Montgenèvre could be described as one of the original altitude ski resorts. The area, a few hundred metres from the Italian border, has been inhabited since prehistoric times and has seen trans-European travellers passing through for millenia, including famous names like Julius Ceasar, and Hannibal with his herd of elephants and, later on, Napoleon. Today it's the base for thousands of skiers who want to slide over in to Italy via the Milky Way lift system which can take them as far as Sestière and Sauze d'Oulx when snow cover is adequate. Until recently it was necessary to ensure you had a passport on you when you crossed the border by ski lift, but the border guards at the top of Clavière's chairlifts appear to have moved on, thanks to the ending of travel restrictions within European Community countries in mainland Europe. The lift pass scheme in which the resort participates has recently grown to become one of the world's largest and, apart from the 400km (250 miles) of sometimes lift-linked skiing in the 'Milky Way', the 'Grand Galaxy Pass' also includes neighbouring large French ski centres such as Serre Chevalier, Alpe d'Huez, Les 2 Alpes and Puy St Vincent - all in all some 1120km (just under 700 miles) of terrain served by more than 320 lifts - only slightly smaller dimensions than the famouis Dolomiti Superski, but much less fragmented. Montgènevre is a fascinating place for those interested in the history of ski resort development - it is one of those that claim to be the birthplace of French skiing (with Clavière just over the border claiming the same for Italy), and certainly downhilling in the resort is a little over 100 years old. In the middle of Montgènevre there is a charming and traditional village centre from when the resort was most fashionable - a fact now forgotten by many reviewers who think only of Chamonix, Cortina, St Moritz and other early stars of skiing. Then, further out, there is the 'concrete rectangle' section which survives from the '60s and '70s when mass-market skiing was born, and finally, further out still, the newest developments combining modern comforts with a more sympathetic chalet style design, fashionable since the mid-'80s.
Lively, charming mountain village with lots of sunshine; a mix of traditional architecture and a trend to restore and build luxury and modern accomodation. Doorstep to Italy.