Freeriding, terrain parks and pistes
in Puy St Vincent
The resort is divided neatly into trees which are eminently shredable below 2000m, and plenty of open faces above that.
Most of the trees in the wooden areas are really well spaced out, and within boundary, green beginner paths dissect them, so you're never too far away from civilisation if you get a bit lost.
Get above the trees and you have a choice of 3 lifts that take you to the highest points. The Recocher Noir has a short hike and an easy drop into the same valley served by the highest lift, the La Pendine. The black runs are left unpisted, and should be avoided unless you've some weird mogul fetish. The La Pendine has the best lift served options as well as the steepest. You can traverse along the ridge line and drop into the valley, or just head into the sections visible from the lift.
Take the Les Lauzes lift, to access the Coqs area, technically the trees here are in a protected zone, and as such it's rarely tracked and has stacks of fun drops and features to discover, even if you're just dipping in and out of the pistes that run through it.
The big draw for any freeriders is the Col du Bal area. A short hike from the top of the La Pendine gives you access to the valley to the side of the resort, and a seemingly endless powder field, that eventually descends into the trees. A pretty flat track takes you back to the base at 1400m. You'll need to hire a guide from ESI to show you the way.
Don't come here expecting to find a world class park, you'll need to travel quite a distance from here to find one of those. However there is a small park located at an altitude of 2000m and occasionally served by the Puy t-bar during the high season.
On a good day, they build a few kickers and have a couple of simple boxes in place, and what there is seems to be shaped fairly regularly. In the same area you'll also find a pretty decent boardercross course.
The 75km slopes are well maintained with very few flat bits and dodgy cambers that prove awkward. The vast majority of pistes are blues and beginner greens, with a few more steeper red slopes, and black runs which are just unpisted mogul fields. There is nothing there that will seriously test any good riders, however the 1400m vertical 6km top to bottom runs will give some heavy leg burn, so its not a total waste of time. Pick of the bunch is the red runs off the Les Lauzes chairlift; the bois desc coqs. The run soon twists through trees and gets progressively steeper, offering you a chance to really open up and get some speed. Eventually it splits into a long blue which takes to back down to the 1400m base, or continues back onto one of the other major pistes in the resort – the clot d'aval. If you decide to take the blue, then brace yourself for some serious skating at the end of the balme before it joins up with the beginner landes run to the base.
The 1600m village is a great area for families to base themselves. You can access all of the facilities with a pushchair without the need to carry it up any steps, and you won't find any shops or restaurants turning you away. British company Snowbizz are based here, and offer a full range of child options, so adults can escape and recall the good old days when you could have fun. Baby's from 6-months can be looked after in their secure creche in the complex, and older children can safely be initiated into snowsports by their trained staff. All of staff are British and hold the relevant qualifications, and you can also hire baby sitters at 10euros per hour in the evening.
Beginners have a decent resort to learn in. The vast majority of the lifts are all chairs, and you can start off taking some of the narrower green routes through the trees before venturing out on the wider but still gentle blue slopes which litter the resort. Unlike many resorts, there is a large area total beginners should be able to access.
There is a separate tiny beginner area, however it may be easier to walk up the slope here rather than take the rope pull lift, as it takes some getting used to.
The steepest slopes here are on the lift exit runways, so you'll need to be a bit careful when getting off some of the lifts.
Snowboarding has declined in participation and you might struggle to find group lessons apart from during high season, however there are private tutors available, and head to the blue suited ESI school for the better English speakers.
One weekers will be able to cover pretty much the entire area without venturing onto any of the steeper red pistes.