Winter in France has charm by the bucketload, from snow-capped mountains perfect for skiers to festive wintry markets, and big dose of sunshine.
Haute-Savoie – snowy sojourns
Landscapes that look like they are straight from fairy-tale Narnia. And the twinkling lights of enchanting mountain villages in a sea of snow. Horse and carriage rides snuggled under a blanket. Robust and rustic alpine delights like tartiflette and raclette, fondue and reblochon pie. We’re talking Haute-Savoie in winter.
With trains taking from just 3 hours 40 minutes from Paris to Annecy, a mountain break is hard to resist.
The city of Annecy, nicknamed the Venice of the Alps for its pretty canals, watery arteries that criss-cross the city, is gorgeous year round. With winding cobbled streets lined with ancient buildings, nestled on the edge of the translucent turquoise lake Annecy, this is a town to fall head over heels for. And in winter, with an average of 32 days of snowfall, then Annecy really takes on a magical glow. Fabulous restaurants, museums, a great farmers market three times a week, plus a wonderful Christmas market. Winter walks are plentiful around the lake, including the not to be missed Chateau de Menthon-Saint-Bernard.
Plus there are superb ski resorts close by. They’re easy to reach by bus year round with snow-covered roads cleared quickly. Annecy Mountains really is an out and out winter destination extraordinaire…
Close to the lovely city of Annecy there are several ski resorts of the Aravis Massif and lots of lovely alpine villages. You can ski the whole of the Aravis ski area on one ski pass – 220km of perfect pistes linked by pistes and ski buses. La Clusaz is a traditional ski town with great restaurants and bars, quirky shops and stunning scenery. Le Grand Bornand, another stunning alpine town is close by and the smaller Manigod is within easy distance by free shuttle bus. Meanwhile the lovely market town of Thones has a fabulous Saturday morning market and excellent gourmet food shops.
If you love skiing you’ll find everything you could possibly want here. A wide range of pistes that cater to skiers of all levels and snow sports galore. There are friendly towns and fabulous après ski. And even if you’re not a skier there are plenty of activities from snowshoeing to dog sledging and even go-karting on ice.
Annecy Mountains resorts
In La Clusaz: This lively ski resort buzzes with bonhomie throughout the winter with shows, concerts and events including Savoyard folk dancing, which all are welcome to join in with, on the main piazza. One of the most beautiful walks in the area is around the glacial lake at the Plateau des Confins. It’s 1450m high, alongside the Nordic skiing pistes. And who can resist floating in the village’s heated outdoor pool as the snow falls around you…
In Le Grand Bornand: This is proper ‘Heidi’ country. Alpine chalets galore, mountain views that make your soul soar, as well as museums and superb restaurants. Don’t miss the Restaurant les Rhodos, a cosy mountain bistro on the Aravis Pass.
In Manigod: Off the pistes, visit the Paccard cheese cellars and taste local favourites including Manigodine, Reblochon and Chevrotin. Don’t miss The Garage Concept Café, ‘Lo Garajo’, which has a deck overlooking the mountains. Indulge in a gastronomic experience at the Chalet-Hotel La Croix-Fry. Their Reblochon pie is mouth-wateringly good. And try out Paret’s sledge! The emblematic ride is a one-shoe’d wooden sledge with a vertical handle. You can borrow one for free from Manigod tourist office.
In Thones: When it’s a full moon enjoy a ski tour adventure in a fairy-tale like landscape. Every Thursday, at the end of the day, just as most ski areas close for the evening, Glières Plateau comes awake as skiers don headlamps for a magical guided tour.
Useful sites: annecymountains.com; manigod.com; www.thonescoeurdesvallees.com
Where to stay
Where you stay is part of the adventure when it comes to Haute-Sauvoie. Gorgeous chalets, roasty toasty wood fires, sitting in a hot tub as the snowflakes fall all around you and views that make your soul soar. OVO Network’s exclusive, hand-picked holiday homes in the Alps are nothing short of irresistible….
Chalet Riparian is just 200m from the centre of La Clusaz but feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere. Ski-ski out, cosy fireplace, gorgeous décor, walking distance to the ice rink, shops, bars and restaurants and child friendly. There’seven a sauna and a hot tub on the terrace from where you can watch the skiers whizz through the trees.
Chalet Manoe in Manigod with a hot tub and ‘bubble’ sauna, open fire and balcony with breath-taking views is a little bit of heaven. Fabulous décor, electric boot warmers and zero pollution for outstanding star gazing – this cosy retreat is superb.
Chalet Alti in Le Grand Bornand sleeps 14 and is utterly enchanting with its traditional feel whilst making the most of green technology with solar panels and geothermal heating. The ski bus stop is just 200m away though experienced skiers can ski right down to the Rosay gondola in the centre of town. A gorgeous kitchen, magnificent views, and a large jacuzzi. Winter has never been more fun.
Find more brilliant accommodation in the Alps at ovonetwork.com