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La Rosière Review - Ski Collection

 

 

 

What Patrick, the ski journalist, thought…

 

Patrick Thorne is one of the world’s leading winter sports writers and was voted “One of 50 People to Know in Travel” by The Times.


Working as a ski journalist year-round for all his adult life, Patrick has written more than a dozen ski books, visited more than 250 ski resorts and had his work published in magazines, newspapers, guide-books and online in more than 50 countries worldwide since the early 1980s.

 

Patrick has been quoted and referred to in leading publications around the world including CNN, The Financial Times, The Gulf Times, The LA Times, The New York Times, The Sydney Morning Herald, Radio Canada, The Wall Street Journal and The People’s Daily in China. In 2000 Patrick received the ‘Sports Travel Writer’ award from the North American Travel Journalist Association.

 

Patrick Thorne is currently editor of the Snow24 information service and European editor of OnTheSnow.com

 

 

La Rosière skiing has been on my wish list for about 20 years. I’d driven past the end of the road up to the high altitude resort about 30 times when visiting neighbouring resorts like Tignes, Val d’Isere, Les Arcs and La Plagne.

 

I always like cross-border ski areas and I’ve actually visited most of them now – there must be about a dozen. I’ve skied from France to Switzerland at Les Portes du Soliel, from Andorra to France at Grandvalira, from Austria to Switzerland between Ischgl and Samnaun and from Switzerland to Italy from Zermatt to Cervinia. I even skied from Sweden to Norway at Riksgransen, where one of the western pistes apparently starts in Sweden, pops over to Norway, then ends up back in Sweden – all within a kilometre long descent. 22 years ago I skied from Italy to France on the Milky Way between Claviere and Montgenevre, but on Monday I skied in the other direction for the first time, from La Rosière to La Thuile.

 

The cross border ski area has 150km of terrain for all ability levels shared between the two resorts pretty equally. They first linked across a wide plateau 20 years ago so are celebrating the anniversary of that link this year.

 

I was travelling with my wife and our two younger sons on a trip we planned at short notice after another planned trip fell through. It was thanks to a British company, Ski Collection (www.skicollection.co.uk), that we got a nice apartment when most of France was booked up for the last week of the French school holiday period, which is just ending.

 

The only down side of the whole trip was that we flew in to Chambéry airport with a few dozen other flights. The place had the atmosphere of a war zone as thousands of skiers tried to guess which of the two baggage conveyors might bring in their baggage and a few people got too rough in the battle for bags. It wasn’t pleasant. Avoid Chambery on a Saturday in winter. For now at least, improvements are apparently under way.

 

Up in La Rosière – which at 1850m is one of the highest ski resorts in Europe, the improvements have already taken place. We stayed in the new development of Les Eucherts which has all new facilities built to architecturally high standards and to a traditional design with stone and wood walls, huge stone slabs on much of the roofing, plus nice touches like wide copper drainpipes and guttering.

 

Facilities were great too with restaurants, shops, bowling alley, ice rink, tourist office, ticket office, ski school and nursery all a few feet away and all so well made you actually wanted to be there and it was hard to motivate yourself to take the free shuttle bus or make the few hundred metres floodlit walk over to the original village.

 

Taking a break from La Rosiere Skiing

We were staying in a development called Les Balcons de La Rosière, which is made up of multiple low-rise apartment buildings, all with ski-in, ski-out facilities and plenty of space and high-spec design. We arrived late at night and opened the curtains on the first morning to a spectacular view across the valley with Ste Foy and Les Arcs 2000 and 1950 all clearly visible.

 

We rented gear at the Sport 2000 / Twinner shop which was brand spanking new once again and they provided us with great quality gear. Definitely the most comfortable pair of rental boots I’ve ever had and very responsive in combo with the Volkl skis.

 

We headed up the queue gobbling six-seater chair which took us high up on to wide pistes with the option of working our way over on mostly blues and reds to the border route over to Italy and La Thuile.

 

We aimed for that but the link was closed due to strong winds, as it apparently is occasionally (there’s a popular new ski kiting area on the plateau which takes advantage of that wind).

