Value for Money 68%
Montgenevre lies at French end of the Milky Way lift system. It’s snowier and a lot more charming than its Italian neighbours like Sestriere and Sauze d’Oulx, but rather cut off from the bulk of the Milky Way pistes. It’s best skied by beginners, less confident intermediates and families as a result.
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Essential Advice for the Perfect Trip
The frontier town of Montgenevre has seen a lot of improvement in recent years. Gone are the small, tired apartments – replaced with some high-standard and stylish places to stay. The old Hotel Napoleon has been revamped into sleek, modern apartments and there’s also comfortable accommodation in the newer Obélisque area of town.
The town’s facilities include a kindergarten and a cinema, a purpose-built ice-skating rink, 17 restaurants and bars – but don’t expect to come here to party as it’s a very family-orientated place and pretty quiet in the evenings. Non-skiing activities include sleigh rides, snowmobiling, and snow-shoeing. A map is available with all the cross-country and walking trails on it.
Guide to the Mountain
Skiing takes place on both sides of the valley, and a piste bridge links the two. Montgenevre’s own area, beneath 2680m Le Chalvet, holds considerable charm and challenge, with runs for all standards leading back down to the village at 1850m and across the border to Claviere (on a long and easy path from the bottom of the Tremplin chair) and onwards to Sestriere and Sauze d’Oulx in Italy. A more direct link across the Rochet de l’Aigle/Colletto Verde has been closed for a couple of years and is scheduled to reopen for 2018/19.
Overall, this is an area that suits beginners, intermediates and families best, with wide runs between the trees and good ski tuition. The huge nursery slope area is served by five lifts and one magic carpet and is right by the front de neige.
Montgenevre’s skiing is roughly divided into three sectors, all of them linked. The highest and the best for good intermediates upwards is l’Aigle sector with a long red piste down. “One of my favourite slopes is Soureous off the Rocher de l’Aigle chair-lift,” says a reporter. Skiers finding their confidence can head for the Gondrans area featuring Les Poussins, a gentle blue cruising run through the trees. The third area is Chalvet where there is a boardercross couse. There’s also a snow park in the Gondrans Sector.
The main drawback of the skiing in Montgenvre is the slow lifts. There are a few long poma lifts, one fast six-seater ‘chondola’, but nearly all the others are fixed four-seater chairs. The lifts are in the throes of being updated, with one being replaced for the 2018/19 season and more to follow in the next three years.
The local Montgenevre lift pass covers a couple of lifts in Claviere, but it’s worth being extra vigilant and not ending up too far into Italy with the wrong lift pass. Lift attendants are not at all flexible, and will just point in the direction of the nearest lift that’s covered by your pass and tell you to walk there.
Montgenevre tends to get different weather from the resorts further north. Sometimes, this is a curse. But when storm systems bubble up from the Med, rather than sweeping down from the Atlantic, then it can get lots of snow – whilst places like Tignes sit beneath clear skies. What’s more, if there’s powder, you won’t find much competition for fresh tracks: this is not known as a powder-pig’s resort.
There is lots of free-riding above the treeline. For example, La Plane, Le Janus, Vallon de la Doire, Le Chenaillet are all excellent and easily accessible off-piste descents. If you ski Vallon de la Vachette or Cerviere you’ll need to take a bus or taxi back to Montgenevre at the end of the run, and Grand Charvia is a descent that takes in both the French and Italian sides of the Milky Way.
Where to Learn
“An ideal resort in which to learn,” said a reporter. We’re not sure Montgenevre is quite the best resort in the world for beginners – and we wouldn’t recommend it for first-time snowboarders because of the number of drag-lifts. However, for skiers, the uncrowded slopes, unhurried atmosphere, and easily-accessed beginner’s pistes make for a confidence-boosting environment. The ESF and A-Peak (ESI) are the two schools in town, both offering group classes and private lessons.
A good destination for families
“The resort is very safe for kids,” commented a reporter, “especially in the evening. All in all, a great family destination”. The kindergarten (+33 492 21 90 46) is for children from six months to five years old, located in the Espace Partenaire at the foot of the slopes. The ESF’s Club Piou-Piou has daycare from six months old, children’s classes for three to five year-olds, and special teenage classes. A-Peak (ESI) runs a children’s programme (“great for catapulting my eight year old from non-skier onto easy reds by day three”), and teen sessions for groups of six.
