Val Cenis is one of France’s most popular skiing resorts, attracting a wide variety of skiers because of its height and the fantastic range of facilities. It is a high altitude resort that sits in the Savoie region close to both the Swiss and Italian borders. Val Cenis is in close proximity to the Grande Motte glacier which is able to offer skiing practically throughout the year. Essentially it is one of the longest skiing seasons in France, since it only closes for a few weeks at the end of the winter season usually in May/June time and again for a few weeks in September prior to the next winter season. The main resort winter season runs from early December to early May.
The resort has around a 2 hour transfer time from airports at Chambery, Lyon, Grenoble and Turin (with Chambery being the nearest) and is within 3 hours of Geneva. The resort can also be reached from the town of Modane which is close to the motorway and only 24km form Val Cenis. Modane is connected to Paris by train and it has a regular coach service to the resort.
This area has a very traditional feel and has successfully retained its heritage, avoiding the development of characterless buildings. Its quiet unassuming status has meant that it has attracted mainly French skiers and is little known by other nationalities.
Of course being relatively quiet means that the skiing is leisurely and lift queues non-existent. The resort is very friendly and is mainly run by locals which adds to the charm of the place. Largely unspoilt and full of character, it still provides excellent skiing terrain and good snow cover.
The season is a fairly standard length running from early December to early April and it has something for everyone in terms of skiing terrain. There are over 50 runs set in 125km of skiing area. It is however best suited to intermediate skiers in terms of offering runs suited more to their needs.
Even with this in mind, novices are still catered for; there are blue runs which stretch from the top of the mountain which is unusual and a great introduction to the real joys of skiing. Val Cenis also lays claim to having the longest green run in Europe (a summer time road) extending to some 10km known as L’Escargot! There are over 27 lifts in total, with a selection of chair and drag lifts, plus a couple of gondolas. There are 2 ski schools on offer including the usual ESF (Ecole du Ski Francaise) facilities.
At lower levels there are few attractions for advanced skiers but above the tree line, from about 2100m, the off piste skiing is to be recommended. There are many scenic runs, some of which run down to the shores of the picturesque Lac du Mont Cenis.
The skiing area can be extended through the recently established links with the Termignon area, which provides a further 125km of runs. Furthermore the Express Telecabine at nearby Orelle provides access to the Trois Vallee ski area at Val Thorens and the 5 km transfer takes around 20 minutes. Orelle is within easy reach of the resort, situated just along the motorway from Modane.
The ski area offers good facilities for boarders and includes a snow park and a boarder cross. 172 snow canons ensure the slopes remain well covered throughout the season.
Accommodation is varied and has similarly varied prices, ranging from caravan parks, which are open during the winter season, right through to private residences, mountain retreats and hotels. Hotels in the area are mainly 2 and 3 star. The lodgings are generally well priced and provide good facilities for skiers with easy access to the lifts.
Night life is quite low key, but there are a range of restaurants and bars and even a choice of discos. Being less commercialised than many larger French resorts, Val Cenis tends to offer great value for money.
Aside from skiing, visitors will find husky rides, donkey carriage rides, cross country skiing, snow shoeing, themed walks and paragliding on offer. There is also a dedicated toboggan run for those over the age of 12.
Ice climbing and heli-skiing are an option for the daring at certain times of the season. Away from the snow there are other facilities which include an ice rink, bowling alley, cinema, spa facilities and a swimming pool. Local cheese making facilities make for an interesting visit and you may wish to wander around some of the picturesque chapels and churches in the resort.
There are plenty of shops and supermarkets, as would be expected in an area that provides facilities for a year round local population. For those who have a car, the resort is only half an hour away from the larger town of Modane.
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