 

The weather was interesting as La Rosière’s slopes are largely south facing – which made it very pleasant skiing in the sunny conditions when we were there, so hot that my factor 10 cream was wholly inadequate and I ended the day with burning skin, more fool me. The snow didn’t like it so much by late afternoon though and was more akin to April conditions. However what we noticed more was that whilst it was still and sunny above La Rosière, in the closed valley black clouds were whizzing past at high speed, clearly very different conditions.

 

Our 12 year old son particularly enjoyed whizzing down the resort’s boarderX course just below the old Fort that stands on the route over towards La Thuile. He did it about 6 times, complaining about others who fell along the route and got in his way.

 

We’d met up with a friend from home who was based in Sainte Foy on that day. His ticket there gave him discounts at La Rosière and other resorts. The only downside was a 20 minute queue for him at the ticket office to get his La Rosière ticket. He showed us around, having visited several times previously, and we all went for a drink on the sunny terrace of the Kitzbuhel bar when the snow got too sticky at 3. Our six year old had been booked in to the non-ski nursery for the afternoon – this proved to be a great facility (new once again) and whilst he balked at the healthy food he was offered, we couldn’t drag him out at 3 and allowed him to stay until the place closed at 5.

 

At 6.30 in the evening we were first in the La Grange restaurant when it opened. This had a great varied and extensive menu along with friendly, efficient staff and as with the rest of the development, a nice traditional mountain ambience despite being new this winter.

It also did take out pizza.                                                                                                                    ^Youngest Son at

                                                                                                                                                                                                           La Rosiere Ski School.

 

We opted for the traditional fondue cheese fest and weren’t disappointed. House wine was very well priced and there was also a good kids package deal. Both floors of the place were completely full by the time we left.

 

Our second day (Monday) dawned sunny again and this time the La Thuile link was open so I headed over with my older son whilst my wife opted to stay with the younger, who is just progressing his ski legs on greens and blues, on the easy access wide piste served by the local six-seated chair. He probably could have made it to La Thuile but it would have been a long trip.

 

With the link open it didn’t just mean access to Italy, but another half of La Rosière’s ski area  became accessible. Really it seemed that the available piste had quadrupled on the previous day.

 

The route to La Thuile is over several kilometres of plateau with some steep runs on either side of the valley, but parallel long drag lifts take you off towards Italy and it’s along schuss back. At The high point there are spectacular views of Mont Blanc and we even saw the Zermatt trademark silhouette of the Matterhorn clearly visible.

 

You ski down to La Thule on what is, in summer, the mountain pass road. So there’s some novelty in skiing past road signs warning you to watch your speed and that there are z bends ahead. For some reason the run is graded red giving the impression that you need to be capable of skiing red or black runs to get down to La Thuile, when in fact it is really green or blue standard that most second-week skiers could manage.

 

We didn’t stop in La Thuile but it looked a pleasant town, more attractive than I had imagined and it would have been cool to stop for pizza. As it was we’d already had a spag bol up on the mountain when we noticed the lift manufacture had changed from POMA to Leitner, a sure sign we’d crossed the border. Along with an actual one saying we needed to be in possession of the Espace San Bernardo international lift ticket to proceed. Actually I should note the hands free La Rosière lift pass as the first I can remember of the dozens I’ve used, that actually worked, on every lift.

 

It was also made of recyclable card rather than credit card plastic. Part of the resort’s green effort which includes it being one of a dozen worldwide to be certified to the international IDSO 14001 standard for eco management, like Aspen, Jackson Hole and others. On the other hand it does make a thing of being rare French Heliski option, over the border in to Italy, with heliskiing banned in France.

 

We had to head home on Tuesday morning with a 6.45am taxi (which arrived right on time) to Geneva, then a flight to Heathrow and a second flight to Inverness – quite a carbon footprint – I bought four trees the next morning. It was hard to leave so soon, not least because the snow had started falling, but that should perk things up for the weekend…

 

Next time I’ll maybe go by train. I read a report in the paper this weekend of a guy who went by rail in 8 hours from the mega new St Pancras terminal in London direct to Bourg St Maurice. Sounded a much pleasanter way to travel and probably quicker than air these days and maybe cheaper when you consider the long list of add-ons.

 

Patrick Thorne

Call us on 0844 576 0175 or email us at reservations@skicollection.co.uk to book your ski holiday to La Rosière today!

 

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