With their long and varied runs, extensive lift networks, and superb après-ski, the French Alps offer some of the best skiing not just in Europe, but the world. Skiing first became a recreational sport here in the early 1900s but the industry really began to boom in the Alps during the 1960s with the construction of dozens of high-altitude, purpose-built resorts that ensured good lasting snow cover. Some of these resorts have their detractors: the modern architects often created sprawling concrete settlements that had little in common with the traditional farming villages lower in the valleys, and in so doing they earned France a lasting reputation for “ski factories”. Nonetheless, few can knock the efficiency of these resorts. They have an abundance of hotels, equipment outlets and ski schools, while at many you can simply clip your skis on at the hotel door and be skiing on some of the most challenging pistes on earth within minutes.

Although downhill is the most common form of the sport at all the resorts, cross-country or nordic skiing has become increasingly popular on gentler slopes (particularly around Morzine and in the Parc Naturel Régional du Queyras), while there are also several famous routes for ski touring (a form of cross-country skiing with uphill sections and across much longer distances), not least the Haute Route between Chamonix and Zermatt (Switzerland) and the Grande Traversée des Alps, which leads south from Thonon-les-Bains on Lake Geneva through several national parks. There are also plenty of opportunities for snowboarding with many resorts having developed snow parks expressly for snowboarders.

The ski season runs from December to late April, with high season over Christmas and New Year, February half-term and (to a lesser extent) Easter.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

France features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

An expert’s guide: the best area to stay in Paris

An expert’s guide: the best area to stay in Paris

All the clichés about Paris are true – stylish, romantic, glamorous and utterly compelling – yet it retains surprises that continue to delight even the mos…

26 Sep 2016 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
7 reasons why Lyon should be your next European weekend break

7 reasons why Lyon should be your next European weekend break

The ingredients for a great European weekend break are simple. You’ll need a walkable city centre, a handful of excellent restaurants, some cool bars, afforda…

26 Aug 2016 • Eleanor Aldridge insert_drive_file Article
22 incredible pictures of Corsica

22 incredible pictures of Corsica

Just off the south of France, and closer to the coast of Italy, the small, mountainous island of Corsica lies in wait for the three million tourists that visit …

14 Jul 2016 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month