From skiing for all levels to proximity to Geneva, five reasons to visit the alpine resort of La Clusaz
1. The hotel
Au Coeur du Village Hotel & Spa opened in 2010 as the first five-star hotel in the Lake Annecy Ski Resorts area. The centrally located building is just off the village square and conveniently close to the Beauregard lift and beginners’ area. The 50 suites have pale wood-panelled walls and floors, cosy fur throws, and south-facing balconies. The larger suites with two bedrooms and two bathrooms are ideal for families. In the hotel’s restaurant, Le 5, chef Thomas Eudier interprets traditional recipes and local dishes in his own delicate and creative style. There’s also a dedicated children’s restaurant where they all eat under supervision at a large table. After skiing, adults head for the in-house Cristal Spa, which offers Polynesian, Indonesian and Oriental treatments. The indoor swimming pool has massage jets and bubble beds, and the steam room is studded with semi-precious stones.
2. The skiing
The skiing in both La Clusaz (pictured above) and nearby Le Grand-Bornand is unexpectedly good for all levels. La Clusaz has 132 kilometres of piste; Le Grand-Bornand is smaller with 90 kilometres. La Balme area in La Clusaz has the longest, steepest pistes, including my favourites – Blanchot and Les Cristiaux – two red runs that plunge either side of the Col de Balme chair. The best surprise is walking up a few steps from the top of the chair lift to be greeted by a fabulous, uninterrupted view of Mont Blanc.
3. Convenience and value
The short airport transfer from Geneva makes this region ideal for a sneaky weekend away and is also good for families who want to avoid tedious road journeys with little ones in tow. The ancient lakeside town of Annecy is a 30-minute drive and a pleasant place for lunch or dinner. In-resort prices, also, are markedly lower than those in better-known French resorts.
4. Le Grand-Bornand
Ten minutes by bus from La Clusaz, Le Grand-Bornand is one of the prettiest villages in the French Alps. The scenery is lovely and the lower slopes are dotted with gorgeous wooden chalets. At first sight, the skiing looks quite tame – and indeed a lot of it is – but it shouldn’t be underrated. Over the back of the mountain is an extensive off-piste area that is avalanche-controlled, though not safety-patrolled. With this unlikely range of skiing, it’s not surprising that the resort has produced a host of local ski and snowboard champions.
5. Mountain restaurants
Le Chalet Venay is one of the most remote and unspoiled restaurants I’ve come across. The ancient wooden chalet is reached on skis along a snowy off-piste track from Le Grand-Bornand. The views are fabulous and the food – steaks, omelettes and cheesy dishes – is good and reasonably priced. We ate outside in the sunshine, but the tiny and characterful rooms inside are enticing, too. In La Clusaz’s L’Etale ski area, Le Télémark Cafe (www.telemarkcafe.com) has a Nordic ambience. Try the Scandinavian pie of crushed potatoes and marinated salmon; or a curried roast-chicken bagel with tomato confit, Alpine cheese, salad and rösti. After skiing, head for one of the bars on the home run: La Ferme and Le Chalet des Praz (pictured) have music on their terraces every afternoon.
Ways and means
Peak Retreats (0844-576 0170; peakretreats.co.uk) offers seven nights half-board at the five-star Au Coeur du Village from £1,786 excluding flights, and £1,836 including Eurotunnel for self-drive. It also offers short breaks and can arrange flights to and from Geneva.
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