recommended family holidays

sainte foy resort guide, french alps

It is the location of Sainte Foy in the Tarrentaise Valley in the French Alps that draws many people to this resort – perfect for skiing in the winter, famous for its off piste skiing and in the summer it is a great base for cycling, walking & extreme water sports.  As a family, we have visited Sainte Foy twice now & are already booked for next year so I can heartily recommend it as a great family friendly ski resort which is snow sure even up to Easter when we go.
Sainte Foy is located about 30 minutes down the mountain from the famous resorts of Val d'Isere & Tignes and about half an hour up the mountain from Bourg St Maurice which has a direct train service to London St Pancras.  Sainte Foy station is at a height of 1,550m with mainly north and west facing slopes plus all the usual facilities including restaurants, bars, shops & ski hire.  It is a small, charming village with plenty of wooden chalets plus the increasingly popular "Residences" – self-catering apartments with great facilities such as indoor swimming pool & spa.
We tend to drive to Sainte Foy as it suits us & it is a steady 10 hours up to Calais but we often stopover on the way down at a handy Novotel then drive all the way home on the way back.  Parking in resort is no problem & completely free in most places. The nearest airports are Chambery (about 1.5 hours away), Grenoble (2 hours) and Geneva (2.5 hours).  From there you can always hire a car, take a coach transfer or take a taxi up to the resort – shop around though so you can get the best price!

Winter in Sainte Foy

Winter is dominated by the ski season.  This small resort has relatively few pistes but is famous for its off piste skiing – having skied there myself for 2 weeks, we still haven't covered the whole mountain.  There are 2 easy green runs, 6 blue runs, 11 red runs & 4 hard black runs.  Something that I must stress early on as it is such a great bonus is the lift queues – what lift queues!  Even in the school holidays when we go, the only time you might wait for 10 mins is just after drop off time for the ski school when all the parents have left the children in the safe hands of the ESF & are keen to head straight up the mountain.  In this day & age it really is a massive bonus. Plus, ski passes are FREE for the under seven's & reduced until they reach their 13th birthday.
As the accommodation in Sainte Foy is pretty much located on the slopes, most people come down the mountain for lunch, although there is a snack bar right at the top & two restaurants half way down the slopes.  In fact those staying in the "Residences" will often return back to their apartments for a cheap & quick lunch before heading back out on the slopes.  At the end of the day though, of course there is still the après-ski scene which is fun but more family orientated – kids playing in the snow whilst their parents have a few drinks!
There really is one main ski school in Sainte Foy & that's the ESF – either French or English speaking classes are available for all levels of skier.  Lessons are available either in the morning or the afternoon or both.  For example, we ski with the children in the morning & then they have lessons in the afternoon - it is slightly cheaper this way & means we are not rushing out early in the morning with 2 kids. Plus, I am a disabled skier so like a slightly slower start in the morning!  The other ski school in resort is run by Evolution 2 but I have less experience of their service, although I am told they are particularly good for older children & teenagers.  Both schools also offer private lessons – my mum said they were great with her – she re-started her ski career at the age of 70!  Whichever you choose, I strongly recommend you book well in advance, particularly in school holidays so that you can get exactly what you want.
If you want to head off for a change of scene then that's easy.  You have a huge choice of other ski resorts all within easy reach – you can drive drive to the Espace Killy in 20 minutes at Tignes Les Brévières and to the Les Arcs area in 15 minutes at Villaroger.  La Rosiere with its link to the Italian La Thuile, one of the few remaining heli-ski sites in Europe, is just 30 minutes away as is Val d'Isere.  So perhaps you might choose to stay in Sainte Foy & pay a sensible price rather than staying in these world famous resorts at the far higher prices they charge.  We met a group of skiers one year who stayed here & skied a different area every single day of their week.
Non-skiers are well catered for with facilities for cross-country skiing, snow-shoeing, snow-biking, dog-sledding, ice-climbing, ice-skating, quad-biking, snowmobiling, indoor swimming pool & spa offering sauna, steam room & beauty treatments all either in resort or nearby.

Summer in Sainte Foy

Summer offers a completely different atmosphere in the French Alps & Sainte Foy.  The weather is usually warm  at around 20-30C with cooler nights but it is the huge range of activities on offer that makes it special.  You can choose to mountain bike, road cycle, hike, climb, play golf or tennis, swim, go white water rafting, canoeing, hydro-speeding, watch the Tour de France, indulge at the local wine fairs, or simply relax and soak up the sun. 
There is an extensive activities programme for all the family at Sainte Foy throughout the summer with a special pass that gives you access to  pony rides, mini-golf, nordic walking, nature walks, adventure park, Le Lagon swimming pool at Tignes, and reduced rates for the Kids Club. The ski lifts operate in the resorts in July and August to whisk you up to higher altitudes to enjoy the fantastic views and an easy walk back down without the uphill slog!

Accommodation in Sainte Foy

Auberge sur la Montagne – I can heartily recommend this small family-run, auberge – fully catered in winter & self catered in the summer.  We stayed here the first time we visited Sainte Foy – the food was amazing, the bar a real bonus & the facilities for the kids brilliant.  Situated just down the hill from the Station - no problem for us as we had a car, but they do offer a service to the slopes for those that don’t.
Chalets sur la Montagne – run by the owners of the Auberge, they offer a lovely range of chalets all over the resort.  You can choose to either self cater, have a full catering service or something in between!  Great locations - on the slopes & a great choice for all sizes of group.
Les Fermes de Sainte Foy – again, I can heartily recommend this Residence, particularly if you have any non-skiers with you.  These self catering apartments are extremely well equipped including dishwashers.  In addition, there is an indoor pool, spa with sauna, steam room & beauty treatments.  They also offer a breakfast service so just pop downstairs to collect your morning bread & croissants.  Located right on the slopes, perfect!  Chalets sur la Montagne offer a couple of apartments in this Residence.
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Article By Lucilla Paull

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