If you were lucky enough to go on family ski trips in the 1990s you’ll remember the brightly coloured onesies, zinc sunscreen and impossible-to-undo salopettes. All of these used to characterise skiing in the French Alps. If you’re planning your first ski trip in a while, here’s where you should be skiing (or snowboarding) in France this year.
France welcomes more British skiers and snowboarders every year than any other country. This is thanks in part to its proximity, but also thanks to the incredible variety of terrain on offer. From family-friendly resorts to off-piste picks that will challenge the most experienced rider, these top French ski resorts offer something for everyone.
As an alternative winter holiday you may be interested in the joys of winter walking in the Lake District in the UK.
For askiing in France holiday to get away from it all, head to Avoriaz in the French Alps. Close to the well-known resort of Morzine, Avoriaz is unique in that no cars are allowed in the purpose-built resort. Here, the only forms of transport are ski, snowboard and horse and carriage. Cars must be left in purpose-built car parks outside the resort. This makes for an extremely picturesque break, especially when you add in the village's spectacular location.
Almost all of the chalets are ski-in ski-out, so you won’t turn up to find your hotel is a shuttle bus away from the ski lift. The resort is part of the Portes du Soleil ski pass which gives access to 600 km of terrain across several resorts in both the French and Swiss Alps.
Avoriaz is linked by gondola to Morzine and Chatel in France, and Champery in Switzerland. Most of the accommodation is in self-catering apartments. There are a few supermarkets on the village outskirts, and a variety of restaurants in the village.
Looking for a french ski holiday where you can mingle with your fellow snow bunnies? Meribel is famous for its après scene – and you’ll find plenty of fellow Brits at the bar. That being said, the resort has moved decidedly upmarket in the last few years and there are several stylish boutique hotels and good restaurants. Most ski chalets are located close to the city centre, making it easy to shuffle home after closing time.
Meribel favourite, the mountainside Rond Point still remains, and the fun usually starts mid-afternoon with shots of toffee-flavoured vodka. The bar often hosts live music.
La Folie Douce welcomes holidaymakers with its unique combination of live dancers, acrobatic performances and outdoor bars serving beer, wine and champagne. The bar even has its own hashtag, #rockthetop.
When it comes to skiing, Meribel is part of the Trois Vallées ski area. One of the largest ski areas in the world, it offers some of the best skiing in France. The majority of runs are intermediate, so if you have some skiing under your belt you should be comfortable. If you have a week’s lift pass you can upgrade to the whole of Trois Vallées on a pay-per-day basis which gives you the chance to experience a whole lot more.
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For families and beginners, Les Karellis is hard to beat. This french ski-in, ski-out resort was designed for families from the group up. There’s group and private lessons plus a very well organised childcare system. You can even hire a special baby sledge to make it easy to get around the resort. What's more, group lessons plus Kids and Teens clubs mean older children can exercise their independence – while parent can be reassured that they are in safe hands.
When you need a break from the slopes, dog sledding, toboggans, family movie showings, and a snow play area in the centre of the village mean the fun doesn’t stop – until you decide it’s time for bed.
If you’ve skied every resort in the Alps and you’re looking for something a more challenging, pack your goggles and head to La Grave, close to the Italian border. Almost the entire ski area is off piste, providing many kilometres of fiendishly difficult skiing and snowboarding.
To access this snow-lover’s paradise you have to brave the winding mountain roads that can be closed in bad weather. There’s no train station nearby, nor any major roads, which means you’ll most likely be sharing the slopes with dedicated locals. Speaking of locals, the best way to enjoy the skiing here is to hire a private guide - off piste is dangerous by its very nature. You can easily find yourself in difficulties at La Grave if you don’t know the terrain.
In 2017, the Alpe d’Huez resort signed a 30-year lease to ensure the gondola continues to run and maintain the two pistes and the on-mountain restaurants. Additionally, the new lease also preserves the ski area’s ‘wild’ nature, which means a whole new generation of expert skiers will be able to enjoy the unique challenges at La Grave. Accommodation is a mixture of hotels and self catering.
Just an hour's drive from Geneva is Megève, which was conceived as a rival to St Moritz, a ski resort for wealthy Parisians. The village has retained the historic charm of its medieval heritage along with its Michelin-starred restaurants.
The resort offers three main ski areas with hundreds of kilometres of great pistes suitable for beginner and intermediate skiers.
One of the most fascinating features of this place is that from the centre of the village you can take a gondola to the slopes of Rochebrune. From here, a cable car takes you to the larger area on Mont d'Arbois. Alternatively, you can take a horse-drawn carriage or, for the more traditional fare, a bus to Le Joyeux.
