Skiing and speed riding at Valfréjus
In a glorious valley setting, Valfréjus is one of France’s best ski resorts for off-piste skiing and speed riding. A small and quiet place that is also perfect for a family stay.
Nestled in the Maurienne valley, a stone’s throw from the Italian border, Valfréjus is a relatively new ski resort. Indeed, it was only created in the early 1980s. Before that time, there were only summer huts and alpine meadows where the locals from the valley and the town of Modane had been coming to ski for a long time. To get there, they had even built a basic cable car. This was dismantled around the time the Valfrejus resort was created and replaced with 8km of twisting road.
- By road
675 km from Paris on autoroute A6 till Lyon, then on A46, la N346 and A43 till Modane and lastly on D1006 till Valfréjus.
Artesia train Artesia from Paris Gare de Lyon to Modane. The journey takes 4 h 10 mn.
TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon to Chambéry, then TER train or bus to Modane. The journey requires between 4 h 45 mn and 5 h 20 mn.
Bus from Modane to Valfréjus.
Les Chalets de Florence
Les Chalets du Thabor
Le Gîte des Tavernes
Ski lift passes
1 day : €29
6 days : €148
Reduced rates for children under 12 years old and seniors over 64 years old.
- Savoie – Mont Blanc tourist office
Information, sale of weekend packages including train + transfers + lodging.
Tel : 0820007374
- Valfréjus tourist office
Tel : 0479053383
Deep snow cover
Made up of moderately high buildings in keeping with the region’s traditional architecture and with a hotel capacity of only 7,000 beds, it is a relatively quiet resort even during school holidays and at the peak of the winter season. The skiing area ranges between 1,550 and 2,737m. A moderate altitude, but the snow cover is generally greater because Valfrejus is situated right in the heart of the French Alps and receives both the snow falling on the northern and on the southern sides of the mountain range. So it’s not uncommon to have more than one metre of snow even in April. Nevertheless, 76 snow cannons have been installed to overcome any possible climatic problems. The ski area features 1 small snowpark and 23 runs totalling 65 km: 3 green, 10 blue, 6 red and 4 black. These slopes are sometimes quite technical. “Here some of the reds are closer to blacks and some blues closer to reds”, acknowledges an instructor.
This means Valfréjus is not the ideal resort for beginners. However, at 2,200m, the Arrondaz plateau offers a network of tracks suited to everyone. There is even a green one with a moderate change in altitude and this area is reachable by a brand new cable car. From there, a chair lift leads to the resort’s highest point, Punta Bagna, at 2,737 where you are treated to a 360° view over the French and Italian Alps as the border is only a few hundred metres away. A fabulous panorama to be enjoyed while having lunch or a drink at the restaurant near the chair lift station. Almost all levels of skier can enjoy this place. The descent can be made along the Combes, a long blue track without major difficulty and it continues into another blue track, the Jeu that leads back to Valfréjus.
With a total length of nearly 18km, these two tracks offer a run through an area of unspoiled nature almost bereft of any lift and building and which finishes by passing through larch and spruce forests surrounding the ski resort. As for the more adventurous, they can go descend from Punta Bagna through red and black slopes requiring a good technical level. In addition, Valfréjus offers very nice spots for off-piste skiing and is one of the best places in France to do speed riding. It was even here that the sport was born, a mix of skiing, paragliding and parachuting. Equipped with regular skis and a small wing of 16 – 12m2, the skiers glide down the slopes brushing the powdered snow and leaping over rocks and obstacles. This spectacular discipline is easily accessible to the off-pisters who can get try it out at the first specialized school to opened in France.
The resort has really only one weak point. The slopes located over the Arrondaz plateau are very exposed to the wind and are closed when it blows strongly. The choice is then limited to the tracks of the lower part of the ski area and if the bad weather continues for few days the runs quickly become repetitive. Fortunately, the one-week Valfréjus lift pass gives the right to ski one day per week in two similarly-sized neighbouring resorts situated 17km and 14km away: Aussois and La Norma. A public bus serves both of them once a week. For €17 extra per day, it is also allowed to go skiing on the vast ski area of Val Thorens reachable through the resort of Orelle located only 19km away. And, regardless of the weather, you can also sign up for guided or free snowshoe hikes along two sign-posted paths making a loop around Valfréjus and passing through hilly, wooded areas.
Notre Dame du Charmaix chapel © T.Joly
As the resort is near the Vanoise National Park, hikers often get to see deer, stag, ibex and chamois. It’s even more common to see their footprints and, sometimes, those of wolves or lynx. In addition there is an open-air ice rink for kids right in the middle of the resort. But there is not a single Nordic ski track. To practice this sport, you have to go to Aussois. Situated just outside Valfréjus and reachable by foot or with snowshoe, the charming Notre-Dame du Charmaix, the medieval chapel makes another very nice visit. Built on the side of a cliff, near a stream and an old bridge, it houses a Black Virgin that attracts hundreds of pilgrims on the first Sunday of September. Then, to end the day, there are several restaurants to satisfy cuisine-lovers as well as two or three bars open until late in the night, including one which has a small disco. Having said that, the night life is not very busy and Valfréjus is more a resort for families than for teenagers eager to party.
October 01, 2016