Travel tales

A mountain road trip from Annecy

On the slopes in La Clusaz, France

One of the great things about Annecy is its outdoors lifestyle – you’ve got cycling, hiking, sailing and swimming right on your doorstep. But you’re not just limited to the summer months either, the town is also surrounded by mountains so during the winter you can ski, snowboard and snowshoe your way around the slopes. The Aravis mountain range is within easy reach of Annecy and is home to four ski resorts – La Clusaz, Le Grand Bornand, Manigod and Saint Jean de Sixt. After spending a couple of days exploring the town we decided to head up into the mountains for a day in the snow. Though it was hard to imagine that there could be much left as Annecy had been basking in March sunshine and 18 degree temperatures.

The village of La Clusaz, France

Traditional Savoyard style in La Clusaz

There are buses that connect Annecy to the ski resorts, but to properly get out and explore we decided to hire a car for the day. We headed south out of the town where the road wound through outlying towns before beginning to slowly climb upwards. Eventually we started to spot piles of snow in between the trees, where they’d escaped the sun. Definitely not enough to ski on yet though, but by the time we reached the edge of La Clusaz things were starting to look a lot whiter. La Clusaz is one of the area’s best ski resorts, with a good mix of pistes set around a pretty Savoyard village full of traditional wooden chalets. It’s not that well-known a resort internationally, but has a lot of French and Swiss visitors.

Ski lifts in La Clusaz

Lifts head up into the mountains from La Clusaz

Normally La Clusaz gets about six metres of snow a year, but with the hillsides around the village looking more green than white, it’d obviously been a while since the last snowfall. The shady slopes still had a good covering though and snow machines on the pistes meant they were still busy with skiers and snowboarders. But it wasn’t quite the snowy winter wonderland experience we’d been imagining – and was definitely too warm for a vin chaud – so we headed onwards. Following the road up through the town we had no idea where we were going, but it was uphill so that was a good start. The road zig-zagged up the mountainside past abandoned farmhouses and growing drifts of snow until we reached the top.

Mountains around Annecy

On the mountain road up above La Clusaz

It turned out this was the Col des Aravis – a mountain pass which connects La Clusaz with La Giettaz in the neighbouring Savoie region. With views across to Mont Blanc, the road through the pass has been on the route of the Tour de France several times. We spotted a few amateur cyclists who’d been attempting their own version and had stopped to catch their breath at the top. The Col des Aravis is the lowest of the passes through the Aravis mountains but at almost 1500 metres it was still snowier and noticeably colder than down in La Clusaz. Snowshoe routes led up into the mountains and there was even a husky sled group about to head off. Things were definitely starting to feel a bit more wintery.

St Anne's Chapel, Col des Aravis, France

The tiny Chapel of St Anne

But by this time we were more interested in lunch. There are a couple of restaurants on the Col so we picked one with a terrace packed full of walkers and cyclists soaking up the sun. This area is where the reblochon cheese comes from that’s used in lots of classic mountain dishes, so we couldn’t resist a tartiflette – sliced potatoes layered with bacon, cream and cheese. To burn off a few of those dairy-related calories we took a quick walk along to the only other building on the slopes, a tiny chapel dedicated to St Anne. There’s a gold inscription on the front that reads “Sainte Anne protégez les voyageurs” (St Anne protect the travellers). A good omen for our journey back down the mountain, out of the snow to Annecy.

Col des Aravis winter views

Mountain views from the top of the Col des Aravis

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A snowy mountain road trip from Annecy, France, up into the Avaris mountain range to the ski resort of La Clusaz and the Col des Aravis mountain pass.

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  • Reply
    Jake Ryan
    April 10, 2015 at 2:12 pm

    Looks incredible. Such wonderful photos 😀


    • Reply
      April 12, 2015 at 9:44 pm

      Thanks Jake, it’s a beautiful spot!

  • Reply
    April 10, 2015 at 6:04 pm

    Wonderful photos! Have never done wintersport (but would love to try), and I’m a great fan of outdoor sports, so Annecy might be a place to go when I’m looking for something relatively close to home!

    • Reply
      April 12, 2015 at 9:43 pm

      I only started skiing about 8 years ago but really loved it. The Annecy area would be a good place to start as it’s not too busy and has some good beginners slopes.

  • Reply
    April 10, 2015 at 7:09 pm

    Love the photos…looks cold! Perfect place for the sports or outdoor lover. Esp. like the Chapel of St. Anne.

    • Reply
      April 12, 2015 at 9:42 pm

      The chapel was so pretty, especially in the snow!

  • Reply
    April 10, 2015 at 9:01 pm

    Annecy looks amazing! Now I miss the mountains, snow and skiing! I love slalom, and it is the last days for ski now, most places.

    • Reply
      April 12, 2015 at 9:41 pm

      I just love the mountains, and it was so nice to get a dose of snowy scenery even without having the chance for a proper ski trip this year!

  • Reply
    The Vagabond Baker
    April 10, 2015 at 9:15 pm

    Beautiful! I’m no skier but I love to get up to the mountains!

    • Reply
      April 12, 2015 at 9:40 pm

      I had a bit of a skiing phase for a few years but now I’d rather go out for a day or two and spend the rest of the time just out in the mountains – love the snowy scenery (and the cheese and mulled wine!).

  • Reply
    Nellie Pom Poms
    April 11, 2015 at 2:50 pm

    Love Annecy, spent many jolly summers there when the children were tiny – cycling around and stopping off at the lake for a swim! We’d also stop off on our way to Grand Bornand or Chinaillon, or as a day trip from Montchavin. Glorious! Just spent a week in La Rosière where the conditons have been perfect. Gorgeous blog.

    • Reply
      April 12, 2015 at 9:38 pm

      Lovely, I can see why you kept going back there! La Rosière looks really nice too, there are so many lovely mountain towns in the Alps it’s hard to choose.

  • Reply
    April 29, 2015 at 1:28 pm

    amazing pics in an amazing place!

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