What the Evolution 2 instructors don’t know about these mountains just isn’t worth knowing. If a slope’s crowded with lessons, they’ll find one just as good that isn’t. If the snow’s patchy they’ll take you to where the good stuff can be found. This year, they’re partnering with the Ski Club of Great Britain to offer guiding – an introduction to the mountains so you can ski like a local from day one. Before you launch onto the slopes, take a look at their insider tips for making the most of your ski area.
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Off-piste and backcountry terrain has inherent dangers, many of which can be hidden from view. It is essential to carry, and know how to use, the appropriate equipment (transceiver, probe, shovel) whenever venturing outside the piste markers. We strongly recommended any off-piste riding is done with a qualified and experienced guide.
by Kev Herbert, Off-Piste & Mountain Safety specialist, Backcountry Guide
Jump on the bus to Le Fornet. From the top of the cable car take the blue Mangard or red Cognon runs down through the trees – or if you’re feeling confident, the black Foret naturide.
Do the “Backward M” from Val d’Isere to Le Fornet. Take the Solaise lift and ski down the blue Piste L or Germain Mattis red. L is a sheltered gully all the way down, with Mattis a little more exposed at the top – where you’re skiing down the path of the legendary Tour de France cycle race – but then enters the trees. Go up the Laisinant chairlift then down to Le Fornet. From there, you can take the bus back to Val d’Isere.
Head for the Ski Tranquille area at the top of the Rocher de Bellevarde. The Olympique telecabine from Val d’Isere centre leads directly onto easy terrain with a choice of dedicated beginner slopes, simple green runs and some fun blues. If it’s busy, try the less frequented Grand Pre green (get there via the blue Collet run). More adventurous intermediates can try the gully run Santons.
Alternatively, from the top of the Solaise, head across the plateau via the new magic carpet and take the Glacier lift to some long rolling blues and easy green runs in the Madeleine area.
Ease Into Off-Piste
Take Solaise and Madeleine lifts up the mountain. Try the red Arcelle run for speed, or to your right is the Marmottons naturide.
Take the Tour du Charvet off the top of the Grande Pre, round the back of the peak and down through a natural gorge into the valley. Head up the Manchet lift and work your way up to Cugnai – a classic easy Val d’Isere off-piste – to some lovely picnic spots.
For more serious off-piste, you want the Les Danaides area. Come off the Solaise into Le Lavancher valley. Don’t go straight down the valley, head diagonally through the trees – a fun run that takes you straight back into Val d’Isere.
Best Photo Op
First Day Itinerary
From Val d’Isere take the Olympique to the Ski Tranquille and down into La Daille. The red OK is the run used for World Cup racing. Take the Funival, ski the blue Collet or red Fontaine Froide, then descend the blue Santons into Val d’Isere. Take the Solaise lift up, go over to the Glacier lift then the “up and over” Leissieres chair (careful not to leave your stomach behind). Cruise into the top of Le Fornet, ride the blue Vallon to the Signal restaurant, then up the bubble lift and back over the way you came. The view of the Grande Motte as you come back over is stunning.DOWNLOAD VAL D'ISERE SKI GUIDE
Naturides are black runs which are patrolled but not groomed. They’re left to develop naturally with the conditions, giving you a taste of backcountry terrain but with the safety back-up of being technically ‘on-piste’. Make sure you’re comfortable here before thinking about going further afield.
From the Sache bubble lift in Les Brevieres, start off with the blue Melezes run through the trees, ending in pretty Les Brevieres for lunch. For some off-piste, veer off into the trees around the red Pavot run.
Just over the Val d’Isere border (full area ski pass required) but just as easily accessible from Tignes via Toviere is the Vallee Perdue. Find some mixed ability tree runs, with both tricky and easy off-piste, around the Triffolet red run from the bottom of the Tommeuses. It’s an easy return using the Funival to the top of the Bellevarde, ski through the Ski Tranquille towards the Tommeuses. Stop off at the Folie Douce and warm up with a bit of dancing to the cabaret.
Grattalu is an open area with something for everyone. Adults can take the Col des Ves lift and ski the Pramecou black for an adrenalin hit, or practice turns circling the Grattalu. Younger ones can play in the snowpark. From here, it’s an easy return to Le Lac.
