La Clusaz is one of a very small group of French resorts which are not purpose built but are none-the-less located next to world class ski areas. Indeed this traditional Savoyard village is regarded by some as one of the most picturesque in France meaning La Clusaz ski holidays are some of the most authentic.
The chalets sport their hand-cut wooden shingles and the resort has a reputation for its production of the local Reblochon cheese and other farm foods. The large ski area for a single resort of any type covers five lift-linked mountains in the Aravis system and visitors have additional terrain to explore above neighbouring le Grand Bornand on the Aravis Pass – a total of 200km (125 miles) of trails.
La Clusaz’s skiing spreads across five mountains – Beauregard, La Croix Fry-Manigod-Merdassier, L’Etale, L’Aiguille and Balme. These are all lift linked to one another by more than 50 lifts. The big area covers all kinds of slopes from large wooded trails for relaxed descents, to high summits and steeps.
Beauregard is the mountain closest to the village and is regarded as a place for easy cruisers, although with all the slopes below the treeline its possible to enjoy some exciting tree skiing if you have the technical expertise required. Over the back of Beauregard there are the Croix-Fry Manigod Merdassier slopes which were linked to the resort in 1985. This is an area of largely gentle slopes, ideal for children and beginners. Right next door however are the slopes of l’Etale, largely above the treeline and much steeper.
Rising up across the village is the Aiguille Mountain, known for its sunny slopes with big verticals, such as the Grand Crêt which drops 1,200 metres (3937 feet). You can also take the exciting la Combe du Fernuy run which starts black but ends red and leads you over to the fifth and highest mountain, Balme. This is the most snow sure of the resort’s ski areas with long fast cruises, all above the tree line.
There are plenty of attractions for advanced to expert skiers on the slopes of La Clusaz. A Summit Circle route has been introduced, using only black and red trails. It includes, among others, the 4km (2.5 mile) long Vraille slope on Balme which drops 1100 metres (3609 feet) on North facing terrain with a reputation for powder snow.
Another tough slope is the Crêt du Loup mogul slope, now known as ‘The Edgar Wall’ after Edgar Grospiron, a French skiing champion who lives in the resort. Located on the Aiguille mountain it is one of the best natural mogul slopes in the world. Expert skiers also have the chance of steep slope skiing with a little bit of hiking to take the route from Aravis to La Giettaz. Off piste touring with a Mountain guide is another option as is heliskiing in Switzerlnd and Italy.
La Clusaz has attracted the Telemark World Championships and the Freestyle World Championships , typical of the resort’s open-minded approach to winter sports, whereby dozens of other mountain sports are offered, besides Alpine skiing and snowboarding. La Clusaz also works hard to maintain it’s ‘traditional community’ feeling and to involve its guests in this atmosphere.
A ski bus network links the base of the mountains and makes the link over to the smaller ski area of le Grand Bornand at least once every 30 minutes. La Clusaz is a centre for other snow sports also, notably Telemark – being a former host of the original downhill skiing sport’s World cup event in 1994, as well as to more modern variants like Skwal and carving. Cross-country skiing is another strength with 70km of trails spread across the two plateaux of Confins and Beauregard.
A lively resort, La Clusaz has an Entertainments office which arranges events daily to help the village maintain its feeling of being a lively community rather than just a place with a lot of bars. The Monday evening welcome nights, with free vin chaud at the tourist office are a good place to pick up information on what’s happening during your stay and informally meet a wide dross section of village residents.
Regular events include weekly torch-lit descents for both adults and children which you can participate in through the ESF during high season. There are also displays of past skiing techniques, fashions and equipment by the ski school and special Christmas and February carnival events.
For the normal selection of bars, restaurants and night clubs, La Clusaz has it covered. The Pressoir bar stocks over 80 beers and is open until 2am as is Les Caves du Paccaly and Le Grenier. Night Clubs include L’Écluse and Club 18.
La Clusaz has a good selection of more than two dozen restaurants. For traditional fayre try Le Saint-Joseph, La Terrasse, Le Grenier, l’Arbe, or Le Chalet du Lasc (the oldest chalet in the region). All are famous for its Savoyard specialities. There are numerous crêperies and La Cordée, L’Outa and Pizzaminut also serve pizza.
There are several interesting options for diners, for example you can supp your aperitif in a Lapp tent before eating a traditional Savoyard meal in a Savoyard restaurant. It’s equally possible to take a toboggan, snowmobile or snowcat to an altitude restaurant and then ski or toboggan back down to the village.
A much better choice of accommodation here than at many of the larger French resorts, La Clusaz has more than 20 hotels graded upto to three star. In addition there are several gîtes available for rental and the majority of the remainder of the tourist beds are in apartment complexes – although there are none of the huge concrete monoliths for which many other French ski centres are infamous but that is the beauty of la Clusaz ski holidays.