09/02/19 – 17/02/19
We’re still sat in the aire at Montegenvre, we did leave briefly, but only to pay for our seven days and then return again – once you’ve exceeded seven days here the per day price goes up significantly. I assume they are trying to discourage people like us from lingering too long, but it’s obvious that everyone knows the work around.
Actually we haven’t seen the aire at maximum capacity yet, so we don’t feel too guilty about lingering a little longer. Today is the busiest it has been so far with only 40 spaces showing as available (which must mean that there are 180 vans).
We had a couple of days of snow a week ago and we’ve just about skied it out. After the snow it was incredibly windy, with the new snow blowing everywhere. It was like a comedy sketch on the plateau at the top of the Thibaud chairlift, with skiers trying to propel themselves forwards while the wind tried to push us backwards. We’ve been treated to a few sunny days and now the forecast for the foreseeable future says sun, sun, sun, so the snow conditions have started to go to go downhill. Combined with the British half term holidays it’s making the slopes both busy and slushy – not the best of combinations. So we’ll be off tomorrow and will probably leave the ski resorts for a week or so until it snows again.
We both feel we’re improving our skiing – our hope is that an extended skiing trip will make a significant difference to our skills on the slopes and it seems to be going that way. We are gaining confidence all the time and we’ve even managed a couple of (short) black runs, we normally just like to take it easy on Blues and easy Reds so something must be working. On one occasion I thought I’d lost my phone, so we took the quickest possible route to the last place I’d had it only for me to then find it tangled up in the snow skirt of my jacket (this is a bit of elasticated fabric inside the jacket that provides additional protection against snow creeping up inside your jacket). How it had managed to stay there as we bombed down the runs I don’t know, but at least disaster was averted and somehow I managed to stay in Paul’s good books.
While we’ve been here it has, of course, been Valentine’s day (a celebration that we find over commercialised, so we don’t bother exchanging gifts or cards) and Paul’s birthday. We do celebrate birthdays – in a slightly understated way – so we treated ourselves to both a morning coffee and lunch at restaurants on the slopes. We popped over to the Italian side of the mountain because it’s cheaper and I was able to indulge my love of pasta (we don’t tend to eat much pasta in the van because Paul doesn’t like it, whereas I love a stodgy carb). I think there must be some sort of state pricing going on in Italy because coffee always seems to be the same price wherever you go €1 for an espresso, €1.50 for cappuccino. It’s a far cry from the €4 that we spent on a single solitary cappuccino at Alpe d’Huez.
We’ve taken a few walks around the area while we’ve been here, but most of the days when we haven’t been skiing have been spent just chilling. The sun might not be great for the snow but it is making it possible to sit outside and lazily soak up the warmth.
The aire in Montegenvre is on the Italian side of the town, just above the Tremplin and Thibaud lifts. It’s almost ski-in ski-out but you have to cross a road either way. If you decide to ski out then it’s easiest from the top level of the aire – head downhill (not a piste) to the road and cross the road to get to the lifts. If you want to walk or there isn’t enough snow then it’s an easy walk from the aire down to the lifts. Walk down as if you are going to the exit of the aire, just before the barrier there is well trodden path down the slope to the left, cross the road and the car park on the other side of the road and you will then be able to walk up to the Blue Pharo run. From here it’s an easy downhill ski to the lifts and ticket office. Skiing back is best done by coming down the Pharo run and heading off left before the bridge, stopping to cross the road above the aire.
The walk into the nearest end of town takes about 5 minutes – there is a path on the right hand side of the road, but we often found it very icy. The main lift pass office and tourist office is here and you can book lessons if you wish. There are a few supermarkets – Cocci is the closest but there is also a Spar and Sherpa. A bread van comes to the entrance of the aire every morning at 8am. They toot their horn to let you know that they’re arrived – we used that as our alarm so I cant comment on the quality of the baked products – but then it is France so I cant imagine they will be substandard. You can even text and order your croissants the day before.
The aire has the usual water and waste facilities, including a drive over waste, and the price includes 10A electricity (we did manage to trip it when we ran our kettle and electric heater together, but we eventually realised you can reset the trips yourself even on the more modern electricity points – they look locked but they arent). The drinking water and cassette rinsing water inside a heated ‘shed’, there is one threaded tap in the drinking water area if you want to drive round and fill up with a hose.