Settle in at the Ski Tranquille – a zone dedicated to slow skiing and allowing you to build your confidence – on the La Daille plateau (again, you’ll need a full Espace Killy lift pass). Circle Marmottes and Grand Pre for a full selection of greens, blues and a couple of tasty reds.
Ease Into Off-Piste
Start on the black Sache – although it’s not a proper naturide, it can in fact be trickier. From the Aiguille Percee, it takes you all the way down into Brevieres – the longest run in resort.
The quickest naturide is the Epilobe, which runs under the Chaudannes lift. It joins the blue Petit Col run but you can cut off to continue directly under the lift.
Access the Golf Naturide from the top of the Grattalu. Turn right when getting off the lift, take Le Mur red towards the Merles chairlift and its namesake piste (around the Bun-J ride) before peeling off right and heading down into the main gully via a steep wall.
Best Photo Op
The eye of the needle is a stunning rock formation at the top of the Aiguille Percee lift. The best picture can be snapped if you walk up a little path (signposted off-piste) opposite the lift. Turn around when you reach the rock and you’ll get a stunning photo with a view of Tignes through the eye. For an even more stunning picture, and one not many people will have, skin up there in time for sunrise.
On the other side of Tignes, walk to the Lavachet ridge – where Mickey’s Ears used to be. Go up in the Toviere bubble lift, down Cretes to the top of the Combe Folle drag lift then it’s a 10-minute walk up following the obvious line. You’ll be rewarded with a fantastic view down the valley to the Lac du Chevril and Mont Blanc in the distance. Ski down to Tommeuses or Combe Folle on the other side.
First Day Itinerary
Get your ski legs back with the blue tour of Tignes. The route gradually increases in difficulty and there’s a great variety of terrain and scenery. A much better alternative to simply circling the Palafour, which many people do on the first day to get their confidence back.
Take the Toviere bubble lift up from Le Lac and follow piste Henri into Val Claret – a cruisy motorway where you can practice your turns.
Grab the Tichot lift and find your feet circling the family-friendly Grattalu area.
Move off up the Grand Huit – a bit more challenging with a steeper section to get some speed up.
From the Aiguille Percee, take the blue run into Le Lac or choose Rhododendron and Melezes into Les Boisses.DOWNLOAD TIGNES SKI GUIDE
The best place to ride sheltered by the trees is Montchavin – there’s so much to explore and you can descend all the way from 2300m to 1250m.
For a nice easy first off-piste run, start at the top of the Salla or Arpette lift and drop into the gulley on the north side. Ride down into the forest, find the Nordique piste then go right to Plan Bois at 1800m. There you can join the red piste heading to Les Coches, or continue just off it in the trees again. It’s easy to get lost in the trees here so a guide is a must.
If you’ve got small children, go from Plagne Centre up the Grande Rochette and ski down the other side towards Champagny-en-Vanoise. Take the blue run to the Borseliers lift, then the Rossa, then the Carrella up to the Roche de Mio at 2700m. Ski the fun blue down through the tunnel towards Belle Plagne and Plagne Bellecote – inside the tunnel there’s lights, projections, music and lots of excitement. Take the Colosses lift so you can ski back down to Plagne Centre and that’s a great half-day circuit.
With older kids start off the same but continue skiing down to Champagny. Take the bubble lift back up then ski down to Verdons Sud and take the lift up so you can ski right back down to Plagne Centre. Or from the top of Les Verdons take the red Mont de la Guerre, which is the best piste in the area, facing south so it gets the sun with stunning views of Couchevel on one side, the Grande Casse and Grande Bec on the other.
If you’re doing any off-piste in La Plagne it’s got to be the North Face of the Bellecote – but you MUST be with a guide. It can get busy when there’s good snow and sun so set out early. From the Roche de Mio ski down the off-piste gulley. Take the Chalet de Bellecote chairlift, the Bellecote bubble and Traversee lifts to the top. Set off on the black pistes and drop in on the North side – the lower you go the easier the drop in. There are no lifts so you get a long quiet run from 3200m to Nancroix at 1500m. There’s lots of choice for dropping in – from red level to extreme with steep 35-degree cliffs – and doesn’t get much sun so there’s usually plenty of powder. When you arrive at the valley near the restaurants Fer a Cheval and Chabottes you can take a bus to Villaret then the Lonsagne lift and Vanoise Express back to La Plagne. You’ll need a full Paradiski area lift pass.
