If you love snow, like to ski or be active in nature, stunning scenery, and magnificent mountains, with a bit of adventure, followed by wellness, relaxation, French cuisine and high quality gastronomy, all while staying at the most authentic hotels in unique settings, then this is the blog for you!
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of beautiful views, rugged mountains, nature, heritage and gastronomy. And I just love the combination of winter sports with quaint villages, cuisine and wellness. That’s exactly why I prefer the ski resorts in France for my winter holidays, as you could have read in last year’s blog about our ski safari trip to Les Portes du Soleil, my second time on the slopes, after an interval of 14 years.
This year I explored another area of the French Alps, a bit further to the south east, called the Aravis Mountain range, part of the Savoie and Haute-Savoie in eastern France.
We visited the authentic, yet chique villages Le Grand-Bornand, La Clusaz and Manigod, which together with Annecy, form the Annecy Mountain area.
On a special 3,5 day trip filled with fun, adventurous activities, lots of food and heritage, we explored these quaint towns, which I’m more than happy to show you in this blog through many of my own pictures and experiences.
Why Annecy Mountains & French Alps?
The Alps are stunning with their rugged peaks and snowy settings, as are many other mountain areas. But what I appreciate most about the French Alps is the fact that:
In general the ski slopes here are wide and located at medium height, which means that it’s less cold, many routes are lined with trees, and you can often ski back into the villages,
Most of the time the green and blue slopes are well represented, and the red slopes are not too steep, which is nice for beginners, or less fervent skiers like me,
Usually the ski lifts and cabins are quite up-to-date and comfortable,
France offers a big variety of ski resorts, ranging from modern to very authentic, with wooden cabins, old farms and heritage,
Gastronomy is of a high standard and Savoyard cuisine includes lots of jummy cheese dishes!
Besides skiing, a big variety of other activities is offered,
They have world renowned ski areas with ‘snow guarantee’ for skiers!
Le Grand-Bornand, La Clusaz and Manigod are located closely together, all very authentic with great slopes, which are mostly connected, and combined they form quite a big ski area.
How to get there?
By car from the Netherlands it's about a 10 hours' drive. But you can easily fly to Geneva as well in little over an hour, and take a taxi or public transport to get to Le Grand-Bornand in less than 1 hour.
From Le Grand-Bornand the drive to La Clusaz takes about 10 minutes or 30 minutes with the free shuttle bus, included in the combined ski pass.
Unfortunately we didn’t get to explore much of Manigod, except for a few slopes, and a unique night-skiing and snow tubing experience (more about this in my next blog). But the slopes of La Clusaz and Manigod are connected and great to combine and explore by ski! In this blog I will however tell you more about the 2 villages we explored most extensively.
French ski & village combo
Whether you like to ski or snowboard, are a beginner or more experienced, the Annecy and Aravis Mountain Range offer something for everyone:
This stunning ski area is perfect for beginners, less fervent skiers and families, with its abundant offering of wide green and blue slopes and stunning views, even from up to 2,100 meters.
Le Grand-Bornand has a total of 28 ski lifts, 86 km of downhill slopes, of which 4 black, 16 red, 13 blue, 16 green slopes, passing by quaint wooden chalets, ancient farms and even leading back directly into the village. But also kiddy slopes with magic carpets, free-ride and fun parks!
The village itself is also well worth a visit! It’s the 17th biggest ski resort of Europe in number of accommodations, and with 50 farms, of which the oldest even dates back to 1664, charming local shops and quaint restaurants this village is the epitome of authenticity.
In the year 2,000 Le Grand-Bornand was named the ‘capital of cow art’, when it officially counted as many inhabitants as cows, 2,000 of both, and pastures at nearly 2,000 meters altitude. Since then 2,000 cow artworks were placed throughout the village, such as sculptures, paintings, murals and more. Very nice to discover on a walk through this quaint place, get a small impression through this gallery:
Also a small-scale ski resort, but bigger than Le Grand-Bornand, and more challenging, formed by 5 mountains around an authentic village.
La Clusaz is located at 1,100 meters height and is full of wooden chalets, a big range of accommodations, cute shops, authentic restaurants, and even has a kiddy area and ice rink at the foot of the slopes.
The highest point is at 2,600 meters, and with 52 ski lifts, a total of 120 km slopes, of which 3 black, 13 red, 14 blue, 2 green and the longest slope of 6 kms, mostly lined with trees as well, leading past quaint chalets, and some going back into the village, this area is as scenic as it gets.
From Le Plateau de Beauregard you will get a fabulous view over the Aravis Mountain range and the Mont Blanc, stunning any time of the year.
No active outdoor trip, especially winter sports, is complete without wellness!
This may sound contra dictional, but it's something I really need after an active outdoor day. Luckily most French ski resorts have the same mentality and many good hotels offer wellness in house.
If this is not the case at your accommodation it’s usually possible to book access to the Spa facilities of other hotels. Some ski resorts even have a municipal Spa and swimming pool.
