07 January 2017 by Jessica Boston
Skiing in France – a Guide to the Top French Ski Destinations
There are two main mountain ranges in France; the Alps and the Pyrenees. Both offer excellent opportunities for skiing and winter sports with a wide variety of resorts to choose from.
Whether you are looking for a holiday right on the piste or fancy a trip into the mountains for a day skiing on your winter break in France we’ve got holiday homes and chalets to suit you. Ski, snowboard and explore a winter wonderland on snowshoes or a dog-sled!
Winter skiing holidays in France are fun for everyone from the complete beginner to the seasoned expert. Here’s our guide to the main resorts to help you plan your break:
Skiing in the French Alps
Les Portes du Soleil
The largest resort in the Alps is Les Portes du Soleil that stretches between Mont Blanc and Lake Geneva in Switzerland. Although quite low, the microclimate here is great for snow and the slopes are usually open from December to April.
Snowboarders will love Avoriaz, a purpose-built ski town featuring 3 world-class terrain parks, bordercross and snow cross zones. Les Gets, Morzine and Chatel are more traditional ski resorts that are popular with beginners and families and also have some more challenging runs for experienced skiers.
Le Trois Vallees
Le Trois Vallees is the second largest resort offering a host of glamorous ski towns. Courcheval and Meribel both offer a well laid out selection of pistes with great nightlife and a vibrant atmosphere.
Courcheval especially has become a magnet for the affluent seeking a 5-star luxury lifestyle, drawing a crowd of celebrities, international jetset and the super rich – a place to be seen as much as to ski!
Val Thorens is the highest ski area in Europe at 2300m – this purpose-built village was built in the high-altitude Tarentaise Valley, providing more consistent snow cover at the expense of a colder, windier experience. Val Thorens tends to be favoured by more serious skiers who are more interested in the skiing than the apres-ski.
For families La Tania is a great choice with a car-free policy, nursery slopes and child-friendly facilities.
The famous Espace Killy combines the ski areas of Val d’Isere and Tignes, around 300km of pisted ski runs perfect for intermediate to advanced skiers – with glacier pistes still open for skiing in the summer time.
Tignes is a collection of 5 villages – 2 original and 3 purpose-built, constructed to maximise the potential of this huge skiable area in both winter and summer. With a huge variety of terrain, from the Grandes Mottes glacier to long off-piste valleys with huge vertical drops, Tignes provides a wealth of facilities and opportunity to keep all levels of experience happy!
The well-known resort of Val d’Isere is a much older village (dating back to pre-Roman times!) with it’s famous “old quarter”, popular with more experienced skiers seeking opportunities for exciting and challenging skiing on and off-piste.
Located at the foot of Mt.Blanc, Chamonix is a mecca for experienced skiers seeking the most challenging off-piste and backcountry riding – with thousands of kilometers of backcountry routes for those prepared to trek, it firmly deserves its status as some of the worlds most challenging terrain.
The skiable area accessible from the Chamonix valley is simply massive, although only a small portion of it is served by lifts, and the sheer size of it means that only some of the areas are linked – with free buses transporting skiers up and down the valley to the different locations.
There is so much to do here aside from the ski areas; from taking the cable car up the Aiguille du Midi viewpoint (the starting point for the ascent of Mt.Blanc), skiing the 20km long Vallee Blanche glacier, ski trekking, riding the rack-and-pinion Montenvers train and Mt.Blanc tramway (the highest in France), hiking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, ice climbing, dog-sledding, base jumping and paragliding, mountain biking to canoeing under glaciers and hydrospeeding – the list is endless!
Pre-dating the Victorian development of mountaineering towns, Chamonix town retains more traditional buildings and atmosphere than many other French ski resorts – a fully-functioning town independent of its winter income, it provides a massive variety of activities in winter or summer, and enjoys superb transport links to Geneva (1 hour 15 minutes transfer), through the Mt.Blanc tunnel through to Italy, and over the Col des Montets pass into Switzerland.
Skiing in the French Pyrenees
The Pyrenean ski resorts may not be as glamorous as those in the Alps but many people prefer the more ‘French’ atmosphere here.
With pretty thermal spa towns and villages, stunning mountain scenery and beautiful national parks to explore cross-country skiing or on snow shoes it’s a magical place to visit. The food culture is perfect for winter featuring hearty stews, duck and sausages.
The resorts offer skiing for a full range of abilities – experienced skiers have the opportunity to try challenging runs at St Lary or take the exhilarating off-piste descent from Pic du Midi, the most famous mountain in the region that reaches an altitude of 2,877m.
Beginners and casual skiers will be spoilt for choice at Grand Tourmalet, the biggest resort in the area. There are around 70 runs to choose from serviced by 34 ski lifts so you can try a different route every day! The slopes of Ayre Bareges, Col du Tourmalet and Taoulet La Mongie are particular favourites thanks to the incredible panoramic views.
Skiing in the Auvergne
For something completely different you could also try a skiing break in the volcanic Auvergne mountains.
As well as taking advantage of a range of pistes to suit all ability levels you can try cross-country skiing or take a dog-sled excursion to marvel at winter wonderland scenes of glacial lakes and volcanic craters. The main resorts are Super Besse, Chastreix-Sancy and the Roman thermal spa town of Mont Dore.
Book you French skiing break accommodation with us and get 20% off your Brittany Ferries crossings.