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Are these the most flattering pistes in France? - Fraser Wilkin, Les Saisies
Wednesday April 17, 2013 - Email this article to a friend

Somewhere has to have them and in the view of one PlanetSKI reporter it may well be a resort perhaps better known for its cross-county skiing. If you like well-groomed slopes suitable for all abilities then read on.

I have long been curious about Les Saisies, a resort that first grabbed my attention more than 20 years ago when it played an important role in the 1992 Albertville Winter Olympics.

Les Saisies staged all the Nordic events thanks to having the best cross-country terrain in the area.

Whether or not it expected to be propelled to international fame is open to debate - but it didn't happen - and today the resort remains virtually unknown outside France.

This is curious, given the considerable attractions it has to offer.

Not least the vast array of family-friendly slopes which I would rate as among the best anywhere in the Alps for small children, near beginners or indeed anyone of a more nervous disposition.

That's a big call I know, but the same gently undulating terrain that is so appealing to cross-country skiers is also perfect for aspiring downhillers who can build their confidence in a relaxed environment without any of the pressures or expectations imposed by the bigger name resorts.

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And it's not as if the terrain is limited either.

Yes, the runs may be short, typically 200-300m vertical, but there are many of them and they offer outstanding variety.

On one side of the resort there is plenty of open, ski anywhere type terrain - so gentle that even a near-beginner might be tempted to venture off-piste between the runs.  

On the other side the slopes are more wooded, ideal if it's snowing or in poor visibility.

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Locally there are actually 4 mountains, including some longer more testing runs of 700m vertical dropping down to Hauteluce with wonderful views of the Les Contamines ski area and Mt Blanc.

Intermediates also have the whole of L'Espace Diamant to explore, with links to several other villages including Crest-Voland, Notre Dame de Bellecombe and Praz-sur-Arly the next door neighbour of Megève.

In total there are 185km of marked pistes, similar to the size of Les Arcs, and whilst there is little to challenge experts there is a real sensation of travelling around - particularly if you make it to some of the more outlying villages such as Flumet or Praz-sur-Arly.

Granted, these outlying villages are low, and conditions can be unreliable, but Les Saisies itself claims a very snowy microclimate and the local slopes are extremely snow-sure.

Unlike most French resorts at this altitude, 1650m, it is also pleasantly villagey with a wide range of shops, cafés and restaurants at (almost) everyday French prices.

This season the snow has fallen in huge amounts.

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There is also plenty to do off the slopes including a spectacular dry toboggan run, the Mountain Twister, and mile upon mile of winter walking.

We were lucky enough to arrive during the 30th annual "Jeux Aeriens", a hot air ballooning festival, and to experience a bird's eye view of the area from almost 3000m..... before landing somewhat unexpectedly in the woods of the lower slopes of La Légette and having to be rescued by skidoo.

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Above all, however, it is the extent and variety of gentle slopes that impressed me most about Les Saisies.

For those looking to graduate off the nursery slopes and begin putting some miles under their belt - without fear of any nasty surprises - I have not come across anywhere better. 

Hand on heart.

Factbox:

Resort height:

1650m

Slopes:

1000-2070m

Pistes:

185km (L'Espace Diamant)

Driving time from Calais:

9hrs

Fraser Wilkin stayed in the Lagrange Prestige Les Chalets d'Emeraude courtesy of Erna Low.

For more information visit www.ernalow.co.uk or call 0845 8630526

Fraser travelled by Eurotunnel Le Shuttle www.eurotunnel.com

Ski hire was courtesy of Intersport which has a shop in Les Chalets d'Emeraude with a full range of equipment for all levels.

Fraser Wilkin runs the web site www.weathertoski.co.uk

For the spirit of the mountains

intersport

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