The picturesque, traditional village of La Clusaz is one of Haute Savoie’s best-kept secrets. It has lost none of its deeply rooted French charm despite being only about an hour away from Geneva, and its underrated ski area is large enough and high enough for most skiers for most of the season.
La Clusaz lies in a valley beneath the jagged peaks of the Aravis mountain range. 125km of groomed trails stretch out over five inter-connected ski areas which La Clusaz shares with the even smaller resort of Manigod. Keen skiers, however, should buy an Aravis ski pass which also covers the ski lifts at Le Grand-Bornand and Saint-Jean-de-Sixt, which are just 6km away from La Clusaz. Free ski buses shuttle between the resorts, and the combined ski area expands to about 210km of slopes, split into about 130 different runs. This makes the Domaine des Aravis a mid-sized ski area by Alpine standards, and large enough for most skiers coming here for a week-long ski holiday.
La Clusaz itself is attractive and has the look and feel of an authentic French mountain village, complete with its own weekly market. The centre is traffic-free, and whilst not all the buildings are as old as the church with its distinctive 18th century bulb bell tower, most have been built in a sympathetic style. Accommodation is reasonably priced. At weekends and peak holiday times the village gets quite lively (and the slopes can sometimes get a little crowded too) but midweek it’s quiet and friendly, and there’s a good choice of bars and restaurants to suit most budgets and tastes.
The skiing includes tree-lined runs and open bowls. It’s mostly aimed at relaxed intermediates and beginners but there are a few challenges for experts including interesting off-piste freeride routes, most of which can be reached with very little climbing. The resort is situated at 1100m (Le Grand Bornand and St Jean de Sixte are even lower) and a lot of the skiing is below 2000m, so La Clusaz is not 100% snowsure. But its snow record is better than its altitude suggests. Most of its slopes face north or north-west and lie on top of grassy meadows which require less snow cover than rockier terrain. And the top lifts at La Balme reach 2470m which is comparable to the highest lifts in nearby modern, purpose-built resorts like Flaine and Avoriaz, which have none of the charm of La Clusaz.
La Clusaz Pros & Cons
+ Pretty village in a pretty setting.
+ Aravis ski area is just big enough for a week’s skiing.
+ Easy to get to / good for ski weekends.
+ Good variety of slopes if off-piste is included.
+ Rural, relaxed and friendly.
– Not really snowsure.
– Not enough steep pistes.
– Weekend crowds.