La Clusaz is one of the world’s original ski areas and one of the first to open in France, dating back more than a century.
La Clusaz' history as a market town goes back much further, and one of its most appealing factors for many visitors today is that it's a real, year-round community, not a purpose-built resort.
This character and ambience, along with its location in the northern Alps and only 50 minutes from Geneva has made it very popular with skiers flying in, or driving down from Paris, together making it a bustling, lively destination. The resort is located on a gently sloping hill, complete with central square and old church with streets lined with bars, cafes, restaurants and shops. The ski slopes all but surround the village, spread for 125km on five interconnected mountains, with the option to almost double the terrain available to you by purchasing the regional Aravis lift ticket.
La Clusaz, France
SKIING IN LA CLUSAZ
What to expect…
La Clusaz Expert
"La Clusaz is a beautiful family friendly ski resort in the French Alps. If you are looking for a picture perfect, alpine retreat, look no further!"
LOCAL SKI AREA - LA CLUSAZ
La Clusaz has a brilliant avergae snowfall record and one of the longest seasons in France, stretching to the end of April each season.
Lifts span out from the village of Avoriaz in all directions, so for The five La Clusaz ski mountains have predominantly North-West facing slopes meaning that despite the lifts not reaching the highest points in the French Alps (they peak at Balme at 2,477 metres above sea level) their orientation means the snow stays fresh for longer. On top of this the area, perhaps due to its proximity to omnipresent Mont Blanc, has a good average snowfall record and one of the longest seasons in France, stretching to the end of April each season.
La Clusaz is frequently heralded as a great resort for beginners, in part because there are convenient nursery areas at the edge of the village, but also because there are lots of great progression trails that novice skiers can confidently move on to. Then there's the fact that all five of the resort's ski areas have easy trails, so you can get about the whole ski area from early in your ski career with the added bonus that there are spectacular views from beginner slopes from day one, making the experience all the more magical.
The piste is kept well-groomed throughout the season and during the winter months, a history of decent snowfall means you're most likely to get some great snow conditions across the mountain - the sheltered bowl at Balme is famous for fresh powder skiing in the winter months. With the peak sitting at 2600m and North-West facing slopes, skiing conditions should be good through to the end of the season, especially further up the mountain.
Most beginners will ski first at Beauregard where there are several nursery slopes in a quiet location away from the busy main slopes. The whole area is open to intermediates, the more skilled of whom should have no problem tackling most of the black graded terrain.
More advanced skiers head to the area’s highest slopes on La Balme which is also home to some of the resort’s most challenging terrain and great open bowl skiing and snowboarding. It’s also furthest from the village so tends to be quietest even at peak times. In fact, there are two bowls here and they can get quite bumpy creating mogul fields at times for added challenge. But it's not all Balme for the blacks, recommended runs, named after famous La Clusaz racers and ideal for those seeking a challenge, include the Régine Cavagnoud slope on Etale to warm up, then go for the Edgar Grospiron wall on the Aiguille to really test your skills. Despite its family/novice friendly reputation, plenty of freeriding and ski touring opportunities (see ‘Best For’ section on this).
Of course, La Clusaz also has a great snow park complete with kickers, boxes, jumps and rails and an adjacent chill-out area.
WIDER SKI AREA - LA CLUSAZ
You can take a taster session of cross-country ski racing whilst you’re there in Le Grand-Bornand if you’d like to.
Although La Clusaz is a stand-alone ski area and the largest in the region, it does participate in the Aravis area pass that encompasses three other ski centres a short bus ride away and costs just a few Euros more than a La Clusaz only ticket, so is well worthwhile considering if you’re staying for a week. The pass includes the skiing at nearby Le Grand-Bornand and Saint-Jean de Sixt, as well as a free shuttle bus service to them.
Le Grand-Bornand is another great ski resort in its own right, slightly smaller than La Clusaz, where you’ll be happy on the slopes for several days. It also has an authentic village at its heart with the same strong agricultural heritage that continues to this day. It has also bred many French skiing champions and actually has a reputation as a Mecca for the exciting sport of biathlon which combines shooting targets on a rifle range with cross-country ski racing.
The ski area is a little smaller than that of La Clusaz but none-the-less has plenty of variety and lots of challenging terrain to be found if that’s what you’re after. Intermediates will enjoy just cruising around the front face of the area whilst freeride fans will want to head to the back of the area where there’s an avalanche-controlled but unpatrolled freeride area you can reach via the Lachat chairlift.
