News from the snow
Val Cenis France
Val Cenis is a less well known internationally that its neighbour Val Thorens. The resort is made up of a string of road-side villages (none called Val Cenis), the largest of which is Lanslebourg. The resort offers a healthy vertical, uncrowded sunny slopes and a modern lift system, so there are rarely any queues. Centred primarily on two traditional villages and located close to the Italian border in the southern French Alps, Val Cenis has a good snow record thanks in part to its comparatively high altitude skiing on north facing slopes. The two resort villages, Lanslebourg and Lanslevillard, are largely unspoilt with a relaxed atmosphere. The two bases are of a similar size and only a few kilometres apart. Lanslebourg, reached first as you travel up the valley, is perhaps slightly more compact; the ski area accessed by a high speed six-seater chairlift from the edge of the village. Lanslevillard is spread out between the main village at 1400 and the newer apartments of Val Cenis Le Haut at 1500m, and has a wider range of village level nursery slopes and routes up to the main ski area, including a six seat gondola. Off slope facilities including shops, restaurants and apres ski attractions are divided reasonably evenly between the two. A bus service runs every 20 minutes throughout the day around and between the two villages.
Located in the heart of the Maurienne region, bordering the National Parc de la Vanoise, Val Cenis is made up of two traditional villages, now combined in to a single resort. A good vertical, uncrowded sunny slopes and a modern lift system, so no queues .
The north facing slopes hold the snow, and most of the terrain beneath the 2100m treeline have snowmaking. The upper 700m of vertical is on open, snowy slopes with the 40+ runs divided almost evenly into easy and intermediate terrain, plus few runs for advanced skiers.
Beginners and intermediates will find plenty of good skiing for an enjoyable week.
Beginners have nursery slopes by each village. These are more extensive at Lanslevillard, with the always perfectly groomed green Le Mollard piste from the top of the Val Cenis le Haut bubble, a superb beginners run, and the perfect place for intermediates to perfect their turns.
The only real bottleneck in the lift system may be experienced by beginner and lower intermediate skiers returning to the apartments of Val Cenis Le Haut at the end of the day. This means using the very slow Saint Pierre button lift where queues are almost inevitable in the late-afternoon rush-hour - though better skiers can avoid this by cutting across from the red runs descending from the higher lifts.
But whilst intermediates have the whole area - piste-wise, advanced skiers will exhaust all their on-piste options in a day or two. The six blacks listed include three short bump runs (not always apparent). Five of the six blacks are very short and the 720m vertical of the long Le Lac run from the 2800m top of the La Met chairlift (the area's highest) down to the Col du Val Cenis, is the first to be closed when there is too much, or too little snow.
From the same point, one of the most exciting runs is Michele Jacot e la Met/du Solert/St Genix, which starts with 400m of black before following red slopes (with a short dash of black) for the rest of the full 1400m vertical down to Lanslevillard. Signed 'Vers le Mont Cenis', though graded black for its exposure to a very steep, unfenced drop-off on the right - in good conditions, competent intermediates with a good head for heights should not be put off the easy-angled "road" leading rightwards from the top of the La Tomba lift to the blue Val Cenis piste - the easiest way to access the slopes above Lanslebourg from Lanslevillard.
When conditions are right, good, easily accessible off-piste can be found close to the higher pistes(particularly to either side of the Michele Jacot black) with a certain amount of tree-skiing at the upper limit of the tree-line. Guided off-piste skiing is also available through the local mountain guiding service, Agence Montagne.
The area participates in the Maurienne area pass which includes more than a dozen ski areas in the area on a multi-day ticket. Although not yet simply a case of waving your ticket at any resort (it needs to be exchanged for a local day pass at the area you choose to visit on each occasion) it is a useful opportunity. Interesting variants include the opportunity to get free or discounted meals in the local mountain restaurant if you choose to visit one of the small ski areas for the day, or to use it (with a supplement payable) to access the Three Valleys via a 'back door' route in to Val Thorens from Oreille in the Maurienne Valley on one of the world's longest gondola rides - a five kilometre (three mile) long ascent.
Val Cenis' immediate neighbours with ski areas are Termingon la Vanoise below (skiing up to 450m) and Bessans (which has a small ski area) and Bonneval (with a larger one) up the valley.
Cross country skiers have more than 85km (53miles) of trails in the Valley, six kilometres (four miles) of them on your doorstep.
Both villages have snow gardens at the base of the slopes, used by ski school for special children's classes for ages three to six.
The high value of Val Cenis, the relaxed atmosphere and the family friendly dining and apres ski activities all make the resort a good choice for families.
In Lanslevillard the Terroir restaurant seves Savoyard specialitis, or for crepes try La Cordee or Les Glaciers. For pizza its l'Arcelle.
In Lanslebourg the pizza option is Le Napoleon or La Cle des Champs. The Bar du Centre is the best choice for crepes.
There's are cinemas in both villages and an ice rink in Lanslebourg. Organised evening activities include snowshoe hikes ad torchlit descents.