Brill week in Bourg

18th February 2010, by Chris Gill

10cm of fresh on the car is not something you can expect every day

10cm of fresh on the car is not something you can expect every day

Faithful blog-watchers will be aware that I spent a week in early February staying in Bourg-St-Maurice, the valley town below Les Arcs. The trip was triggered by the opening this season of a smart new MGM-CGH apartment development, Coeur d’Or, which is likely to attract a new clientele to the town. Now it’s time to look back and weigh up the week.

Executive summary: We had a whale of a time skiing seven resorts in six days at lower cost than a week in one resort. But Bourg doesn’t have much in the way of ski resort ambience.

You can view BSM in various ways. You can use it as a cheaper alternative base for skiing Les Arcs (and linked La Plagne), reachable by funicular. Or you can use it as a convenient base for skiing those resorts plus La Rosière (and linked La Thuile), reachable by free ski bus (just the one morning service at about 9am) and chair-lift. Or, if you have a car, you can add Ste-Foy and Val d’Isère-Tignes to the mix.

Our aim was to do the last of these, picking our resort day by day to make the most of the weather. So we managed to spend two blue-sky days in essentially treeless Val d’Isère-Tignes, and to ski Ste-Foy, Les Arcs and La Plagne on snowy days, staying largely in the woods for the best visibility. We lucked out on the last day, when we wanted to ski La Rosière and La Thuile, over in Italy; the forecast was grim, and we weren’t looking forward to skiing the very exposed link, but the day turned out fine.

This ability to go to a resort that suits the weather is a non-trivial benefit of the BSM “safari” plan, as anyone who has been trapped in Tignes in a serious storm will testify. The major attraction, of course, is the sheer variety of skiing a different resort every day. We loved it.

Clearly, the “safari” week won’t suit everyone, though. There’s quite a lot of bussing and/or driving involved; Val d’Isère and Tignes are about 45 minutes away, Ste-Foy at least half that time, the slow chair-lift up to La Rosière at least 15 minutes. And lift passes bought by the day are expensive, of course – typically a six-day pass for a given area will cost slightly less than five one-day passes.

But of course you are saving on everything else. For a start, our two-bedroom apartment in BSM costs only £994 for a week from 6 March; a similar apartment up in Peisey-Vallandry (Les Arcs) costs £1251 – so a 20% saving. But if you compare prices with higher resorts, or compare high season, the savings are more like 60% – a huge difference. A large beer in our local bar was €4.80; you won’t find many at that price up the mountain, where €5.50 or more would be usual. In BSM we had two large supermarkets competing for our business, a short walk from the apartment; if you’re seriously self-catering, there must be substantial savings to be made here too.

Of course, if you use BSM as a base for skiing just Les Arcs and La Plagne, you get the savings without the daily pass costs. The downside is the time and effort of getting up to Arc 1600: a drive or 8.45am shuttle bus to the funicular station, plus the funicular ride itself – and usually a bit of a wait (the service runs every 20 minutes).

In WTSS we cheerfully advertise the funicular ride as taking 7 minutes, following the resort’s lead; in fact, our rides always took longer, because of stops at the two intermediate stations (some services stop, some don’t). All in all, we reckoned being in BSM rather than Arc 1600 cost us over an hour a day in additional travelling/waiting time. Perfectly bearable, but definitely non-trivial.

Personally, I thought the seven-resorts-in-six-days formula worked well – the drives to and from Val d’Isère-Tignes were the only real drag – and I’d do it again without hesitation. Whether the cheaper-way-to-ski-Les-Arcs formula is attractive depends on the weight you attach to convenience, resort atmosphere/nightlife and cost. It was clear when we visited that there are plenty of holidaymakers who find it works for them. Your call.

The Coeur d’Or apartments where we were based are a world away from the cramped hutches built in such numbers in the 1960s, and seemed to me to be much like early MGM developments I’ve stayed in over the years (eg at Arc 1800) – but not up to the standards of other recent MGM developments. A bath in the bathroom was a pleasant surprise. There’s an adequate pool – in the evenings, dimly lit to meet green demands rather than to create a special ambience – plus sauna and steam room.

As for Bourg, it’s a pleasant enough spot, with a handful of decent restaurants – we enjoyed the Tsablo, the Refuge and the Assiban – and a few bars. As well as the aforementioned supermarkets, it has some good-looking specialist food shops, so serious self-caterers have plenty of scope.

If you’ve stayed here, why not file a short review through our Bourg resort page? Or file a detailed report here.



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