Welcome to Les Carroz, a pretty, food-mad ski resort that makes the perfect base for exploring the Grand Massif, as well as cutting your ski touring teeth and eating your body weight in cheese.
My guide to skiing and ski touring in Les Carroz, France
If all you’re dreaming about this winter is strapping on skis or a board and roaming far and wide across the mountains, Les Carroz might the perfect base for you. This is arguably the prettiest village to stay in when exploring the sprawling Grand Massif range that also includes the resorts of Samoëns, Morillon, Sixt and Flaine – miles and miles of the French Alps to go and conquer. That said, you might find yourself happy to just stay amongst the peaceful tree-lined pistes that criss-cross Les Carroz’s charming ski area.
I’m a sucker for a pretty Alpine village, and Les Carroz’s older street, lined with dark wooden chalets with bright painted shutters, deliver. There are plentiful great restaurants and a few pubs in the centre, but this is definitely not somewhere to stay if you’re after a buzzy après screne – it’s better suited to small groups, families and foodies. At just an hour’s hop from Geneva airport, it’s also perfect for ski weekenders and shorter snow breaks.
Les Carroz is a rewarding place to downhill ski, but I’ll always remember it as the place where I tried ski touring for the first time. Each year the adventurous village hosts night-time ski touring events called Starlit Treks. Sign up to one and you and fellow ski tourers hike from the village all the way up the mountain to the main lift station at dusk, with the promise of fondue at Le K restaurant as a reward for your efforts.
Before we left, we had a crash course in clipping into touring skis (in which your heels are free when you’re hiking upwards, and are then secured into place when skiing downhill) and sliding upwards on sticky skins – a strange new way to move for me, used exclusively to bombing it downhill. Then, head torches ready, we set off up the mountain.
As we hiked up the empty piste under snow-clad trees. I was struck by how peaceful and eerily beautiful the mountains were when empty of skiers and with the setting sun low on the horizon. We switched on our head torches and took on the 644 metres of ascent ahead, breathing in the cold night air and sliding skis forward rhythmically in our own little pools of light. It was a tough workout, but it was all worth it when we finally made it to the torch-lit télécabine, where there was a party of happy ski tourers inside Le K to join.
GO SKI TOURING: The next starlit trek takes place in Les Carroz on the 20th March 2019 and costs £17 per person. There are also three downloadable ski touring trails to follow in Les Carroz if you fancy renting touring equipment and going solo.
WHERE TO EAT
Chalet Les Molliets
Les Molliets is how all mountain chalets should be – wood-panelled walls covered in vintage skis and skates, and a menu that is all hearty mountain dishes and great wines. They also do their own fabulous take on reblochon cheese, which you can bake yourself on a mini grill brought to your table. Cheese heaven.
Les Servages d’Armelle
Les Servages is primarily a rather smart hotel, but if you aren’t on a James Bond budget you can at least treat yourself more moderately by eating at the lovely restaurant downstairs. This is more fine dining than traditional mountain fare – expect gorgeous plates of locally-inspired food and make sure you order one of the best tarte tatins I’ve ever had for pudding.
A favourite with skiers and boarders up on the mountain, Le K is right by the telecabine and is the perfect place to stop for a hot mug of vin chaud and a hefty portion of tartiflette after a cold morning on the slopes. It’s also the welcome end to the starlit trek nighttime ski touring events.
WHERE TO STAY
Need a winter treat? I suggest a stay at the design-forward Milk Hotel, which is right on the pistes and makes a warm haven to come home to when it’s cold outside. Half board rates are a steal here, as there’s a delectable three-course dinner on offer each night. The highlight is the sumptuous communal sitting room, complete with faux fur-clad sofas, shelves of books and a warming wood stove. From £476 per person per week.
La Bergerie Bed and Breakfast
A charming traditional chalet with more carved hearts dotted about than you can count, plus a roaring fire and big, comfortable bedrooms. There are just four rooms at La Bergerie, each of which sleeps four, making this perfect if you’re skiing with a small group of friends and fancy the feeling of a chalet stay without needing to book one out completely. Rooms from £111 per night.
CGH Les Chalets de Leana
These simple, spacious self-catered apartments are great for families, or if you prefer to cook yourself in the evenings. Some apartments have gorgeous big balconies looking out on the mountains. From £754 for a week for a two bedroom apartment.
WHAT TO WEAR
Stumped on what to pack for your first trip to the French Alps? Staying cosy in the snow is all about good waterproofing and great layering. Make sure your battle armour includes warm base layers, an insulating mid layer, waterproof salopettes and a longer-length ski jacket, and try my guide to layering up for ski and snowboarding trips for more tips on picking the right kit. Your jacket is the hardest working piece when you’re out in the cold and it’s worth investing in a great quality one – I always look for a ski jacket that offers good breathability and waterproofing, such as the Dope range of jackets available from Ride Store.