Les Contamines-Montjoie - 31 Mars 2009

Nestling at the foot of the Mont-Blanc at an altitude of 1164m, the resort of Les Contamines-Montjoie is one of the favourite French ski stations. It shares a ski area encompasing 120km of ski runs and holds its snow - the envey of some other French ski stations. Located in a cul de sac valley, accessed firstly from the main Geneva-Chamonix motorway and then via the spa and ski resort of St. Gervais, the resort of Les Contamines has ski runs which run sometimes down wide slopes, sometimes small valleys, but past pine trees, chalets and alpine farms giving it a magical character that attracts family groups and those who prefer a challenge.

The stunning views from the resorts ski slopes across to Mont Blanc, together with great skiing for all levels of enthusiasts, makes Les Contamines one of those "hidden delights" waiting to be discovered by even more British winter sports fans than at present.

The village has nearly 30 shops, 22 restaurants and bars and just enough night-life to stop you getting bored. There are sauna and jacuzzi in some hotels or bed and breakfasts, snow-shoe walking, ice skating, ice climbing, cross country skiing and floodlit skiing. There is also a once-a-week local market.

Les Contamine's slopes are just above the resort in a range from 1200m to 2500m and the ski area enjoys a remarkable snow record as well as sunshine each year. The slopes will open on the 19th December for the 2008-09 winter season and are accessed by two separate gondola links so there is little or no waiting, even at busy times. Once up on the lower slopes, there are five easy runs for real beginners, 11 blue runs for those who can head in a straight liner without falling over, together with 16 red and 10 really exciting blacks for those proficient skiers who enjoy a challenge! Some tour operators award Les Contamines a five-star rating for intermediate and three-stars for experts!

The top gondola at La Signal (1900m) link over to the Col du Joly (2000m) and then across to Aig. Croche at (2487m), the top of the resort area. There are hopes (eventually) to link these slopes to neighbouring Megeve which in turn is linked to St. Gervais and is part of the "Evasion Mont Blanc covering 445 kilometers of ski slopes which take in the resorts of St. Gervais, Hauteluce, St. Nicolas De Veroce, Megeve, Combloux, La Giettaz, as well as Les Contamines Montjoie. This creates a spectacular "ski circus".

If you want to take time off from skiing, you could go for a husky-dog sled ride through the pine forest. No fumes, no noise, covered with a warm blanket, you are pulled along by a team of 6/8 Greenland dogs into a winter wonderland. And if you are on holiday at Les Contamines at the beginning of March, how about a fireworks and music show with 2000 spectators with history of the village and area thrown in!

Prices at Les Contamines are a lot lower than neighbouring Chamonix and Megeve but provide an ideal resort base from which to enjoy a full week (and perhaps longer) for those who like to do a bit of exploring. This is where a car comes into its own!

However, Les Contamines is only 90-minutes away from Geneva airport and there is a direct and fast train service in the valley below St. Gervais. You can also drive to Les Contamines in around 9/10 hours from Calais.

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