La Clusaz: Spring skiing on a budget

It’s 4.30pm and the main La 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 is the perfect short-break or weekend ski destination.

The main ski area is roughly divided into five mountains – the Beauregard area 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 ski experience head for l’Etale, l’Aiguille or Balme.

The wide, open runs of Aiguille are a joy and never feel crowded but, I had been told, ‘Head high, head to 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 is about 5km. And once at the bottom, hop back into the lift and do it all again.

The added bonus is the car park at 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 S Pub, which is next to the Cret de Merle chairlift, for a drink in the sun, or to Bar PMU, which is where the locals congregate in the early hours.

Eating out in the Alps can be expensive if you are doing it every day – breakfast at our hotel was 11 euros – but opposite we found the wonderful l’Atelier du Pain where coffee and a croissant is 2 euros.

It’s hardy a secret find, though, as the whole town seems to pass through from about 7.30am.

Next to the main Beauregard bubble lift is La Ferme Restaurant – and adjoining la Grolle pub – with its rows of pine tables and overpowering aroma of cheese.

My son wanted to try snails – so we did at 7 euros 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 roughly split in two on a hill, with the lifts, restaurants and ski shops at the bottom, more restaurants and hotels at the top.

It’s in this area 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, huge water slides for the kids.

The added bonus is the view over the town and mountains from the large outdoor pool.

La Clusaz top tips

  • Favourite run: Balme
  • Favourite bar: S Pub
  • Favourite restaurant: La Ferme
  • Top tip 1: Parking starts at 26 euros 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 is built on a hill and all the lifts are at the bottom – for 2 euros 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 euros (£33), dropping to 30 euros (£26) later in the month
  • The La Clusaz ski pass includes access to the La Clusaz-Manigod ski area, which links the Grand-Bornand and Saint-Jean de Sixt area by shuttle bus
  • There are 84 slopes with 125km of descent – 7 black, 29 red, 30 blue, and 18 green
  • A large beer costs 6-7.5 euros; small beer 3-4 euros; rib-eye steak 20-30 euros; tartiflette 15-20 euros; soft drinks 3-4 euros
  • For more information, go to https://en.laclusaz.com/

Our 5-day trip cost the following:

Hotel (4 nights)   £214
Flights   £260
Lift Passes (3 days)   £172
Ski gear (3 days)   £53
Car hire (5 days)   £126
TOTAL   £825

*Figures based on an adult and a child, and based on exchange rates from Jan-Apr 2019

*This article first appeared on Mad Dog Ski

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