Very long Escargot green run for beginners, no nasty surprises!
North-facing aspect of main area is shady and very cold early in season
A nice resort, easy to get to by car, bus or train. Reds in the main Val Cenis area are mostly reasonably wide and varied; it's a good long run from the top of the Met chair to the bottom with many choices of route down. There didn't seem to be any nasty surprises anywhere on the mountain, runs seemed to all be graded fairly. The red Ecureuil can be a bit scary as it's just a path with no room to turn and a couple of hairpin bends that won't take any prisoners! The Escargot (which is the road through to Italy in summer, closed to traffic in winter and turned into a piste) has to be the best run I've ever found for nervous beginners. Described as 'interminable' by another reviewer, who is obviously a good skier, it's a perfect run for someone just finding their feet on skis and who's afraid of more varied pistes. It seems to be several miles long (ok, interminable!), so once again is great to give beginners a real feel of having travelled on skis.
It's definitely not a resort for experts who want to bomb around on blacks all day, however our mixed-ability group of 12 were all quite happy for the week we spent there. There weren't a lot of boarders around - may be a plus or a minus, depending on who's reading this!
One big drawback for me is the northerly aspect of the resort - very much a bonus for keeping the snow, but in early season (we visited in January) the main part of the ski area is in shade most of the time, and the village only sees a couple of hours of sun a day. If you really want to visit here, and you're a beginner or early intermediate visiting early or mid-season, I'd recommend staying in Termignon, only just recently linked to the Val Cenis area. It seemed to be much sunnier both on pistes and in the village, which was in full sun most of the day. There are some apartments at the foot of the chair with lovely sunny balconies for that end-of-day bottle of wine. Of course, this orientation would be a disadvantage for a late-season holiday, or when snow is scarce. And Termignon won't satisfy anyone wanting to clock up some miles unless they travel down to the Val Cenis sector by chair, or ski down via the Flambeau (lovely) and Traverse blues. The Traverse is really a path which makes the green Escargot run look positively short! And it ends either at the bus stop (free, every 20 minutes), or you have a long flat area to pole across to get to the main lift base. However it would make a fantastic follow-on for beginners after they've tackled the Escargot - nothing scary, just very, very long and fairly narrow. There's a bus from Termignon to Val Cenis, however it's not the 20-minute navette, but the scheduled bus service that doesn't run as often.
One drawback for those who want lots of pit-stops is the lack of mountain huts in the area. The three in the Val Cenis sector were often in shade. On a snowy day, one of them was closed! The best one we found was in Termignon at the top of the Roches Blanches chair. Lovely sunny terrace with hard-working staff. Try the Pelo (potatoes, lardons, bacon, garlic, cheese - a kind of quick version of Tartiflette) - it comes in a large bowl, plenty for two with a salad to share as well. Prices everywhere were fairly reasonable (although at the time of writing, £1 = 1 euro makes everything seem expensive!).
One final drawback which may be usual in this resort, or perhaps we were unlucky: even when it was calm in the valley, half way up the chair lifts the wind suddenly starts to blow - be prepared with face masks at the ready. It seemed to us that the wind comes over the top of the mountain in such a way that the village (at least Lanslevillard, where we stayed) is seldom touched by it, but it seemed to be almost always blowing a gale at the top. On one memorable ascent on the Plan Cardinal chair, we could barely catch our breath. On the run down, I was almost stationery on the red because the wind was blowing against me.
All in all Val Cenis is a nice resort, probably not worth a second visit if you're anything above low-intermediate, but great for beginners, nervous skiers and mixed-ability groups who aren't too demanding.