Skiing in La Clusaz

La Clusaz’s local ski area consists of five connected mountains, the highest of which is the Massif de Balme, where the top lift reaches the Col de Balme at 2477m. There are 125km of runs but this figure almost doubles to 211 km of runs if you buy an Aravis lift pass that also includes the bus-linked ski resort of Le Grand Bornand.

La Clusaz Ski Area

Skier on viewing platform above La Clusaz photographing the Aravis mountains

Viewing Platform above La Clusaz in Aravis ski area © C.Hudry-La Clusaz OT

Massif de Balme

The highpoint of the La Clusaz ski area. A 2,600m mountain with lifts that reach the 2477m Col de Balme and 2364m Torchere. Most of the skiing is on quite challenging north-facing red runs, but there are ungroomed black runs as well, and lower down there are blue runs, including the connecting runs Le Var, Le Plan and La Motte which link the sector with L’Aiguille.

Massif de l’Aiguille

A 2,400m mountain with lifts reaching up to 2257m. Mostly red runs at the top and blue runs lower down. The slopes head off in three directions: north-eastwards to the La Balme base station, north-westwards to the centre of La Clusaz and westwards to the bottom of the Massif de L’Etale/Le Belvedere

Massif de l’Etale

A 2483m mountain with lifts reaching up to 1980m. A great choice for busy days as it doesn’t seem to attract the crowds. A good mix of blue, red and black slopes on a north-facing mountainside. From the top of the Belevedere (1957m) enjoy the challenging red run ‘Regine Cavagnoud’ or black ‘Les Tetras’.

Massif de Beauregard

A 1690m mountain, the summit of which is reached by the Beauregard gondola. This gives access to a sunny plateau and the best nursery slopes in La Clusaz. From here you can get back to the village via a long, scenic blue run or a more testing black run that both face north-east. Or you can keep going westwards to Manigod via an easy blue run which links the Beauregard area with La Croix Fry and Merdassier.

Massif de Manigod / Col de Merdassier

There is skiing on both sides of the Col de Merdassier with predominantly blue runs coming down from the Tete de Cabeau in all directions, and west-facing red runs on the other side of the col, although the connecting run back to Etale is a blue.

Aravis Lift Pass and le Grand Bornand

Skier on slope in Le Grand Bornand near La Clusaz with Aravis mountains in background

Le Grand Bornand ski area is 15 mins from La Clusaz and covered by the Aravis lift pass © Jonathan Cathala-OT-LGB

By purchasing the ‘Aravis’ lift pass, La Clusaz based skiers can gain access to a further 90km of skiing at the neighbouring resort of Le Grand Bornand, on 2100m Mont Lechat. There are free shuttle buses between the two resorts and the journey takes about 15 minutes. There are runs on Mont Le Chat in all directions and for all standards, including excellent green runs for novices and a good avalanche protected freeride area for experts.

The bus stops at St Jean de Sixt, a village midway between La Clusaz and le Grand Bornand, where there is a luge slope but no ski lifts or pistes.

Beginner Skiing in La Clusaz

La Clusaz provides some excellent accessible skiing for first-timers. There are a couple of beginner lifts at resort level but the best area is undoubtedly at Beauregard which boasts a sunny plateau with gentle blue and green slopes. Beginners can progress to ‘Le Meridien’, a long blue run right back to the village, or to the Croix Fry/Merdassier slopes via another easy piste and a 2-man chairlift. Another favourite is the Cret du Merle area where beginners will find lots of Savoyard mountain restaurants for a well-earned pit stop. Daytrips to Le Grand Bornand are also recommended because it has good, novice-friendly green and blue runs.

Ski Schools & Ski Lessons in La Clusaz

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Intermediate Skiing in La Clusaz

Most intermediates will love La Clusaz if the snow conditions are good (be careful of ice if it has not snowed for a while). Early intermediates will delight in the gentle slopes at the top of Beauregard and over on La Croix Fry at Manigod, where there’s a network of gentle tree-lined runs. And they’ll be able to travel all over the area on the gentle green linking pistes, where poling or walking is more likely to be a problem than fears about steepness. L’Etale and l’Aiguille have more challenging but wide blue runs. More adventurous intermediates will prefer the steeper red slopes and good snow of La Balme and the long red down Combe du Fernuy from l’Aiguille.

