Discovery the secrets of Val Cenis

Val Cenis

The remote Maurienne Valley neighbours Brit’-popular Val Thorens and Tignes but makes no attempt to ‘keep up with the ski Joneses’. And that’s just why I wanted to go there.

Fed up with booking flash ski resorts where everything buzzing – and costs a bomb – I was longing for some quality time, with a few good friends, and the chance to wallow in picture-perfect powder.

The valley’s ski stations include Aussios, Val Cenis Vanoise (incl Termingnon), La Norma, Bonneval sur Arc and Valfréjus – and they didn’t disappoint!

Termignon feels like the place where the top of the mountains tip into cloud, and every trail around the next ice-corner is the camera’s treat.

And I ended up doing more off-piste than I was ready for to make my way around the frozen beauty of Lake De Mont Cenis, but it’s always good to push your standard!

Also a bonus is the new Eskimo pass, which allows you to ski five stations (300kms of piste) for six days. It costs £162 for adults and £137 for children (aged 5-11).

Val Cenis

This place isn’t party central, but we found a few trendy bars where the prices were good and the food very high standard.

We also found our accommodation, at Le Criterium residence in Les Champs, was a great base for easy lift access to this area’s 126kms of slopes.

Between 1803 and 1810 Napoleon built a road over the pass, which now forms part of the pretty green route enjoyed by improvers. It also makes a relaxing cruise back to base for those who have been off enjoying the excellent off-piste and the more challenging runs.

You need to wrap up well to enjoy this resort as its high mountains can get very cold and windy at higher levels, but its worth it for the incredibly varied views and red runs to relish!

You’ll also find mountain refuges serving bar snacks for three Euros, and very tasty van chaud, which definitely made me want to linger longer…

Less confident skiers can also reach some of the refuges via the ski lifts, so they also make good meeting places for mixed-level groups.


Loved for its ski school (which attracts children from all over France), Aussois
is alive with early learners taking their first tumbles, and ripping their way down the gentle, open slopes.

But its 55kms of pistes are also a joy for anyone who likes skiing close to nature as its wide, powdery slopes border the National Park.

I stopped halfway down the Stella run as three chamois plodding gently around the park’s edge. There were no other skiers – just the goats, the mountain and me. It was a moment!

Aussois is steeped in history, and it’s also well worth stopping to see some of the roadside castles and forts which dominate its scenery.


And you can’t write about the Maurienne without mentioning the incredible cross-country ski school in Bessans, which has 133kms of trails for skating or classical skiing.

I’d tried classic, but not skating and soon found my muscles more than challenged on the skinny skis. But both the skiing, and the view from trails through the Larch Forest were breathtaking!

So why come to the Maurienne when other places are easier to get to? That’s easily answered. The place is ideal for beginners and improvers, has an amazing cross-country scene, is the friend of the cash conscious and offers a good season, from December ‘til April. Get packing …

Fact box

Briony stayed with Peak Retreats at 3* Le Criterium residence in the Les Champs area of Val Cenis.

Seven nights, self-catering, including return Eurotunnel crossings, costs from £174pp. Accommodation only holiday packages from £144pp. Price based on five sharing a two-bedroom apartment (sleeps six).

easyJet flies from London Gatwick to Turin up to twice a week from 13 December 2014. Prices from £33.74 per person one-way, including taxes and based on two people on the same booking.

Sport 2000 provides a good ski rental service from £48 for adults, £35 for children (six days hire price).

Other useful links:

Aussois resort:
Criterium residence:






Briony Key has worked for the Scotsman and Travel Weekly and currently writes for Time and Leisure, planetski and Family Ski News. She loves action sports and is this year taking on a Ben Nevis challenge for the British Heart Foundation. Her hobbies include travel, restoring old furniture and working in theatre wardrobes.

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