Haute Maurienne Vanoise, Savoie, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France

The community of Haute Maurienne Vanoise common is a common community of French, located in the department of Savoie and the region Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes. Between the Vanoise National Park and Italy, the Haute Maurienne Vanoise tourist destination is a concentrate of Alpine riches. Unspoiled nature, peaks over 3,000 meters, six ski resorts, cutting-edge technologies, a very rich architectural heritage… So many assets for this exceptional territory easily accessible by TGV and motorway.

The Haute-Maurienne-Vanoise constitutes the upstream end of the Maurienne valley. It is bounded by the Vanoise National Park to the north and Italy to the south and east. It is accessible by the Col du Mont-Cenis, the Col de l’Iseran to the northeast and the Maurienne motorway to the west. The Community of municipalities has several winter sports resorts on its territory: downhill skiing in Valfréjus, La Norma, Aussois, Val Cenis Vanoise (Val-Cenis) and Bonneval-sur-Arc; Nordic skiing in Val d’Ambin (delegated municipality ofBramans), at Le Monolithe et Aussois and at Bessans. Its altitude varies between 940 meters in Freney and 3,855 meters in the town of Val-Cenis.

In the heart of the mountains of Haute Maurienne Vanoise, its villages and resorts offer a concentration of the Alps with its peaks over 3000 m which dominate the slopes and resorts (Mont Thabor, Rateau d’Aussois, Dent Parrachée, Albaron, Bessanaise, Grande Casse) and unspoiled mountains. From the top of the resorts, the view unfolds in 360 °: from Punta Bagna (Valfréjus) to Pointe d’Andagne (Bonneval sur Arc) via the Canopée des Cimes (Val Cenis), you will be amazed and made full of memories and fresh air. The Haute Maurienne Vanoise quite simply offers the highest density of mountain huts in the Alps. As for the mountain restaurants, they offer local specialties in the heart of the resorts.

The new Haute Maurienne Vanoise community of municipalities has existed since 1 st January 2017. It is the result of the merger of the Terra Modana community of communes and the “old” Haute Maurienne Vanoise community of communes. With the NOTRe law, the latter could not remain as it was because it had fewer than 5,000 inhabitants. The two inter-municipal authorities of Haute Maurienne have therefore merged to form a single structure.

Mountain agriculture requires special know-how. Maintaining meadows, alpine pastures, milking cows at altitude, making cheese… Agriculture is still very present in Haute Maurienne Vanoise. Meet farmers, herds in the alpine pastures and taste quality products made by passionate mountain people. The herds of sheep and cows graze in altitude throughout the summer and contribute to the maintenance of the landscape. Several alpine farms welcome you and let you discover their hard but beautiful life, their products of which they are proud. They gladly tell about their profession, milking, hay, calving, patous, wolves… Cousu de Bessans ham, Sollières blue trout from Bonneval sur Arc, blueberries from Mont-Cenis, wild raspberries and strawberries, Aussois goat cheese, Sollières sheep cheese, mountain honey, beer from Oé and Sources de la Vanoise…

Historical heritage
The Forts of Esseillon
Natural rock barrier, the Esseillon glacial lock was used for the establishment of fortresses whose goal was to protect the country from the enemy. This military square was not the site of fighting, but it is nonetheless steeped in history and is classified as “Historical Monuments”. Built according to the plans of the Marquis de Montalembert between 1815 and 1830 at the time of the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia, well before the attachment of Savoy to France, the forts of Esseillon were neither French nor Italian. The Esseillon glacial lock (Piedmontese ladder) was perfectly suited to the design thought by the architect, who recommended mutual defense of each fort by crossfire. These buildings bear the first names of the sovereigns of the royal family: Victor Emmanuel and Marie-Thérèse, Charles-Félix and Marie-Christine, Charles-Albert.

