Dad flew out a day later due to other commitments. Driving meant we could fill the car with all the extra things you can’t usually take, including my second pair of skis and my snowboard which I had bought in the town all those years ago. The pros and cons of self-drive ski holidays might need a post of their own I think…
Morzine is one of the closest resorts in terms of drive time to the UK and having set off from the outskirts of London at 5am, we were in resort in time for dinner. The food we experienced all week was really exquisite. Cookie introduces each course with knowledge and passion, describing exactly what we are eating and the cooking processes in detail. Anything you particularly like, he is more than happy to give you the recipe though you’d be hard pushed to recreate it without his skill. The wines were excellent too, complementing each course beautifully and served with charm by Lou and Meece. (We skiied with Lou and cookie on the last day, below).
The chalet itself was excellent, and we shared it with a variety of people throughout the week as some only stayed for the weekend. A shared chalet can sometimes be slightly dubious as you never know quite who you are going to meet, but generally it’s a pretty safe bet as everyone is there for the same reasons. We lucked out this week, sharing with two young couples for the whole week, and some older couples at the beginning and end of the week all of whom were lovely. The highlight of the chalet was the hot tub which had gorgeous views across the valley and you were even allowed to take your beer in which is not always the case!
Conditions all week were excellent. Morzine is one of the lowest resorts in Europe, with the town at just 1000m so I certainly wouldn’t advise an early- or late-season trip, but mid-season, like when we visited, it can be ideal. There had been a recent dump just as we arrived and then the sun came out for most of the week, offering bluebird days almost all week…perfection!
The Portes du Soleil ski area in which Morzine lies is one of the largest in Europe, if not the world, claiming 650km of pistes. The pistes are not all linked together, with some buses or walks needed through the small villages, but nonetheless, it’s a formidable area. It’s an intermediates paradise as off-piste for the expert skier can be trickier to find due to the relatively low altitude, but one of the best ways to explore the area is to have a go at the famous circuit. This year we completed it in the anti-clockwise direction, something I hadn’t done before. With 63-year old Dad in tow, we opted out of skiing the infamous ‘Swiss Wall’ this time, secure in the knowledge we’d all done it before! Some of the runs in the Les Crosets area were the highlight; wide, steep enough to get some speed up while still enabling you to carve really nice turns. And in early February, outside of the school holidays, there wasn’t a queue in sight!
The area is little changed from when I worked here in 2006/07, but there have been some minor improvements. A new two-way chair link above Châtel (conveniently named the Portes du Soleil) means you no longer have to catch a bus through the village. It’s fairly terrifying in the anti-clockwise direction as you go over a ridge and down a pretty steep descent on the chairlift, but the views over the town are pretty good. Some speedier chairs and a new Chavannes gondola in Les Gets were the only improvements I noticed elsewhere. The long slog across from the SuperMorzine to Avoriaz is just as flat and arduous as I remembered! Even so, it’s definitely still one of my favourite ski areas, with something for nearly everyone: extensive nursery and improver slopes on the plateau at the top of Le Pleney, various parks and boarder crosses, with the two half pipes at Avoriaz some of the biggest I’ve seen, gorgeous sun spots for lunch, like La Grand Ourse at the top of Mont Chery or the bowl at Les Lindarets, decent off-piste if conditions allow, and vast, varied pistes for all abilities.
Something new we tried this year was night tobogganing down the pistes of Le Pleney. We booked at one of the operators in town (Indiana’Ventures in the shopping complex opposite the tourist office, €24 each) and met up at the foot of the gondola at 5.30pm. This also enabled us to have a drink at Le Tremplin, an on-piste hotel at the foot of the slopes which was just a hotel when I was last here. These days it’s a buzzing aprés venue with outdoor DJs and crêpe van and lots of comfy sofas to lounge on and watch people attempt the tricky Stade run into the town. Once at the top of the gondola we were given our head lamps and toboggans, and after a quick briefing all 40-odd of us went careering off down the piste. You could take it as fast or slow as you wanted and naturally, we went as fast as possible! There were a lot of crashes, some ice burn and a few lost sledges but it was definitely one of the highlights of the week.
After a tasty meal out on staff night off at L’Etale restaurant on the pedestrianised street going up to Le Pleney, my 21-year-old sister Sophie and I took in some of my old haunts. Dixie’s was dead at 10pm, maybe too early, Rhodos still serves the infamous Mutzig extra-strong beer, we were too late for bar Robos and Buddha bar has morphed into the extremely similar Le Tibetan. We spent most of the night in Cavern, still one of my favourites. Sadly we didn’t make it to L’Opera next door, but it looked like that’s still pretty much the only late night option. So not a lot has changed in 8 years as far as I could tell!
A fantastic return to an old friend – I’m planning on going back again in 2016 with my seasonnaire pals to mark our 10 year anniversary…Morzine will definitely always have a special place in my heart!
Runs: 7/10, varied and extensive, but low altitude means conditions sometimes let it down a bit.
Restaurants: 8/10, plenty and varied, but Cookie’s cooking still wins.
Apres Ski: 6/10, enough to keep you busy but it’s not Val.
Town: 9/10, an all-year round resort and proper town with every amenity you might need. The only reason it’s not a 10/10 is lack of ski in/out options due to the traditional nature of the resort.
Have you skied in Morzine yourself? Find any hidden gems? Keen to hear from you and keep building a great resource for others to learn from.
2014 and its my second trip skiing. Not because I’m greedy or spoilt but because my wife and I were expecting our first child in Feb so for fear of not missing out on the yearly holiday with Dad, we opted to go in mid December.
At this time of year you have to aim high so we looked at Tignes, Cervinia and St Christoph, finally plumping for the Italian ski resort. Wow what a stroke of luck. When we arrived we were told by the rep that Cervinia was one of the only resorts in Europe with any snow, many of the larger well known areas being closed and some without any snow at all! Chamonix, Courchevel and St Anton all struggling to get any lifts open at all!
Cervinia is a pretty Italian town and forms part of the Aosta Valley. Its connected on the border to Zermatt which is well worth skiing down to if you get the chance.
I’d say that as a fairly competent skier its perhaps a little on the small side to keep you busy and not carving the same runs every day. That said, with an area pass (called International) you can get over to Zermatt on the left hand side (looking at the Piste Map) and to your right you have Salette and Valtournenche which are great ski areas with lots of good runs.
As a resort it offers everything you need for a great holiday. A lovely town which you can walk up and down in under 15 mins, all your basic amenities, nice bars and restaurants (although I can’t vouch personally for these as we were catered) and some nice souvenir type shops for the loved ones back home.
We stayed in the Dragon and Thistle which is an Inghams run hotel and has a bizarrely half Scottish, half Welsh theme! Being away from England with pictures of Lochs everywhere or Welsh rugby teams on the wall was a little odd but we were looked after well.
My Favourite run of the week was probably the long wide red (69) on the Zermatt side of the Matterhorn although 24 on the Cervinia side, tucked right under the fantastic mountain was good fun, shooting down the slope, rocks either side of you.
I’d definitely go back to Cervinia, maybe not for a few years but one day I’ll return.
Restaurants: Didn’t sample enough
Apres Ski: Didn’t sample enough
Have you skied in Cervinia yourself? Find any hidden gems? Keen to hear from you and keep building a great resource for others to learn from.