La Fouly | Little Hills, Big Thrills

Oli Lynch goes in search of a budget friendly family ski break - and nails it

wood chalets on a snowy slope

Switzerland might not be short of fun little ski resorts, with a ski station hiding around the corner of pretty much every valley. But we were lured to the Pays du Saint-Bernard region in the Bas Valais (lower Valais region) to La Fouly ski resort, on the promise of a budget family friendly ski break.

The phrase ‘budget ski break’ doesn’t often appear in the same sentence as the word ‘Switzerland’, so our interest was suitably piqued. And, in the run up to Christmas, our little ones were eager to see snow, and my partner was interested in refreshing her ski skills, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to check it out.

Our base for the week was Ski Hostel in Liddes, five minutes’ drive from the Vichères-Liddes ski area, part of the Ski Saint-Bernard domain, which consists of four ski areas spread across the valley.

Our guide was Stefan, a man of many talents/guises, who acts as the Ski Hostel manager, transfer driver, ski instructor and equipment hire shop. Although we had Vichères-Liddes (four lifts, 15km runs) right on our doorstep, Stefan suggested La Fouly, 30 minutes’ drive south west, as the best option for beginners and kids (“with some rather fun skiing higher up too,” he added, with an intriguing wink).

Into the car we bundled, with the approach to La Fouly taking us through the very definition of a Winter Wonderland– all quaint Swiss villages, tumbling valleys and lofty snow-topped peaks.

La Fouly itself is a small village (1,600m) with direct access to a ski area that covers just over 20km of pistes. Once here, it was clear why Stefan suggested La Fouly as a good fit for us. First, the learner area is totally free to access via the magic carpet. For kids, this is a perfect introduction and you don’t need to spend a cent. There is also a T-bar that takes you to a more reasonable practice length, so you can get some carves and speed up (though for this you will need a lift pass).

While this lower section – with its jumble of wooden chalets and trees – is lovely, soon enough the rest of the mountain beckoned. Time for me to go exploring.

A single chairlift whisks you up a stage higher, with an additional T-bar lift taking you all the way to the Arpalle summit at 2,200m. Once here, your playground opens up, and it becomes clear why La Fouly is a gem among smaller Swiss ski resorts.

From the summit, you can drop down skier’s left on to a broad open red piste, ideal for carving or popping a few jumps or side hits. Feeling strong? You have the option to join the black Les Bassins run, which feeds into black Le Chamois and continues all the way to the resort base.

In fact, you’re spoilt for challenging pitches here. Out of 10 runs at La Fouly, four are blacks, and you also have several yellow (ungroomed) itineraries to go at.

On the days we visited, the two itineraries from the Arpalle summit – Les Mélèzes and Les Luis – were unfortunately closed, but Stefan mentioned that on powder days these are fantastic for scoring fresh tracks on steep, varied routes that cut through the trees to the far skier’s right.

Reaching the top of the chairlift marks the beginning of several divergent ways to descend to the resort base, with a choice of forested trails zig-zagging back down. On one hand you have a gentle meandering blue, which takes you along a narrow trail; or for those more daring you can drop into another yellow ungroomed run, or go for a black piste that basically cuts the corners off the blue run.

The home straight offers some fun options too, with a fast and steep red bringing you back to base, or a more family friendly blue run that leads you back to the top of the beginner section. Being a smaller resort for locals, there is basically no queue for the lifts (pretty much ever), and you’ll find that most of the time you’re one of just a handful of skiers on any one run.

Need a refuel? The best spot is the Auberge de Glaciers at the base station, which has great views of that steep final descent. It gets a little crowded at lunch, but their fondue is excellent. There is also a small bar on the hill, right at the top of the chairlift, which has a surprisingly cool vibe for such a sleepy resort, with house music and free-flowing beers, topped with a pretty epic view down the valley.

A single day pass at La Fouly, or any of the Pays Saint-Bernard ski resorts, costs CHF43. However, the real value is in the annual pass, which costs just CHF159 for the entire winter season. This grants access not just to La Fouly, but to the other ski areas, including Vichères / Liddes and Champex-Lac, for the whole year!

I’ll certainly be back, I’ve some unfinished business with old Mélèzes and Luis.


Our package with Ski Hostel costs €950 for seven nights’ half-board, including resort and airport transfers and four hours’ tuition. For information on the Pays duSaint-Bernard ski resorts and passes click here