Fort Charles Albert
Fort Charles Albert is one of the five Sardinian forts that make up the Esseillon barrier and bear the names of the sovereigns of the Savoy family. These works, built according to the architectural principles of Montalembert, testify to an architecture unique in France. These stones raised to repel the enemy today welcome lovers of strong emotions. Their vocation was to protect the Aussois plateau and the Haute Maurienne. The few barracks still visible can be admired from the outside only.

Fort Charles Félix
The charm of the ruins and the beauty of the site will inspire you. The ruins of this romantic fort, destroyed by Napoleon III when Savoy joined France in 1860. The Essseillon barrier was built at the beginning of the 19th century, to guard against French invasions. The five Sardinian forts that compose it bear the names of the sovereigns of the Savoy family. These works, built according to the architectural principles of Montalembert, testify to an architecture unique in France. The fort can be admired from the outside, the instability of the monument making the visit inside dangerous.

Fort Marie-Christine
Formerly at the heart of the Savoyard defensive system, this imposing fort welcomes tourists and gourmets. Dominating the Arc valley, Fort Marie-Chrisine is the tallest structure on the Esseillon barrier, made up of five forts. The fort, gateway to the Vanoise National Park, is made up of a lodging and a restaurant. Its visit, free of access, allows in particular to discover a model of the whole site, a very beautiful frame and a presentation of the National Park of Vanoise.

Fort Saint-Gobain
The fort of Saint-Gobain in the town of Villarodin-Le Bourget is a work of the Maginot line of the Alps testifying to the sophistication reached by the fortification on the eve of the Second World War. The diplomatic tension between Italy and France from 1925 forced the French government to fortify the Alpine border. The construction of Fort Saint-Gobain between 1933 and 1939 contributes to the control of the Mont-Cenis rail tunnel, which is fundamental. This work, particularly well adapted to the relief of the mountain, presents five dispersed combat blocks, staggered in the slope and linked to each other by an underground infrastructure dug into the rock. Surrounded by a moat and built 20 meters below the ground, it is essentially underground. At the entrance was a drawbridge and airlocks protected the entrance. The galleries measure from one hundred to one hundred and fifty meters long and inside, one can discover a museum which explains the life of the soldiers and the military means of the time. This work remains a testimony to a defense system little known to the general public: the Maginot Line of the Alps.

Fort Victor-Emmanuel
Eight buildings follow one another on the flank of the rock: places of life and combat, they still intimidate. Lose yourself in the maze of this immense fort, built to accommodate a garrison of 1,500 men. Marrying the rock, the superposition of these eight buildings make it an exceptional site. The free wandering within the fort allows to discover the place of arms, the chapel, the bread ovens or the penitentiary. From the fort, a number of via ferrata are available to you, the originality of which lies in the fact that you start with the promenade and admire the vertiginous gorges of the devil.

Marie-Therese Redoubt
A permanent bilingual (French-Italian) museum space was designed, which traces the history of the military square and Savoy. Discover a unique place on the fortified alpine heritage. On the program all summer: visits, exhibitions, treasure hunts for children, shop and on-site catering. The objective of this center, opened to the general public in 2007, is to introduce visitors to the architectural history of the fortification, its adaptation to the mountains and the original, complex and little-known history of the Alpine border, in its European dimension.

Sardinian Cemetery
This military cemetery was intended to accommodate the deceased from the Esseillon garrisons. You can in particular observe the two altarpieces where the bodies of the deceased were placed when the frozen ground did not allow burial.

Fort de Ronce
Permanent exhibition on the military square of Mont Cenis, after a half-hour walk from the Plan des Fontainettes. From 1861, the priorities of the Kingdom of Italy were the unity and defense of the territory. Thus, it equips the Mont-Cenis site with several forts including that of Ronce. Built at an altitude of 2286 m, it offers a beautiful panorama of Lake Mont-Cenis. At the end of the 19th century, young Italy wanted to gain control of Mont-Cenis, a thousand-year-old transalpine axis. It was in a context of diplomatic tensions with France that Italy fortified Mont-Cenis by equipping it with several forts. Fort de Ronce, which dominates the entire pass, was built from 1877 to 1880 on a circular plan with two levels of fire, adapted to the new possibilities of rifled artillery.

