Camping Caravaneige Champ du Moulin and Les Deux Alpes

We had one requirement for our first ever holiday at Christmas: it had to be white.

The website for Camping Caravaneige Champ du Moulin shows snow on the ground while promising a site fully equipped for winter camping. 

It lived up to the promise on all counts. We arrived just as an unseasonably warm spell arrived and although snow around the valley began to disappear during the week, it remained on the ground in the campsite for the duration.

The site is five minutes walk from Venosc village which is further uphill. When you check the weather for Venosc you'll see temperatures several degrees warmer than it will actually be on the campsite which sits at the bottom of a valley, entirely in the shade during winter.

So we got our white Christmas, waking up on Christmas Day with snow all around, and the benefit of it being a little warmer when we went out each day.

The site's facilities are great. The showers and dishwashing facilities share the ground floor of a large house with a laundry and TV room. It's warm and a nice touch are the clothes airers placed in front of big radiators. You can dry your outdoor clothes or just your towels.

The campsite reception is open from 8am to collect freshly baked baguettes and pastries ordered the day before. They seem to be purchased part baked and finished on site. We each enjoyed a pain au chocolat every day, with a baguette saved for a late lunch after a day's exploring.

The site has a sauna which can be booked in the evening with a 30-minute session each day being free of charge. It's nice to have the sauna all to yourself and there's a shower and rowing machine in the room too.

The site has a bar and restaurant which was closed for all but the last of our nights' stay. We were one of less than half a dozen units camping through Christmas week. The site's owners said they would open the restaurant with a day's notice which was fair enough, but had we done that we couldn't have taken advantage of the lovely restaurant we happened upon while out walking half way up a mountain. I like to take my holiday day's as they come and not have to decide in advance where and when I'll eat.

Our final night was a Saturday and that evening the campsite population more than doubled, New Year obviously being a more popular week for visitors than the preceding Christmas week. The bar and restaurant sprang to life and looked lovely.

As I said earlier Camping Caravaneige Champ du Moulin sits just down the hill from the little village of Venosc. The campsite is quiet and the village quaint and peaceful. Just a five minute walk from the campsite brings you to a cable car station that will whizz you up to the thriving skiing resort of Les Deux Alpes. 

For around €50 we bought a six-day pedestrian pass to the resort's cable cars and ski lifts. It's a grueling two-and-a-half-hour walk up the mountain if you don't take the cable car (I can vouch for this as it's how we made the ascent the first time) and so it's a reasonable price considering that once in town you can use the pass on dozens of other ski lifts that criss cross up into the snowy mountains after which 2 Alpes was named. If all you are doing is walking you'll have saved hundred of euros on what the pass costs skiers.

When we booked our Christmas camping break we hadn't considered skiing. Neither of us has done it before, but being in a skiing resort and seeing everyone else doing it has made us consider it for our next holiday.

Instead we used the milder weather to walk on paths that might be impassable otherwise. We took cable cars up and walked down one mountain, we climbed up others and discovered fabulous places to eat and drink. And sometimes we just sat in the sun with a drink.

The Umbrella Bar at the base of the main ski run is a great place to while away a sunny day. Rows of deck chairs point towards the sun and beer is quite a reasonable €18 for a 1.5 litre jug. You can watch the skiers on the main piste and the learners on the practice runs.

On Christmas day we enjoyed a couple of beers in the Polar Bear Pub with its faux-log-cabin interior and log-burning fire giving a real festive feel.

Our best find was on a walk across Pied Moutet when we came across La bergerie Kanata. A snack bar and restaurant nestled half way up the mountain. It's reachable by a ski lift but the west alp wasn't being used for skiing when we were there as facing the sun I guess it would have been too difficult keeping the snow on the piste. But a half hour walk is worth it and we visited three times, enjoying a carafe of wine (€13 for a litre) sitting either on the picnic tables our deck chairs in the sun. We were also tempted to ordering food each time, never being disappointed with our choices.

Also worth mentioning are the swimming pools. We tried two pools, both with indoor and outdoor sections. Both were heated to be comfortable to be outside and soaking up the sun while admiring the view of snow-capped mountains. I'd recommend the pool at Espace Forme over the town's main pool. Espace Forme was quiet and, at €5 per person, very reasonably priced. You can rent a towel if you need one. The main pool in town, although free with a ski pass, was crowded and they'll only sell you a towel. Both pools require Speedo-style trunks to be worn - no beach shorts allowed.

If you're looking for an inexpensive winter sun destination I'd recommend both the campsite Camping Caravaneige Champ du Moulin and Les Deux Alpes skiing resort. Just be aware you'll need to leave the campsite to actually be in the sun.


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