Prices are best explained with a photo. You take a ticket on entry to the aire and then pay (at the machine in the ‘shed’) before you leave. You have 15 minutes to leave the parking once you’ve paid. The machine takes cards, notes and coins, and gives change. For whatever reason none of our cards worked in the machine when we tried to pay, luckily we had cash on us, otherwise it would have been a walk into town. Quick Update – We managed to pay by card the second time around.
Montgenevre Village and Facilities
Montgenevre village is laid out along the main road, with many shops, cafes, bakeries and restaurants opposite the slopes. It’s a busy resort, with chalets and hotels behind the main street, none of it’s too high rise though. There is a spa and swimming pool (Durancia) at the furthest end of town from the aire. But don’t worry – there are a couple of free buses around town and the ‘Front de Neige’ service covers the Aire, the Durancia spa and various stops along the main skiing area. We didn’t use the spa while we were here but we did make use of the bus service.
There is also a cinema, outside ice rink and a couple of cross country circuits.
The Hola Laverie is next to the cinema and has four washing machines (two at €6 for 10kg, two at €12 for 18kg) and two tumble driers €1.50 for 10 minutes.
Montgenevre is part of the Milky Way (Via Lattea) ski circuit that crosses the border into Italy and includes well know Italian resorts like Sestriere and Sauze d’Oulx. From Montgenevre you can get tickets to cover three areas, either the local area, the local area plus the Monts de la Luna, or the whole Via Lattea. We skied Montgenevre and Monts de la Luna – we intend to go and park in Cesana to ski the remaining Via Lattea areas as we’ve heard it’s quite a long day with a lot of lifts to do it from Montgenevre.
The local area can be split into three parts, Chalvet is behind the village (and best reached using the Thibaud lift if starting from the aire). Gondrans is opposite the village (take the Tremplin lift) and the final part is on the Italian side of the mountain above Claviere. Each has a good variety of runs, we particularly liked the reds and blues in the open bowl at the top of Gondrans, the short steep (ish) reds at the top of the Serra Granet lift and the pleasant cruising blues of Chalvet. We mostly used 4 hour tickets for the local area and these are good value because you don’t have to worry about getting a gondola back down from the mountain so can keep going until the lefts stop letting you in – the one proviso is not to get stuck on the Claviere side as there is no ski bus back to Montgenevre.
If you want to go the Claviere area then you either need to go over the top of the mountain from Gondrans and down a red (not too steep) or black. Or you need to pole along a long green run. To get back to Montgenevre the 99bis run is a red, but it’s a path and not too difficult, even when it crosses the black run.
There are loads of restaurants on the Claviere side of the mountain (after all it is Italy and the food is as (or maybe more) important as the skiing). There are far fewer restaurants on the other two areas, a lot of people just head back down to Montgenevre, it’s easy enough.
We paid the extra for Monts de la Luna on one day but weren’t impressed enough to bother again. There are a few ok runs at the top, but the long blue path from the middle to the bottom of the mountain is quite boring. Really it’s just a connecting area between Montgenevre and the Italian Via Lattea
Although you can get credit card style contactless passes, they are usually only issued for multi day tickets. The daily or four hour tickets are just cardboard, but still contactless. You can pay an additional €3.20/person per day for insurance to cover you for rescue from the slopes in case of an accident (not any other medical costs though so you still need proper insurance).
There are no special offers for the weekend. The proximity to Italy means that on a Saturday and Sunday you get a lot of Italian visitors (they don’t have Feb half term holidays so are much more likely to take weekend breaks for family skiing).
The tourist office provides a booklet with suggested snowshoe trails on or near the pistes, and you can get walkers lift passes. You can also follow the footpath which leaves the road just beyond the entrance to the walk (snowshoe) up the Baisses valley to the top of Mont Chaberton (although we didn’t get that far) under the Montiquaine lift, it follows the blue Baisses run for much of the way, but not many people ski this as it’s often quite bare. Then you can cross the river and walk back down the other side of the valley. You can see the Aigle area, between Montgenevre and Claviere when you take the long Rocher de l’Aigle chairlift and this looked like a good area for snowshoeing and ski-touring.