Three old Savoyard villages have linked their areas to offer the best of skiing on the historic slopes of the Mont Cenis Pass in the French Alps.

This is a small corner of the Savoy region in France with beautiful natural slopes, exceptional panoramas, a cozy village atmosphere, steeped in history and great cheese.

Val Cenis offers much but few skiers know, moreover, many people do not even know where the station is located. On a map of the Savoy region, follow the Maurienne valley until Modane. There lays Val Cenis, just above you in the middle of a high-sided valley which is dotted with baroque churches, and beneath the peaks and glaciers of the Vanoise, on the edge of the eponymous national park.

Val Cenis is a generic name for the three small towns combined to offer 125 km of skiing; the largest ski area of haute (high) Maurienne. These villages are called Termignon la Vanoise, Lanslebourg and Lanslevillard. Lanslebourg is and has always been the most lively of the trio. It is the guardian of the pass of Mont Cenis, top hyphen (2000 m) between Savoy and Italy’s town of Piémont. This ancient pass, nowadays best discovered on skis, is the door between the north and south of the Alps, a strategic communication and trade channel. For centuries, come rain, shine, or snow, everyone’s been there. Charlemagne, Henry IV, Montaigne, Turner … and, of course, Napoleon.

Recently, Val Cenis has vastly improved, not in luxury because that is not its genre, but in comfort. Such as Les Chalets du Flambeau, situated at the foot of the slopes at a place called the Plan-des-Champs, between Lanslebourg and Lanslevillard. Or the superbly renovated village houses for rental. And the new hotel Saint-Charles on the snow front of Lanslebourg, the first 4-star residence in haute Maurienne.

Val Cenis has perfected its style, coached by locals including three young retirees of the France team alpine skiing. Their knowledge of the best ski spots is precious. Pierre-Emmanuel Dalcin has invested in the development of Plan-des-Champs. Richard Gravel took over the family business BTP: the Saint-Charles hotel is his baby. And Yves Dimier masterfully manages the ski area. The three champions agree that “Val Cenis is a small Val d’Isere“.

Where to Stay:

4* Saint-Charles with swimming pool and spa Pure Altitude, double room from 99 €, including breakfast. Tel 00 33 4 91 875 347 www.hotel-saintcharles.com

4* Les Chalets de Flambeau, from 2 to 4 rooms, 850 – 4 000 €  per week. Tel 00 33 4 50 33 10 96 www.cgh-residences.com

In Lanslebourg, chalets for rent:  Le Chalet du Petit Bonheur, 90 m² triplex, 650 – 1 600 € per week. Tel: 00 33 6 68 21 79 90. And Le Chalet Saint-Georges, 225 m², 6 rooms with bathrooms, 2 500 – 5 000 € per week. www.chalet-st-georges.com 

In Termignon,  at L’Outa, charming 3*, double room from 450 € 3 days, half-pension. Tél.: 00 33 4 79 05 51 50 www.hotel-termignon.com

Where to Eat:

Haltes offer good food on the slopes at reasonable prices (10-20 € dish).

Le Relais du Col, traditional savoyard at high altitude with nice terrace.Tel : 00 33 4 79 59 47 84 www.relais-des-2-cols.fr

La Ranova. Tel: 00 33 4 79 05 92 84. ChaletLaRanovaValCenisFB

The Arole with rotating restaurant. Tel: 00 33 4 79 20 53 57

Après-Ski:

Howard’s Bar in Lanslevillard Tel: 00 33 6 69 39 28 95. Restaurant/HowardsFB

Bar Napoleon is a fun pub in Val Cenis. Tel: 00 33 4 79 05 90 47

For more information: Haute Maurienne Vanoise Tourist Office Tel : 00 33 4 79 20 66 03 www.haute-maurienne-vanoise.com

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