The End of Season hits us once again, that annual surge of sluiced snow banks and t-shirt wearing bluebird days have almost been laid to rest once more….although, for those with an adventurous edge and a serious quest for squeezing in a few last days this winter, it is entirely within your reach with a little tailor made holiday making.
For most, there is a misconception that ski holidays in the Alps have to be expensive and taken en mass as a group to get value for money. However, taking a little time to review your options, do some research, and have some solid gumption, it’s possible to tailor make a solo trip with very limited resources. Claire Dewar spent two weeks hitch hiking through the Tarentaise Valley, on a serious budget, in order to dispel that myth.
The Tarentaise Valley, taking in resorts stretching from La Plagne, to Sainte Foy, to Val d’Isère consists for the most part of a single lane road, winding through the mountains at various altitudes. Although well maintained, it’s this road that causes the infamous weekly traffic headache for those transferring to and from resort on a Saturday. I arrive on a Thursday, and other than a little delay for snowfall I’ve no problems, and it’s this road that will be my most fortuitous route through the alps for the duration of my trip!
I arrive to Geneva for my shared Transfer to my accommodation in Seez, just up from Bourg St Maurice, where the Eurostar arrives. I’ve previously travelled by train from London via Paris and the 9 hour journey is pleasant for the solo traveller with limited baggage. It’s the arrival port of Bourg-St-Maurice which misses out the 2hr drive from Geneva – and that’s 2hrs with no inclement weather, flights delays or traffic. A welcome trio of advantages for the weary pre-skier.
My agenda is clear, and takes balls – sorry, boldness- for a solo female. Hitchhiking isn’t my usual form of transportation back home, but the mountain road through these gorgeous resorts is mostly peppered with resort workers and other skiers who share a common respect for the mountains and those who come here.
Getting a lift from Seez to St Foy takes minutes, and I’m armed with some screenshots on my phone of French phrases to kickstart a conversation. It’s amazing how much GCSE level French you can conjure up when you’re stuck in a car for 20mins with a non-English speaker and no radio signal. Getting to St Foy takes me 15 minutes to the bottom of the resort road, and friendly ski shop workers pick me up for the remaining 5 minute climb to the mountain base. I’m spending this week in a self-catered, private apartment for a fraction of the cost of chalet accommodation, and whilst not in resort, is 5mins drive to the Funicular railway at Les Arcs which also accesses La Plagne, 20mins to La Rosiere & St Foy, 40 minutes to Tignes and Val d’Isère. You could spend a week here ploughing the slopes of a different resort everyday with ease. Seez is also within minutes of Bourg St Maurice which boasts a selection of supermarkets and excellent local restaurants, a well-kept secret from those up at altitude.
My 8th day is a skip and a Jump to St Foy village where I stay with well learn-ed friends for a night or two. An excellent tartiflette/lasagne combo for dinner gets us a ready for a day over at Villa Roger. A 5 minute drive, avoiding all the transfer traffic on Saturday, takes us to the access lift at Villa Roger, leading into Les Arcs resort. As an added bonus, reduced visibility means the Aiguille Rouge gondola (highest point of Les Arcs) is closed, so we receive a discounted day pass. Although the top of the Aiguille Rouge is a sight to behold- unless it’s a clear day, you might as well stare at the floor! We’re ok with this deal and are off for a day exploring Les Arcs 2000 and 1800 no problems! An achy last run down from 2500 to the car park finishes us off, and we’re grateful for the tiny drive back to the apartment for our custom snacks and après!
Day 9 is a thumb out on the road and heading to Val d’Isère, where I’ll ride for the day before taking a night in a shared apartment in Tignes for €40 on Airbnb. The infamous accommodation website is taking off in the Alps and you can find some extremely keen places to stay for a long weekend or off peak week, which could save you some serious cash money for your lift pass and Genepi fund. I get a lift with some local heli-ski guides on their way to work in Val d’Isère, who although friendly and astute (we discuss French v English Business tax laws) drive a little too fast and flippantly for my liking so I was keen to say Aurevois and be on my way.
A gorgeous bluebird day at Val coupled with finding some hidden fresh powder finishes off my visit to Espace Killy. I’ve got some serious leg burn trying to keep up with these practised seasonaires, I’ve clearly lost my snow legs living in London for the last year. Tomorrow I’ll be embarking on the largest leg of my trip and its back to public transport, I’ll be taking train and transfer bus to Morzine via Geneva Airport. Tonight’s accommodation will be a very friendly stay at the excellent British owned mountain hostel, The Loft, in Bourg-St-Maurice. Sadly, The Loft will be closing this summer but there are plenty of reasonably priced accommodation options in BSM, placing me in walking distance of the SNCF back to Geneva in the morning. My train costs just €38 with a change at Moutiers taking me into Geneva Airport.
I’ll be spending my last day in Morzine with Canadian clothing company, One T Apparel, who’ve been in France for a season to check out the European scene. The cheapest transfer company in the Alps by far, Alpybus, drops me right at their door for less than €25 with even cheaper return rates if you book in advance online. I arrive to a welcome beer by the fire, as a fresh layer of snow lands on Avoriaz ahead of my last day. It’s been a long but satisfying trip through the alps, I’ve managed to ride at no less than 5 ski resorts and finish off my two weeks on less than €800 all in. I’ve met a whole host of like-minded mountain enthusiasts on my hitch-hiking mission -ski guides, photographers, ski shop owners, chalet owners, all with different stories of the resorts and what they love there, what they want to do in future. I’ve kept in touch with a few of them and hope I can return their hospitality one day.
It may be late in the season, with the larger resorts letting the bull wheel slowly grind to a halt, but there are plenty of smaller and higher resorts still receiving snow if you care to find them, and with the heli-ski companies still operating, perhaps it’s the excuse you need to book that trip finally!
About the Author: Claire Dewar from Dewpoint Global Communications.