The French are avid skiers and come any school holiday period you can guarantee a steady convoy of cars up to the mountains, skis tied onto the roof rack – full of anticipation and excitement. Once the days begin to draw in and the temperature drops, the upper reaches of many of France’s mountain ranges become skiing playgrounds. Whether it’s the adrenalin of the black runs you seek, a bit of laid back snowboarding or perhaps you’re more interested in the apres ski activities – whatever you want, the French Alps will provide.
There are other regions and mountain ranges to ski in France, but the Alps, being at the highest altitude, offer the most reliable snow for keen skiers. The broad range of skiing available is also a big attraction to the millions of snow sport fans who visit each winter from all over Europe and beyond. The main areas to ski include:
Les Portes du Soleil
In the most northerly area of the French Alps, this region encompasses about twelve resorts including Morzine, Avoriaz (great for snowboarding), Praz de Lys and La Chapelle d’Abondance. These resorts can all provide a great range of skiing experiences for all abilities and superb choices in accommodation from basic and relatively cheap lodgings to up-scale luxury chalets with everything laid on.
A view of the Les Portes du Soleil
Chamonix and Megève
One of the oldest and most stylish skiing areas in France which is reflected in the prices which can be eye watering. Situated in the Savoy Alps at the foot of Mont Blanc, Chamonix and Megève boast challenges for all-comers, from beginners and children up to the most experienced skiers.
Les Arcs and La Plagne
Head further south to discover the charms of the Haute Savoie and its wealth of high mountain skiing. If you like your ski resorts modern then Les Arcs is the place for you. And with an in season Eurostar connection to London from the nearby town of Bourg St Maurice, it’s so easily accessible as to make it totally irresistible. The altitude of these resorts makes snow scarcity a rare problem and the apres ski and café culture is appealing too. While away a pleasant day with a bit of skiing, a bit of people watching from behind your sunglasses on the café terraces and a bit of late night entertainment into the early hours – it’s the complete package.
Tignes and Val d’Isère
Travel still further south and you reach Tignes and Val d’Isère, nestled very high up in the Alps. Some runs are at over 3000 metres, making year round skiing a possibility. Val d’Isère has the reputation of being the priciest resort in France, but as with many top quality holiday destinations, you get what you pay for. That is, fabulous skiing, great accommodations, guaranteed snow and brilliant facilities.
Tignes in the French Alps
Les Trois Vallées
Home to the famously upmarket ski resort of Courchevel with its Michelin starred restaurants and top notch apres ski. Along with the two other resorts of Les Menuires and Val Thorens, this area combines into the biggest region for skiing accessible by using one pass. With 335 pistes and 185 lifts, skiers can go at 600 kilometres of ski slopes, enough for any discerning snow sports fanatic.
This resort close to the city of Grenoble offers a good sweep of pistes for all levels. It is one of the largest French ski resorts, attracting plenty of day trippers due to its close proximity to Grenoble. If eco-friendly skiing is important to you, then head further west for Villard de Lans in the Vercors area. Touted as the French Alps’ most environmentally friendly ski resort, it is very popular as a family skiing destination.
Head quite a lot further south to the resort of Isola 2000 which is said to be the sunniest ski resort the Alps has to offer. Less than a two hour drive from the Riviera, many Nice inhabitants head for Isola when they catch the ski bug. Developed in the 1970s, this resort at 2000 metres quite frequently attracts snow when areas further north have zero flakes falling.
Lyon, Chambéry, Geneva and Grenoble are the main airports serving the French Alp resorts. Those choosing to drive to the area should be aware of congested roads particularly at peak holiday times. For best deals and quieter pistes, visit when the schools are in.
For some high-octane fun with friends and family, a ski holiday in the French Alps is hard to beat. The most difficult part is choosing which of the wonderful resorts to go to…
Image Credits: Giam and Andrew Prime