Last year while in Chamonix for Easter with the kids, we thought we’d go where the snow was good. This meant that we had a number of days in the valley of course, but if we also kept an eye on the conditions within a reasonable drive elsewhere.
I downloaded a great app called iSki France that took your position and let you you quickly assess the general conditions (depth of snow, number of lifts open, weather conditions and date of last snow) in surrounding areas. If you click on the resort itself it then gives you more details about length of slopes, web cams, shops and even piste maps. One of its best features is that it can do this list sorted according to the freshest snow first, closest resort and highest number of lift open.
Having run around the general area through those daft UTMB races a range of names were ringing bells, so we choose Les Contamines Montjoie. Apparently during the TDS race, 50 miles in, it has a heart warning band to welcome the competitors into the check point just before you drop into the valley. There is of course no snow that time of year so he wanted to see what it was like.
Les Contamines is a 40 to 50 min drive down the valley hanging a left through St Gervais heading up the D902. It has 24 lifts and goes up to 2,487m, with the lowest piste area around 1,600m so it keeps good snow for quite some time. The majority are red runs, so it suited family skiing nicely. Maybe because it was late season, but there weren’t any queues for the lift and the runs on the Hauteluce side (south facing) were particularly quiet. So a pleasant change for gentle skiing. Not sure it would keep us busy enough for more than a day or two, but a nice place to visit.
Les Contamines (of which the ski lift was slightly outside) seemed a quiet village, but looking at the itinerary of events had a rather active local community. Which is probably why Coline Mattel, from the village has just won bronze is ski jumping in Sochi 2014 (a celebatory party for which will be held on the 21st February). So its a good place to start your athletic career.
So if you want to grab the opportunity to stay in out place w/c 15th or 22nd March 2014, you too could have an interesting jaunt just outside the valley too.