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Season Diary - Day 5: La Clusaz and the Aravis

I had never heard of La Clusaz before it was selected as the home of the SIGB Ski Test for the next few years. I really should have been ashamed of myself. Over the past two years I've spent a fortnight exploring the resort - well, bits of it anyway based n my previous posts - and have come to love the well-sized, accessible French resort.


There are three things to really enjoy about La Clusaz and the wider Aravis area, which include the connected ski resorts of Manigod, Grand Bornand and St Jean de Sixt: firstly, a brilliant ski are; secondly, a historic village setting teeming with food heaven; and finally, if perhaps not least, its accessibility.

 

Taking in the view of La Clusaz from the slopes.
 

The ski area stretches over 140 miles, reaching from a base altitude close to 1,000m and up to 2,500m at the Massif de Balme.


It is a compact resort but spread out across several areas, allowing you to explore all of them and spent some real time in each one taking in the slopes.


The Aravis mountains are right on the edge of the Alps, too, providing some spectacular views as the mountains fall away from you to the west. Even more spectacularly, from the very highest points, looking east you have one of the most spectacular views of Mont Blanc, visible across the Grand Massif that separates this side of the French Alps from the far side.


It's enough on a flat day to take the breath away, but if the sun comes out or the cloud settles low in the valley you suddenly have some world beating photo ops!


If that wasn't enough, La Clusaz also has night skiing, because for some people "last lift" just isn't quite enough!


Whilt the low elevation may raise some eyebrows, La Clusaz employs significant snow making capability to keep things fresh. Furthermore, a lot of the resort is west facing and shielded by taller hills to the south; whilst that means its not the best place for working on your goggle line tans, this effect helps keep the snow where it should be.

 

The view from the Massif de Balme out towards Mont Blanc, Western Europe's highest peak.

A peek through the trees as the cloud settles in the valley and the hills fall away as the Alps end to the west.

 

Secondly, La Clusaz features a wonderfully historic town centre, feeling far more like a village inhabited by real people compared to some other resorts. This is the world's first ski resort, with the first drag lift opening on the slopes above the village in 1906, just four years after a road was built up and over the Col de Aravis.


A wide variety of chalets spread along the valleys heading to and from La Clusaz provide plenty of opportunities to enjoy the region come summer or winter.


The village centre, however, is a buzzing little place focused on a pedestrianised shopping street. Here you will find plenty of places to buy, in particular, French wine and cheeses. The local area hosts a vibrant wine making tradition, but the biggest foodie asset the Aravis has is its cheese.


Reblochon is the local speciality, and my god is it good. A smooth, semi-soft, light cheese with nutty overtones thay goes down a treat on its own, with bread or local saucisson. And with side plate sized wheels decorated with the Savoyard flag in pretty much any shop window you look into, you can't avoid it - and nor should you!


La Clusaz is also a wonderfully "French" place, having avoided the huge swathes of Britsthat descent on other larger French resorts throughout the winter. See it now before this is spoiled.

 

Finally, accessibility. La Clusaz is one hour from Geneva Airport, if that. Cheap, easy transfers make this a dream weekend destination, but for those that are fed up with three hour transfers and long queues up and down mountain valleys, this provides one of the best alternative options.


The resort is about half an hour up the valley from the beautiful city of Annecy. Perched on the shores of the eponymous lake, Annecy is well worth a visit in its own right. Annecy is connected to Paris via semi-regular TGV services, and from the coach station directly attached to the railway station, you can easily hop on the Y62 or Y63 coach and be in the resort in a heartbeat. This is one of the most under-the-radar resorts when it comes to rail accessibility, but definitely one to consider for a "green" ski holiday.

 
A TGV Duplex set lurking at Annecy waiting to leave for Paris.

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