It’s all a bit disconcerting here. The lifties smile and say bonjour to you. They even on occasion happily emerge from their warm huts to slow down the more vicious chairs that would otherwise smack into the back of your knees as you board.
Bar and restaurant staff are cheerfully tolerant of one’s poor French and mountain hut servers, even in self-service sections, are often keen to help by bringing food to your table.
I don’t know quite what their game is but everyone seems determined to make you feel welcome in their charming French village. An attitude that would be thought totally inappropriate in some of the more fashionable and big name mountain resorts.
The village in question is Le Grand Bornand, in Haute Savoie and just an hour or so from Geneva. I’ve assumed the status of resident and as such like to call it Le GB. The village is rustic, rural, authentic, picturesque and unassuming. The skiing is a delight, if not the most challenging you’ll find in the Alps. The village is surrounded by scenic slopes liberally peppered with extremely pleasant mountain restaurants and enjoys an atmosphere of serenity.
The combination is perfect and exactly what I was looking for. Often when I go on a ski trip the resort has picked me rather than me having picked the resort. It will be either somewhere I haven’t covered for a while or it has a major new lift that needs to be written about or some other newsworthy angle.
But Le GB has been selected carefully in line with exacting criteria. And it has exceeded expectations and requirements in every way! It needed to be easy to get to – as well as being close to Geneva it is not far from the A40 AutoRoute. I wanted skiing outside the door, not massive altitude but reasonably extensive and varied slopes. I also wanted un-crowded runs, an old village with beguiling character and cheaper prices than in the more well-known resorts, plus welcoming mountain restaurants and well-equipped self-catered accommodation.
It’s all here! As well as excellent snow, which arrived in prodigious quantities about the same time as I did – along with a wonderful succession of blue-sky days. The highly customised resort profile was important to meet my needs as a comeback venue after an enforced lengthy absence from the slopes. I wanted slopes where I could ease myself back into this wonderful sport.
I’m staying in a higher altitude adjunct to Le GB, ten minutes of hairpins above the main village and called Le Chinaillon. It’s bang in the centre of the skiing, with my apartment windows framing a mouth-watering mountain vista of lifts and runs.
La Clusaz and Manigod are just up the road, which with Le GB comprise the Lake Annecy Ski Resorts.
Friends have visited in conveniently dove-tailed shifts and have all been captivated by the allure of this seductive idyll. Some say Le GB is the best French ski resort they have experienced. It doesn’t have a sophisticated lift network, with much of the uphill transport old and creaky and such namby-pamby modern luxuries as weather bubbles and heated seats conspicuous by their comprehensive absence. But I can see why they think that, and I have no wish to leave.
I’ve spotted the slopeside chalet I want to buy and as long as I can persuade the current owner to accept a fraction of its market value I can see no reason to delay a permanent move here.
Apart from the super skiing there are the most creamy and delicious croque monsieurs (or is the plural of croque monsieur croque messieurs?) in the Alps. We enjoy them at our favourite mountain stop Le Maroly, followed by a vin chaud or two at L’Igloo and a chat with the locals at La Floria.
But meanwhile, I think I might have one more freshly delivered pain au raisin as I watch the lifts below crank into life before getting ready for another few hours of exquisite joy on these delightful slopes.
Book an apartment near the skilifts (I’ve been staying at Village du Lessy, a complex including everything from studios to four-bedroom units, plus fabulous swimming pool, spa, gym etc) through Peak Retreats, 0844 576 0170.
Rent the latest ski gear at Intersport, which has branches in Le Chinaillon and Le Grand Bornand main village.
More information on Le Grand Bornand, La Clusaz, Saint Jean de Sixt and Manigod at www.lakeannecy-skiresorts.com
Le Grand Bornand is one of the easiest resorts to drive to, with autoroute virtually all the way. The Dover-Calais Channel crossing was by DFDS Seaways (Tel: 0871 574 7235, 0208 127 8303), who also have frequent sailings from Dover to Dunkirk and Newhaven to Dieppe.