With the new balneo-ludique (‘fun baths’) centre at Serre-Chevaliers, French ski resorts are demonstrating how varied, high-quality ‘spa and well-being’ facilities have become a key part of a perfect winter holiday. The bliss of a spa, jacuzzi or massage is becoming a ‘must’ after a thrilling day of skiing down the slopes. A zen moment in a bath-and-pool environment is an ideal complement to a day in crisp, high-altitude air – especially since it can now be shared with the whole family. Classic health spas include Thermes de Saint-Gervais (near Mont-Blanc), and Brides-les-Bains (at the foot of Méribel/3 Vallées), not forgetting the Radiana Hotel and spa in Léchère (at the foot of Valmorel, in the Tarantaise Valley) and Orcières 1850 (in Hautes-Alpes). The Pyrenees, meanwhile, thanks to an abundance of hot springs with recognized virtues, have long boasted spas such as Luz-Ardiden, Saint-Lary, Cauterets, and others.
The Grands Bains at Serre-Chevalier
Thisbath-and-pool spa , run by the ValVital group, extends over 4,500 m² (45,000 ft²) and boasts two pools (indoor and outdoor) that span nearly 300 m² (3,000 ft²). These are complimented by fun, original features (grotto, whirlpools, etc.), not to mention ‘classic’ health and fitness facilities (water aerobics, etc.).
Admission prices vary, ranging from hourly fees to regular subscriptions. This complete centre is also suitable for children. It is located at Monêtier-les-Bains, a venerable hot-springs spa town that is part of the mountain-resort complex ofSerre-Chevalier dubbed ‘Grand Serre-Che.’
Saint-Gervais, in the Land of Mont-Blan
The spring at Le Fayet, just below the pleasant burg of Saint-Gervais on the west flank of Mont Blanc, provides sulphurous waters perfect for a health cure following a day on the ski slopes at Prarion (twinned with Les Houches) or Mont d’Arbois (twinned with Mégève).
All-inclusive packages for stays at the spa offer (depending on dates): a ‘spa-ski’ package for 8 days with a ski pass and 3 spa sessions, or 6 days of hiking with 3 spa sessions.
Brides-les-Bains/3 Vallées, Savoy
At the edge of the Parc National de la Vanoise and just below the 3 Vallées ski area, the village of Brides-les-Bains boasts a direct gondola lift to Méribel, the glamorous pivotal resort of the three-valley complex. The village facilities include a recent spa that honours the local tradition of providing a ‘beauty halt’ for ‘elegant ladies.’ What could be more pleasant than following a few trips down the slopes with a soothing massage? Packages include: a ‘2-day/2-night spa special’ with 4 sessions, and a ‘spa & ski’ special with6 days of skiing and 2 days of spa.
Luz Ardiden, Haute-Pyrénées
Located at an intersection leading to two major natural sites (the Pic du Midi de Bigorre and the Cirque de Gavarnie), the village of Luz developed the higher-altitude ski resort of Ardiden even as it retained its own spa tradition in the valley. This tradition dates back to the 19th century when Empress Eugénie stayed here, yet it has been updated to include wrap-massages with chocolate! Note that a free shuttle connects and links the spa and the township, since the spa itself is situated on the edge a gorge.
Orcières 1850, Hautes-Alpes
This sunny resort in the Southern Alps sits on the edge of the Parc National des Écrins and also boasts a sprawling sports complex of 3,000 m² (30,000 ft²) which includes an indoor pool and skating rink.
Coupled with a fitness-health centre, the Grande Ourse complex notably offers a ‘cocooning for two’ package featuring 3* housing and access to health and sports facilities.
Radiana Hotel in La Léchère
Fifteen minutes below the ski resort of Valmorelin the heart of the Tarentaise Valley, this vast hotel and spa complex has been recently renovated in an ‘Art Deco’ style. It boasts pools and facilities covering over 500 m² (5,000 ft²).
This 3* establishment also offers ‘spa and ski’ packages to nearby ski resorts (including a mini-bus shuttle), and ‘short-stay’ packages for both weekdays and weekends.