Les Contamines Montjoie is just a 75 minute transfer from Geneva Airport. Mountain Drop-offs is only too pleased to be able to serve this hidden valley that has become a firm favourite for ‘an away day’ for many who live and work in the Haute Savoie area. Flanked by the big-name ski resorts of Chamonix and Megève, this little corner of the mountains is a complete oasis well worth exploring – and so easy to get to.
Once you’re in resort you don’t really need a car either, as it’s a pleasant stroll from the village to the ski lifts, or you can hop on the ‘navette’ buses that take a circular route around all areas of Les Contamines – and they’re free. And don’t forget, skis and snowboards are transported free on Mountain Drop-offs transfers, as are bikes if you’re planning a summer mountain biking jaunt. All you need to do is book them in!Guide section
Avoid the high season queues in Les Contamines
As you head out of St Gervais towards Les Contamines on your Mountain Drop-offs transfer, you can start to dream of your first day out on the slopes.To put it simply, in Les Contamines there are rarely any lift queues, the terrain is open and varied with pistes to suit everyone, the mountain restaurants and auberges are superb with reasonable prices and the powder stays untracked for days – what’s not to love?
In terms of skiing, the resort has stayed resolutely on its own, despite endless rumours about linking up with St Gervais/Megève or even Les Saisies in Savoie on the other side of the hill. Who knows what’ll happen in the future, but for the time being, there is enough to keep beginner to upper intermediates more than happy for a week on your ski holiday. And it’s a great place for mixed abilities to enjoy time together.
Great snow cover in Les Contas
You might think that there’d be issues with snow cover with the pistes at between 1000m and 2500m. Nothing could be further from the truth. We’ve known this place for years and Les Contas, as it is affectionately called, consistently opens before many of the bigger resorts (often early December) and stays open until well into spring. We have no idea how they do it, but they must have some kind of microclimate going on, where it snows – and it sticks!
Les Contamines-Montjoie (to give the resort and village its full name) boasts 48 pistes, in a ski area divided into five sections: Village (where there are drag lifts for beginners, a half pipe and cross country pistes, plus biathlon arena) then Montjoie, Roselette, Tierces and Hauteluce, which are all at altitude. Out top tips include whizzing along the really long pistes around Nant Rouge and discovering the hidden valley of Roselette.
Make sure you drop over the other side into the Savoie region to Hauteluce. You get great views of the Girotte Dam and over across to the Tarentaise too (where resorts like Tignes and Les Arcs are). Another must-do is the very highest chair lift up to the Aiguille Croche, where you’ll be rewarded with amazing 360 degree panoramas of Savoie and Haute Savoie, including, of course, Mont Blanc. This is also where some of the nicest little off piste shoots are and a mogulled black run to test those knee joints.
Leisure parks and mountain hiking & biking in summer
A true delight in winter for all the family, Les Contamines is very quiet in the summer, making it a perfect choice for a ‘get away from it all’ holiday, where the pace of life is a whole lot slower.
Right at the end of the val de Montjoie, the Parc Pontet is a superb open-air leisure park with a lake for swimming and paddling in and everything from pony rides and archery, to play parks and tree top adventure trails. There are also picnic areas or you can sample the food at the restaurant with a large terrace overlooking the water.
You can also head up on the Gorge and Signal bubble lifts in summer. At the halfway point you’ll find the Etape, another little lake with a restaurant of the same next to it. Those with mountain bikes will want to go right to the top of Signal and take the downhill path back down, checking out the bike park on the way.
Chilled out Les Contamines
In winter and summer, activities in Les Contamines are very much family-orientated. It’s not really a resort that’s big on partying, but there are some nice restaurants and places for a relaxed apres-ski drink. We’ve drawn up a little list of our favourite things to do whilst in Les Contamines for you, most of which revolve around the superb natural mountain setting.content-activities.php
Les Contamines is at a cross roads, with Italy on one side (via the col du Bonhomme), Savoie and Haute Savoie on the others. It’s little wonder this area has attracted walkers and alpinists since the late 19th century. Many of the walks (including the Tour Mont Blanc route) start from the ‘dead end’, i.e. the furthest point you can drive to past Les Contamines village centre, which is a truly idyllic spot, with a tiny little church (Notre Dame de la Gorge) surrounded by close-proximity peaks.
Make sure you take time to visit the Les Contamines nature reserve in summer. Stretching from the village at 1100m going north to aiguille of Tre la Tete at 3892m, it’s France’s highest nature reserve. Explore the many paths and trails and you’re sure to bump into Chamois and Ibex roaming too. Sturdy walking boots and plenty of water a must!
Make sure you taste ‘farcement’, which is the local Contamines speciality dish. This is proper mountain food, that was the staple for ‘bergers’ who would head off up to the ‘alpages’ to graze their cattle for days on end. Made with a mix of potatoes, prunes and bacon that’s slow cooked for ages and ages in a special pot, we reckon it gives you enough energy to ski for a week in just one helping!
Worth bearing in mind when contemplating a holiday is the fact that Les Contamines is great for child care. There’s a ‘garderie’ in the village right next to the baby pistes. Open seven days a week in the winter season, they welcome little ones from 12 months old. In the summer season it’s open Monday to Friday.
A winter holiday highlight is a horse-drawn sleigh ride to the Auberge de Colombaz for dinner in the evening. After tucking into hearty Savoyard fayre, your return mode of transport, if you’re up for it, will be a torch-lit 3km descent on toboggans. A great way to return from this hidden mountain farm and restaurant (and we can tell you it’s properly off the beaten track!), back down to the village.
Mountain traditions play a big part in Les Contamines, be it winter or summer, so here’s our pick of the festivities to take part in whether those pistes are groomed and ready to go, or the cows are grazing on them…
La Ruée des Fadas – Mid-December
The start of the winter season kicks off once again in Les Contamines with this convivial team event that will see competitors running, leaping and climbing over all sorts of obstacles in an 8km long 30-obstacle tough mudder-style challenge on snow. The emphasis is very much on fun and it’s all rounded off each night with events in the village, from fondue nights to a bit of a disco!
Christmas Market – December
Head to the Espace Animation (village hall) to explore the 30+ stalls full of festive fayre and cheer. Buy some arts and crafts gifts, taste some yummy food and have a warming drink of hot choc or vin chaud. Oh and there’s a tombola too!
New Year’s Eve
It’s party time in Les Contamines, as the whole village waves goodbye to the old year and says hello to the new one coming. The fun stats at 18:00 with a torch-lit descent at the Loyers piste in the village. From 21:00 the snow dance party kicks off in the village square, then fireworks at midnight. Party on – and it’s all for free!
Tele’Moose – Mid-January
We’re loving the name of this weekend dedicated to all things telemark! On the Saturday everyone is invited on to the Les Loyers nursery slopes to have a go at telemark skiing (that’s the one where you heel isn’t attached in the bindings). Open to all ages including children. Then the Sunday is the telemark race day for 8-16 years olds up on the main slopes.
Conta’kids Ski Race – Mid February
Every year in the main February school holidays, Les Contamines hosts a series of races aimed at the future generation of ski champions. Watch in awe as the 12 to 14 year olds rip it down the slalom and put your own ski technique to shame!
Les Contamines’s catchphrase is ‘A chacun son rythme’ which loosely translates as ‘Each to their own rhythm’, which we think really sums up Les Contamines. It’s laid back and friendly, but also still remembers it’s agricultural and alpine heritage and it’s a place where you can really just go at your own pace. So why not start as you mean to go on and take the stress out of the journey from Geneva Airport to Les Contamines by booking yourself a nice, relaxing transfer and letting someone else do the driving!