On the south side from the top of the glacier (Traversee chairlift) you can ski down to Les Bauches Valley by Friolin – and on this side you only need a La Plagne lift pass.
Best Photo Opportunity
From the top of the Grande Rochette you have an amazing 360-degree view of the ski area. If there’s no cloud you can see Les Ecrins, Grande Casse, Mont Pourri and Mont Blanc. Take it in with a hot chocolate at the restaurant perched on the mountaintop. There are some lovely blue and red runs down so it’s very accessible.DOWNLOAD LA PLAGNE SKI GUIDE
Evolution 2 Montchavin Les Coches, 5 Rue de la Glisse Montchavin La Plagne
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Don’t go off-piste without a visit to Les Arcs’ Avalanche (DVA) Park at Arc 2000, where you can practice using your safety equipment aided by an electronic beacon system.
Bad weather is never a problem in Les Arcs – there’s an abundance of lower altitude forest with deep, fresh snow, so you can ride sheltered by the trees. The best place is the mystical Malgovert forest above Arc 1600 – there’s so much to explore. Ski the lovely long Mont Blanc blue or more challenging 2 Tetes. It’s easy to get lost off-piste in the trees here so make sure you have an experienced guide or instructor with you. It’s good to know that if you keep descending you’ll meet the road from Arc 2000 to 1600 and you can follow that to the Mont Blanc or Cachette chairlift. Or, if there’s been a lot of snow you can ski all the way down to Bourg Saint Maurice and get the funicular back up.
Families staying in the beautiful village of Peisey Vallandry have some great options to ski any of the cruisey blue and red runs in the trees around the Vallandry and Peisey chairlifts. The 7km La Foret is one of the longest beginner-level ski runs in Europe.
The new Mille 8 ski area, which just opened in Arc 1800, is perfect for the whole family with safe beginner areas, themed discovery pistes, fun freestyle obstacle courses and snow sculptures. Read more about this exceptional new development on p.40.
If you’re staying in Arc 1950, you can easily travel to Arc 2000 va the Cabriolet gondola, where you’ll see the Aiguille Rouge and some steep blacks coming down from the summit. Don’t let that put you off – there area some long, wide reds and blues for everyone to enjoy, off the Varet chairlift, too.
Start with a nice, easy off-piste run from the Aiguille Rousse, down to the right of Grizzly, to the traditional village of Peisey Nancroix. It’s like stepping back in time with old buildings, horses and a stunning landscape. There are some great places to have lunch too, then a free navette bus brings you back to Peisey.
Our guide can show you the beauty of the Aiguille Rouge and many off-piste routes down the north face, bringing you to the quaint village of Villaroger. You’ll discover deep snow, steep faces and a long day with a thigh-burning 2km descent from 3226m. Experienced skiers can try famous routes the Grandes Pentes, Couloir en S, Lanchettes, Paravalanche or even the crazy Couloir de l’Equipe with 45° slopes – only for only the very best. We’ll help you find good snow conditions, nice views, fresh tracks, and the perfect restaurant for the end of the session.
Best Photo Opportunity
From the top of Aiguille Rouge you have an amazing 360-degree view of the ski area. On good days you have a complete panorama of mountains including La Grande Sassiere, Mont Blanc and Mont Pourri.
From the top you need to ski down on the red Arandelieres run, or if you prefer you can take the Aiguille Rouge telecabine and Varet cable car back down to Arc 2000 – so even walkers can enjoy the view from the summit.DOWNLOAD LES ARCS SKI GUIDE
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Arc 2000 www.evolution2-arc2000.com 04 79 07 85 53
Arcs 1800/1600 www.evolution2-arc1800.com 04 57 15 94 96
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La Rosiere is the place to go for heli-skiing as it’s right on the border with Italy, where it’s legal. If you’re trying heli-skiing for the first time, Spring is the time to do it. The snow’s less powdery and in good conditions even upper intermediates can handle it as long as you’re confident on red and black slopes and have done a little off-piste. Some hire shops will allow you to swap to off-piste skis for a day.
