Do you remember how in nineties movies and books, one of THE coolest things that people did was dress up in swanky snow gear (don’t forget the reflective neon googles and a look that says I’m better than you) and spend the day on the slopes? Somehow they always found the perfect mountain vista with 360 degree views, and the ski resorts were 1200 times fancier than any ski lodge I’ve ever been to.
Somehow they made a cold, sweaty, crowded, (painful for the unexperienced) day skiing look completely casual and cool.
After a couple of times snowboarding in much less glamorous conditions on the East Coast, I realized these gorgeous ski resort days were fictional and completely unattainable. Until stumbling upon the slopes at La Clusaz in the French alps, which could be the veritable set of a 90’s tv show.
And stumbling is literally how we found this place. Because our trip to Annecy at the base of the mountains was planned so last-minute, I didn’t have time to do any research or plan activities. But I wasn’t about to visit the French alps without seeing some actual snow! So with a quick google search and a cheap bus ride, I convinced my travel buddies to venture up the mountain to a little town called La Clusaz.
The 8 euro bus ride from Annecy took about 45 minutes to wind around the lake and up the mountain. We had zero plan of what to do or where to go once we got there, but when we stepped off the bus and immediately saw skiiers unloading with Bernese mountain dogs and huskies, I knew we would find something magical.
It was definitely colder with the higher altitude, so we took a minute to re-group in the bus station and figure out a plan. We couldn’t really figure out where the best place to go was, so we decided to just start walking.
The base town looked like a well-themed ski resort in the US, but the wooden chalets with carved balconies are obviously authentic and not trying to imitate some “European destination.” There wasn’t much in terms of shopping or eating, so we walked through and quickly found ourselves at the base of the gondola.
Let me reiterate that on our hastily-planned, 2-day trip, we were NOT planning to ski or even be in the snow. But somehow everyone was convinced we should ride the ski lift and see what we found. Buying lift tickets from the ticket booth was simple and not too expensive, but we still felt unsure if it would be okay to ride the gondola up, or if we would stuck at the top without any skis or ways to get down.
We did see a few restaurants on the map along the lift route, so we figured we would try for a cozy lunch next to the ski slope. Again, low expectations! We got off the lift to one of the most picturesque mountain views I had ever dreamed of! We looked around and were surrounded by the Alps (the Alps!!!), snow on the ground, skiers dressed in neon whizzing past us, hillside cottages in the distance, and wooden chalets among the pine trees.
The first restaurant we tried was completely full (in the future, we’ll make reservations in advance!), but we were overtaken by how strong the coziness vibes were (think: outdoor benches covered in blankets surrounding a fire pit), so we were determined to find a similar place to eat! We trekked further up the mountain, walking along paved roads with beautiful rustic-yet-modern cabins. (We all vowed to come for an actual ski weekend in the future!)
Then we found a gorgeous chalet right in the middle of the snowy slopes with an opening for a table of 4! This was no rustic Virginia ski lodge, however. We were in France after all. This was an upscale restaurant with real food (not overpriced, overcooked burgers) and real ambiance. There was nice music playing, classy waiters, and best of all – everyone around us was taking their time to enjoy the sunshine, chilly breeze, and good wine. Ahhh, France. You know how to appreciate life!
So we sat with blankets in our laps, ordered big glasses of red wine, and soaked in the atmosphere! We ordered hearty warm food to fill our bellies, and it was one of the best meals Whit and I have ever had. The food was delicious, but the sun on our faces, crisp mountain air, relaxed people all around, and beautiful views added up to perfection.
After lunch, we needed to start heading back to catch the bus, but we got to take some pictures and enjoy the scenery while we walked back down to the gondola.
Seriously, this was one of the dreamiest places I’ve ever visited, and the meal one I think of regularly. If you are visiting Annecy, you must make the short trek up to this darling alpine village straight out of a fairytale!
P.S. If you enjoyed these photos, you can find some of them for sale as prints in my etsy shop!