The Jardin des Neiges has been designed to give three to seven year-olds a fun introduction to winter sports. The whole area has been specially equipped and made safe, with a mini ski-lift. There’s also a roundabout where children hold onto the central circle that speeds up and slows down to test their balance. A specially-designed mini-boardercross course is also laid on for little ones, featuring raised turns, mini-bumps and a sports circuit. There’s also a natural skating-rink at the bottom of the slopes.
There are two separate toboggan courses in the resort centre – one for two to six year olds, the other one for older children. A free travelator, located opposite the tourist office, takes you up to the top of the tobogganing area.
Where to Stay
Accommodation in Montgenevre has come on in leaps and bounds in the last ten years. Gone are the tired old hotels and apartments. Le Napoleon was the original inn set at the foot of the slopes, and in recent years it was bought by CGH and redeveloped into 54 sleek modern apartments. All have terraces or balconies and come fully fitted, furnished and decorated. The building houses a wellness centre, an indoor heated swimming-pool, and a pleasant lounge area with fireplace and comfy sofas. There is small supermarket next door, as well as a ski rental shop close by.
Also in the old centre is two-star Hotel Valerie, which is a simple but comfortable place to stay near the church, and several tour operators offer catered chalets in the resort such as Ski Miquel which runs the Ours Blanc chalet-hotel.
The attractive new Obelique area of town is located at the foot of the Chalvet slopes, 150m from the Chalvet cable-car. A separate ski kindergarten and children’s ski school meeting point are here, along with a handful of shops such as a good grocery store, ski hire shops and a souvenir shop; and there are a couple of eateries. The attractive new chalet-style buildings are all built from local larch wood, which has been treated to make it look weathered. These include the alpine-urban style Anova Hotel with its cool modern interior, 40 attractive bedrooms, a spa, and a good restaurant and bar. CGH also have Chalet Des Dolines in the Obelisque area, with an indoor heated swimming-pool and spa.
Where to Eat
The resort has a dozen restaurants and bars, mainly located in the row of shops, bars and restaurants close to the front de neige in the old town. For the most part they are simple, unpretentious and good value. La Ca del Sol (+33 492 20 53 11) and Le Refuge (+33 492 21 92 97) are both recommended. Le Capitaine (+33 492 21 89 84) is an Italian eatery. Le Trio is another eatery along the main street in the old town.
We particularly like Le Transalpin (+33 674 06 31 77) where they do a chicken in Marsala wine with grilled vegetables arranged artistically on the plate. Isabel (+33 492 23 78 53) is family-friendly, with a welcoming ambiance and good food (try the ravioli stuffed with mozzarella and seared sweet tomatoes or the stuffed guinea fowl with porcini mushrooms and fois gras). The village restaurants along the main drag are all open for dinner, but also do a good lunchtime trade with families taking their children there after morning ski school.
Up the mountain at lunchtime there’s a small choice of mountain eateries on the French side. Our favourite is the modern Les Terrasses (+33 492 55 45 17), which has a big sun terrace with large wicker sofas, and an attractive interior. The food is good here, too. Then there’s Les Chalmettes (+33 492 21 93 04), Les Anges (+33 614 61 97 52) and La Bergerie (+33 492 21 81 06) – all three with sun terraces – or the ultra-modern Restaurant de l’Eau near the bottom of the slopes.
Alternatively, ski further afield for a typically Italian lunch in some of the excellent and good value eateries – half a dozen are set just above Claviere and are still on the Montgenevre lift pass, including the homely La Coche. You can ski as far as Sestriere and Sauze d’Oulx for even more culinary choices.
Where to Party
Montgenevre is not the resort to pick if you are looking for a buzzing nightlife – you’d be better off in a resort like Les Deux Alpes or – if you want to ski the Milky Way area – pick lively Sauze d’Oulx across the border in Italy. For this is a family-friendly resort with a dozen bars and restaurants and where apres-ski does not predominate. Le Graal Café is, according to a reporter, ‘where all the young people go’, La Ca del Sol (+33 492 20 53 11) is another resort meeting place, and Ucintu is a pizzeria/bar with music. La Tournmente is a cocktail bar open until 2am, with themed nights and tapas. The Anova Hotel has weekly live music in its bar.
For after-skiing relaxation there’s the Durancia balneo spa centre with an outdoor heated pool with its water at 34°C, hot tubs, Jacuzzis, a counter-current ‘river’, massage jets, sauna and steam room. Other non-ski experiences in the resort include the Biathlon and a wigwam evening.
Serre Chevalier and Briancon are only 15 minutes’ drive away and offer more nightlife, bars and restaurant choices.