Despite its popularity with movie stars and royalty, Megève is a favourite family destination. There are inexpensive lift tickets for beginners and free terrain lifts near the village. There are snowboard parks in all three areas.
Skiing is definitely an experience worth having when you travel to France. Read our guide to the best things to do during your French holiday.
Despite its fame, Chamonix is not the most user-friendly of ski resorts and access to the slopes relies on shuttle buses, trains or a car. For advanced skiers, however, it’s probably one of the best places in the Alps since it offers an impressive range of challenging runs and off-piste itineraries.
It’s not so much a single resort as a chain of unconnected ski areas set along both sides of the Chamonix valley and dominated by Mont Blanc. The Brévent and Flégère areas on the southern slopes both have a good variety of pistes and provide some fine views of the Mont Blanc massif across the valley. Argentière–Les Grands Montets is a colder, northfacing area that is well-suited to advanced skiers.
The famous Vallée Blanche can be accessed by cable car from the Aiguille du Midi. Skiing here involves a 20km descent which passes many crevasses and is not patrolled, so a guide is strongly recommended. Closer to Chamonix itself, the Les Planards and Le Savoy areas require artificial snow and snow cannons to stay open. They are also good spots for beginners to hone their technique.
There are plenty of ski school in Chamonix, which provide lessons for skiers and snowboarders, as well as guides. The ESF office is situated in the Maison de la Montagne; the guides here hold special lessons on the famous runs of the Vallée Blanche.
Alongside the walking and skiing opportunities around Chamonix, there are several exhilarating excursions using the various ski lifts and mountain railways. It may be worth getting a multipass that covers all the lifts in the area. These can be purchased online, at the tourist office, or at the foot of each cable-car ascent.
The Alpe d'Huez Grand Domain combines six french ski resorts into one winter destination. In addition to the vast number of pistes, there are two snow parks, a boardcross park and a halfpipe.
Here is the longest piste in Europe, the 16-kilometre La Sarenne piste. The most challenging is the Tunnel under the Pic Blanc cable car. There are many off-piste options for advanced skiers. There's also an option for kids - tubing runs at the base of the Bergers and Grenouilles slopes.
The main resort offers access to the widest range of runs. Also it's worth noting that the villages not only have good access to the lifts and piste network, but also offer more of an alpine village atmosphere. Alpe d'Huez is popular as a family holiday destination because of the wide range of amenities and accommodation to suit all budgets.
You can also combine a ski holiday here with a visit to a music festival - Tomorrowland. For four days in March, the resort is transformed into a festival music venue with a capacity of 25,000 people.
Access to the resort and ski area is only permitted to Tomorrowland ticket holders during the festival. Four- or seven-day options are available for those wishing to attend the festival, both of which include accommodation, a ski pass and admission to Tomorrowland.
Courchevel is home to the world's largest ski area, Les 3 Vallées, with 600km of pistes, over 180 green-blue runs and over 140 red-black runs. You don't need to be a professional skier to enjoy skiing in this area. The Courchevel ski area is accessible regardless of your skiing skills.
Courchevel offers plenty of places to ski and contemplate the beauty of snowy France: Mont Blanc, the Ecrines, the Vanoise, Lauzières, Beaufortin glaciers... From the tops of the mountains or at the bend of the piste, you can enjoy a 360° panorama at any moment.
In addition, the Courchevel ski area is home to some of the most efficient and comfortable ski lifts in the world. Take a break to enjoy the views in the sunshine before hitting the slopes again.
Courchevel is not renowned as a celebrity holiday destination for nothing. Here, relaxation takes place in the rhythm of the French art of living. During your holiday here, do not miss out on the culinary and festive journey led by French culinary enthusiasts, imbued with the French way of life that so characterises this ski resort in the Alps.
Val d'Isere is a traditional French ski resort for those who are less picky about the slopes and prefer a quieter slope. This resort is probably the most famous ski resort in the French Alps. At an altitude of 1,821 metres, together with Tignes, it forms the most beautiful ski region in the world, Espace Killy.
Val d'Isere is part of the vast Espace Killy named after three-time Olympic skiing champion Jean-Claude Killy, who grew up skiing on these mountains. Here you will find red, blue or green pistes, which are often close to each other. In addition, from Val d'Isère you can quickly and easily reach any point in the Three Valleys ski region.
The Funival underground cable car connects the La Dalle area with Rocher de Bellevard . The cable car takes you to the top of the mountain from the Josré station. Then you can continue up to the Tête du Solez by cable car and weather-proof chairlift.
A holiday in Val d'Isère isn't just famous for its variety of pistes. It combines the atmosphere of the past with the modern infrastructure, giving Val d'Isère its own unique charm.
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