Skiing without borders in La Rosière

La Rosière © T.Joly
Only resort in Savoie offering an international ski area, the Espace San Bernardo, La Rosière has excellent sunshine and snow records. It’s also one of France’s best snowkiting spots and the only place where heliskiing is available.

[ Practical ]

Getting there
- By road
680 km from Paris on autoroutes A6, A43 and A430 till Albertville, then on N90 till Séez and on D1090 till La Rosière.
- By train
TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon to Bourg Saint-Maurice. The journey takes 5 h.
TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon to Chambéry and TER from Chambéry to Bourg Saint-Maurice. The journey takes between 5 h and 7 h.
Altibus bus Bourg Saint-Maurice to La Rosière.
- Hotels
Hyatt Centric
Chalet Matsuzaka
- Residences
Les Cimes Blanches
Le Refuge
Les Balcons de La Rosière
Lodge Hemera
Le Miravidi
- Bed and breakfast
Chalet l'Aiglon
Le Génépi
La Grange
Relais du Petit Saint-Bernard
Maison Carrel, in Italy
Cafe Pepita, in Italy
Lo Riondet, in Italy
Getting out
Pub Ô9
Le Comptoir
Ski lift passes
- La Rosière
One day : €42
Free for under 5s and over 74s
- Espace San Bernardo
One day : €47
Six days : €231
Information and bookings
- Savoie Mont Blanc
Tel : 0820007374
- La Rosière Tourist Office
Tel : 0479068051
In use since Prehistoric times, the Petit Saint-Bernard pass has been one of the main routes between France and Italy for centuries. Nowadays, it can be reached by skiing and gives its name to a 3 000 ha ski area featuring 85 slopes with a total length of 152 km spreading between 1 450 and 2 800 meters of altitude and stretching over the two countries : 18 blacks, 38 reds, 27 blues and 8 greens. Named Espace San Bernardino, it also boasts snow cannons ensuring more than 40 km of runs and the link between the two countries are open during the entire ski season whatever the weather.

La Rosière © T.Joly
 Nice ski resort
On the French side, this ski area is accessible from the resort of La Rosiere that is situated only a few kilometres away from Bourg Saint-Maurice, at 1 850 m of altitude, over the village of Séez, on the road leading to the pass. Created in 1960, it was purpose-built on the edge of woodlands, on alpine meadows where once stood a little hamlet. In spite of that, it looks like an authentic village because most of the buildings have been constructed using traditional materials such as wood, stone and roofs of lauzes. Slightly away from the resort centre - but served by a free shuttle and accessible via a nice woodland path - the Eucherts neighbourhood is particularly pleasant and some of the nicest lodgings such as the Hyatt Centric, Les Cimes Blanches and the Chalet Matsuzaka are found there.

Mont-Blanc © T.Joly
 Great setting
A friendly and peaceful resort with no queuing at lifts, La Rosière lies on a south-facing slope and so benefits from sun all day long. Overlooking the Tarentaise valley, it offers fine views of the Mont Pourri, the Aiguille Rouge and you can see the ski resort of Les Arcs in the distance.
Once you have the skis on, you don’t need to go very far away to find yourself in a wilderness where there are no buildings on sight. Generally fairly wide and so well suited to beginners, the runs include some testing reds and blacks for competent intermediates and dive towards the resort through vast snowfields with the Mont Blanc, the Grandes Jorasses, the Cervin and the Testa del Rutor rising in the background. Two spots provide great views of these famous Alps summits. The Valaisan Mount, highest point of the ski area, and the Fort de la Redoute, a former military fort damaged during the Second World War. In addition, there are several great viewpoints of the Mont-Blanc on the Italian side.

Petit Saint-Bernard pass © T.Joly
 Snowkiting and heliskiing
Besides, the Petit Saint-Bernard pass is usually very windy and thus one of France’s best snowkiting spots. There is even a school zone to learn this sport with instructors. In addition, the pass is the only place accessible from a French ski resort where you can practice heliskiing, a must-do for experienced free riders and thrill seekers. As it is forbidden in France, the helicopter drops you near three Italian summits from where you can follow fabulous off-pistes itineraries led by an experienced guide: the Testa del Rutor, 3 485 m, the Miravidi Mount, 3 066 m and the 3 099 m Ouille Mount. Then, breathtaking descents take you down to France or to the Italian side of the San Bernardo ski area. As it faces north the weather there is different than in La Rosière, often more dull, and the snow conditions are thus also different.

Espace San Bernardo © T.Joly
 Good-quality snow
So, one big advantage of this ski area is to have always at least a sector with good-quality snow. Besides, the Italian side boasts more challenging and longer slopes. The most famous is the mythic 4 km long Franco Berthod black run that played host to some World Cup’s downhill competitions and has a maximum slope angle reaching 73%. As to the San Bernardo red one starting from the Chaz Dura, it carries on for 11 scenic kilometers passing through a forest before reaching La Thuile at 1 450 m of altitude. This ski resort is located in the Val d’Aoste, a bilingual region where everybody speaks French as well, but the atmosphere is undeniably Italian, more relaxed, because most of the skiers come from Milan and Turin. In addition, beverages and food prices tend to be bit cheaper and it’s great to have lunch there and enjoy typical and tasty Italian dishes.

Espace San Bernardo © T.Joly
 New snow sliding sports
However, freestylers and new snow sliding sports enthusiasts might prefer to remain in France because there is only one snowpark near La Thuile while La Rosiere ski area boasts a boarder cross course, a snow cross - a secure but not groomed area devoted to free ride - and a snowpark with table tops, hips, half pipe, rails and fun box. There are also a few areas where to do speed riding. The resort being labeled “Famille Plus”, it also offers specific facilities and services for children: nursery, kindergarten, ski school and free activities such as farm visits, afternoon tea, workshops, games,… There is also a 1,4 km long way marked trail through woodlands that is punctuated with illustrated boards explaining how to identify tracks left by animals. Besides downhill skiing, the resort also has 6 km of cross-country skiing trails and 15 km of pedestrian paths.

La Rosière © T.Joly
 After ski activities
And three chair lifts are open to non-skiers allowing them to go to the 2 330 m high Roc Noir and enjoy a panoramic view over the summits. Snowshoeing is also possible, for example along the first part of the road leading to the Petit Saint-Bernard pass that is covered with snow in winter. As to those interested by the architectural heritage, they can go down to the villages of Séez, Chatelard and Montvalezan that possess nice churches and ancient houses with sundial. Lastly, the cozy spa La Rosière is a very appealing and tempting option to end the day as well as spas located in hotels and residences such as the Hyatt Centric and the Cimes Blanches. But, if you still have some energy left you can have fun till late even if La Rosière is not a nightlife Mecca. There are several good restaurants, especially the Genepi, you can have dinner on the slopes at the Antigel, getting there on board of a ski groomer, and after you can hang around a couple of bars, a bowling and a disco.

December 07, 2019
Thierry Joly