Ski Break Mini Guide – Say Hello to Autrans
While plenty of folk will always be intent on heading to the biggest, busiest and in their opinion ‘best’ resorts of the French Alps, other prefer their thrills slightly more laid back and refined. So for the sake of the latter group that’s often left playing second fiddle, it seemed a good time to introduce a lesser-known hotspot not usually on the tourist rail called Autrans.
If you haven’t heard of Autrans, it’s not exactly surprising – the last time its name was on the international map was back in 1968 when some of the events for the Winter Olympics in Grenoble were held here. Since then though, Autrans has once again returned to its roots as a traditional mountain town that retains that ‘off the beaten track’ feel so sadly lacking in most Alpine resorts these days.
There are two extremely good reasons to choose Autrans for a ski jaunt and the first of these is the immensely family friendly nature of the place. The village is beautifully unspoilt and hasn’t in any way been over-influenced by the presence of the international tourist trade. Quite the opposite in fact, it’s almost like a forgotten little town that’s been passed over by the masses, which for most of the year is true.
It’s a tale of quint little inns, traditional restaurants and old-world shops that feel a miles away from the loud noise and bright lights of places like Chamonix. It’s a wonderfully safe village with welcoming locals and more to keep you busy than you’ll ever need. Autrans also happens to be a super location to try your hand at dog-sledding or ice-skating, which are always on offer throughout the season.
As far as the skiing itself goes, there’s a solid 15 pistes on offer within the confined of the resort, stretching to 18km in combined length and serviced by 16 ski lifts. Lift lines are about the shortest and fastest moving you’ll find anywhere in the Alps, which always helps when the family is in-tow. And still on the family-friendly theme, the runs themselves are unusually wide, avalanche safe and perfectly suited to both beginners and intermediates.
That being said, there are also some seriously challenging black runs on offer for anyone looking to test their mettle against the best Autrans has to offer.
Cross Country Wonderland
And as far as the second reason to visit Autrans goes – it’s an absolute mecca for cross-country skiers. Each and every year, the sleepy little town bursts into life as between 7,000 and 10,000 cross country skiers flood the place for the annual race. Quite simply, it’s one of the most important centres for cross country skiing in the whole of Europe and presents more opportunities for off-piste exploration than you can begin to imagine.
If all this wasn’t enough, the very heart of Autrans is located no more than about 45 minutes by coach from Grenoble Airport, so even if you’ve only got a couple of days to spare, these kinds of short trips are very possible.
Looking for a break from the usual haunts? Autrans could be right up your street.
Photo sources: flickr.com/photos/jean-laurent – commons.wikimedia.org – flickr.com/photos/sznitka