Snuggled at the end of a snow-covered valley, Arêches-Beaufort is a village that has retained its traditions and charm. You might know it as the home of Beaufort cheese, but fine fromage is not the only thing going for this sleepy ski village. Arêches-Beaufort is next in our series of articles about the best ski resorts you’ve (probably) never heard of. This small, family-friendly resort is also a mecca for ski touring and powder — if you can tear yourself away from all that cheese.
Ski Weekender, who specialise in short ski breaks, added Arêches-Beaufort to their list of destinations in 2017. We spoke to Ski Weekender’s founder, Paul Turnball, to find out more.
MDS: How did you discover Arêches-Beaufort?
Paul: I came across the village when I camped there one summer and spent a few days discovering the cycling routes for our Bike Weekender brand. I saw the impressive mountain terrain above Arêches-Beaufort and learnt more about the skiing — particularly the great ski touring potential — and events such as the huge ski touring race, Pierre Menta, in March. I loved the quaint, authentic village feel, so I approached the Tourist Office in Arêches. They were so helpful and welcoming and we soon got to meet the locals and hoteliers, so they really made it an easy decision for us!
MDS: What makes Arêches-Beaufort different to other resorts?
Paul: The village is on a smaller scale to most resort villages, and it is a little bit like stepping back in time to an era of pioneer mountain tourism. Tucked away at the end of a valley, it’s avoided large-scale developments, but still has everything you need, and the villagers are welcoming. They are classic Savoyard folk who have lived and worked there for generations. They know a thing or two about skiing, and have that lovely understated-ness about their adventures. “Last week I did a cross country ski race, then went ski-touring”, they might say casually about what the rest of us would deem a hard-core mountain experience.
You should come to Arêches-Beaufort for the other side of mountain life: a farm visit and cheese tasting is a must. Beaufort is a world-famous, delicious cheese, but there are other great ones sold at the farms by the village — great to combine with a snow-shoe walk to go exploring the great network of paths!
MDS: What about the skiing…what are the pistes like?
Paul: It’s a relatively small domain of 50km of piste, but there is a nice mix of pistes and some great views from up high, with pristine mountain scenery and Mont Blanc in the background. And that’s what makes it so good for the ski touring and off-piste skiing, there is just so much terrain to explore. The Beaufortain region is often the snowiest of the French Alps, and the resort is never so busy, and you can expect some great snow conditions — and powder stays a lot longer than in many other resorts.
The ski domain covers 2 mountains. From 2,300m at Col de la Forclaz back down to the village gives you 1,200m of vertical which isn’t bad for a small resort! Beginners are well served with a large area at Le Planay, and the resort has a good mix of blue and red runs. Advanced skiing is the off-piste, but there is so much of that you can easily be kept amused for a short break. The accessible back country is what really shines through in Arêches Beaufort.
This also leads onto the fabulous possibilities for ski touring. The village actively makes it easy for people to try their first steps without that typical “fear factor”. For example, you can practice skinning uphill on marked tracks which are quiet, safe and tucked away alongside the piste, yet still giving you the sensation of being away in nature! Ski back down the pistes to get used to the new skis before you then take a guide for half a day and head off into the good stuff!
MDS: Tell us about a) one of your favourite bars and b) restaurants
Paul: If you like wine and cheese, you’ll love L’accord — a cosy bar hangout in the heart of Arêches Beaufort.
For restaurants, we love Hotel Christiania. The home-cooked food is great and the atmosphere is just brilliant, with a nice buzz and a very convivial and friendly atmosphere — for individuals and large groups too.
Arêches-Beaufort at a glance
- Altitude: 1050-2350m
- Ski area: 50km, plus 5km of secured, marked ski touring tracks and loads of off-piste
- Lift pass price: £155 (6 day)
- Nearest airports: Geneva (105km away), Chambéry (70km away). You can book a taxi transfer or take the train to Albertville and then a taxi or bus to the resort if you’re going independently. Ski Weekender include transfers from Geneva
- Slopes: 29 (2 green, 11 blue, 12 red, 4 black)
- Lifts: 13
- Snow parks: Three boarder cross parks, one snow park, big air bag, toboganning areas and kids parks
- Resort open and close: 22 December 2018 to 7 April 2019
Find out more about Arêches Beaufort on their website.
Ski Weekender offers Short Break Ski Packages to Arêches-Beaufort which include transfers from Geneva, half-board accommodation and ski lift passes. The four-day Ski Weekends (Thursday to Monday) start at just £499pp and three-day Ski Midweeks (Monday to Thursday) start from £369pp.