Famously snowy Montgenèvre turns out ... snowy

18th March 2018, by Chris Gill

The sunny Chalvet sector from the top of the first lift up the southern side

The sunny Chalvet sector from the top of the first lift up the southern side

On the evening of Wednesday 14th March we arrived at the last stop on our short tour of southern French resorts – Montgenèvre, half a mile from the Italian border and linked via Claviere to Sansicario, Sestriere and Sauze d’Oulx.

To my amazement, the record shows that it is five years since I was here last. Since then both the smart Durancia leisure centre and the classy CGH Napoloeon residence in the middle of the resort have opened, continuing the resort’s gradual shift upmarket.

Last time, I came here to explore the considerable areas of off-piste with a guide. This time, as part of our research for Where to Ski in France, I was more focused on checking out the pistes, particularly the blues which we’re giving special attention to in the new book.

Dinner on the first night was at an unusual and interesting spot, La Cave – a restaurant that is also a cheese/charcuterie/wine shop. You sit surrounded by impressive stocks of all three; dinner demonstrated that the charcuterie, in particular, is top-notch, but the meal as a whole was excellent, and the place was packed.

Thursday morning brought heavy snowfall, adding to the foot or so of fresh that fell overnight after the pistes had been groomed. The snow was on the heavy side and the visibility was awful, so a few laps on the Prarial chair at village level were all it took to drive us back to the neat little hotel Alpis Cottia to catch up on my Serre-Che blog and email in-box.

In the evening we forced ourselves to do a bit of bar-crawling, and enjoyed a glass of two of Grillo in the Tourmente, a funky cocktail bar in a vaulted cellar run by the amusing Maurizio. With Stones tracks playing at acceptable volume, we felt very much at home. Recommended.

The forecast for Friday was good, and we had a fabulous day getting around the whole piste network, in perfect conditions, mostly in full sun. As always in this area, progress was hampered by the number of slow lifts, but was slowed further by the current closure of the high-altitude link to the Italian sector.

This follows a fatal accident on an Italian piste two years ago. For now, you have to use the village-level link, a flat path past the golf course and cross-country trails to Claviere – extremely tedious

Both the Cime Saurel and the Gimont chairs on the Italian side are out of action. All in all, quite a lot of good skiing is off the menu, which is a great shame. Heaven knows how the lawyers in Turin justify taking so long to reach a conclusion about the accident.

The Gondrans sector is superb for building confidence

After a long morning exploring the slopes on the south side of the village, we crossed to the Chalvet slopes on the north side, and had a late lunch at the recently built restaurant Les Terrasses, at mid-mountain.

The new timber building is impressive, its terraces give great views across to the southern slopes, the food is satisfying (the Trilogie de Tartiflettes is not something to be undertaken lightly) and the service is impressively efficient. But too many tables are crammed in to the main restaurant area, and the experience as a whole is uninspiring. It’s well worth avoiding tables close to the bar/serving area, in particular. A real disappointment.

Great views into Italy from the terraces of Les Terrasses

We played on the Chalvet slopes until close of play, taking in a descent of the long blue Baisses run away from the lifts to the Monquitaine chair, confirming in the process that it is really a bit stiff to be classified blue, particularly when only half the width has been groomed.

So photographer Ben is now on his way back to the UK, while I’m moving north to spend some time in the big resorts of the Tarentaise. More news anon.

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