When people think of French ski resorts the first thing that tends to spring to mind is huge, purpose-built developments such as Courchevel, Val d’Isere and Les Arcs. But there are scores of small, picturesque ski resorts most people have never heard of that are well worth a visit – Albiez in the Maurienne Valley is one of them.
It’s a traditional, picturesque mountain retreat located on a plateau at the base of the spectacular Aiguilles d’Arves peaks, which soar up to a height of 3510m above the village.
Sure, you won’t find enough to occupy you for a week in Albiez if your idea of a ski holiday is eating up the miles on piste, but if you like to vary your winter break with a mix of alpine, backcountry and cross-country skiing (with perhaps a little downhill mountain biking on snow to spice things up…) along with some chilling out and lazy afternoons strolling around the village you’re in business.
A visit to Albiez is also a chance to soak up some genuine French atmosphere – unlike the giant ski domains of the nearby Three Valleys and Paradiski, where virtually everyone speaks English, you’ll barely hear anything other than French here, and you can even explore the history of the area in the town’s fascinating little museum, where amongst other things you’ll discover that the man who invented the famous ‘Opinel’ knives was a local.
Evenings offer another chance to relax – rather than a wild après-ski scene this is the kind of place where you enjoy a traditional local dish in a bustling restaurant such as La Luge à Foin, or a mellow evening in your chalet with friends.
For skiers wanting to head off the beaten track Albiez is a good introduction; it’s easy to get to, the cost of skiing here is quite reasonable and it’s very different from the regular package deals that most of us enjoy.
ALBIEZ FACT BOX
Ski area: 67 ha
Pistes: 4 green, 9 blue, 6 red, 4 black plus a snowpark, boarder cross and extensive freeride/ski randonee options.
Lift passes: adult six day – €128.50; child/senior – €104.10
Other activities: cross-country skiing (30km), snowshoeing, downhill mountain biking
Travelling to Albiez
Albiez is located 15km from St. Jean de Maurienne, which is the closest train station. There are several accessible airports – Geneva, Grenoble, Lyon, Chambery and Turin, with the closest being Grenoble and Chambery (approx. 1 – 1.5 hour by car). All airports are connected to the train system by either local station or shuttle.