Puy Saint Vincent, France Winter Holiday Guide
Ski Destinations in Puy Saint Vincent, France
In spite of being somewhat of a minnow on the alpine circuit, family-friendly Puy Saint Vincent (PSV) has a lot going for it. The pistes may be gravely restricted in size, but there's a lot of variety with everything from green to steep black set amongst beautiful larch forests, plus a queue-free lift system and a friendly ambiance - even the lift operators are polite here.
There are two principal areas to stay -the reasonably attractive Station 1400 is home to PSV's only hotels, while the decidedly unattractive but more convenient Station 1600 is home to a mass apartment block and the main mountain access lifts. The two areas are joined by road and quite a slow chairlift.
For a family having young kids, PSV makes an ideal choice for a peaceful week's skiing. For anybody else, a few days are perhaps adequate unless you bring a car with you and explore the nearby resorts.
With only 67km of mainly intermediate piste, PSV can't contend with its neighboring rivals Serre Chevalier and the Milky Way, but the slopes are fairly snowsure for this southerly latitude and can usually be a good bet if snow is in short supply anywhere else.
From Station 1600, one chairlift gives access to the main bulk of the ski lifts that stretch up to an impressive 2,750m on La Pendine and lead to some fairly challenging reds from the top, and also giving access to a lovely long, winding green back down to the resort. Another chairlift takes you to a ridge, from where a series of more gentle blues and reds weave back down through the trees to 1600 and 1400.
The only black run, the Rocher Noir, is short and suitable of its grading, but this is a place for potters instead of powderhounds. The lift system is charmingly antiquated at first, annoyingly archaic after a while, with some museum piece chairlifts, but the six-day Galaxy ski pass likewise gives you a day's skiing in Serre Chevalier, the Milky Way, Les Deux Alpes and Alpe d'Huez, so if you're a willing day-tripper the alternatives are good.
On-piste dining is limited to Les Bartavelles at 2,000m, a modern building at the hub of the primary lifts serving up standard self-service kind.
You'll find a floodlit terrain park with a half-pipe above 1600, plus some great tree-lined off-piste if conditions are right.
Trying to slope off in PSV will normally lead to you sloping straight back on again, with activities including tobogganing, snowshoeing, night skiing and ice skating. There's also a cinema at PSV 1600, with two nightly screenings.
PSV is not a culinary hot spot, but you could at least expect great value at the line of standard-issue fondue-pizza-crepe joints. In 1600, suggested eateries include La Chaumiere, La Rozell and La Goulue, which serves delectable pizzas from the wood-fired oven. Down in 1400 the Hotel St Roch looks slightly like a bomb shelter but features a great sun terrace.
There are numerous bars, including Le Tire Bouchon, which includes added karaoke evenings, the mellow La Pendine in the hamlet of Les Pres, and La Chaumiere, at the base of the slopes in 1600 and the ideal spot for post-piste refreshments.
A recommended hotel is the attractive two-star Hotel L'Aigliere - which is a free shuttle bus ride from the slopes. Back in 1400 proper, Hotel La Pendine is another basic two-star, while the three-star Hotel St Roch is at the base of the chairlift up to 1600. All are inexpensive, but not as charming. For the best piste-side position, go to 1600 and hire an apartment. The handsome Mona Lisa chalets are the best choice, set in the trees 600m from the resort. L'adret is an elegant and stylish residence with a covered underground car park.
Another place to stay would be the Soleil Résidences Les Gentianes, a newly built residence comprising of 113 apartments spread over small buildings made out of wood and stone, creating modern accommodation in touch with its surrounding environment.
These apartments offer unspoilt views of the glacier, National Park and Vallouise valley, which are located 800 meters from the resort center and offer ski-in ski-out opportunities.