The Fort of Saint-Gobain
Element of the Maginot line of the Alps, Fort Saint-Gobain is a work of the 1939-45 war unique in its state of conservation. A true terrestrial “submarine”, allowing its crew to live in total autarky for more than 3 months. Large structure of the Maginot line of the Alps, perfectly preserved, visitors will discover after having crossed the drawbridge, throughout the galleries, the barracks and the technical rooms which allowed a crew to live in autarky for 3 months in case of need.

The Fort du Replaton
Built to defend the entrance to the railway tunnel at the end of the 19th century. This Fort of the Serré de Rivière type is a work of a defense system: the Maginot line of the Alps. The interior of the fort cannot be visited.

Leaning House
Built in 1939, the Leaning House was originally an observation and defense blockhouse for the entrance to the Mont-Cenis railway tunnel, commissioned in 1881. In 1944, during the German withdrawal, this blockhouse was blown up.

Religious heritage

Chapel of Notre-Dame du Charmaix
Built in the 15th century, on the rock in a narrow gorge, this sanctuary houses a black virgin, visible and illuminated from the outside. It is the most visited place of pilgrimage in Maurienne. 19th century altarpiece.

Civil heritage

The Rice Mill
The Haute Maurienne Vanoise community of municipalities owns La Rizerie, a listed building which not only houses the TELT offices but also a free exhibition open to all on the piercing of the Alps. One wing of the exhibition presents the Terra Modana territory with its history, heritage, architecture… Temporary exhibitions are also regularly offered. Exhibition center of the Lyon-Turin link, place of September 17, 1943 in Modane, discover about the Rizerie building and the astonishing rice processing industry in Modane at the start of the 20th century.

The Mills of Pralognan
Two small traditional buildings, dry stones and slate roofs. One grinds the grain, the other is converted into an ecomuseum. A favorite destination for family walks in the great outdoors. Thanks to the tenacity and the work of the association “Moulins et Patrimoine de Saint-André”, five water mills, with horizontal wheels, have been restored identically and three are in working order. In the hamlet of Pralognan, two are open to visitors: one makes flour on a regular basis, the other has been converted into an ecomuseum where pieces and objects of flour milling are gathered. They are equipped with a single set of grinding wheels and a horizontal larch wood turbine. The wheat is still ground there as in the past.

Plan D’amont and Plan D’aval Dams
Built between 1945 and 1956, these two water reservoirs are part of the Haute-Maurienne hydroelectric complex and participate in particular in filling the Mont-Cenis dam lake. They are located at the gates of the Vanoise National Park. Fed by mountain torrents, the Plan d’Amont and Plan d’Aval dams operate the power stations in the valley. Plan d’Amont dam: this is a concrete gravity dam, 350 m in length, all in cells and buttresses, resting on the glacial lock which obstructs the valley. Its reservoir is 8,000,000 m3, i.e. double that of the Plan d’Aval, and collects all the water from Saint-Benoît, thus capturing the reception basin delimited by the Rateau d’Aussois, the Col de la Masse, the Pointe de l’Echelle, the Col d’Aussois, the Pointe de Labby and the western foothills of the Dent Parrachée. The water is turbined in a small power station called “Plan d’Aval”, hidden at its foot, at the bottom of the thalweg, before being discharged into the Plan d’Aval reservoir.

Chappe de Courberon Telegraph
It was at the end of the 18th century that the Chappe telegraphy, ancestor of our modern telecommunications, was born. Courberon, located at 2002 meters in the town of Avrieux, was part of a communication line from Paris to Venice. Imagined in the context of the French Revolution by Claude Chappe, this system has profoundly changed the way of exchanging messages by using optical signals which took turns from station to station.