Min Ski Elevation:
Max Ski Elevation:
Gondolas / Cable Cars:
Approximate transfer times:
- GENEVA: 1 hr 30 mins
- CHAMBERY: 1 hr
- LYON: 2 hr 15 mins
- GRENOBLE: 1 hr 30 mins
LA CLUSAZ VILLAGE
La Clusaz has grown up a gentle hillside with lifts departing from multiple parts along the length of the village, so most accommodations are within a short walk of their nearest lift or ski run.
The village itself has retained a traditional architectural style of predominantly Savoyard chalets. La Clusaz is also a busy resort with tourists and locals popping in and out of the enticing shops and cafes that line the main streets and roads through the resort, often busy with traffic. The attractive village has a particularly stunning mountain backdrop behind it to give a very pleasing visual package for photographers and Instagrammers.
Beyond the look and feel of the resort, the community atmosphere continues through the ski season with regular weekly events including welcome drinks (vin chaud or hot choc) in the village square at the start of the week, and then there’s a succession of special events and festivals through the season too.
Finally, it's worth mentioning that La Clusaz has a huge choice of things to do off the piste, making it great for non-skiers in the party of anyone who likes more to their chosen destination than ‘just’ the ski slopes.
RESTAURANTS & BARS
La Clusaz is a real foodies' heaven with 60 restaurants to choose from, almost all of them are intimate, family-run establishments.
Dishes are created from local ingredients, and are heavily dominated by the region's famous Reblochon cheese, you'll find it in most of La Clusaz's restaurants.
But it’s not all tartiflette and fondue, there are at least half a dozen pizzerias, plenty of vegetarian-friendly dining options and some vegan too, as well as Suski Fumi for lovers of Asian and Japanese cuisine or King Marcel for the La Clusaz version of fast food, which means gourmet quality and local ingredients. Pizz'Avalanche is one of the best pizzerias in town, known for fast, friendly service, good music and it’s in a great location overlooking the church spire.
For gourmet cuisine, L’Ourson is very highly regarded and serves contemporary French wonders with a particularly highly rated taster menu for the best of everything. However Bistro Les 2 Mules has climbed to the top spot in the village on TripAdvisor, no mean feat given the quality of the competition, but diners love the quality of cuisine and friendly chef.
Many chalets around the village still have the wooden roof tiles known as “tavaillon”. This very local symbol is also the name of a delicious crisp pastry covered in blueberries, a fruit found in abundance on the mountainsides around La Clusaz in summer and served up in the Patisserie La Sabaudia.
There are around half a dozen restaurants on the slopes above La Clusaz with, mostly family-run self-service options on the slopes.
Altitude 1647 up on the Beauregard Plateau provides you with high quality, good value cuisine and great views to boot. Many skiers head down to restaurants down by the edge of the resort if they’re after table-service. Le Vieux Chalet is particularly highly regarded in that category, known for its sumptuous meals and friendly service.
Most of the resort's bars are also restaurants but some are more bar than a restaurant.
La Clusaz is ‘mid-range’ when it comes to its apres-ski scene – in other words, it is not usually wildly boisterous but on the other hand, there are plenty of lively bars.
Le Bachal is rated the most popular bar in town with a reputation for great cocktails. Le Salto, Bali Bar and La Datcha are also usually buzzing by mid-evening.
If you’re looking for a more authentic La Clusaz experience then a modern twist on cheese and wine could be the answer. The Coeur du Village has recently had a full makeover and offers a menu that pairs various wines with local cheese. Essentially, you’ll receive a platter of cheese, supplied from the neighbouring ‘cheese cellar’ run by renowned artisan cheesemonger Alain Michel and with the selection varying depending on the wine you choose – what’s not to love?
L’Ecluse nightclub is something of a resort institute with its glass dance floor suspended out over the river its USP.
There are lots of organised evening events through each week and through the season in La Clusaz too. That includes weekly torchlit descents and full moon parties on the slopes.
La Clusaz has a multitude of on-snow activities to indulge in once you've taken your skis or snowboard off.
