News from the snow
La Clusaz France
La Clusaz is one of a very small group of French resorts which are not purpose built but are none-the-less located next to world class ski areas. Indeed this traditional Savoyard village is regarded by some as one of the most picturesque in France and has attracted tourists since the beginning of the twentieth century. The chalets sport their hand-cut wooden shingles and the resort has a reputation for its production of the local Reblochon cheese and other farm foods. The large ski area for a single resort of any type covers five lift-linked mountains in the Aravis system and visitors have additional terrain to explore above neighbouring le Grand Bornand on the Aravis Pass - a total of 200km (125 miles) of trails. La Clusaz has attracted the Telemark World Championships and the Freestyle World Championships , typical of the resort's open-minded approach to winter sports, whereby dozens of other mountain sports are offered, besides Alpine skiing and snowboarding. La Clusaz also works hard to maintain it's 'traditional community' feeling and to involve its guests in this atmosphere. An entertainments office ensures that there is some event or another on daily, with weekly torchlit descents in which guests can participate and there are also weekly get togethers staged by the tourist office where guests can meet a variety of village residents on an informal basis.
Traditional Savoyard village, regarded by some as one of the most picturesque in France. Large ski area for a single resort. Off the piste there is plenty to do - the area is famous for its farm foods, including wine, cheese (reblochon and chevrotin), pastries and ham. There is a weekly village welcome evening for guests and a market.
Rising up across the village is the Aiguille Mountain, known for its sunny slopes with big verticals, such as the Grand Crêt which drops 1,200 metres (3937 feet). You can also take the exciting la Combe du Fernuy run which starts black but ends red and leads you over to the fifth and highest mountain, Balme. This is the most snow sure of the resort's ski areas with long fast cruises, all above the tree line.
There are plenty of attractions for advanced to expert skiers on the slopes of La Clusaz. A Summit Circle route has been introduced, using only black and red trails. It includes, among others, the 4km (2.5 mile) long Vraille slope on Balme which drops 1100 metres (3609 feet) on North facing terrain with a reputation for powder snow. Another tough slope is the Crêt du Loup mogul slope, now known as 'The Edgar Wall' after Edgar Grospiron, a French skiing champion who lives in the resort. Located on the Aiguille mountain it is one of the best natural mogul slopes in the world. Expert skiers also have the chance of steep slope skiing with a little bit of hiking to take the route from Aravis to La Giettaz. Off piste touring with a Mountain guide is another option as is heliskiing in Switzerlnd and Italy.
A ski bus network links the base of the mountains and makes the link over to the smaller ski area of le Grand Bornand at least once every 30 minutes. La Clusaz is a centre for other snow sports also, notably Telemark - being a former host of the original downhill skiing sport's World cup event in 1994, as well as to more modern variants like Skwal and carving. Cross-country skiing is another strength with 70km of trails spread across the two plateaux of Confins and Beauregard.
During low season special deals are available for children including free rentals and lessons when a parent pays for lessons and rentals, and a free lift ticket when two adults in the group buy lift tickets for themselves. Many aspects of La Clusaz make it a child friendly resort, the tourist office even has a baby change room and loans board games free of charge. The resort's entertainment Agency stage a show at least once a week especially for children. All the accommodation letting agencies can loan cots/cribs and bedding and other baby equipment such as push chairs may be rented in the resort.
The Beauregard and Confins areas are popular areas for families to build snowmen, try tobogganing or just have a winter walk along the signposted paths. For international guests the two factors to be wary of - in common with all French ski resorts, is that the system is primarily geared up to accommodate French children in the French system and the village centre can become very busy with traffic at peak periods.
There are several interesting options for diners, for example you can supp your aperitif in a Lapp tent before eating a traditional Savoyard meal in a Savoyard restaurant. It's equally possible to take a toboggan, snowmobile or snowcat to an altitude restaurant and then ski or toboggan back down to the village.
Regular events include weekly torchlit descents for both adults and children which you can participate in through the ESF during high season. There are also displays of past skiing techniques, fashions and equipment by the ski school and special Christmas and February carnival events. For the normal selection of bars, restaurants and night clubs, La Clusaz has it covered. The Pressoir bar stocks over 80 beers and is open until 2am as is Les Caves du Paccaly and Le Grenier. Night Clubs include L'Écluse and Club 18.
Away from terrain parks the Balme mountain is generally regarded as a snowboarding paradise with powder stashes, big craving slopes and plenty of natural hits.