What’s the fourth largest skiing area in France? I hear you all ask. Well, the answer is Les Sybelles. Covering six resorts between 1100m and 2600m, with over 300km of slopes throughout. Roughly halfway up, at 1750m, you’ll find the resort of La Toussuire and that’s where I was based for a few days this season.
Before we get into the ‘now’, a little about the ‘then’ – the history of the resort is worth a quick diversion. Les Sybelles, and the resorts of La Toussiure, Les Bottières, Le Corbier, Sant Jean d’Arves, Saint Sorlin d’Arves and Saint Colomban des Villards, is managed by a handful of families that have farmed the region for generations.
In the 1920s they began offering food and lodgings on their farms with a little skiing on the side, and after the Second World War, as the popularity of skiing grew, the farms morphed into resorts. Most facilities there today are run by the second generation of farmers with the third generation waiting in the wings (though we did meet one original resident who, at 75, runs a restaurant and still skis every day). It’s a regular family business, as Gene Blaize would say.
This season, Le Toussuire has one all-new piste as well as a new chairlift, Le Corbiere also has a new chairlift and more development is planned across the resorts for next season – watch this space. Any development is now always in keeping with the more traditional French style – there’ll be no
more tall hotel blocks being built in Les Sybelles.
La Toussuire itself is a compact resort, split into the left and right banks. Everything you need is in walking distance, and around half of all the accommodation is ski-in/ski-out. In the town there are the usual amenities – bars, bowling, ice-skating, shops and restaurants. There’s not a huge amount of nightlife, but that’s not why you’d come here.
It’s very popular with French families and the slopes reflect this – lots of groups of children down below and mostly blues and reds with only a handful of black runs. La Toussuire itself has 55km of pistes, but the whole area, Les Sybelles, has a total of 310km – is all skiable under the one ski pass. You get more piste for your Euro when it comes to ski passes too: €220 for a week compared to €259 for La Plagne or Les Arcs.
The season runs from mid-December to mid-April, with February being the busiest month by far, where the resort is typically fully booked. Snow is guaranteed throughout thanks to their comprehensive collection of snow cannons. As I arrived there had been no new snow for over a month, but the slopes were in superb condition. In fact, the new piste that opened at the start of the season was entirely artificial snow.
There are a number of other activities you can look into during your visit as well as regular nightly free entertainment at the bottom of the main slope – torch lit descents, snowmobile shows and the like. For the adventurous, there is para-skiing (which I can tell you isn’t as scary as it looks) and night-skiing. For something more gentle, nighttime snowshoe walks with the excellent guide Lionel. Included in the €35 cost for this is a fondue or raclette dinner at La Patriarche.
If you want to eat out, there are the regular slope side places dotted around, as well as a number of restaurants at the base. Prices are reasonable – €17 for steak frites and always on offer are the local Savoy specialties (i.e. cheese, cheese with cheese and then some more cheese. This is not a bad thing). Newly opened this season is the Sopar restaurant, which comes highly recommended if you’re looking for something a little special.
To sum up then, La Toussuire is an excellent choice for families and those looking for some relaxed skiing on guaranteed snow. Don’t expect to be partying all night, and if possible avoid the busiest month of February.
MORE INFORMATION on La Toussiure and Les Sybelles
La Toussuire is accessible from Chambery (1h20m), Grenoble, Lyon and Geneva (all 2h).
Get in touch with the resort on Twitter at @latoussuire and @lessybelles.
Thanks to Christine Martin at La Toussiure Tourist Office.
More information on Les Sybelles