Is Le Grand Bornand the prettiest ski resort in France? I think it may be, and if not then it’s only because its neighbour La Clusaz is just as lovely.
I recently spent three days there, and whilst I can’t claim to have skied every ski resort in France and thus be in a position to make a true comparison, I don’t imagine anyone would be disappointed at the charming combination of scenery and skiing that these two resorts offer.
Busy, cheerful streets with a fine selection of bars, restaurants and shops, lovely old timber chalets and farms, open pasture land outside the towns above which deep green forests drape the slopes; and towering over it all the spectacular limestone peaks of the Aravis range, very reminiscent of the Italian Dolomites.
If you want traditional alpine scenery and atmosphere instead of the more utilitarian purpose built resorts that are such a part of the French ski scene, then you really should check out what are known as the ‘Lake Annecy Ski Resorts’.
Even better, book into the same hotel as me – the Hotel Ferme de Pierre et Anna, a superbly renovated and warmly welcoming 300-year-old chalet just outside Le Grand Bornand.
It’s also worth noting that you can be in either of the resorts in little less than an hour from Geneva, making them ideal for a short break.
As for the skiing – well, low cloud and fog put paid to our plans to explore the kind of freeride terrain you can see on the now famous Candide Thovex’ ski vid ‘One of Those Days 2’.
Mr. Thovex is a native of La Clusaz, and the area is a hotbed of freeriding with a clutch of world ranked riders, not to mention more medal winners at the Sochi Winter Olympics than anywhere else in France. When we finally got to see the terrain in La Clusaz as the sun burst forth on our final day, it was easy to see why freeride is so big here. La Balme in particular has some fantastic off-piste skiing – we even scored some relatively untracked powder, not bad considering there hadn’t been a substantial snowfall for over two weeks.
Add to that a day of misty ski touring with local guide Jean-Marc Thomet around the Col de la Colombière, and even in the most miserable of weather Le Grand Bornand and La Clusaz came up with the goods.
And when the sun shines – well, this is pretty much ski heaven.
Images courtesy of Hugh Rhodes www.mountainvacances.com