It’s 4.30pm and the main Crêt du Merle slope above La Clusaz is bathed in sunlight. And there’s still half-an-hour’s skiing left in the day. More if you can get the last lift before 5pm. This is spring skiing at its best — sunglasses and T-shirt weather…
La Clusaz is just an hour’s drive from Geneva — no snow on the roads at this time of year — so it’s the perfect short break or weekend ski destination.
The main ski area is roughly divided into five mountains: the sunny Beauregard plateau is the place for beginners, quickly followed by the Massif de Manigod.
Beauregard is easily reached by bubble lift from La Clusaz and is a mix of greens and blues.
Once you have found your legs, head down and across to Manigod for some lovely blues and reds between the trees and hotels.
For a more rounded and testing ski experience head for l’Etale, l’Aiguille or La Balme.
The wide, open runs of l’Aiguille are a joy and never feel crowded but, I had been told, ‘head high, head to La Balme; start early and finish early’.
From the top, there are stunning views of Mont Blanc. And the ski down quickly becomes our favourite — a combination of blues and reds; speed and turns.
From top to bottom it’s about 5km. And once at the bottom, hop back into the lift and do it all again. And again!
The added bonus is the car park at La Balme is free, so take all your gear, food etc and leave it by the lift.
You can also ski across from or back to the main lifts in the centre of La Clusaz if you don’t have a car.
After a day’s skiing, head to Le Salto Pub, which is next to the Cret de Merle chairlift, for a drink in the sun, or to the Lion d’Or (PMU bar) in town, which is where the locals congregate in the early evening.
Eating out in the Alps can be expensive: breakfast at our hotel was €11, but opposite, we found the wonderful l’Atelier du Pain where coffee and a croissant is €2.
It’s hardly a secret find, though, as the whole town seems to pass through from about 7.30am-9.30am.
Not far from the Beauregard bubble lift is the La Grolle pub and restaurant – with its rows of pine tables and overpowering aroma of cheese.
My son wanted to try snails, so we did at €7 for six, while the tartiflette comes with a generous side dish of salad and charcuterie — easily enough for two people to share.
The main town is split in two on a slight hill, with the restaurants, hotels and ski shops spanning from top to bottom. There are lifts at the top and bottom of town.
It’s at the top end that you will find the perfect place to unwind — the Aravis Aqua Centre with its indoor and outdoor swimming pools, jacuzzi, sauna and, in the summer, water slides for the kids.
The added bonus is the view over the town and mountains from the large outdoor pool. It’s the perfect place to reflect on the day — and plan the next.
La Clusaz top tips
- Favourite run: La Balme
- Favourite bar: Le Salto pub
- Favourite restaurant: La Grolle
- Top tip 1: Parking starts at €26 a day in La Clusaz, but from April to December, the Salon des Dames car park (which is also where the ski buses run from) is free. The car park at La Balme is free all year round.
- Top tip 2: La Clusaz ski resort is built on a hill and many of the lifts are at the bottom (the town end): for €2 a day, most ski shops will keep your skis and boots overnight.
La Clusaz facts and figures
- La Clusaz is 65km from Geneva Airport
- Ski passes for April 2019 start at 38 € (£33), dropping to 30 € (£26) later in the month
- The Aravis ski pass includes access to the La Clusaz-Manigod ski area, which links the Grand-Bornand and Saint-Jean de Sixt areas by shuttle bus
- There are 84 slopes with 125km of descent — 7 black, 29 red, 30 blue, and 18 green
- A large beer costs €6-€7.50; small beer €3-€4; rib-eye steak €20-€30; tartiflette €15-€20; soft drinks €3-€4
- For more information, go to https://en.laclusaz.com/
Our 5-day trip cost the following:
|Hotel (4 nights)||£214|
|Lift passes (3 days)||£172|
|Ski gear (3 days)||£53|
|Car hire (5 days)||£126|
*Figures based on an adult and a child, and based on exchange rates from Jan-Apr 2019