However, there are a number of lesser-known destinations which still offer superb skiing and accommodation yet which are often over-looked. Queues in these hidden alpine gems are virtually non-existent for much of the year and do not tend to exceed those of an average day in Courchevel, even during the half term peak. Add in the lower in-resort costs and a more relaxed atmosphere and voila – the charm of the ‘hidden’ French Alps becomes all the more alluring still.
Below is a selection of Pierre & Vacances’ recommendations of the best ski resorts to head to in 2013/14 for those looking to take advantage of short queues, friendly traditional atmosphere and great value:
Serre Chevalier 130km from Turin Airport – approx. 2 hours
Best feature? Woodland runs are plentiful in Serre Chevalier. Unlike the towering resorts of Les Arcs, Tignes and Val Thorens, this picturesque resort has runs under the tree line. As well as making for exciting skiing as you glide past trees and perfect quick turns, the trees also provide better visibility when the weather takes a turn. This year a new gondola replaces the old cable car from Chantemerle to Serre Ratier, giving fast access to some of the best of the tree-lined runs in town.
Where to stay? The Residence L'Alpaga is ideally located in the heart of the resort, close to lifts and the village shops, bars and restaurants. Ranging in size from studios sleeping 4 up to 2 and 3 bedroom apartments catering for up to 8 people, they all have balconies or terraces and were renovated recently. Prices start at £427 for a studio apartment sleeping 4 (early booking 20% discount offer until 31st October, £342).
Valmorel 95km from Chambery Airport – approx. 1 hour
Best feature? Designed with families in mind, the resort has been awarded with the Family+ recognition from the French government cementing its place as one of the top family ski resorts. Testament to this is the new lift pass available for families with children aged up to 21. These passes start at 682.40€ (approx. £580) for a 6 day pass for 4 people.
Where to stay? The Residence Athamante et Valériane is smack in the centre of this attractive Savoyard village. Adding to the village's family-friendly appeal, there are regular free activities on offer for 6 to 12 year olds. Apartments range in size from studio apartments sleeping 4 up to 2 and 3 bedroom apartments for up to 8 people. Prices start at £661 for a 1 to 2 bedroom apartment, perfect for families of up to 6 (early booking 20% discount offer until 31st October, £529).
Valloire 150km from Turin Airport – approx. 2 hours
Best feature? For an added ‘je ne sais quoi’ this season, the 23rd International Ice Sculpture Contest will take place in Valloire over 4 days from 14th - 17th January 2014. 20 of the best sculptors in this frozen field will converge on this characterful village resort for the event that is set to conclude with a musical, lightshow extravaganza. Aside from this icy event, the village exudes traditional alpine appeal, with a 17th century Baroque church as the village’s centrepiece.
Where to stay? The Residence Les Chalets Valoria blends harmoniously with the resort's traditional alpine ambience, enjoying an ideal location right at the foot of the slopes. The residence, which received a 2013 Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence, has apartments ranging in size from studio apartments sleeping 4 up to 2 to 3 bedroom apartments for up to 8 people. Prices start at £419 for a studio apartment sleeping up to 4 (early booking 20% discount offer until 31st October, £335).
Isola 2000 70km from Nice Airport – approx. 1 hour 15
Best feature? The views from 2610m upon the summit of Sistron are magnificent, even by Alpine standards, and the Mediterranean can even be seen from this lofty position. The snow record is equally as impressive, even topping the monthly charts within the past 6 seasons, as would be expected from such high altitude skiing.
Where to stay? With every apartment boasting a terrace or balcony, the Residence Les Terrasses d'Azur is ideally equipped to enjoy the fantastic views it commands across the Chastillon Valley. A mini tram funicular ensures the village itself is also easily accessed from the Residence. Apartments range in size from studio apartments sleeping 4 up to 2 to 3 bedroom apartments for up to 8 people. Prices start at £519 for a 1 bedroom apartment sleeping 4 (early booking 20% discount offer until 31st October, £415).
For more information on holidays with Pierre & Vacances and further ‘French unknowns’ to explore this winter visit www.pierreetvacances.co.uk or call 0870 0267 145
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About Pierre & Vacances – Center Parcs Group
Created in 1967, the Pierre & Vacances - Center Parcs Group is the European leader in local tourism. It has built its growth on an original business model of synergies between its two businesses: property development and tourism. Today, with its six complementary tourism brands – Pierre & Vacances and its two Premium and Villages Clubslabels, Maeva, Center Parcs, Sunparks, Adagio and Adagio Access – the Group operates a tourism network of more than 51,000 apartments and homes, located in almost 300 sites in Europe. In 2011/2012, the Group welcomed 7.5 million European clients and generated turnover of €1.419bn