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My tips and guide to having the best value family ski holiday

For a good value family ski holiday, Le Grand Bornand in France is hard to beat. Find out why, as I share my best money-saving tips

October 27, 2022


When you’re five years old, you don’t care if your ski resort is in a top ten list of ‘must-visit’ resorts...

or if it’s where the Kardashians or the Beckhams were once papped. All you’re interested in is if there are some gentle ski runs and a friendly ski instructor, and maybe a good spot for sledging. A playground, swimming pool and pizza restaurant would probably be welcome too.

So step forward Le Grand Bornand, a pair of traditional villages full of character and independence, and with more than enough runs to keep a five-year-old happy, and her parents for that matter. Le Grand Bornand Village and Chinaillon are a 10-minute drive apart, and linked by 84km of slopes. An hour from Geneva airport or a 35-minute drive from the train station in Annecy in the Haute-Savoie region of the French Alps, Le Grand Bornand is our secret weapon in how to have the best value ski holiday (I’ve been writing about ski holidays for 20 years – gulp! – so have experienced the full range).

For many families, the convenience and familiarity of France trumps other countries for a ski holiday, regardless of price, yet those well-known resorts mainly in the Tarentaise Valley – Val d’Isère, Courchevel, Méribel – come at a premium so it pays to look elsewhere in the country.


If you know where you want to go, for the best value family ski holidays it’s worth looking for accommodation directly with the local tourist office. Particularly at the beginning and end of the season, they often run great offers on the combined price of a lift pass and accommodation – visit and its sister resort, or for inspiration (see the handy links at the end).

We visited Le Grand Bornand last Easter and our apartment was in the MGM Residence Le Roc des Tours in the higher of the two Le Grand Bornand villages. The residence overlooks the slopes, and is a minute’s walk from the ski school. Le Roc des Tours was completed in 2016 and is spacious and smart, with an indoor pool and spa, and our apartment had two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a large balcony overlooking the slopes and plenty of space for the three of us. Compared with an apartment of a similar size and standard in, for example, Meribel, it was nearly £700 cheaper.

But the very point of a holiday isn’t simply about the price. While it’s important – no one wants to feel ripped off – it’s the sense of value and overall experience that have a far greater impact on our overall enjoyment. So in Le Grand Bornand, after mornings spent getting to grips with skiing in ski school for a couple of hours, then skiing together for a few runs as a family, we would head to our sunny balcony for lunches of local meats, cheeses and salad (this valley is the home of the wonderfully creamy reblochon cheese before taking our pick of spring-time activities.

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If you’re stuck to school holidays, think about visiting the Alps at Easter. It’s quieter and much cheaper than travelling at February half term or over Christmas and New Year and while the snow conditions aren’t as reliable as at the height of the season in February, there is still more than enough snow for an enjoyable family holiday.

Because it’s Easter, the days are warmer than earlier in the season and because we’re not at such a high altitude, the climate in the middle of the afternoon is more spring-like so makes for a great two-in-one winter and summer holiday. In the main village of Le Grand Bornand, there’s a fun playground down by the river, and the river itself is excellent for paddling in. There’s also an outdoor art trail around the two villages, dedicated to the local hero - the cow! Funny sculptures, contemporary street art and paintings with unusual twists are spread around, some in plain sight others tucked away, waiting to be discovered, and it makes for an entertaining afternoon.

Another afternoon we drive 30 minutes down the valley to Annecy, a beautiful old city on the shores of the lake of the same name, which is one of the prettiest and cleanest in France, thanks to its surrounding mountains which feed it with fresh alpine water. The pedestrianised streets meander across narrow canals (it’s known as the Venice of the Alps), and there’s a large lake-side park and another inviting playground. But we’re really here to stretch our legs away from the slopes and hire bikes to cycle along the waterfront. There’s a 42km loop that encircles the lake but that feels a bit ambitious, so we cycle for about 18km, along to Sevrier, Saint Jorioz and back, passing enviable century-old lakeshore houses with their own moorings, beaches and perfect views. We’re on e-bikes, so it’s not too tiring after a morning’s skiing, and because we’re by the water the path is flat all the way. We return to Annecy and head to La Bar Roux d’Heure for tea and cake. The owner’s mother is Scottish and the decor is really quirky – it’s considered wonderfully British – and we polish off huge hot chocolates with marshmallows and giant cookies.

When we’re not hunting for cow art or cycling round Annecy of an afternoon we’re in the swimming pool. Le Roc des Tours has its own smart indoor pool (plus steam room and sauna) but there’s also an aquatic centre in the neighbouring village of La Clusaz, 10 minutes drive away. By all accounts it’s brilliant, with an indoor and outdoor pool, slides and spa, but the convenience of our own pool proves too enticing (plus there is a Pure Altitude Spa in Le Roc des Tours, which uses restorative products made from Alpine plants).

Dinners in Le Grand Bornand are as easy-going as the rest of the village. We eat out a couple of places – La Cozna and Le Dérapage – that nail that fine balance of being family-friendly not just for the children but the adults too, and also discover the best local takeaway pizzas from Pizza Toni that are so popular they need ordering a good hour in advance.

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Self catering is most often the best way to save money on a ski holiday, but think it through before convincing yourself you’re going to save hundreds. After a long day of skiing, are you really going to want to cook, and will you be able to buy the ingredients you need? Not all resorts have a well-stocked supermarket - but Le Grand Bornand does, so check before you arrive. It’s worth budgeting for a couple of takeaway pizzas, as well as freshly prepared ready meals from the local butcher (you’ll often find lasagne, tartiflette and coq au vin ready to go).

But what of the skiing – the whole point of a winter holiday? To get the best value family ski holiday, pick a resort that suits you. Do you want miles and miles of high-altitude terrain, or are you happy pottering about on the easier slopes? If you’ve got young children or are just starting out, it’s likely to be the latter, so don’t waste money going to a resort and paying for an expensive lift pass to cover more than you’ll need.

Le Grand Bornand was ideal for us with a five-year-old who’s just starting out. We stayed in Chinaillon, which is higher than Le Grand Bornand Village, and has nursery slopes at the foot of the mountain and cordoned off to keep them quiet. There’s then a chairlift that accesses a long green run – the easiest grade – plus a bowl of further easy runs over towards Vallée du Maroly. Taking ‘the big lift’ was really satisfying for my daughter, and acted as a great incentive – her being able to see more of what was available to ski on higher up the mountain provided great encouragement.

Lift passes generally cost anywhere between €2-300+ for an adult pass for six days, but in Le Grand Bornand (for its local 84km of slopes rather than the wider area of 220km with La Clusaz too), it can be as low as €162, and children under eight go free.

HANDY TIP: Check the resort’s website for advance deals on lift passes before you arrive, and book your equipment hire in advance too. It’ll save you up to 50% off prices in resort. And if you only go skiing once a year, consider renting your ski clothes too – and have great selections of the latest kit.

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The secret of how to have the best value family ski holiday is to think outside the box. For us, a family with a five-year-old daughter, Le Grand Bornand gave us a brilliantly memorable time in the Alps, with the ideal mix of skiing and other activities, and I can't recommend it enough.


For more information on Le Grand Bornand and to book a holiday there, visit the resort's website and the wider region's Annecy Mountains website.

Handy links list

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October 27, 2022