Champagny en Vanoise, France
At just 1250m Champagny is hardly one of the highest resorts in the Alps, but what it lacks in height it makes up for in traditional charm and great skiing (if not in the resort itself then in La Plagne and the Paradiski, the huge network of slopes in Les Arcs and La Plagne, combined).
Situated in Savoie, in the North East of France, Champagny lies in the Tarentaise-Vanoise region, close to the oldest national park in France, and it is one of the lowest of the resorts in La Plagne (there are four low-level villages and six more modern, high-level resorts in total). Although it does not have an individual ski area, this is no bad thing as the lift pass covers the whole of La Plagne, with lifts up to 3250m and a very respectable 225 km of piste.
Famed as a walking and hiking centre with access to the Via Ferrata (mountain pass), the resort itself is loosely based around two centres, with the main Resort at 1250m and Champagny Le Haut and Le Bois higher up, at 1450m, and a shuttle bus connecting the different areas.
How to get there:
Cheap, fast and easy, even with rising fuel costs the best way to get to Champagny is still by air. Book early to get cheap flights from as little as £50 return; it is hard to get much cheaper. Plenty of budget flights are available to Geneva (try Easyjet) or Chambery (try Satellite Travel but you can always travel in a little more luxury with carriers such as British Airways.
Chambery is a little closer, around two hours drive compared to three, but there are more flights to Geneva and transfers may be easier.
A good way to get to the resort from the airport is with Altibus, a cheap and efficient public transport service that runs via Moutiers and offers a degree of flexibility in travel times, return dates etc.
The nearest station to Champagny is Moutiers-Salins (at 18 km away), which receives trains from the major airports and ultimately from England. However, the train is generally on the expensive side and usually entails a somewhat gruelling and indirect overnight journey from England. It is necessary to take a transfer once at Moutiers-Salins anyway and the cost from Geneva or Chambery is often not much more, especially if you book with a large group of people.
The route to the resort is fairly simple, running through Albertville, the gateway to most of the Alpine ski resorts, but, as with the train, the disadvantages usually outweigh the advantages and there is little to be said for enduring the 8-10 hour journey and all the ferries, tolls and bad driving conditions it entails, not to mention the fact that it is no longer a particularly cheap option.
Who the resort caters for:
Quiet and peaceful, the resort attracts mostly French and English visitors in search of a real Alpine experience. A few glasses of vin chaud (mulled wine) at the little restaurants and cafes is about all there is in the way of nightlife, and this brings families and older couples looking to enjoy a more relaxed atmosphere than is often found elsewhere, rather than younger groups.
The traditional construction of the resort means that most of the accommodation is in traditional wooden chalets or chalet apartments, and there are only a few hotels. Catered and self-catering options are available, with luxurious options at Les Alpages de Champagny and slightly more humble settings at Hotel L’Ancolie.
Blessed with the sun, the runs over on the Champagny side of the valley are scenic and, for the most part, fairly gentle. In fact, the whole of La Plagne is good for beginners, with 80 blue runs in the resort in total, although the glaciers and the high peaks further up the resort do also offer some more challenging skiing, and can generally be relied upon for snow; all-in-all there is something to accommodate most levels.
Many people like to explore and go off piste down through the trees and into Champagny Le Haut when the snow is good, but with all of La Plagne just next door and included in the ski pass, the temptation to explore beyond Champagny village is not one that should be resisted.
Black Runs: 15
Red Runs: 29
Blue Runs: 80
Green Runs: 10
Cross Country: 90km
Ski Lifts: 102
Max Vertical: 2000m
Highest Lift: 3250m
Lowest Piste: 1250m
Resort Altitude: 1250 – 1450m