Val Cenis Ski Area

The Val Cenis ski area has 56 pistes totalling 125km of which 10% are for advanced, 74% for intermediates and 16% for beginners including the 10km long L’Escargot, the longest green run in Europe. For more challenges, buy an Eski-Mo pass that covers four other Maurienne valley resorts.

The Val Cenis ski area includes the villages of Lanslevillard, Lanslebourg and Termignon each of which has its own ski area, but all are interlinked to varying degrees. Lanslevillard is best for beginners, Lanslebourg for intermediates and Termignon for families as it is generally the quietest of the three villages, although its exposed lower slopes can be quite cold in early season.

If Val Cenis has a weakness, it is a relative lack of black pistes for more advanced skiers and boarders. Val Cenis has just five black runs, of which two are intended as mogul runs - the M Jacot Met off the Met chairlift at 2,800m, and the Moraine run accessed by the Plan Cardinal chair. Advanced skiers and boarders will need to be able to ski off-piste to make the most of the Val Cenis ski area.

Most of the slopes in Val Cenis face north and hence in December and January the resort can be very cold. The flip side of this of course is that in spring, the snow conditions are usually still good and the afternoon sun reaches the upper slopes. Val Cenis also has extensive snow-making facilities with 180 snow cannons, which rise up to 2,400m. The green beginner pistes at resort level are almost always skiable well into spring.

A strong feature of the ski area, particularly above Lanslebourg and Lanslevillard is the tree skiing. The tree line here stands at around 2,100m, which means all the green runs bar the top part of the famed L'Escargot run wind through pine and larch forest.

Lanslevillard

The best base for beginners is either the village of Lanslevillard, or its off-shoot Lanslevillard Le Haut where the Val Cenis Le Haut gondola accesses a series of five green runs that all finish at resort level - perfect for practicing snow-plough descents. Four of those five green runs finish at the base of the Columba chairlift in Lanslevillard proper, which takes passengers up to the same drop-off point as the Val Cenis Le Haut gondola.

Intermediates and advanced skiers who want to access the higher slopes must take the Vieux Moulin gondola from Lanslevillard up to 2,100m. From there, if you want to link into the slopes at Lanslebourg you need to take the Solert chairlift up to 2,540m. The Solert chairlift also allows advanced and expert skiers access to the significant off-piste opportunities off the Plan Cardinal chairlift. A blue run from the Solert takes you to the Met chairlift which takes you to the summit of Val Cenis at 2,800m.

Lanslebourg

Although Lanslevillard is a prettier village, Lanslebourg is in the middle of the Val Cenis ski area and from there you can also ride the Turra chairlift to access the slopes at Termignon. Opposite the tourist office, an efficient six-seater chairlift, La Ramasse, whisks passengers to the top of the 10km long L'Escargot run, which is the longest green piste in Europe. 

To quickest way to access Lanslevillard is to take the Mont Cenis drag lift to 2,300m. From there you can access the Solert via the Tetras blue and the Vers La Berche red. Bboarders who do not like T-bars or button lifts must take the Tetras Blue to the Arcellins chair in order to link up with the Vers La Berche red.

Termignon

Termignon on its own has 35km of pistes up to 2,465m. The ski area is excellent for intermediates at the top, where there are three reds and two blues that lead down from the summit on the shoulder of the Le Grand Coin.

The Replat des Canons at 2,100m is the mid-station of Termignon's pistes with tree-lined skiing all the way down to village level at 1,300m via the Bois de Coqs red and the Forestière blue. There are three lifts out of Termignon, all of which access green slopes that lead back down to the village. Although Termignon would seem a good place to learn, the lower slopes there are quite exposed and children are better served in Lanslevillard during the early season.

The link between Termignon and Lanslebourg is not as beneficial as it might be, either, as you can only ski from Termignon to Lanslebourg, not the other way around. 

On the plus side, improving beginners have the benefit of the wonderful Flambeau and Traverse blue runs which wind beautifully from Termignon to Lanslebourg through larch and Arolla pine forest. That is all the piste skiing to be done between the two villages, however, as they are divided by the Combe de Clery and a closed off area of mountain forest. 

