Welcome to the most charming valley in the French Alps. If you’re sick of modern, faceless ski resorts, the Val d’Arly is a breath of fresh air. Four fairytale-pretty villages – Notre-Dame-de-Bellecombe, Crest-Voland, Flumet and La Giettaz – sit clustered between the wide and varied ski areas of Espace Diamant and Les Portes Du Mont-Blanc.
Expect the best of both worlds here – you get to experience the traditional way of life in year-round farming communities and munch on hearty Savoyard fare, but there’s also plenty of action on offer for keen skiers and boarders and active families. Over 180 miles of varied slopes on your doorstep will suit beginners and experts alike and as well as challenging off-piste for the powder seekers there are plenty of other adventures to take on – do you fancy snow mountain biking, starlight hiking or a night in a very unusual chalet?
Hit the slopes
Val d’Arly is a gateway to two huge (and hugely varied) skiing areas that are perfect mixed and matched over a week’s trip. The Espace Diamant offers 120 miles of slopes and a massive seven snow parks, making it perfect for keen boarders and adventurous families. Or head to Les Portes du Mont Blanc’s 62 miles of tree-lined slopes, with gorgeous views of Mont Blanc, its namesake mountain. Visiting in shoulder season? Add Les Saisies, which is famous for exceptional snow cover, to your ski pass.
Sample Savoyard fare
Foodie skiers, you’re in the right place. Val d’Arly’s favourite dishes are all made with locally farmed ingredients and follow traditional recipes, and they’re all heaven-sent after an active day out in the elements. Expect big servings of delicious cheese fondue, tartiflette, le farcon (an unbelievable concoction of bacon, potatoes and cream), homemade herbal liquors and much more. You can even visit a dairy to see how Reblochon (a must for a good tartiflette) Tomme de Savoie and Beaufort are made. Expect to have cheese dreams.
Try starlight hiking
Just picture this – a hike under the stars through a sparkling winter landscape and into a forest where a cosy warm woodcutter’s cottage awaits. Local guide Sandrine Coulard will take you on a magical walk from La Giettaz en Aravis and regale you with stories of the stars you can see above you in skies wonderfully free of light pollution, and introduce you to winter wildlife you might be lucky enough to spot on the trail. Then warm up inside the candlelit cabin as your hosts cook up a delicious fondue on a wood-fired stove.
Dog sled driving
This is truly a memorable experience for families, especially with young children. Animal-mad kids will love swapping skis for a sled and a pack of huskies for a day of mushing. Head into the heart of the Covetan Forest to join professional local mushers Elsa Jougla and Frédéric Borgey and try your hand at the fine art of dog driving through the snow-clad Val d’Arly valley. Children as small as two can ride behind the dogs, and children over eight can try driving them themselves.
Stay in a treehouse chalet
Fancy a ski chalet with a difference this winter? At Entre Tierre et Ciel you can rent one of three luxurious chalets… all perched high in the trees. They’re everything you’d expect from a posh chalet (if on the compact side), and include wood stoves, hot showers, gourmet food and massages on tap. Each sleeps from two to four – choose from Cabane Mont-Blanc with its own spa, Cabane Nid, which looks like a bird’s nest, or Cabane du Ruisseau, designed with families in mind and complete with a swing bridge and a slide all the way back down to the ground?
Mountain bike on snow
Winter in Val d’Arly is home to fantastic mountain biking, but not as you know it. Alpes Aventures, based in La Giettaz, will get you kitted up and onto a bike with large, low-pressure tyres ready to deal with any amount of snow. After a few practice runs an instructor will guide you on a non-stop ride straight down the mountain at sunset. One for adrenaline seekers.
Plan your Val d’Arly adventure at valdarly-montblanc.com