Ski from Nice for the afternoon

Wednesday 5th April 2007

Day return by Bus from Nice to Isola 2000

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New for 2009: A few changes this year...the fare is now just 1 euro but your bus place must be booked in advance, the day before you travel, telephone 0805 402 606, the code for France is 00 33 and usually miss off the first 0 of the number. If you intend to return the same day, buy your return ticket from the machine in Isola 2000 before 1pm; to return the following day, buy before 16:30 hours. More information (in French) here.

Wednesday 5th April 2007

According to their website, the snow conditions are perfect in Isola 2000 and as we still hadn't packed away our ski stuff from our week in Meribel, we decided to take a day off decorating the studio and try Isola 2000 again. The ski season closes 22nd April 2007.

Isola 2000 is one of several small ski resorts close to Nice. It's an unbelieveable 5 years since our last trip using the skibus. More information here No ski bus this week; it only operates weekends and during the French school holidays so we had to take the TAM 750 which has a summer and a winter schedule. It costs 8 euros, one way to Isola 2000, so a day return was 16 euros each.

We tried to buy the bus tickets the day before but were told, no, buy them on the day of travel. This was worrying given our experience of ticket queues in France, would we have to allow an extra 2 hours in the morning. The 750 coach leaves the Gare Routiere (Bus Station) at 9:15 so we took a chance with the tickets, had a lie-in and left our studio at 8:45. No queue thank goodness and we had plenty of time, enough for DH to nip across to the Presse shop for a selection of papers.

The 750 for Isola 2000 leaves from quai 7 but you have to keep an eye out, the ticket lady said it could be quai 6 or 7, in fact, it turned out to be quai 9.
this must be the one
Several buses leave about 9:00, some bound for different ski resorts like Auron. We felt a bit daft wearing our ski stuff but Nice in April is cold that time in the morning so at least we were warm. We have backbacks that hold our ski boots (ready to swap for our ski shoes which we wore to travel) These bags and any other stuff, snowboards, skis etc can be put in the hold at the side of the bus, the driver helps you.

The 750 left promptly at 9:15 and stopped in Nice at the train station and the airport before heading north. Isola Village is part of the lignedazur network and it would cost only 1,30 euros to get here. The next 30 minutes of the journey up the mountain to the ski resort of Isola 2000 is an extra 6, 70 euros ie a single ticket to Isola 200 is 8 euros.

Our time of arrival in Isola 200 is 11:50 but the driver made good time and were there by 11:30. On the way up the steep hairpin bends we passed a man jogging uphill, he must have been in his 70s, mind you he wasn't going fast.

In Isola 2000 and unlike the skibus which deposits you in the lower carpark, the 750 takes you almost up to the large indoor complex of shops, restaurants, tourist information centre, ski hire, ski school esf etc. Please click for a plan of Isola 2000.

When you get off the bus, it's not immediately clear which way to go but we guessed correctly and took the lower road and walked into the complex through automatic doors at an entrance called 'La Lombarde'. It's a bit strange, not obvious this is where you get in, but don't worry. You're in the right place if you see the Hotel Chastillon on the far right of the entrance. Once in this bleak place you have to wander along some grim blocks of corridors with the occasional shop en route. Keeping heading on and up stairs as you go...

Eventually, just up the stairs by the loos there is an open area with everything you need, the skipass kiosks (forfaits) a 'Sport 2000' ski hire rental shop and a cheap cafe and snack bar just outside. A further set of steps just past the the Sport 2000 shop and ski pass kiosks leads up to the ESF ski school and the Tourist Information centre.

Additional note December 2007: a second trip to Isola 2000 in December 2007 confirmed the quickest and easiest way - take the upper road which leads you to the main entrance right by the skipass offices etc. See the later post for more details.

Right next door to the cafe is the entrance to the 'Pelevos' gondola bubble lift or telecabine. To get here from the bus stop, it's only a few minutes walk. For the return journey, catch the bus in the same place back on the road by the roundabout.

An afternoon ski pass for an adult is 19,50 euros and there are reductions for children, students and seniors. The afternoon passes are valid from 12:30 and are only sold after 12:20. The timing of the bus means that there is just enough time to hire skis from Sport 2000 just opposite the ski pass kiosks, nip to the loo and have a coffee and a bun on the terrace outside before you are able to buy your pass.

When we ski in Meribel we have used Sport 2000, they are good. The Sport 2000 chap noticed we had snowshoes to carry and kindly offered to stash our bootbags and shoes for the afternoon. This was most helpful and next time I shall bring a small rucksack or bumbag to carry my camera and suncream etc. I forget to check if there were lockers available for this sort of thing.

After you have bought your pass, you have to attach it. After the cutting edge electronic re-chargeable over the Internet passes from Meribel, the passes for Isola are quaint but tricky. You have one chance to get it right. First you feed a thin copper wire through your jacket zip, then you peel off the paper pass from its backing and bend it in half around the metal edges of the wire so that it sticks back on itself. It is extremely sticky and will not come off if you mess it up so concentrate. Off you go to ski.