Chappe du Mollard Fleury de Sardières Telegraph
In the heart of the Vanoise National Park, at an altitude of 2004 m, the highest rehabilitation of a Chappe des Alpes telegraph on the Lyon-Milan line established in 1807 on the orders of Napoleon.

Chappe du Plan de L’ours Telegraph
Built in 1806, the Télégraphe Chappe du Plan de l’Ours is located a stone’s throw from the Pralognan mills and the Vanoise National Park. In its forest setting, it is the 1st rehabilitated post in Savoie. Between 1806 and 1814, it was one of the 33 posts linking Lyon to Turin. Its optical mechanism, associated with a specific vocabulary, allows the sending of confidential messages by the display of 92 different signals. Signposted access, car and coach parking, it is also accessible to people with reduced mobility.

Related Post

Tour of the Dairy Cooperative of Haute Maurienne Vanoise
Self-guided tou with a view of the room and the production vats of Beaufort AOP (production all year round in the morning). Visit of the Beaufort workshop by reservation in Lanslebourg, every 20 minutes for groups of 10 people maximum. Viewing of the film “Un Territoire, des Hommes, une Coop” (New), followed by a tasting, access to the circuit and to the maturing cellars.

The Haute Maurienne Vanoise Dairy Cooperative
A collective system created in 1954, the Lanslebourg Cooperative merged between 1966 and 2008 with the cooperatives of other villages to form the agricultural unit represented by the Coopérative Laitière de Haute-Maurienne Vanoise. Today it is owned by 40 farmers. The latter entrust the collection, processing, refining and marketing of their milk in Beaufort AOP, Bleu de Bonneval-sur-Arc to qualified professionals, employees of their Cooperative. Located in Val Cenis Lanslebourg, take advantage of your stay to visit the cooperative, the maturing cellars and watch the production of Beaufort in the morning.

Cultural space

The Monumental Entrance to the Railway Tunnel
Built during the first breakthrough of the Alps (1857-1871), this monument highlights, by installing a steam locomotive and its convoy, a permanent exhibition retracing the adventure of the opening of the first Alpine tunnel and its consequences… The Fréjus railway tunnel, the first major Alpine breakthrough (12.5 km), was built by the Piedmontese authorities.

La Rizerie – Exhibition Center of the Lyon-Turin Link
This former rice mill in the shape of a Greek temple, houses the exhibition center for the future Lyon-Turin rail link. Project which aims to transport goods and travelers between France and Italy, on rails, with among other things, a tunnel between Saint-Jean de Maurienne and Susa in Piedmont, about 57 km in length.

Muséobar – Frontier Museum
An original museum which tells of a moving past in a setting of shimmering colors. Discover the border residents through videos, audio testimonials, photos, music, dances… The festive atmosphere of a mountain border town when Savoy joined France and the first railway tunnel was opened, to the sound of mechanical pianos. Savoy became French in 1860, and at the end of the tunnel between France and Italy, pierced in 1871, Modane became a new French border town, as well as an international station of prime importance. Forts are built and garrisons are set up to guard the border. Customs and railway workers, French and Italian, work and live in Modane. The city resonates with French and Italian voices, bastringue melodies of hand crank pianos, the whistles of steam trains, Parisian singers who come to perform in local cabarets…

L’arche D’oé – Agro-Pastoral Museum
Traditional house, one of the oldest in the village, which accommodated men and animals. Through the testimonies of the inhabitants, discover the life of the mountain community from its agro-pastoral origins to its tourist activity. Labeled “Family Plus Mountain”. “L’Arche d’Oé” (“Oé” means Aussois in patois) collects, through the written or oral testimonies of its inhabitants, the entire history of the village. Each room in the house has regained its original functions and fittings. Today, both citizens invite you to come and discover alone, with family or friends, the life of their mountain community, from its agro-pastoral origins to its current tourist activity. Each week, during the winter and summer tourist seasons, one or more activities are offered during the day or in the evening: guided tours, butter making, snacks, storytelling evenings, etc.

