|(ne)Annecy (Altitude 448m, population 67 000)|
Annecy is the Haute-Savoie's largest city and, located just 30 minutes from Geneva airport, offers a splendid gateway to the rest of the Alps. From here, La Clusaz is just 20 minutes away (traffic permitting) and many other good resorts are close by. This, combined with the best commercial facilities in the Alps, has led to an increasing number of ski related companies locating their operations in Annecy. The city is attracting more and more international buyers as its profile has risen with events such as the European Athletics Championship. As well as offering a feasible ski base during the winter, it also provides a delightful summer season when visitors pour in from all over France to take in its pretty streets, leisure activities and stunning lake.
Annecy itself contains a quite stunning Old Town section, dissected by picturesque canals flowing from the lake. The buildings in this area date to the 12th century, and include churches Saint Francois and Saint Maurice, and the famous island prison at Palais de L'Ile. A short walk from the Old Town lies Lake Annecy. For most, this is France's most beautiful lake with the Alps towering around it in splendid grandeur. It is also a hive of activity: colorful parasailors fill the sky near several of the higher peaks, whilst windsurfers sail the mid-lake waters at the village of Talloires and swimmers and pedalos cling to the beaches along its shore. There is good walking and trekking around the water, whilst a large park along the lake provides excellent views, pathways, biking trails, and quick access to town.
- A beautiful city with stunning architecture and a picturesque lake
- A thriving summer season with numerous cultural and leisure activities
- Quick and convenient access to both Geneva airport and several ski resorts
- Not a ski resort in itself and quite spread out so a car is almost a necessity
- Traffic to the resorts can be heavy at weekends and holidays
- Little property available in the most picturesque part of the Old Town
La Clusaz (Altitude 1100m, population 1800)
A genuine Savoyard village with 15th-century origins and only 20km from Annecy and its lake, La Clusaz has long been a favorite weekend and holiday retreat of skiers from Annecy and Geneva. Not as well-known among British skiers as some of its neighbours, it is however currently enjoying a much-deserved surge of attention. Although it sits at a comparatively low 1100m and thus has a relatively short season, La Clusaz is a fairly large resort spread over five mountains, and offers a total of 132km of slopes with a highest altitude of 2600m. Much of the skiing is best suited to beginners and intermediates, with Beauregard particularly suited to beginners and young children. However, there is also plenty for the dedicated skier at La Balme and the fact that you can ski directly back into the village lends the town a very quaint feel. The first ski lift here was built in 1935, but La Clusaz has succeeded in keeping its lived-in, workday atmosphere. Indeed, overlooked by the beautiful Col de Aravis, it is a delightfully authentic village, with its main square dominated by a clock tower dating back to 1762.
- Traditional village with plenty of chalet-style accommodation
- A great place to mix family activities with hard-core skiing on the great terrain at La Balme
- A good all year round resort with plenty to see and do
- People coming to ski from Annecy can mean large crowds on weekends
- Unreliable snow on lower slopes due to low altitude
- Although delightful in places, the village is rather spread out along the valley meaning properties can be a little removed from the lifts, and the streets aren't car free
Le Grand-Bornand (Altitude 1000m, population 1900)
A pleasant little resort set in a rambling valley, Le Grand Bornand has two centers; one is the old town Le Grand-Bornand and the other is what the tourist board refers to as the second floor of the resort, Chinaillon. The village of Le Grand-Bornand functions like any European resort, but instead of being clustered around a central point it is set along a skirting road that eventually winds up the Vallée du Bouchet. The village remains rooted in Savoie tradition - a farmer's market is still held every Wednesday morning in the town center - and contains some lovely old and traditional chalets and alpages, many with stunning views over the mountains. With access to some good skiing as well (particularly for intermediates), such properties are quickly bought on the few occasions when they come onto the market. Chinaillon is more a modern collection of hotels and restaurants than a traditional village. It has the best access to the downhill slopes and slightly better nightlife than the village below.
- A more local and traditional community than most other resorts
- Some beautiful, old chalets with access to some good skiing
- The best properties rarely come onto the market, but stay within traditional French families
- Hard for those who don't speak English
Manigod (Altitude 950m, population 600)
Picturesque Manigod offers some limited, local skiing. Despite the attractiveness of its tree-lined runs, most people head to nearby La Clusaz for their skiing fix. The property market is dominated by nice, old chalets which mean that property prices are higher than other villages with more variety of accommodation.
- Some delightful, old chalets
- Close to the amenities and facilities of La Clusaz
- Little challenging skiing on its tree-lined slopes
- Higher property prices due to reliance on chalets
St-Jean-de-Sixt (Altitude 960m, population 850)
St-Jean-de-Sixt is little more than a collection of traditional chalets and pleasant hotels clustered around a road junction mid-way between La Clusaz and Le Grand Bornard. On a nearby hill there are two drags serving very short green, blue and red runs. Those seeking more challenging skiing take the easy drive to Le Grand-Bornand or La Clusaz which are only 3 km away.
- Some nice traditional chalets
- Those seeking more challenging skiing need to look elsewhere