The Pelevos bubble just outside on your right before the snack bar, takes you up to a couple of easy blues to warm you up, the one on the left is the easiest. After the three valleys and Meribel, it's all abit small and short but the snow was great and it was blissfully empty . The sun tried to shine but lost to a persistent but gentle snow fall most of the day. The odd time the sun broke through, it was glorious. Isola 2000 is not the prettiest of resorts, the 1960s buildings are very bleak but a covering of fresh snow perks it up a bit.

We had a great afternoon and a good ski, nothing too ambitious and even had a leisurely lunch at La Marmotte restaurant just the other side of the Pelevos gondola - great Salade Ni├žoise there. Allow enough time to return the skis and change back into snow shoes and retrace your steps back to the bus stop. the bus left promptly at 16:30. The papers we bought in the morning were still stashed in our place so that was a bonus.

My Dear Husband was asleep by the first bend. It was a great day out and DH reckoned the cost was about 45 euros each for the bus, ski hire and ski pass. It's a long journey on the coach but the scenery is lovely, I felt it was worth the effort and will definitely come back. Die-hard ski bunnies could get a concentrated 3.5 hours skiing which would pretty much cover most of Isola 2000.

Next time, because you can buy your bus ticket on the same day of travel, we will wait for a sunny day - the piste map pinpoints where you can get a view of the sea, I would like to see this. This was our second trip to Isola 200, our first trip to Isola 2000 was on the skibus rather than the 750 standard coach. The skibus offers better value, it is 30 euros for the pass and return trip, you still need to hire skis. It leaves earlier in the morning, 7:15 and the ski pass is valid as soon as you arrive so you get almost a full days skiing. The skibus also departs later, about 17:00. The main disadvantage is the fact that tickets must be bought in advance and seats reserved on the skibus, so ideally you need to be in Nice to do this before the day you intend to ski. Also, buses are cancelled if not enough people reserve places. It's also very crowded, particularly at weekends. It only runs at weekends and French school holidays so the slopes themselves are busier too. You don't get any lie-in.

I found the 750 bus a very acceptable and civilised alternative to the skibus and the later start suited us. The limited skiing time was fine, there are no queues at the lifts and the short runs means there's no panic about getting back in time. I would quite like to stay overnight. There is an option on the 750 coach to by a return ticket, returning within 48 hours it is a bit more expensive but this way, you would get a full day and a half skiing plus one night in a hotel. Within the main complex there are four hotels ranging from 2*-4*. There are plenty of other hotels and apartments surrounding the complex but it would probably be more efficient time wise to stay in a ski-in, ski-out hotel for such a limited stay. Of course it would be easy to rent a car (it would take about 1.5 hours to drive from Nice but it was rather nice to be chauffeured by bus and to have a glass or two of wine at lunchtime.


Geoff Ormrod said...

Just back from Nice February half-term 2009 and we did the bus trip twice to Isola.

It is now only 1Euro each way - subsidised by the resort I suspect. We were staying to the West of Nice so we stopped at the airport car park - 50 metres from the bus stop - couldn't have been handier. It was 12 Euros for the day son not bad between the 3 of us.

The skiing was great too - now 20 Euros for the afternoon pass.

Local school hols were the week after we went so no ski bus early on. You ca also but tickets at teh airport bus station but you MUST phone the night before to reserve your place

Great place to go - we are looking at staying there next tim

Geoff & Brenda

AllaboutNice said...

Hi Geoff and Brenda, thanks for your comments. Sounds like you had a great time. Yes, the cost has been reduced this year to just 1 euro now to bring it in line with the other TAM fares, such a bargain. I am going to Isola 2000 at the end of March and we are going to stay this time for 3 days - I hope the snow will still be good. Thanks for reminding me to book a bus place in advance - that is a new requirement this year too.

Daphne said...

I moved to Nice in Sept and will have my family (five of us all together) coming for Christmas this year. We've planned on taking the skibus to Isola during the school holidays just for a day trip.
I haven't done much reasearch but perhaps you know off hand: would non-skiers just pay the 2€ round trip fee while skiers pay 30€ to include their lift ticket? That's what it seems like anyway.
I enjoyed finding your blog today, espicallly for resto reviews! thanks!

AllaboutNice said...


I *think* the SkiBus has a set fee of 30 euros (or whatever the price might be this year) whether you choose to ski or not. The price gives you a long day in Isola plus a skipass valid from the moment you arrive.

The local lignedaur bus, the 750 is 1 euro each way and this would be the cheapest option if you have non-skiing members in your party - the day is shorter - it leaves later and returns earlier and you might have a short wait until the afternoon passes become valid after a certain time.

The keen skiers could go separately on the earlier more expensive SkiBus and the non-skiers could follow later in the 750 bus for 1 euro each way.

I guess you would all want to be together in which case, I would just go for the 750 bus and have a bit less skiing. The 750 drops you in the higher stop - much easier for non-skiers to be there in the main area.

Hope this helps, Lisa