For a relaxing Spa day with wellness and treatments in La Clusaz I can highly recommend:
Deep Nature Spa at Hotel Le Chamois
We stayed overnight at this quaint 4 star hotel, located close to Annecy, offering an extensive Spa with fabulous views at the foot of the Aravis mountains.
The Spa includes a hammam, sauna, 160 m² indoor pool with unique aquatic course, hydro-massage circuit, jet streams, Jacuzzi’s, several relaxation rooms and a treatment area of 8 rooms, including two doubles.
They work with products of Codage Paris for a range of facials, body treatments and a big variation of massages, of which I sampled the 45 minute immersion and deep-tissue massage, both highly recommended. Get an impression here:
The massages were done with the greatest care by skilled therapists, who thought of everything, touch, smell and sound!. Certainly some of best massages I had in a while!
Find out more: Deep Nature Spa.fr.
To me another perfect combination with an active trip is good food! And what country represents gastronomy better than France? French ski resorts and winter sports areas generally have big variation of high quality restaurants, on and off the slopes, and that’s exactly what we experienced during this trip as well!
We sampled 7 different restaurants, which I’m happy to share with you through my own pics, and hopefully you can experience them yourself soon as well.
This recently opened lounge bar is located at the edge of the slopes, adjoining Les Cimes boutique hotel. Perfect for some casual drinks and bites by the fireplace inside, or on the trendy outdoor terrace with lounge music.
Don’t forget to sample the local cheeses, charcuterie, and delicious grilled cheese & truffel sandwiches, combined with some of the best cocktails in town.
Restaurant La Ferme de Pépé
For a real Savoyard dinner at the other end of town, this is the place to be. Traditional dishes are well represented here, and the interior doesn’t get more quaint than this.
Aux Comptoir des Alpes
A new concept-store with local delicacies, Alpine products and unique decorations. Perfect for souvenir shopping, an aperitif and wine-tasting at the traditional wine-cellar.
This modern restaurant with lounge atmosphere, situated in a wooden chalet directly on the slopes, is nothing less than surprising. Offering a diverse menu, accompanied by a great view over Le Grand-Bornand’s ski area from the wide outdoor terrace. Lunch here is perfect after an active morning on the slopes!
Restaurant Le Chalet des Joux
Freshly opened at the foot of the slopes, but also reachable by car. With its big outdoor terrace, traditional wooden exterior and modern interior with windows all around facing the village and mountains, an indoor grill, and refined dishes, accompanied by selected wines, this restaurant offers something for everyone.
Restaurant La Ferme
Also located on the slopes and near the village accessible by car. The perfect place to relax on the outdoor terrace and unmissable for its traditional reblochonade, the perfect combination of bbq grill and racelette!
Bistro Le Happy chalet
Located on the left side of the ski area of La Clusaz, officially situated in Manigod is this super quaint bistro. No high standing gastronomy here, just super tasty traditional dishes and cheese fondue’s that should not be missed! Located directly on the slopes and perfect to combine with the night-skiing package, about which I will tell you more in my next blog.
Where to stay?
There are many quaint and charming hotels, residences and chalets in this area, and I would be happy to test even more of them in the future. Based however on my own experiences of our recent 3 nights’ stay, 2 of the most authentic, yet chic hotels I can recommend are:
Hotel Chalet Les Cimes in Le Grand-Bornand
This charming Bed & Breakfast with just 5 rooms and 3 suites is perfectly located at heart of the old village area of Chinaillon, and just 100 meters from the slopes at one side of the ski area of Le Grand-Bornand. See for yourself why this 4 star hotel is the perfect combination of authentic chicness to me:
The hotel's flamboyant and hospitable owners turned their family home into a hotel, which is evident through the atmospheric traditional décor and quaint details. Combined with the trendy lounge bar, small Spa and high-end ski shop, this hotel certainly is a surprising, and very unique combination!
Find out more: Hotel Les Cimes.com and get an impression through this gallery;
Odalys Prestige Le Chamois Hotel in La Clusaz
Ideally located near le Bossonet ski lifts, just 5 minutes from the village center of La Clusaz. This charming, yet modern 4 star hotel offers 39 rooms in a traditional decor, looking out towards the village and ski slopes.
The comfortable hotel with big Spa offers an abundance of facilities for skiers, families, couples and people that just want to relax. The rooms provide everything you need, and most have a spacious balcony, as you can see in this gallery with the hotel's pictures:
And you can enjoy an excellent breakfast, lunch or dinner at the hotel’s Le 2 mules’ restaurant with wonderful views and outdoor terrace.
Find out more at: Hotel Le Chamois.com.
To plan your own trip to this wonderful region go to: Aravis.com and AnnecyMountains.com for more info. And for daily pics of this part of the French Alps you can follow me on social media as well, through the icons at the bottom of this page.
What do you think of these quaint and authentic villages La Clusaz and Le Grand-Bornand in the Aravis Range and Annecy Mountains in France? Did you visit this area already, or would you like to after reading this blog? Always love to hear your opinion, just leave a comment below!