The advice for skiers heading to the French and western Swiss Alps in the next few weeks is very similar to the advice normally given when someone wants to book a spring ski trip starting two-months hence, “Aim high.”

There’s been little snow in the French  Alps since December and the outlook is for the sunny weather to continue – great for long, sunny lunches, but not so good for powder hounds.

But it isn’t all doom and gloom. The French Alps did see good snowfalls and cold weather in the last two months of 2010, allowing them to build up bases which in some cases remain above two metres (seven feet) on upper runs. Flaine and Risouol are good examples of this.

And when you’re skiing above 1800m conditions are as good as ever on piste, and a few people are still finding some high pockets of powder.

“The cold is keeping the snow in good condition here in Chamonix,” says Claire Burnet from the resort’s tourist officer, “With 90% of our skiing located above 2000m, the vast majority of slopes are open, including cross country skiing in the valley. Grands Montets was fantastic the other day I can report from my first hand experience!”

There are a number of factors running against the French ski holiday market from the UK, but this means it is still possible to snap up a late January bargain and get on those fairly empty slopes. There are also more February deals than is the norm, France is usually all but ‘booked up’ for their school holiday periods which run successively through the month. This year there seems to be plenty of availability still, which means good deals. For Example:

Saint Gervais, Residence Les Arolles - Lagrange Comfort in early February for £11 /person/night.

One new attraction that is worth a look in the French Alps is the new boardercross course on the Chavannes slope in Les Gets, which can be reached on skis from Avoriaz  and Morzine . The attractive resort in the vast Portes du Soleil are rightly proud of their Olympic boardercross silver medalist, Déborah Anthonioz, so they’ve decided to become pioneers in the provision of this exciting sport that lit up our TV screens from Vancouver last winter, for both novices like us, and the pros.

The new Les Gets course is one of the very few permanent boardercross courses there are and it opened a few weeks ago when French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s representative Sophie Dion gave Déborah her “Ordre du Mérite” métal.

If you’re visiting the Portes du Soleil over the next few months you have the chance to meet Déborah in person on February 27th from 2pm – 4pm or March 6th from 2pm – 4pm when she’ll be at the course. Or you can see the stars in action at the French Snowboarding Championships from March 13th/14th and the Ski Cross event from March 22nd and 23rd.

To reach the new 523m long course take the télécabine des Chavannes and follow the « Gentiane » slope. The 10m wide route drops 124 vertical metres as it descends through six banked curves. There are 17 whoops, 2 step downs, 1 step up, 2 8m tables, 1 10m or 12m table, 1 transfer jump and a step down to step up. Artificial snow making has been installed all along the boardercross to insure proper snow all throughout the season.



Posted by Patrick Thorne on Friday 28 Jan 2011

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