There are certain must haves when skiing with kids. La Rosiere has them all in abundance
The French ski resort of La Rosiere is one of those places that you only tell a select few friends about. And then just in hushed tones - because if everyone knew about it, it just wouldn’t be the same. But my children are growing up fast, and after several consecutive years in La Rosiere, where they perfected their parallel turns and tipped over the edge of their first black runs, we’ve finally managed to drag ourselves away. So, although we will undoubtedly return to La Rosiere one day, it’s time to let the cat out of the bag.
You may well have stayed near La Rosiere. It shares a mountain with the Italian resort of La Thuile - fortunately for the French, they got the sunny south-facing side, and if you look out of your chalet window as night falls, the mass of twinkling lights in the distance is La Plagne.
Nestled at a snow-sure 1850 metres, La Rosiere boast one or two hotels, a scattering of traditional chalets and a handful of shops, bars and restaurants – enough to buy emergency goggles, a lunchtime beer and a warming meal, but nowhere near enough to attract crowds of youngsters in search of an active nightlife.
As well as its easy beginners’ slopes, and child-friendly reputation, La Rosiere boasts some excellent off-piste action, and the more adventurous can generally find copious stretches of untouched powder due to the relatively low visitor numbers. One or two of the black runs are fairly straightforward (look out for Ecureuil), and act as great confidence boosters. If you are new to skiing, once you are ready for red runs, don’t be too put off by the steep top of Marmottes – once you’ve navigated the first few yards you’ll find yourself on a beautiful long, wide run. And if you get bored of France, you can always pop over to La Thuile for lunch!
For children and beginners, the green run Foret has plenty of opportunities for the more adventurous to leave the main track and wend their way through tiny woodland paths, testing their landing ability over some small jumps.
How to get there
There is a major railway station at Bourg-St-Maurice, just at the bottom of the mountain, about a 20km taxi or bus ride away from La Rosiere. (If it makes any nervous parents feel better, the hospital is just down here too!)
Numerous airlines, including budget options, fly into Geneva and Lyon, leaving a transfer of approximately three hours. If your kids suffer from travel sickness, the good news is that in my experience it’s only the very last leg of the journey – as you start to wind right up the mountain – that generally causes trouble. The even better news is that some airlines fly into Chambery, halving the transfer time. However, don’t cheer just yet. Chambery is notorious for its fog, and we’ve suffered lengthy delays three times while waiting for it to clear, which is frustrating when you are trying to get to the slopes, but arguably worse when you are trying to entertain tired children in an airport that is really little more than a big shed! Still, over the years, I have come to accept a bit of airport-boredom and travel sickness as an acceptable downside of a skiing holiday, far outweighed by the fantastic week in the middle.
Where to stay
For me, there is only one chalet in La Rosiere. La Braconnier (The Poacher) sleeps about six families – enough that you shouldn’t be stuck with the most boring people in France, yet few enough that you get to know everyone reasonably well. A traditional style chalet, adorned with some unusual decoration (think gin traps and the results of a day’s hunting), it is simply yet comfortably furnished.
Suite two is the biggest in the chalet, easily able to accommodate an extra child – or in our case, two, and has patio doors that open into the snow so your kids can play directly outside while you relax in the warm. And it’s away from the main living area and therefore quieter for children trying to sleep if the grown-ups get a little raucous on the always excellent inclusive wine!
But, really it’s that old adage, location, location, location. Not only can you ski right in and out of La Braconnier, but, along with just a handful of other chalets, it is served by a little green run (Manessier) with a button lift, which can be adequately negotiated by the smallest children after just a few lessons. When we were exhausted after a day on the slopes, our little darlings would carry on skiing right outside the chalet until the lifts closed, while we just supervised, clutching a warming coffee.
Where to eat
We have never been disappointed by any of the bars and restaurants in La Rosiere, but my favourite for lunch or supper with the family is Le Petit Danois, situated at the near end of the main shopping centre, where you routinely get a friendly welcome and a fantastic pizza. There is a pool table to entertain the children while you take five minutes to let your dinner digest, and the bill won’t break the bank.
On a sunny day, lounging in a deckchair outside McKinley’s and eating crepes oozing Nutella, washed down with a frothy hot chocolate or vin chaud, can’t be beaten.
The lifts in La Rosiere?
The majority of the lifts in La Rosiere are buttons – but I like them for kids, especially compared to bubbles (all that getting skis on and off malarkey!), and even chair lifts because I always feel a slight swell of panic as six of us get towards the end and I start to wonder if there is any chance that everyone’s skis can possibly go in the right direction all at the same time. That said, there are plenty of chair lifts too, but none of them have covers, so if it’s blowing a blizzard you can feel like your face might actually freeze.
What you have to remember though is that this is all part of what makes La Rosiere special. Over the next few years an enormous cash injection will revolutionise the lift system, attracting thousands more visitors – and then you might actually have to queue for a lift, which you never have to do at the moment even at weekends in high season.