Puy-de-Dome: Volcanic Landscape; Small, Friendly Resorts

Puy-de-Dome is a department in the centre of France named after its famous volcano. The region - rich in mountains, lakes, and forests - lies in the Massif Central and boasts more than 80 volcanic craters.

The Massif lies 50 kilometres southwest of Clemont-Ferrand (the capital of the region) in the heart of Auvergne's dramatic volcanic landscapes and is dominated by the 1866-metre Puy du Sancy. Puy-de-Dome is home to the ski resorts of Super Besse, Chastreix-Sancy, Le Mont Dore, Saint-Antheme-Praboure, Murat-le-Quaire, Chambon des Neiges, and Chambourguet-Le Tour.

The resorts of Mont-Dore and Super Besse (1350m) offer a combined 87 kilometres of lift-linked pistes. The Mont Dore-Super Besse ski area is set between 1350 and 1850 metres and offers runs for all levels (15 green, nine blue, seven red, and two black) connected by 18 lifts (two cable cars, three chairlifts, and 13 drags).

There is also a free shuttle between Le Mont-Dore and the slopes. Off-pisters will enjoy 26 kilometres of cross-country trails while freestylers practise tricks at the Le Mont-Dore Snowpark. Night skiing is also possible; there are eight lit tracks from 5:30 p.m to 9 p.m.

Families are well catered for with a gentle beginners' area, a snow garden (four years and above), and a nursery (from three months old). Non-skiers can enjoy parascending, snow kiting, snowshoeing, bowling, ice skating, sledding, spa therapy, horse riding, and a cinema.

Chastreix (1350m) offers 16 kilometres of runs (four green, four blue, three red, and two black) linked by eight chairlifts. Slopes are lined with 28 snow canons and skiers can reach a maximum altitude of 1850 metres. The ski school is suitable for all levels, from four years old with a child ski lift. It is also possible to ski over to the 87 kilometres of slopes in the Mont Dore-Super Besse ski area.

The resorts of Murat-le-Quaire (1300m), Saint Antheme-Praboure (950m), and Chambourguet-Le Tour (1000m) are principally off-piste and backcountry skiing resorts.

Saint-Antheme-Praboure (950m) boasts 200 kilometres of cross-country pistes and Chambourguet-Le Tour (1000m) has 180 kilometres. These resorts centres also offer a choice of book shops, fashion boutiques, and cafes.

The resort of Chambon des Neiges (1150m) on the northeast slopes of the Puy-de-Sancy is home to 13 pistes (four green, two blue, six red, and one black) which are set between 1150 and 1750 metres.

Regular flights connect the UK and all major European cities with Lyon Airport. From here trains run to Clermont Ferrand where local buses provide links with Le Mont Dore and La Bouboule. If driving, take the E70 from Lyon to Puy-de-Dome.

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