Carré Sciences: Underground Laboratory of Modane
You will be interested in interactive experiences to listen to cosmic rays, films about the underground laboratory, its activities and projects, its “fog chamber” to visualize the traces of cosmic rays… “The little secrets of the universe “, permanent exhibition in a space of 120m² arranged: the public discovers a sequence of themes which go from the evolution of physics to that of our universe to current experiences and future projects. The Modane Underground Laboratory was dug in the early 1980s in the middle of the Fréjus road tunnel. It is the deepest scientific site in Europe, and was designed for basic research. It takes advantage of the 1700 m of rock separating it from the summits to shelter it from cosmic rays. Its location makes it possible to measure sharp epiphenomena: stability of the proton, neutrino, detection of hidden matter in the universe… Led by an international community of 200 scientists, the LSM makes it possible to deal with subjects such as astrophysics, to better understand the origin of the universe, earth sciences, gamma spectrometry and dating techniques as well as biology.

The daily life of the past brought together men and animals in the same living space. Protect yourself from the cold in winter, keep this proximity to the animals for daily work, a specific type of habitat: the Erablo. Witness of the past, this mode of cohabitation has lasted for centuries. The accompanying video allow you to discover this ancient way of life.

Museum of the Pyramid of Mont Cenis
In Val Cenis, the Pyramid Museum invites you to discover the history of the Mont-Cenis pass, a mythical place of passage between France and Italy. Audio guides, videos, documents and exhibits will accompany you in your discovery. Take the opportunity to discover the alpine garden at the foot of the Pyramid, then climb to Fort de Ronce!

Exhibition space of the Maison Cantonale
On the ground floor of the Maison Cantonale, the Espace expo offers a new exhibition each month for free entry. Photo, painting, wood sculpture… these exhibitions present the works of artists from the valley. Science, nature and history exhibitions are also regularly installed.

The Haute Maurienne Vanoise territory has 4 cinemas. The L’Embellie cinema in Fourneaux is open all year round with a program that combines films for the general public, “Cinémarmots” screenings (films and cartoons suitable for children and free snacks), blockbusters and arthouse films. Retrospectives around the major films in the repertoire are also regularly organized. Le Grand Air cinema in La Norma is open during the tourist season (July-August and December-April) with a program focused on Hollywood and family films. The La Ramasse cinema in Val Cenis Lanslebourg is open all year round. The Chantelouve cinema in Val Cenis Lanslevillard is open during the tourist season (July-August and from December to April).

Baroque Art
Baroque art has always been very present in the valleys of Savoy and particularly in Haute Maurienne. Push the doors of our churches and chapels, discover during guided tours, the history of this art rich in colors and gilding, cherubs and beams of glory… Witnesses of a popular mountain faith, some twenty chapels and churches from the 16th century to the present day dot the villages, hamlets and sides of roads and paths. Twisted columns, chubby cherubs, murals, baroque altarpieces bursting with gold and colors, the chapels and churches of Haute Maurienne Vanoise contain treasures of Baroque art. Some are open all year round, for example the Notre-Dame de l’Assomption church in Aussois, others only for guided tours (in Avrieux, Val Cenis Lanslebourg and Val Cenis Lanslevillard) but all offer nuggets of this baroque art which was to feature a foretaste of paradise.

Natural heritage

Vanoise National Park
Enchantment, emotions, this is the Vanoise National Park. Come and discover this remarkable space accompanied by a ranger-monitor or a mountain guide, wonder guaranteed! Created in 1963, the Vanoise National Park is the 1st French national park. This natural setting located partly in Haute Maurienne Vanoise is an incomparable space to discover an exceptional flora and fauna but also the glaciers of Vanoise. 500 km of marked trails are available to hikers and lovers of wild nature.