Italy For Lunch
Head up the Roches Noires Express and take the blue Belette run down. Take the Fort lift and ski down the other side of the mountain by the red Bouquetin to the Bellecombe 1 drag lift.
The easier option is to ski down to the bottom of the Piccolo San Bernardo Express where you’ll find the link to the San Bernardo red run (number 7) – a beautiful long run, suitable for all the family, down the summer road, all the way round the outside of the ski area and down through the trees to La Thuile. Towards the end, those looking for a bigger challenge can veer off onto the black Franco Berthod run – the most difficult in the area, used in competitions and closest to the famous Face in Val d’Isere.
The second option is to take the Bellecome II drag lift and take any combination of the reds and blues to where they join into the Nouva tree run (number 6) into La Thuile.
From the front de neige in La Thuile mini-buses will be waiting to take you to the different restaurants of the resort.
To get back to La Rosiere take the Les Suches cable car (last lift to France usually at 3pm), then the long Chaz Dura Express. The red slope (number 7) and then the blue run Carabiniers (number 19) will take you to the Chardonnet drag lift – be warned this closes early, usually at about 4.15pm. From here all roads lead back to La Rosiere.
Best Photo Opportunity
The Fort is an old World War II ruin which marks a stunning viewpoint over La Rosiere and across to Mont Blanc, accessible both on skis or walking for non-skiers. Take the Roches Noires Express then walk along the ridge, or from Les Eucherts walk parallel to the Lauzes run then go up the Fort Express chairlift.
La Rosiere is known for its winter snowkiting on top of the Col du Petit Saint Bernard, where it’s windy and flat. Evolution 2 can sort you out with 3-hour group sessions, beginner to expert level, every afternoon depending on weather conditions.
Shelter in the trees on the red and black runs around the Ecudets lift. They’re quite difficult and a great challenge if you’re moving towards going off-piste – the snow’s deeper here as it’s slightly out of the sun. Be warned, it’s easy to get lost in the trees so do not go alone – one of our instructors will be happy to guide you.DOWNLOAD LA ROSIERE SKI GUIDE
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If you’ve come to Sainte Foy for the off-piste, you’ll want to conquer the famous Foglietta. Take the lifts up to the Col de l’Aguille and tour up to the stunning Pointe de la Foglietta – it’s an hour-long climb from 2620m to 2930m. Take in the silence and the view before enjoying the long run down the Vallon de Mercuel to La Masure, where you get the bus back to resort. If you want to avoid the hike, you can join the run part-way down from the top of the La Marquise chairlift. Alternatively, from the top of the Foglietta you can ski the Vallon du Clou on the other side, all the way into Monal – a beautiful little traditional village. It’s a fairly flat trek out and the whole run will take half a day.
Behind Foglietta you’ll find a huge wide area with lots of opportunity for fresh tracks – head straight there after a big snowfall. You can see Mont Blanc in front and ski down through a very pretty village, Le Crot, in the forest.
Sainte Foy has a much more peaceful atmosphere than the larger resorts. It’s about skiing together and families take their time without the worry of people tearing past you. The Plan Bois may be the only green run, but it’s a lovely long one through the trees and usually boasts a kids discovery run with fun wooden statues to look out for. The Shaper’s Paradise is a less extreme version of a snowpark with natural bumps and jumps.
Best Photo Opportunity
From the top of l’Aiguille chairlift, at 2620m, you have stunning views of all the surrounding mountains.
Ease into Off-Piste
From the top of l’Aiguille chairlift go right or left for the Naturides.
From the top of La Marguise lift go left for some really special tree runs down to La Masure. The trees offer better visibility and you’re sheltered from the wind. Plus there are so many possible routes you’ll never go the same way twice.
From the top of Grand Plan or higher up from L’Arpettaz lift go right or left for some really special on-piste tree runs, or veering off-piste slightly you can have fun finding different routes through the forest.DOWNLOAD ST FOY SKI GUIDE
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