Skiing in France – here’s what you need to know.
Skiing in France is not one of the first things that come to mind when thinking about France. Rather, what comes to mind are the scenic beaches in the South of France or the hub of fashion in Paris during the summer.
There are very few people who immediately associate France with snow, let alone as a place that offers perfect skiing grounds. It may come as a surprise to some, but France offers some of the best skiing terrain in the world. The best part is that the skiing opportunities in France are perfect for everyone from seasoned skiers to beginners.
If you’re considering heading out to France for skiing, we have done all the research for you. The following resorts are a few places that you should consider visiting. We evaluated the resorts based on their terrain, difficulty, vertical drop, and accessibility. Also included are some other factors for you to consider when choosing a resort – accommodation, nightlife and food. We are sure that you will be able to experience some of the best skiing in France at these resorts!
Val d’isere is renowned for its remote location and offers skiers a quality skiing experience. One of the most attractive features of this resort is that it matches quality with quantity. Skiers can choose from steep contours, bowls with powder and high-altitude glaciers. Situated on the Alps, Val d’isere is a favourite holiday destination for many skiers.
Bellevarde is perhaps the most famous of slopes at Val d’isere. A superb black run looms over the town with a summit of around 2,807 meters. La Face De Bellevarde is one of the more famous black runs within the Alps. The Bellevarde has hosted a range of different tournaments over the years. These include the 1992 Winter Olympics as well as the 2009 Alpine Ski World Championships.
Getting to the top is easy too, thanks to the high-tech cable car called The Olympique. Visitors reach the top of Bellevarde in just under six minutes, making it one of the most efficient cable cars in the world. Those who like a challenge can try the Epaule du Charvet, at Rocher De Bellevarde. This black run provides a sharper and sterner challenge than La Face does.
Le Fornet is a little hamlet that acts as a getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city centre. Those who want a change of scenery can head to Le Fornet for skiing or hiking. The resort is easy to access via a regular, free bus from the town or directly from the Solaise slopes.
It is possible, with a series of different lifts, to reach the intermediate summer ski area of the resort, which is just beneath the impressive 3,500-meter Pointe du Montet, on the gorgeous Pissaillas glacier.
Le Solaise is the centre of the Val d’isere skiing area. It is usually the busiest as it is ideal for beginners. Le Solaise is divided into three main areas; the Glaciers bowl, L and Mattis. These areas offer easy skiing on sunny wide slopes.
For intermediate skiers, the Madeleine, Arcelle and Manchet pistes are slopes with a bit more steepness and challenges. Experienced skiers can enjoy the Tete de Solaise which can be quite a challenge when skiing down to the down to the village in the late afternoon. The chairlift is available to take beginners down to the village as the trail is not easy.
There are a number of English speaking ski schools located in and around Val d’isere. New Generation Ski School offers a variety of lessons for both the beginner skiers, intermediate skiers and snowboarders. The school offers adult group sessions, teen group sessions and children group sessions. Off-piste introductory courses and advanced skiing courses are also available. It is advised to book a program before hand, especially during peak months.
Out of the 18 ski schools at the ski resort, Oxygene Ski School is undoubtedly the crowd favourite. The ski school has English-speaking instructors and offers a number of classes for different skill levels.
Alpine Experience Ski School offers a team of experienced ski professionals who specialise in off-piste guiding in Espace Killy and its surrounding areas.
Mountain Masters is a specialist ski school offering classes for adults and children alike. British and French ski instructors run the school.
Afterski & Nightlife in Val d’isere
Val d’isere is home to a host of restaurants and hotels, with something on offer for everyone. Lodgings are available but fill up quickly, particularly during the season so early bookings are advisable. Some places to check out would inlude Banana’s, The Pacific Bar and Alexandra Bar.
Known as the classiest and most expensive resort, Courchevel is popular amongst celebrities and wealthy tourists alike. The resort makes up the huge Trois Vallées ski area. With different areas, Courchevel has a good range of courses to ski and offers some of the best skiing in France.
The slopes are multi-faceted, offering something for beginner, intermediate and even expert skiers. It also has a well connected lift system making it easy to reach connecting resorts such as La Tania and Méribel.
Many a fur-clad skier inundates Courchevel during the year. It is home to premium five-star resorts and a bounty of designer shops to peruse. Courchevel is also famed for the property prices that can easily range into the multi-million bracket. If you’re considering buying property here, you might want to reconsider since the most cheapest is still in offered in a price starting in the multi-millions.
The best part about this flashy resort is that accommodation is actually cheap and affordable, surprisingly, allowing you to experience some of the best skiing in France.
Méribel is one of the oldest and best ski resorts in France. Established in 1930 it holds history close to its heart. Situated in the centre of the Trois Valleés, it presents one with the best natural ski runs and slopes, providing some of the best skiing in France.