This preserved space, largely on the territory of Haute Maurienne Vanoise, was founded in 1963 in particular thanks to Gilbert André then mayor of Bonneval sur Arc. The central zone, called the “heart”, is a protected area endowed with regulations promoting the biodiversity of landscapes, environments and species and preserving the cultural and mountain heritage.

The wildlife is beautiful and very present, adopting various strategies to survive our harsh winters: the marmot hibernates, the black grouse uses the igloo method to spend the night, the birds that stay here put on a real down jacket in swelling their plumage. For the others, destination South of France or Africa…

The rangers, whose missions within the National Parks are very varied, also offer you meetings throughout the winter to present their profession to you and help you to unravel the secrets of this environment which surrounds us. This period is favorable, for example, to the observation of the male ibex then descended from the summits to benefit from more accessible food.

Lozes Archaeological Park
The Archaeological Park invites visitors to go back in time. Near the village of Aussois, our ancestors carved hundreds of signs on the rock from 1000 BC until the Middle Ages. Educational trails accessible outside snow periods. The engravings, discovered for the first time in 1977, bear witness to human occupation, linked to the passageways to Italy, between the Neolithic and the Iron Age. The engravings were made on the rocks polished by the old Arc glacier, by picketing or chiselling, using stone tools. 2 educational routes with reading tables are set up. They make it possible to identify and understand the meaning of the engravings. For a better observation accentuating the reliefs and contours, prefer the visit in the early morning or in the evening.

Ski Resorts
More than 350 km of slopes in the heart of Vanoise nature to offer you the best of skiing. The emotion at the arrival of the 3,000 chairlift when the panorama unfolds from the Barre des Ecrins to the Aiguilles d’Arves, passing through the peaks of the Vanoise National Park, the Iseran pass. and the border chain.

Valfréjus Ski Resort
In order to simplify your life, find all the information for your ski trip: complete presentation of the ski area, all the information on snow conditions thanks to the snow report, webcams, the possibility of booking your ski pass online, not to mention your ski instructor. Nestled in a suspended setting, the resort invites you to discover a multitude of other après-ski activities.

Alpine Ski Resort
Thanks to a 1,400m drop, discover breathtaking landscapes and enjoy a breathtaking view of the surrounding mountains and of the Vanoise National Park. For a total of 27 runs, many of which are in the forest, you can progress on 7 green runs, 7 blue runs, 11 red runs and finally 2 black runs. The natural snow cover throughout the area is of very good quality. To guarantee you a holiday without surprises, the resort has also equipped itself with 130 snow cannons.

Aussois Ski Resort
Let’s go for 1,250m of vertical drop and 55 km of slopes between 1,500m and 2,750m in altitude: 5 green, 6 blue, 7 red and 3 black including the famous Balmes piste. The vast snow front, located in the extension of the Maison d’Aussois, is specially adapted to children and beginner skiers: toboggan runs, ESF snow garden, beginners ski lifts, nursery, games, and entertainment.

Val Cenis Ski Resort
On the border between France and Italy, sliding is available in a large ski version: 1500m of vertical drop spread over 125 km of alpine domain. Thanks to its recent ski lifts, its fun areas and its striking view of the Mont-Cenis lake, the Val Cenis area becomes a playground for the whole family in winter. A 900 m long toboggan run accessible by the Val Cenis le Haut gondola, 2 boarder crosses, a timing area (Termignon, TK du Lac, blue piste in the Lake), an easy park and 3 photo spots.

Bessans Ski Resort
2 ski lifts, 1 snow line for the little ones, 3 km of slopes, rental shops nearby, ski instructors right next door: everything you need for your first alpine skiing or snowboarding lessons!

Bonneval Sur Arc Ski Resort
Over 1200 meters of vertical drop, Bonneval sur Arc is a human-sized domain surrounded by grandiose landscapes and unspoiled slopes to conquer all around. In Bonneval sur Arc, families are pampered with a beginner’s area in the heart of the village and experienced riders and snowboarders do not care too much for all these virgin slopes!

Tags: France