My boyfriend wanted to visit a ski resort outside Geneva, and I put a pin in a map and found La Clusaz, which is near to Annecy, France. And what a find! This is a little gem of a place; a small village with the “rustic charm” and “alpine feel” touted by holiday brochures. It really is beautiful though, with a small church and chalets all around – none of those concrete monstrosities you see in some ski resorts.
You can walk through the village in about 10 minutes, however of course that is not the point – it is impossible to walk briskly through the village without stopping to look at all the shops. The shops are mainly ski shops and shops selling gift-sets of local specialities. However there is also a bakery and a little supermarket (Super-U) which came in handy.
My primary reason for choosing La Clusaz was the non-skiing stuff – I was planning to try snowboarding for the first time, and I wasn’t sure whether I’d be OK or end up a human snowball. I knew my boyfriend, the “I can do Jumps” snowboarder, would like it, so I wanted something for me to do if I didn’t like the sport. La Clusaz was pretty enough for me to wander around taking photos, busy enough to have shops to look around, and relaxing enough for me to not feel that I had taken half of England with me to the resort.
There was also a piscine (swimming pool). This was around 8 Euros for entry, and that gets you into 1 indoor swimming pool, 1 outdoor swimming pool, 1 jacuzzi, and 1 weird shallow pool which I assume was for kids. The outdoor pool looked amazing… steam rising off the water, snow falling from the sky. It sounds (and looked) amazing. But it was so cold!! The Jacuzzi was also cold (and it’s not just me moaning as I heard french girls tell the lifeguard “C’est Froid!”). So apart from the temperature, that was a good evening out, apres ski. There were also several bars and a “discotheque” in the village!
In terms of food, the restaurants served typical ski-resort dishes, with Fondu (melted cheese that you dip bread in), Raclette (where you scrape melted cheese onto your food), Tartiflette (slices of potato baked with cheese, onions and bacon), and that-weird-one-where-they-give-you-raw-ingredients-and-you-cook-it-yourself. They also had pizza, pasta and chips and so forth which are obviously cheaper than the speciality dishes. Pizza was around 13-16 Euros, and a specialty dish like Fondu or the cook-it-yourself one will set you back around 25-28 Euros. I think these prices are pretty standard for ski resorts. We ate out a couple of nights and tried fondu and the cook-it-yourself meal, both of which were absolutely lovely and really different to what we get at home. However we alternated this with buying bread and cheese from the supermarket / bakery which kept our costs down, but we still got to try the wacky meals!
In terms of the ski runs, I’m not sure I’m very well placed to comment, since I spent most of my time sitting on my bottom on the baby slope 😉 The baby slope (Les Riffroids) was a good introductory slope, with a drag lift. I tried another slope (La Coeur de le Village run) which was marked as a green but which terrified me – it is a personal bug bear of mine when a green slope goes down to the base of the mountain so all the traffic from the mountain comes down it. So you’ve got expert skiiers and boarders literally taking off into the air, flying down the slopes, alongside beginners like me who keep falling over. I find that unsettling. Plus, this green slope had two gradients – it went downwards (obv.) as well as leaning to the left, which I found tricky. So I’d say the resort was excellent for complete beginners, but just beware that all green slopes are not equal, and you need to be brave to go on some of the main green runs. My boyfriend snowboarded throughout the resort, including the neighbouring valleys, and said it was the best powder he’d ever seen in his life (and he’s been snowboarding in a good few countries!).
Even if you don’t want to ski or board, La Clusaz would make a nice day-trip from Geneva. It’s easily accessible on bus- ok, let me re-phrase that – it’s accessible on bus. And it’s around 2 hours drive from Geneva centre. I must warn anyone looking to book a bus from Geneva to La Clusaz – the timetable online is very confusing. When it says “567” above the bus times, that doesn’t mean it’s bus number 567. No, it means that the bus only runs three days a week – day 5, day 6 and day 7 – which are Friday Saturday and Sunday. There was no “key” provided for this code. So as our flight home was on a Thursday, we were left completely and utterly stuck! So after our best laid plans for budget travel, we ended up paying a hefty 135 Euros to a taxi driver who didn’t turn up (he’d forgotten about our booking)… but in the end after several confused phone calls, he turned up, was very nice, got us there on time, and we made our flight. Too much drama for our liking – we’d prefer a working bus, thank you! But I hope this is a useful warning to the very niche group of people out there wanting to take a bus from Geneva to La Clusaz!
Overall, apart from difficulty getting there and back on public transport, I can’t really fault La Clusaz as a resort. It was beautiful, quaint, rustic… all those heart warming things that make you want to curl up with a hot chocolate and watch the snow fall outside the window – ahhh 🙂 And there was enough to do and see off the slopes to satisfy even the worst snowboarder, ie. me!
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