Everybody knows about CHAMONIX, the town in the shadow of Mont Blanc, with its dizzying t�l�ph�riques, the Vall�e Blanche glacier run and the climbing school. But few people know about the Lognan. Those who do consider it Europe's finest single run. The lift to its wide-open snowfield opened four years ago. It climbs in two cable-car sections 7,500 vertical feet. From the top there is a wide-open choice—plunge or amble, with Mont Blanc over your shoulder and Le Br�vent towering ahead. There are 109 hotels in the area. One of the best is the Carlton-Symond and the skiers' favorite restaurant is the Choucas. The new Mont Blanc tunnel makes it possible to ski Italy from Chamonix—Cervinia is only two hours by car. You can ski down to Zermatt from there!
Megeve, only 40 minutes from Chamonix, is another world. Chamonix is dark and serious, but Meg�ve is sunny and lighthearted, its skiing on the gentle side, its nightlife fast. Meg�ve is Rothschild country, and Baron Edmond's hotel, Mont d'Arbois, located on a vast terrain that is an 18-hole golf course in summer, is a monument as impressive in its way as the Lognan run. It is the best mountain hotel in France, if not Europe, as calm and self-sufficient as an ocean liner. There are two in staff for every guest, a collection of luxe bars, grills, restaurants and shops, a glassed-in swimming pool and gym overlooking the mountains. Ivor Petrak, the man who turned The Lodge at Stowe into the best ski hotel in the U.S., is the captain of this ship of the snows. It will cost you from $16 (without bath) to $30 a night to stay there. Bring your ascots, your Puccis and your jewels.
La Plagne is an architectural phenomenon in yet another vein. Its skyscrapers of varnished wood (see cover and color pages) are as severely elegant as any Mies van der Rohe tower. Although now 6 years old, it has hardly promoted tourism, for La Plagne was designed as a family place and all but 10% of its 4,300 beds are in private apartments. However, this year, following a sort of Vail formula, La Plagne is renting these extremely comfortable accommodations—average price about $10 per person a night with lifts and ski school included. Emile Allais, who master-planned Squaw Valley and Courchevel and who moves next to Flaine, is the man behind the extraordinary ski-and-Iiving complex. The area has unusually good snow conditions, beautifully cared for pistes, and weather that most often gives you an unlimited view from the top—the best in the Alps. There are also hotels at La Plagne—L'Or�e des Pistes and the Christiana. Prices range from $7 to $17, full pension.
To COURCHEVEL and MERIBEL add SAINT-MARTIN DE BELLEVILLE, a new ski station, and you have the Three Valleys, three ski areas now linked by uphill facilities on every side, combining to form an enormous roller coaster for skiers. You can even stretch this splendid prospect farther by flying in one of Michel Ziegler's Air-Alpes ski planes (SI, Feb. 7, 1966) to a glacier, such as the Gebroula, above Saint-Martin, and put about 30 miles under your skis in a day before bedding down at Courchevel.
Saint-Martin, brand new, will one day have 30,000 beds. It will give a student and middle-income family market some of the best terrain in the Alps at very low prices. M�ribel is famous for Brigitte Bardot, who has a chalet there. And Courchevel is the town that started the whole postwar ski boom in France and set the pattern for the new resorts. Instead of being built down in the dark valley around an existing town, as was the custom, Courchevel was built up on the shoulder of the mountain, in the certain snow and brilliant sun. It now has 18,000 beds, a veritable New York Thruway of a beginners' slope—the longest in the world—and some couloirs and off-piste tours that will snap open your buckle boots. It does not slow down after dark either (see color). The late-night tempo at La Grange and Le Club Saint-Nicolas is a challenge of another sort.