With a wide network of green runs, the ski area around the Méribel village is perfect for beginners. The resort also has good connections to both Couchevel and Val Thorens, so there is a wide spectrum of slopes to discover.
Apart from the amazing skiing prospects and eccentric architecture, Méribel also has an active night life with live bands and even some clubs available. The lodgings are still in the traditional chalet style, which were popular during the 1930’s. The chalets here are, however, priced really high. This does, unfortunately, drive down the number of people that visit the place each year.
Chamonix is one of the most famous ski resorts in France. It is also he most popular peak after Méribel and Val d’Isère. This is due to the fact that the first Winter Olympics where held here in 1942. It is also situated on the peak of the highest mountain in Europe – the Mont Blanc.
Over the years, the Chamonix has earned itself a reputation for having some of the most challenging and dangerous runs. It is therefore usually recommended for experts only. The numbers of ski accidents that have occurred in the Chamonix have made it rather notorious. However, it still manages to attract droves of international skiers who are looking for the challenge that it poses and for some of the best skiing in France.
With a large population, Chamonixis the fourth largest commune in France. It therefore has an established community and thriving town. A bounty of activities are available, including lots of other sports aside from skiing. These include activities such as paintball and museum visits.
Chamonix is endlessly entertaining and as one of the oldest ski resorts it has preserved the personality exuding from the Victorian buildings in the area. Accommodation is easy to find and it has retained a quaint, rustic charm thanks to its Victorian era architecture.
A resort that can be considered “ancient”, La Clusaz dates back to 1907. Located near Geneva, La Clusaz started out as a small village specialising in agriculture, particularly herding sheep. It eventually grew into a quality ski resort. The skiing opportunities it provides, coupled with a rustic charm draws skiers to the resort.
Moreover, it is easily accessible from Geneva as it is located only an hour’s drive away. This makes for an ideal last minute skiing trip destination and offers some of the best skiing in France.
The easy access to La Clusaz has made it a crowd favourite and many French and British skiers have bought apartments and chalets here. The community here is largely French which the main reason why the little resort town has a decidedly French feel to it.
Avoriaz is a 100% vehicle-free resort is situated at the heart of the Portes du Soleil ski area. The resort has a ski-in and ski-out methodology and has been custom made for enhancing the skiing experience.
Situated on top of the French Alps, it receives a good amount of snow. This makes it perfect for beginners all the way through to seasoned skiers.
The resort is family-friendly, with traffic-free snowy paths and pistes to stroll around. The Village des Enfants, where youngsters from the age three can be looked after and learn first turns, is on a gentle slope right in the middle of the resort.
Intermediate and experienced skiers will enjoy the Swiss Wall as it offers a challenging decent down the Chavanette ridge.
All cars must be left in vast car parks at the entrance to the resort. Horse drawn sleighs and snowcats transport visitors and their luggage upwards to the resort.
The vast majority of accommodation at Avoriaz is in self-catering apartments. The lodging here is designed to be as comfortable and feasible for skiers as possible.
Serre Chevalier is a major ski resort in the Hautes-Alpes region of the Alps. Near the Parc National des Ecrins, the resort enjoys a large skiing area, with 250 km of slopes. It also has favourable weather, boasting 300 days of sunshine a year.
A string of little villages make up the Serre Chevalier, which offer skiing opportunities that are perfect for skiers of every skill level. Stretching over a total of 6 peaks, Serre Chevalier offers one the chance to ski in different settings without tiring. Settings include mainly wooded and north-facing slopes that rise above the southern side of the road.
The peaks here have runs built for beginners as well as powder bowls for experts. While some skiing areas are only accessible with the help of skiing tows, the rest of the skiing spots are easily accessible.
Accommodation is easy to come by at Serre Chevalier due to the string of villages that are all inter-connected with the main skiing area. The rustic old villages have narrow cobbled streets and the main ones are lined with small shops, bars and restaurants. The whole area has a rural and unpretentious feel.
The villages also offer amazing cuisine and while there won’t be fine dining opportunities, the food is rustic and hearty.
The French lay claim to the best cuisine, the best wines and the best variety of ski resorts of any country in the world. Most European and British skiers consider France a great place for skiing. It holds an almost mystical, importance due to the amazing, snowy peaks and the old resorts it is home to. Even international skiers have come to accept this fact and flock to the slopes of France each year.
A little pricier than neighboring Alpine countries such as Austria and Italy and with the popularity of resorts growing in places such as Spain and Bulgaria, France has managed to retain its established and worthy reputation for comprising some of the best ski resorts in the world. With a bounty of resorts speckled over the Rhône-Alpes, from the snow-sure to the characterful, France is undoubtedly a top skiing destination. We hope that you enjoy some of the best skiing in France at one of the above mentioned resorts!