Petit Mont-Blanc and the Merlets Lakes
- Departure : Car park, les Prioux, Pralognan-la-Vanoise
- Arrival : Car park, les Prioux, Pralognan-la-Vanoise
- Towns crossed : PRALOGNAN-LA-VANOISE, SAINT-BON-TARENTAISE, and LES ALLUES
Access and parking
10 points of interest
Summer mountain pasture cheese dairyAgriculture is still anchored in the mountain way of life in Pralognan, as you can see in the daily production of AOP (protected designation of origin) "Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage" cheese, which is regarded one of the best in the Alps! Find out how it is traditionally made.
Local produce on sale at the Fromagerie du Plan, in Pralognan village centre.
Les Prioux"Stop at the hamlet of Les Prioux, to witness (depending on the time) the making of Beaufort at Rolland. This cow’s cheese, cooked, pressed and smear-ripened (salted and rubbed) has been labelled PDO (formerly CDO) since 1968. It is known as the “prince of gruyères”. Only the tarentaise and abondance breed can claim to give their milk. The appellation ""Beaufort d´Alpage"" is attributed only to cheeses made in summer, with the milk of a single herd, as is the case with your hosts."
Les Prioux hamlet
At the edge of Vanoise National Park, Chavière Valley unveils its natural wonders along a refreshingly varied path: the Savoyard discovery tour around Les Prioux.
Life in this hamlet, perched at an altitude of 1,700m, is still very much in step with nature and the winter and summer seasons, and residents have had to adapt accordingly. As they are cut off from the world through the long winter months, they have so much to share with you about life in the past: the mountain pastures, making Beaufort cheese, the growth of tourism and mountain crafts and trades...
This refreshingly varied path unveils the wonders of Chavière Valley to you, with its awe-inspiring peaks and more relaxing hamlets.
The route is accessible to everyone, including families with pushchairs, the elderly and wheelchair users with helpers.
• Round trip takes: 40 minutes
• Elevation gain: 10 metres
• Distance: 1km 100
People with reduced mobility can reach Les Prioux via an adapted shuttle bus.
Open from 15 May to 30 September, except if snow closes the road to Les Prioux.
On-site you’ll find a cheese dairy, restaurants and accommodation options, to make a proper holiday out of your trip!
The Ecological Land Reserve of Petit Mont-BlancThe Ecological Land Reserve of Petit Mont-Blanc was established in 1999 because of the site’s high heritage value. It is managed by the National Forestry Commission which is responsible for maintaining the richness of this area over the long-term. Indeed, there are remarkable habitats to be found here with a substantial floristic diversity (319 listed plant species, of which 11 are protected at national level) A Natura 2000 area, the “Vanoise Massif” stands supreme over this reserve. This area is comprised of arctic-alpine riverside grasslands hosting specular blue thistles and giant scabiosa.
Col du MôneThe Col du Mône is located on a fault line that separates two different geological formations: the Mône rock which is a formation of limestones and dolomitic stones from the Jurassic whose stratigraphic series is reversed, and the Petit Mont-Blanc which is formed of gypsum, a very white rock. On the Mône rock, the rocks are rather grey, formed in layers with a reddish layer of bauxite, a rock rich in aluminium and iron oxide. The Petit Mont-Blanc looks like a lunar landscape with its white, globe-shaped rocks.
The etymology of Courchevel"The origin of the name Courchevel comes from the local terroir and agropastoral practices. Thus in the spring, when the herds of tarentaise cows were moved at altitude to the montagnettes, between 1,500 and 1,800 metres in altitude, the herdsmen were prohibited from stationing their herds on the strips of land where the green grass grew profusely, as although appetising it was capable of cutting the cows’ tongues, enough to “skin it”. This explains the origin of the town’s name, “écortzevé” in saint-bonnais patois, which over the centuries and oral transmission, became “cortzevé”, then “corchevé” and finally “courchevel”. In the 19th century, the maps mention the place known as ""Les chalets de Corchevel"", today ""Courchevel 1550"". The name Courchevel became permanent at the beginning of the 20th century."
Alpage des Avals: the secret of an earthworm"I am the redworm, the earthworm compost: I digest the whey produced from cheese making by ""vermicomposting"". I need a dark, damp and well-ventilated place to live. This is why the compost here is protected by opaque tarpaulin that allow air to flow through. The farmer regularly sprays it with the whey. In order to move and feed myself, I dig tunnels. This facilitates the circulation of liquid and contributes to the mixing and aeration of the earth. The oxygen available allows the bacteria to break down the organic matter that make up the whey."
The Alpage des Avals: Beaufort cheese"The Alpage des Avals is managed by a pastoral consortium whose cattle herd totals approximately 150 cattle. These cows graze around the villages until June and then climb up into the mountain pastures. Their presence in the municipality lasts 8 months. Saint-Bon-Courchevel is located in the Beaufort protected designation of origin area. In the alpine grazing season, the cheese, made on site, can use the ""Beaufort d´Alpage"" label. Almost all farmers are engaged in a dual activity relating to tourism. In winter, they work as ski instructors, shopkeepers, piste service or ski lift operators."
Alternative round trip towards Col des SaulcesFor those who fancy it, there's an alternative round trip up to the Col des Saulces pass, at an altitude of 2,456m. From there you'll be rewarded with lovely panoramic views over Pralognan-la-Vanoise valley. To the left of the pass is the Petit Mont Blanc (2,677m) and to the right, the Rocher de Plassa (2,867m). You'll also be able to glimpse the Aiguille du Fruit peak (3,051m) and the Avals Valley.
Biol cellarAn old cheese cellar to start the maturing of the Beaufort cheese wheels during the summer period, which were then taken down into the valley to finish their maturing. The building dates from the 19th century and was renovated in the 2000s.
Nearby is the cellar and the chalet de la Grande Val, still used nowadays to make the beaufort "chalet d'alpage"; with a tool renovated in the years 2010