Advanced & Expert Skiing in La Clusaz

There is plenty to challenge advanced skiers at La Clusaz, especially off-piste. The best terrain for piste skiers is at la Balme, but there are testing ungroomed black runs in most sectors and also in Le Grand Bornand

Freeride skier skiing between trees in La Clusaz

La Clusaz Ski Area has open bowls and treelined runs ©Julie-Pierrick–PIerre-Maullet-La Clusaz OT

The best on-piste terrain is at La Balme where there are several fairly challenging pistes above mid-mountain including the steep black Vraille run.

The Lapiaz Black run down the Combe du Fernuy is also enjoyable as is La Noire at Beauregard, though the latter does need good snow cover. The Tetras on l’Etale and the Mur d’Edgar bumps run below Cret du Loup are also classified as blacks, and rightly so.

There are also a handful of black runs at Le Grand Bornard, which are steep and ungroomed,

Off-Piste Freeriding in La Clusaz

You will need a guide to get the best out of the off-piste at la Clusaz, and to ski it safely – see the La Clusaz Ski Schools and Guides section for more details.

Without an off-piste mountain guide, your safest option is the avalanche protected Freeride black run on Lachat in Le Grand Bornand. On the Grand Bornand piste map this looks like a normal back piste but it is a broad east-facing mountainside with a vertical of about 450m, and well worth a visit.

With a guide, the most famous routes are:

Le Corbassieres

Relatively easy, east-facing off-piste to skiers’ left of le Guy Perillat blue run on Beauregard.

La Rose

North-facing off-piste to skiers’ right of Le Tetras black run on L’Etale.

L’Epaule Merdassier

Requires a tricky 45 minute hike uphill in ski boots from the top of the Belvedere lift a before a long descent on the shoulder between Belvedere and the Col Merdassier. Steep but not extreme.

La Combe a Marion

Ascent from the top of the Belvedere lift requires skins before descending on the shoulder of L’Etale down to the road heading up to the Col des Aravis. Ascent passes close Le Clocher, an extreme ski route for experts only.

Freeride skier on high steep ridge above la Clusaz ski resort

La Clusaz off-piste includes extreme freeride descents ©C.HUDRY-La Clusaz OT

Le Combe de Borderan

On L’Aiguille and accessed from the top of its eponymous lift, via a tricky, and sometimes dangerous, traverse which takes you to a slope on the far side of the Jument 2000 and Cote 2000 lifts.

Les Encarnes/Combe du Varet

On L’Aiguille, decending through the trees from the top of the Cote 2000 lift before exiting onto Cret de Loup.

Combe de la Creuse

Between L’Aiguille and Massif de Balme, and accessed from either of them, usually requiring a 1 hour + climb. The route from L’Aiguille via Le Couloir de la Lanna couloir is the hardest and should only be attempted by experts. The routes from the top of the Torcher lift are less extreme.

The Californian

On Col de la Blame, keeping to skiers’ right of the pistes, accessed from the Crintiaux red run.

Col Bellachat

As you ascend the Col de Balme lift, this is the next Col over to your left, and it has to be climbed up to and crossed before starting a long run down to Lac des Confins and a taxi back to the lifts.

Mountain Restaurants in La Clusaz

Papi Jo Mountain Restaurant below the Serpentine piste in Grand Bornand

Papi Jo Mountain Restaurant in Grand Bornand in Aravis ski area

In La Clusaz and Grand Bornand, you’ll often find rustic family-run restaurants serving good, reasonably priced Savoyard food.

Relais de l’Aiguille in the centre of the ski area at the top of Cret de Loup is a great place to enjoy a sun-downer with its lovely sunny terrace and eclectic mix of music. There is both a smart high-quality table-service restaurant and a self-service cafe.

Try The Bercail on the Cret de Merle for seriously good tartiflette (local speciality) or La Ferme, a little further down the piste, with its wood fire and home-made pizzas.

The Telemark Café is a good chill-out lunch spot over at l’Etale. La Vielle Ferme at the Col de Merdassier has a charming restaurant with excellent food and service and is a great place to stop for lunch if you’re doing the 5-mountain circuit.

At Grand Bornnard, Papi Jo is an outstanding mountain restaurant specialising in locally-sourced fresh food, but it’s also good for a quick refreshment break, with a sunny terrace, cosy indoor tables and excellent fruit juices. If you’re staying for lunch, the Savoyard salads are good, but there is more substantial fare too, as well as very moreish French Fries. Papi Jo is on the Serpentine green piste near the outskirts of Chinaillon, and reachable by pedestrians walking or driving up from the village. It’s easy to ski past so listen out for the chilled-out music as you approach.

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