Christmas family skiing in France

23rd January 2018, by Ben Moore

The Turner-Moore family enjoying their ski holiday in Les Menuires

The Turner-Moore family enjoying their ski holiday in Les Menuires

By Ben Moore of family ski website

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Apologies Mr Dickens for stealing one of your opening lines, but it sums up perfectly what families skiing at Christmas for the past few winters have faced. A lack of snow turning what should be the best of times, into the worst of times.

Fortunately as we set off for a Christmas ski trip to two different valleys, we knew we were set to enjoy the best of festive times, thanks to the bountiful early season snowfall.

First stop was Sainte Foy, in the Tarentaise valley. Located off the road from Bourg St Maurice to Val d’Isere, what we discovered was a friendly and charming little resort that is sometimes dwarfed by the mega resorts in this part of the French Alps. But overlook it at your peril. This is a resort that offers skiers – from children and beginners to expert off-piste enthusiasts – plenty. (Read Where to Ski and Snowboard‘s review of Sainte-Foy here)

View from our Erna Low apartment in Sainte Foy

A cluster of chalet and apartment buildings are found at 1,550m and fan out around the nursery slopes and main Grand Plan chairlift. It is a really cosy base station with everything family skiers need – ski hire, ESF, restaurants, bars, supermarkets – all in one convenient and compact location.

We were staying with Erna Low Ski Holidays in a two-bedroom apartment in the CGH Residence Le Ruitor in La Batailletaz. Self-catering prices start from £234 per person for seven nights including Eurotunnel crossings. It is a high-quality apartment block, with extremely comfortable rooms, a lovely indoor pool area, a free shuttle bus to the central resort area and its own short red run that allows you to ski close to the door at the end of the day.

A quick glance at the piste map and you might think Sainte Foy is a ski area with only a small number of lifts and runs. But the resort’s tagline is “Natural Ski” and it is easy to see why. You are skiing within a protected forest and are able – in fact encouraged – to explore not just the pisted slopes but everything in between.

Ollie Turner-Moore enjoys empty pistes in Sainte Foy

There are designated off piste zones and it is easy to nip into the trees too. And all with a range of gradients to help both beginners and experts get that all mountain experience. New for this season is the Camp Filluel red that starts along a ridge at 2,425m and then swings down through the trees before merging on to a blue back down to the resort base. Perhaps in the future there could be a snow park – an addition that would definitely appeal to our two teenage skiers and enhance the impressive range of skiing already on offer.

With a day lift pass of £30, we found Sainte Foy to be an authentic, appealing, attractive and affordable alternative to the higher profile Tarentaise resorts. And all this with zero lift queues despite it being Christmas week.

After three days we repacked the car for the short drive – an hour and 10 minutes via Moutiers – to Les Menuires, a purpose-built resort in the Belleville valley that is part of the mega Three Valleys ski area. Close geographically, Les Menuires is a world away from the quiet and compact feel in Sainte Foy. Big is best here and the scale of the peaks, the range of the pistes, the enormous block-style 1960s resort buildings and the soaring skeletal church spire reinforce this. (Read Where to Ski and Snowboard‘s review of Les Menuires here)

Apartments in La Coeur des Loges are available through Inghams Ski

But before skiing, our first stop was to the resort medical centre, conveniently located at the foot of the main slopes in the complex of shops, restaurants and apartments that fan out at Croisette. The reality of a festive family ski trip is that sometimes after a long school term, everyone turns up on the slopes exhausted and run down. Our usual festive family foursome ski routine was severely affected after 15-year-old Seb developed a chest infection and 39°C temperature. The staff at the medical centre were fantastic and friendly (as Les Menuires’ promotional tagline celebrates). Of course it was busy, but Seb was seen as quickly as was possible and despatched with antibiotics that took full effect after we returned to the UK.

So sometimes you have to adjust your plans. We had visions of some big ski days doing circuits around the Three Valleys, but instead happily stayed on the runs of Les Menuires to be close to our accommodation and allow split shifts for mum and dad between skiing and nursing duties. And what brilliant accommodation it was. Le Coeur des Loges is the first property you see on the main road into resort centre. It straddles the road and is ski-in, ski-out with easy access to the Bettex chairlift. The property opened last season but it is new on the books with Inghams Ski this season, which is who we were staying with. Seven nights on a self-catering basis is from £539 per person including return flights from Gatwick to Chambery and resort transfers. 

We were in a very comfortable and spacious two-bedroom apartment over the connecting bridge from main reception. It certainly looked and smelled brand new, almost untouched. The apartment spec was very high, there was a heated indoor pool and free Wi-Fi (which was invaluable for the sick teenager who found himself mainly stuck in the apartment).

Waking up to fresh snow in Les Menuires

And the local skiing we did was thoroughly enjoyable. Helped of course by the fantastic snow conditions but also because of the nature of the runs around Les Menuires.
There are plenty of blues and reds that criss-cross the mountains above the resort – an ideal playground for family skiers. The runs above Reberty were particularly fun and there was plenty of powdery bits to dip into between the pistes. While the slopes on La Masse were great in the sun.

But wherever we went it really was a case of Friendly Menuires. Yes you are right in the heart of one of the biggest ski areas in the world, but Les Menuires has an easy going nature and friendly charm all of its own.

For more information and prices visit:

Erna Low –
Sainte-Foy-Tarentaise –
Inghams Ski Holidays –
Les Menuires –

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