These days, taking your dog on holiday with you is fairly simple. Plenty of B&B, gites and even hotels are dog friendly. But what if you want to take your dog on a ski holiday in France? It’s not that common but it’s perfectly doable – we tried it!
Taking your dog on a skiing holiday in France
We drove to Saint Gervais in Savoie. It was straightforward and took a little over 8 hours from Calais (including stops). The last hour up the Autoroute Blanche is guaranteed to build the excitement. Saint Gervais is an easily accessible but pretty mountain village in the Chamonix Valley. It’s a short distance from Mont Blanc.
2017 was an exceptionally mild spring and usually you can expect quite a lot more snow. The upside to that was that driving was easy and although we packed snow slippers for the tyres, they weren’t needed. It also meant the resort was pretty quiet and we had many of the slopes to ourselves.
Do not forget, you must take your dog to the vets and get their passports indorsed before you return to the UK. There are strict rules about this and about timing and if you don’t comply, they will not let you travel. On our return, two families were being refused passage at Calais for non-compliance. Shouting at the customs officials or pleading with fellow travellers really won’t help one little bit.
Bearing in mind how many people take their dogs to France, there is still not that much dog friendly accommodation available. Peak Retreats and Lagrange were brilliant and didn’t bat an eyelid at my outsized request. You’re allowed two dogs per apartment and the floors are tiled so its very easy to keep it clean. As you need to leave your accommodation as you found it (and they will check before you leave), I would recommend taking an old sheet to throw over any furniture just in case.
We’re a large and rowdy family with two enormous dogs (one of whom is still very young). We coped well in our accommodation and if your dog is a sensible size an apartment is fine. We certainly weren’t the only ones with dogs in our block. If, like us however, you have giant breeds, a chalet or at least a ground floor apartment, will make your life easier. Our early morning canine “ablutions” were a little complicated.
Eating out in Saint Gervais
As you’d expect there are lots of restaurants and bars in Saint Gervais or further up the mountain if you want to eat out. They serve hearty and traditional fodder including the local Reblochon cheese, tartiflette, raclette and fondue. But it can get expensive. If you’re on a budget, bring the staples with you – tea, coffee, pasta, porridge etc. or stock up in Super U at the bottom of the mountain. We even brought our dog food with us. We raw feed ours and brought enough meat frozen in a box to last most of the week.
One very charismatic restaurant is Le Galeta tucked away down the back streets (Impasse des Lupins). It’s full of charm, with slabs of meat and giant prawns cooking on the open wood fire and original wooden skis and alpine tools on the walls. It’s not cheap but if you want to warm up and indulge somewhere cosy after a day on the mountains, it’s perfect.
However, our top recommendation has to be l’Affiche (Avenue du Mont Paccard) where we sat outside, enjoyed great service, great food and great value for money. I’m always amazed how accepted dogs are in France, even when they don’t fit in a handbag, and ours were welcomed (and admired) in all the bars we visited.
Walking and skiing with your dog
If you are a serious skier who plans to ski all day, I wouldn’t recommend you take your dog with you because they’ll be left for long periods of time in a strange place. Equally, for the serious hikers and walkers, a little later in the season is better, when the snow has gone and they’ve opened up all the walking routes.
And if you’re out to relax and put your feet up…well skiing with dogs is probably not for you. Having skied all morning, we rushed back down to resort pretty quickly each day to let the dogs out and have lunch in the apartment, before going out for some canine exercise.
However, if you just want to enjoy family time (that includes your pooch) and some light skiing, a late skiing break is perfect. With young, inexperienced children, we knew a full day’s skiing was probably over ambitious, as would be 3-hour mountain hikes. As it was, we enjoyed balmy temperatures in resort of 18 degrees, short, snowy walks, and drinks outside with our hounds and kids, as well as some daily skiing. Really the best of both worlds and a great Alpine taster holiday.
The tourist office in Saint Gervais provided us with some walking routes that came with maps and directions. The maps weren’t brilliant but the directions were clear. You can take your dogs in the cable car right up to Mont Arbois and walk back down if you wish. It’s a smallish cable car and a long walk so we decided against it. And do bear in mind, your level of fitness. What one map described as moderate, involved a long and very steep walk!
We stayed with Peak Retreats and Les Arolles (Lagrange) in Saint Gervais. You can book ski hire, ski passes and insurance with Peak Retreats or buy/ hire them in resort on arrival.
The famous thermal baths of Saint Gervais