Snow-shoeing, dog sledding, snowmobiling and tobogganing are all offered, the latter on special family-friendly sledging slopes. The resort is famed for the views from the slopes over to Mont Blanc and in 2019 a new viewing platform was unveiled on The Balme Massif, the resort’s highest slopes, providing a clear view of this magnificent vista. Cross-country skiers have 99km of tracks to explore around the valley, one of the largest regions for Nordic skiers in the entire Haute Savoie. These include 63km of trails around the Confins Lake, including a 13km trail that opened for winter 2019-20 and a further 36km of tracks at Beauregard from where there are again great views of Mont Blanc.
La Clusaz has plenty going on for non-skiers in the party or just to enrich your ski holiday.
In terms of off-slope leisure facilities, the resort opened a major public water sports facility a few seasons ago, a big attraction of which is a large heated pool at the base of the slopes from which you can look out at skiers heading down the slopes as you swim around. But the aqua centre also has an indoor pool as well as a waterfall, jacuzzi, sauna, steam bath and fitness suite. If you need more relaxation the resort currently has three spas open to the public: Deep Nature Spa, Spa Nuxe and the recently refurbished Cristal Spa, so there’s plenty of pampering potential too.
La Clusaz is also big on its agricultural and ski heritage with a History of Skiing museum to visit as well as a village museum, tours of the village organised and the option to visit local reblochon farms.
You can also go Paragliding or hot air ballooning and ice sports are popular too as the resort has its own ice rink and you can try karting or quad-biking on ice. Ski-joering, being towed on your skis behind a pony, is also available as a leisure activity (Back in the day this was actually a way of getting around in La Clusaz in winter).
There’s also a great selection of locally run shops, including a very highly regarded chocolatier and Les Claires Idées, a treasure trove of soaps, organic cosmetics, eco-friendly incense and 100% hand-made, organic candles with 35 scents to choose from.
One unusual facility that might interest the increasing number of us who sadly have to digitally drop into work when travelling is the Pèle coworking space, a small room heated by a wood-burning stove and located in the heart of the village. Holidaymakers, travelling workers and local business are all able to work alongside one another in this warm and friendly workspace which is also home to a printer-scanner.
If you have a day free it’s well worthwhile making the short trip down to the beautiful local town of Annecy with its famous lake.
WHO IS LA CLUSAZ SUITABLE FOR?
Here are the highlights...
La Clusaz is a great choice for families and holds the ‘Famille Plus’ label from the French government.
There are lots of family-friendly facilities on and off the slopes with special ski runs for families on the mountain and options including the swimming pool complex, skijoring and the chocolate shop – all heaven for kids and great fun for families to enjoy together. The resort reorganised its main childcare facility in 2019 creating a 50m² playroom and a 15m² water games room for under four-year-olds – a real paradise for youngsters. Elsewhere you'll find special children’s menus and prices in many of the village’s restaurants and lots of family-oriented activities organised each week by the tourist office. There’s even an annual circus skills festival at the end of March.
SHORT TRANSFERS & SKI WEEKENDS
La Clusaz is a great choice for a short break, one of the closest major ski areas to Geneva Airport, only 50km/minutes away.
After you've been whisked from the airport to La Clusaz there’s plenty of slopeside accommodation and it’s easy to get on the slopes from most of the resort’s accommodation quickly and easily for a stress-free ski break. La Clusaz is one of the closest ski resorts to Geneva airport , meaning you can enjoy more time on the slopes and less time on the roads. Geneva receives more flights from more UK airports than any other European ski airport so there are also more options to get to and from the mountains through this hub than from anywhere else.
EXPERTS & OFF-PISTE
Although it does not have the reputation of a Chamonix or a St Anton among hard-core skiers, La Clusaz has been very much a skiers' resort for generations and has bred plenty of French Champions, so there's certainly challenging terrain here if you look for it.
In common with other resorts, La Clusaz is pushing its freeriding credentials and is highlighting some great off-piste terrain. They are also pushing ski touring opportunities as well as creating slopes that are designed to introduce first-timers to freeriding in comparative safety. The 5km long Beauregard track has a relatively modest 600 metres of vertical climb whilst the Étale track has a more challenging 700 metres of vertical and a 30° pitch. At the top of the ascent on Belvédère tourers are rewarded with an uninterrupted vista over to Mont Blanc.
lA cLUSAZ WEATHER
Keep an eye on the forecast before you go…
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MAP OF LA CLUSAZ
Find your way…
Here's our map of La Clusaz showing you the key hotels and apartments as well as some of the main points of interest.