Val-d'Isere, a 10-minute flight (or 1�-hour drive) over the hills from Courchevel, has a reputation for being all too calm after dark. While this is not entirely true, after a day of skiing what must be the most sporting terrain in Europe, all you need is a hot bath, a good meal and a good bed. There is no better place to find all three under the same roof in Val-d'Is�re than at La Bergerie, the cozy pension and restaurant owned by the Robert Killys, Jean-Claude's parents. Val, as the ski snobs call it, has two steep mountains—the Solaise and the Bellevarde, both reached by cable cars (see color). On top of the Solaise there is a superb network of Poma lifts taking you to beginners' promenades or powder tours. Don't let anyone tell you that Val is only for experts—here you can learn on top, in the sun. But an expert could spend a week in the area without doubling his tracks. Best runs are the 40� Super S on the Solaise and the Face of Bellevarde. Val is also connected by lifts to TIGNES, a new ski station, at 6,500 feet the highest in Europe, making for another uphill, downdale roller coaster like that of the Three Valleys. This small town has a French and English clientele—only 100 Americans skied there last season. It has one really fine hotel, the Shamrock, where full board costs from $10 to $17 a day. This Christmas, Tignes opens the first two sections of a t�l�ph�rique to the Grande Motte that take you to 10,000 feet. A year from now this will be extended to the perpetual snows of the Grand Motte glacier, to 12,000 feet.
The French, who make the Poma lift, use it to lace their mountains with fast, inexpensive uphill facilities—a lesson that could be learned by many American resorts. But take care on the Poma—the operators get a kick out of engaging its mechanism with a jerk and watching the unsuspecting skier hurtle into the air. One other caution: the French ski these areas the way they sideslip through l'Etoile—and think nothing of cutting you off or skiing right over your tips.
The chances of your staying at CHAMROUSSE or ALPE D'HUEZ, both Olympic venues, are very remote. But there is hardly a greater thrill in skiing than playing Walter Mitty by skiing a downhill after the Olympic race is over. This will be possible on February 8. A visitor to Alpe d'Huez, the bobsled venue high on a south-facing canted plateau, will be able to ski its sunny slopes anytime during the Games. Alpe d'Huez is high—its t�l�ph�rique goes to 11,000 feet and is the alternate site for the Olympic downhill if Chamrousse has snow trouble. DEUX ALPES is the third area available to skiers who want to take a day off from watching the races to ski themselves. It is 40 miles from Grenoble, with good terrain, fairly easy skiing.
Once you leave the Grenoble area and head toward Nice, you are in the southern Alps. This means that the mountains must be high and face generally north for good snow. There are three areas in this direction worthy of an international traveler's brief attention: SERRE CHEVALIER, VARS and PRA-LOUP. Vars and Serre Chevalier are rapidly growing older centers with good skiing and lift facilities. Pra-Loup is a brand-new creation. Its chief attraction is that it will be the station of Honor� Bonnet, coach of the French team, who purportedly will retire here after the Games. He will come to a year-round place in the sun, a family ski village with no championship trails, but with wide meadows and pleasant promenades, swimming pools year round and golf in the summer.
EATING THERE: Anyone who skis in France leaves with memories of lunches of spicy Savoie ham, omelets, cheeses and fruit tarts with bottles of pale green Cr�py, served on some mountain terrace. The moniteur you ski with will consider it part of his trust to guide you to the best in the area. Your dinners will more than likely be taken at your hotel. But eating in the Grenoble vicinity during the Games will be more of a problem. In town proper there are several good restaurants, serving such Dauphin� specialties as poulet aux �crevisses (chicken with a crayfish sauce), various quail dishes (this is a game-bird area) and the omnipresent gratin dauphinois, creamy, light scalloped potatoes. Best restaurants in town are the Bec Fin, the Poularde Bressane and a new place that looks old, run by a former wine-tasting champion of France, the Saint-Vincent. Good steaks and good Beaujolais are the specialties of the house. Just outside of town—and hopefully less crowded—you will find the Rostang at Sassenage, grandest and most expensive restaurant around and 20 minutes north on N 90 at Montbonnot, Les M�sanges, a friendly, wood-paneled auberge with windows overlooking the Belledonne mountains. At Uriage, on the road up to Chamrousse, stop at La Fondue—a rustic sort of place with a pig on the spit and wine in barrels. The skiing Rothschilds often lunch here on their way to and from the C�te d'Azur.