Termignon's other attractions include a snowpark that includes bumps, kickers, rails and a box, as well as a link up to the 80km of cross-country trails at nearby Bramans and Sollières-Sardières.

Bonneval-sur-Arc

If you are based in Val Cenis, it is well worth visiting Bonneval-sur-Arc which is a pretty ski area at the end of the valley and covered by the Eski-Mo pass and shuttle bus. Bonneval, at the foot of the Vallonnet glacier, is actually a cluster of three villages - Bonneval, Precatin and Tralenta - that are spread over 1.25km and centred around two small nursery slopes that are perfect for beginners.

Bonneval's pistes sit on the northern side of the stand-alone 3,217m Point d'Andagne. The highest lift ascends to 3000m and there is snowmaking up to 2,200m. The ski area has 10 lifts serving 21 pistes and a generous 1,150 metres of vertical descent. The resort also boasts a boardercross as well as a snowpark. 

To access the main ski area, the Vallonnet chairlift is located in Tralenta and it travels up to 2,050m. From there beginners can choose either a green or a blue, both tree-lined, back down to resort, or take the D'Andagne chair, or the Mulinet chair to get higher. The D'Andagne accesses the resort's intermediate section, where there is a black run, three reds, and blue which returns you to the summit of the Vallonnet. The Mulinet takes you to the boardercross and the snowpark. 

Off-piste skiers are well actered for. There is even Heliskiing which is rare in France as mountain drop offs are banned but you can land on top of Italian mountains, or on the valley floor for pick-ups, or in other ski resorts like Val D'Isere. The Val D'Isere to Bonneval ski tour is very popular but due to the terrain, it is easier coming from Val d'Isere than going from Bonneval, so helicoptering to Val D'Isere and skiing back can make sense.

Although Bonneval-sur-Arc ski area is relatively small, the long, sweeping, exposed runs and steep terrain complement the skiing in Val Cenis lower down the valley and provide thrills for advanced skiers.

Other Eski-Mo ski resorts

Further down the valley lie Aussois, Valfréjus and La Norma which are all covered by the Eski-mo ski pass. A shuttle bus leaves for at least one them every morning from Val Cenis and returns in the evening.  

Valfréjus and La Norma are similar in size (about 65kms of piste each, perfect for a day trip) height (their top lifts both rise to about 2750m) and orientation (both have predominantly North facing slopes). But La Norma's area is mostly treelined (although there are some open bowles on the top) whereas Valfrejus' is mostly open bowl skiing (although there is some skiing through the woods at the bottom). La Norma is also quicker to reach from Val Cenis - about 30 minutes by bus - whilst Valfrejus takes almost twice as long. Valfrejus is probably marginally the better for good skiers, at least in good light conditions. It has more easily accessible off-piste and some genuine black runs.

Aussois is the closest of the Eski-Mo resorts to Val Cenis - it's just twenty minutes away. Its slopes face South West. Slush and ice therefore can be a problem, but skiing in sunshine makes a pleasant change after skiing in Val Cenis and the other Eski-mo resorts which all predominantly face North. It's about the same height as the other resorts (the lifts start at 1500m and rise to 2750m) but it is not quite as large - about 45kms of piste. It's still sizeable enough, however, to be worthwhile spending a day in.

Other Maurienne valley resorts outside of the Eski-Mo pass system

Orelle, the backdoor way into Val Thorens and the rest of the vast 3 Valleys ski area, is only about 40 minutes from Termignon by car. There is no regular bus service though.

Nordic skiing 

A frequent shuttle bus service connects the nordic ski resorts of Bessans, Bramans and Sollieres-Sardieres to Termignon, Lanslebourg and Lanslevillard.  

Between Bonneval, at the end of the valley, and Val Cenis lies Bessans, one of France's most prestigious Nordic skiing sites. Although the resort has only three Alpine pistes and is a perfect arena for children to learn to ski, most skiers are attracted to Bessans by the 80km of cross-country tracks as well as an international Biathlon stadium. 

At the gateway of the Haute Maurienne the villages of Bramans Val d'Ambin and Sollières-Sardières link up with Termignon to produce a further 80km of cross-country trails.