The great names of Val d’isère, Tignes and Les Arcs will be familiar to those of you addicted to the white stuff. But you may not have heard of Ste-foy-tarentaise.
This little gem of a Savoyard Alpine village lies within easy reach of all three of these legendary ski resorts and is a station ski in its own right. The nearest airport is Chambéry, but Grenoble, Lyon and Geneva airports are all well within a 2h30 drive.
Off the beaten piste
Ste-foy’s ski resort lies at 1,550-2,620m while the village is just six kilometres away in the valley below. We are on the northern edge of the Vanoise National Park, the first to be created in France in 1963. To the south, the summit of Grande Casse rises out of the Vanoise massif; at 3,855m it is the highest point in the great Tarentaise
valley of the upper Isère basin. Some 300 million years ago its base was at the bottom of a very deep marine trench. Scattered with hamlets and ancient chapels the Ste-foy commune covers over 11,000ha including 20 along the Italian border. The lowest point in the commune, at 890m, is Viclaire, just below Ste-foy; the highest is the Grande Sassière at 3,746m. You can ski
Seeking a peaceful Alpine ski resort with heritage and character? Put your faith in Ste-foy-tarentaise and its impressive connections, says Carolyn Reynier
through the woods following signposted itineraries and snowshoe under the stars to an isolated igloo where toddlers can have a snack and grown-ups can enjoy a Savoyard apéro. Or you could walk through larch forest to the ancient farming hamlet of Le Monal, now a classified historic site renowned for its 18th and 19th-century mountain chalets.
The ski resort Unlike the village, which has been here for centuries, the ski resort of Ste-foy-tarentaise has existed only since the 1990s and was considerably developed in the 2000s. To make it stand out from the large resorts surrounding it, strict building controls were applied from the start, explains Sandrine Charrière of Sainte-foy Agence. Corrugated iron roofs are strictly prohibited; they must instead be tiled with lauze, a flat stone usually cut from metamorphic rocks in these parts. And you see lots of little chalets in stone and timber. “That’s what adds to the charm and ambiance of the Ste-foy resort,” says Sandrine.
As well as apartments in Alpine residences – even these have lauze tiles – you can find chalets starting from around €900,000 for approximately 160m2. Prices will depend on the location within the resort and the quality of the interior. As construction of the resort is comparatively recent, volumes are larger and there aren’t many little studios here like you find in the large stations. Sandrine is currently marketing a one-bedroom apartment in the first residence built here for €215,000.
You have everything you need in the resort including restaurants, one of which, La Maison à Colonnes, is an authentic renovated barn. You also have restaurants along the ski slopes; renovated former chalets d’alpage, which provided (and still do) accommodation for farmers after they have moved their cattle to higher pastures in the summer. These welcoming small houses have a particular cachet that you don’t find in the large resorts.
Some folk like to be close to the pistes; others prefer year-round village life. “Even if they only come for a few weeks a year, they like to be more integrated with the locals,” says Sandrine. In winter, a bus drives you from the village and surrounding hamlets to the resort. The village and around Here in the village, where you have the mairie, the school, and, of course, the Savoyard architecture of stone and timber, Sandrine recently sold a pretty house of about 220m2 for €770,000. She showed me a choice of apartments in various complexes; one was an old converted staging post with “beaucoup de cachet.” You can find studios in the older village apartment buildings; Sandrine sold a small one at the beginning of summer for €95,000. The agency is currently selling a two-bedroom apartment for €270,000.
One of the surrounding hamlets, Le Miroir, just to the north of Ste-foy, is particularly well known because it is classified and therefore protected. Here the traditional chalets have
Snowshoe under the stars to an isolated igloo where toddlers can have a snack and grown-ups can enjoy a Savoyard apéro
distinctive columns that support the overhanging roof, forming a sheltered space that enables air to circulate for drying hay and wood, and allows folk to move between different floors in bad weather.
A company has bought and renovated some of the hamlet’s chalets which are rented out to an international clientele. They are lovely properties with “de très belles prestations”, says Sandrine. You often hear this word ‘ prestations’, which means ‘benefits’ and is used here to mean that there are lovely fixtures and fittings.
La Masure is another charming hamlet, with more folk living here year round than at Le Miroir where prices are high for a main dwelling. You could also have a look at the twin hamlets of Le Planay, one named Dessus (meaning upper) and the other Dessous (meaning lower). The former is close to the skiing area, which gives it a certain value. Throughout the commune, the Savoyard architectural style is protected and you need permission from the Bâtiment de France architects for new-builds.
In Savoyard hamlets, houses are usually close to each other so when old properties are renovated the main living spaces are often created under the eaves where the hay used to be stored to ensure light and views. Bedrooms are created below.
Why buy in Ste-foy? The resort of Ste-foy has a special peaceful and protected ambiance, says Sandrine. You can ski through the forest; the snow is good because it is not exposed much to the winter sun. If you invest in property here you also benefit from the other larger resorts nearby. Sandrine says most people buy a place for the family to use and enjoy. Others may only come for a few weeks and will rent out the rest of the time to help cover costs. People say how much they love being able to ski in the large resorts – and how much they love returning to the peace and quiet of Ste-foy in the evening.
Remember, your Savoyard chalet is not just for Christmas. In summer, a chairlift can take you up into the mountains for a day’s wildlife watching, hiking, mountain biking or horse riding. “There’s a riding centre for children and adults and they go on really beautiful mountain rides,” says Sandrine. “It is a recent resort but one which continues to evolve and to invest in its infrastructure a bit more each year.”
The area is popular with mountain bikers in summer The ski resort in summer