It was more than 3000 years ago that the very first settlers, having travelled from Gall, made camp at the spot which is now the village of Risoul. As you would therefore expect, the historical charm of this authentic mountain village remains eminently tangible to this day. Nevertheless, the ski station itself houses all the facilities to be expected of a modern ski resort, whilst still blending perfectly into its surroundings, largely thanks to its typical regional architecture, produced using mainly wood and stone.
The resort of Risoul 1850, built in the 1970s, has the capacity to provide beds for up to 18,000 guests at any one time, all housed in traditional chalets and holiday apartments. Ever since a direct link up into the Vars ski area was established in 1990, the charming ski resort has formed part of the “Forêt Blanche” ski region, which in total offers an impressive 185km of ski runs. As well as the beautiful larch woodlands that surround the small resort, and for that matter the entire ski area, Risoul and Forêt Blanche also promise many hours of sunshine each day.
Thanks to the area’s quite dry climate, the slopes of Forêt Blanche enjoy both reliably sunny and reliably snowy conditions. Add 55 ultra-modern ski lifts to the mix, all of which provide perfect comfort and a distinct lack of queuing time, and you get an excellent range of facilities to be enjoyed by beginners and semi-professionals alike.
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Newcomers to the slopes will find a large practice area at the ski station itself, complete with its own lift and completely free to use. A further two lifts is all it takes to reach the summit of Peyrefolle at 2457m, which is also the starting point for numerous green and blue-rated runs leading back down to the ski station.
More experienced skiers will find a range of challenging black-grade runs, such as “Vautours”, “Peyrefolle” and “Épervier”, as well as a slalom course close to the Mélezet lift and a wealth of off-piste opportunities.
The majority of Forêt Blanche’s ski runs are either rated as easy or medium difficulty. Vars, however, is well known both for its off-piste facilities and for the high-speed run by the name of “KL” or “Kilomètre Lancé”. Here, skiers from the age of 6 years and upwards can tackle the 98% gradient, earning themselves a certificate in return. The current speed record is a sizzling 243.9km/h.
Snowboarders and freestylers visiting Forêt Blanche will also find themselves spoilt for choice. In the area surrounding Risoul alone there are 3 separate fun parks. These range in difficulty from the “White Park” for beginners, at the foot of Mélezet’s drag lifts, all the way through to the “Black park” for soon-to-be professionals, located beneath the peak of Peyrefolle. However, the main source of Risoul 1850’s formidable reputation amongst snowboarders is, without doubt, “Surfland”, situated in the close vicinity of the ski station itself. As one of the largest snow parks in all of Europe, “Surfland” is equipped with a 150m long half pipe, a smaller half pipe for beginners, and of course all the other usual obstacles you would expect to find. The park was even used as a training venue during the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin.
6 further freestyle zones, which together form the “Vars Park”, are finally located in the Vars Les Claux region, a neighbouring resort. The choice of zones ranges from a Kid Park for the up-and-coming snowboarders to the Girly Park for female freestyle-fans to an Indian and Wild West themed Totem Park. Meanwhile the large 8 hectare Slopestyle Park de l’Essyina awaits advanced freestylers and has an extra boardercross course; Ecrin’s Park has floodlights in the evening and the Escondus Park is intended for the real pros.
Fans of cross country skiing can look forward to the two well marked cross country ski tracks, Martinat and Vallon du Mélezet, which both run through the snow-covered larch forest of Forêt Blanche.
The winter ski-resort Risoul 1850 was awarded with the quality label “Famille Plus Montagne” thanks to, among other things, its extensive range of child-care services. The numerous crèches, nurseries, skiing nurseries and skiing schools are the best place for young holiday goers aged 6 months to 12 years and they prepare children even from the age of 3 for the ski slopes.
On top of this, young winter sports enthusiasts below the age of 5 receive a complimentary ski-pass and families of 4 or more persons can save money. There is a 10% discount per pass for all ski-passes over 6 days, which are bought at the same time and for the same time period.
Risoul 1850 also offers diversion and recreational fun for both the young and old away from the ski-slopes. The 350m² year-round ice rink is one of the ski-resort’s more recent highlights, which is now available in addition to the natural ice surface (750m²) for avid skaters.
Even toboggan fans can get their money’s worth and have the chance, for instance, to ride the “Snake Gliss” on which they can sledge in amusing curves in a row of sledges, which are attached to one another. Or they can try out the rail-toboggan “Luge Deval”, on which you can reach up to 30kph on single or double sledges.
Holiday goers of all ages can also explore the landscape around Risoul on a quadbike or snowmobile tour.
Those who have always wanted to try out a few jumps or stunts on skis or snowboard, can do so at the airbag between the Césier-skilift und der Télépulse-gondola lift. Novices can land safely and, more importantly, softly on the giant air bag.
For the more relaxed part of the day, holidaymakers in Risoul 1850 can choose between a visit to the cinema or a trip to one of the local spas, which endulge their guests with massages and spa treatments.
Afterwards you shouldn’t pass up the culinary offers in many of the region’s restaurants and most importantly you should definitely try traditional french alpine cuisine such as fondue, raclette etc. You can then finally let the day come to a perfect end in one of Risoul’s cosy bars or in the disco.