In the search for the perfect ski holiday destination most of us are looking for the same things.
We want good snow conditions of course and plenty of terrain to explore, but ideally, we want the slopes to be fairly quiet so we can do our thing in peace. Oh and not having to pay too much for a lift ticket and a fairly short transfer would be nice too thank you very much.
The reality, of course, is that the more snow-sure, the more extensive the terrain, the more skiers want to be there. The inevitable result is crowding and prices driven up by demand.
So perhaps it’s time to think a little more creatively, just as the founders of the specialist ski holiday company Première Neige did over two decades ago.
They discovered a little-known ski resort, Sainte-Foy-Tarentaise, hiding in plain sight.
Sainte-Foy then and now, ticks most of our wish list boxes. It has a great snow record, generally quiet pistes so you can have the slopes to yourself, lift passes are more affordable here and it’s in a brilliant location just 15 minutes from Bourg St Maurice station, served by the snow train from London St Pancras and other service via Paris. It’s also easy to reach by road and for those flying in, it’s just 90 minutes from Chambéry airport, or two and a half hours from Geneva or Lyon.
So how has Sainte-Foy managed to stay under the radar? Well, the main thing is it’s not a big resort, nor a huge ski area, so most of the big corporate tour operators steer clear, preferring to take their coach loads of skiers to its larger neighbours.
And it’s important to note that those neighbours are some of the largest in the Alps. On the one side, there’s Val D’Isere and Tignes, on the other Les Arcs with its ‘Paradiski’ links to La Plagne as well as La Rosiere from where you can ski over the border to La Thuile in Italy. Once you’re in Sainte-Foy, each is a quick trip away for a huge choice of big-name resort skiing.
Despite those illustrious neighbours, it would be a mistake to underestimate what Sainte-Foy itself has to offer. There are over 800 hectares of slopes and more than 1,100 metres of lift-served vertical climbing up to an altitude of 2,620 metres, with no queues -so it’s a big player in its own right.
There are a great variety of pistes to choose from, excellent beginners area for kids and adults alike with wide open blue some fun reds runs and challenging blacks -something for everyone. Sainte-Foy has also managed to build a reputation for its easy-to-access off-piste powder and tree-skiing, the latter particularly popular in bad weather, while simultaneously catering superbly for the family market.
In other words, it’s a great choice for a mixed-ability family or group who all want their different type of terrain but then all to be able to easily meet up together for lunch.
Families will find everything required is close to your chalet and that kids under 8 years of age ski for free, in one of the most generous deals in the French Alps. Sainte-Foy also has a reputation for its great ski schools, with small classes having a maximum of six people in each.
The resort of Sainte-Foy-Tarentaise comprises a charming collection of chalet-style buildings, spread across one easy to navigate area- no buses required so if you want to pop back for lunch or you have forgotten those gloves it’s no drama.
As with the skiing, the onus here is on quality, ambience, and genuine character and it’s about as far from the mass-market concrete-block French resorts as you can get.
If you’ve got non-skiers in your group or you are looking for apres ski activities there are plenty of options. The list includes various types of sledging, huski rides, guided igloo building, mountain carting (like go-carts on snow) snowshoeing and in-house massages.
The resort has a lovely selection of local run restaurants and bars on & off the slopes, a bakery and couple of minimarkets for your weekly supplies and a great selection of ski hire shops and local souvenirs not forgetting a delicatessen for your local cheeses, wine and Genepi to take home.
This is not though a resort to visit if you’re looking for lots of designer shopping or a wild late nightlife -although there is a couple of lively bars that have bands each week and the tourist office put on activities each week.
But most guests here are happy with the laid-back atmosphere and personal service in Sainte-Foy’s restaurants where everyone is quickly on first-name terms. That’s especially the case when staying in one of Première Neige’s chalets which often have in-house spa facilities and activities like the visiting cocktail masterclass. Why would you want to leave?
Première Neige in Sainte-Foy
Première Neige began operating in Sainte-Foy in 2002 with just two properties, they’ve now grown to offer a choice of over 20 and won the prestigious Best Ski Tour Operator in the prestigious Telegraph Travel Awards.
Première Neige offers both catered chalet accommodation with gourmet food and tailored personal service from start to finish and self-catering chalet accommodation in Sainte-Foy.
The secret to the company’s success is in part offering first-class ski accommodation and part the emphasis on a personal, first-class service, designed to ensure that all guests enjoy a great holiday in these special mountains.
The Première Neige team live and work in Sainte-Foy during the season and know the resort intimately so are always on hand to deal with any need or query.
Première Neige have a selection of catered chalets in Sainte-Foy, each with log fire and hot tub as standard, as well as your own fully trained professional chef and a Chalet Host. With their catered service you receive a full breakfast, homemade afternoon tea when you get in from the slopes then pre-dinner complimentary beers and soft drinks on five catered evenings during your stay. Next up is prosecco served with canapés on the catered nights, followed by a delicious 3-course evening meal with a cheeseboard option accompanied by specially selected house wine served during dinner. Dietary requirements and allergies can be accommodated and an earlier children’s dinner is available at 6 p.m. There are welcome Spa bathroom products on arrival and a chambermaid service in the morning, 5 days a week, with a mid-week towel change.
Première Neige’s newest Chalet Marigold is beautifully furnished throughout and includes a sauna and hot tub. Located just 100m from the slopes and spread over five floors it sleeps 12-14 people in six ensuite bedrooms. The main living area has a front-facing balcony with stunning views and the outside terrace has the hot tub and outdoor seating. There’s also a dedicated boot room and large utility room and private on-site parking.
The company’s most prestigious property is the ski-in, ski-out THE PEAK Chalet which sleeps up to 15 in 8 large bedroom suites, has its own private equipped gym as well as spa with sauna, hammam (steam room) and massage suite and a jacuzzi on the top balcony with views across the mountains and offers an enhanced catered service over 7 nights.
Première Neige’s wide choice of ‘self-catering in style’ options have properties available for 2 to 15 guests and includes chalets with jacuzzis, log-fires and stunning views located right on the slopes. Food delivery services are available and the Première Neige Concierge service is there to take care of all the extras.
READER OFFER |12% December Christmas Discount
Don’t miss this limited-time offer of 12% off on all December holidays! You can enjoy the early snow in Sainte Foy, starting from the 9th of December, or combine it with a festive Christmas week.
For the latest snow forecast and updates on where is best to ski now, as well as ski news, gear reviews and resort spotlights, you can check out our regular podcast here Apple | Spotify | Podcasts or search The White Out on your chosen podcast directory.