Arêches-Beaufort is a mecca for ski touring and also plays host to the international ski mountaineering race, the Pierra Menta.
Our group hadn’t ski toured before, but aimed to use our very novice skills to try and reach a mountaintop to watch part of the race.
Our ascent, from the second ski lift, took around an hour and a half. It doesn’t sound much when you read it, but when you have never put skins on skis before, or tried to literally walk directly up a mountain on them, it really does feel much longer!
We witnessed the 30th Pierra Menta, which saw 400 teams of two (professionals and non-professionals) compete take on a total of 10,000m of uphill vertical over four days. It’s grueling!
Trying to get the skins on the skis is challenging enough, but wait ‘til you try walking up a mountain on them. Once you get the technique it is less tiring, but it’s certainly not for anyone who is just getting into fitness, or who hasn’t skied before!
From last year Arêches-Beaufort has designated, marked ski-touring routes, which can be accessed for free.
The introductory track is 3.2 km long, and climbs 470m in altitude – it’s a good way to get used to ski touring before you try and conquer the nearby peaks.
Those who get really into might also enjoy the Arêches Dynafit Experiences. The accompanied night-time excursions, with equipment included, run on Tuesdays during the winter season.
We didn’t get the time to try this as we headed off nearby Hauteluce to enjoy the Espace Diamant ski area.
The Espace Diamant links five resorts, creating a 192km ski area. You could say it’s in the shadow of Mont Blanc, but an area as striking as this couldn’t be described as being in anything’s shadow!
It’s a welcoming ski area. Really friendly, and based in traditional villages where you can almost taste the history, and certainly need to sample the fine food.
Anyone who doesn’t like cheese will lose out here, as the place is a Mecca of some gastronomic greats.
You have to try the Beaufort and Reblochon, but there’s also Abondance, Chevrotin and Tome des Bauges to name just a few others that will stop you jumping straight on the scales when you get home!
We stayed at the Ferme de Chozal, and felt very indulged. I was given my own ‘Hansel and Gretel’ style chalet in the grounds of the hotel, which had every 21st century amenity, from docking stations to a spa bath, and lovely views over the valley and the slopes.
There’s also an outside hot tub, ideal after a day on the slopes, and ahead of the fine dining that awaits you in the hotel’s restaurant.
The chef uses local, fresh food, and seasons it from the selection of around 30 herbs and flowers grown in the hotel’s garden.
Dinner is a leisurely affair, which – in our case – took all evening, as we indulged in course after course of finely prepared, creatively presented food, fit for any five-star hotel!
For further information see:
Chambéry is the closest airport: one hour drive by car. Geneva, Lyon and Grenoble are also nearby.
There are no organised transfers, so people take a taxi or a train from Geneva to Albertville and then a bus Arêches, Hauteluce or Les Saisies
2-star hotel Les Ancolies in Arêches-Beaufort
From 75€ per night for a double room B&B
3-star hotel La Ferme du Chozal in Hauteluce
From €170 per room per night
Arêches-Beaufort: 50km of slopes
Day pass: €28.60
Espace Diamant: 185km
Day pass: 38.10€
On the slopes in Arêches-Beaufort: l’Alpage
Plat du jour : 14.50€ – Menu Plat du jour + desert for 18.70€
On the slopes in Les Saisies: Chalet les Marmottes
Plat du jour: 13€ – 3 courses : 19€
New Auberge du Mont Blanc
3 courses meal: 27€