Ski holiday in the French Alps

In the French Alps you will find perhaps Europe's best skiing. Not only is the highest peak in the entire mountain range we call the Alps located here (Mont Blanc which is 4810 meters high), here there are lots of ski resorts at high altitude which provide both long slopes, a lot of high quality snow which in its turn provides excellent opportunities for off-piste skiing . For example, one of the world's longest pistes is located in Chamonix, a full 22 kilometres of high-class skiing in a single run!

Ski holiday for the sake of skiing

Although the possibilities for party are very good in the larger ski resorts in the French Alps, it is above all the skiing that is central here. While many young skiers prefer, for example, Austria to combine skiing with partying, the more serious skiers often choose France. And if you want to party, there are certainly opportunities for that here too, but most people focus on enjoying the great food, the good wines and enjoys the high-class skiing here instead.

In a normal ski season, the ski resorts in the French Alps open up sometime in December, if the winter snow has started to fall that is, and they close again sometime in April. Although there are glaciers that allow some ski resorts to start the season earlier and close later, such as the ski resorts in the Les Trois Vallées ski area as well as Val d'Isere and Tignes, there are no year-round ski resorts in France.

The best ski resorts in the French Alps

The French Alps have many large and well-known ski resorts to offer and here are some of the favourites among skiers.

  • The beautiful little town of Chamonix is France's most famous ski resort. Fantastic skiing with beautiful views of Europe's highest mountain Mont Blanc combined with all the restaurants, cafes and good shopping means that people flock here, even during the summer months when Chamonix is also extremely popular for hiking, climbing and all other activities you can do in a mountain environment .
  • Courchevel is the French ski resort most associated with luxury and flair. This is where the rich and famous go when they go on ski holidays in France. Here you will find the best food in the entire Alps and there are plenty of luxurious 5-star hotels and exclusive shops. And the skiing is not that bad either, as the ski resort is part of the large Les Trois Vallées ski area.
  • Also Val Thorens belongs to Les Trois Vallées and is a real classic. Dating back to 1946 as a ski resort, they know how to take care of ski tourists here and this ski resort is, among other things, very popular with families with children.
  • Another classic ski resort is Val d'Isere which has a very large ski area, so here there are plenty of slopes to suit all levels of skiers. The ski resort is also known as one of the best when it comes to après ski, here there are plenty of bars, clubs and restaurants to enjoy.
  • Tignes is next door to Val d'Isere and their ski systems are connected. The really serious skiers choose Tignes over its neighbour as the off-piste skiing here is among the best you will find in Europe.
  • Serre Chevalier is also strongly associated with off-piste skiing, and here you will also find France's best forest skiing. This ski resort is also known for its many hours of sunshine.
  • Avoriaz is a car-free ski resort located in the world's largest ski area Les Portes du Soleil and this ski resort is very popular with families with children. Here you will also find one of the world's best snowparks, The Stash.
  • Alpe d'Huez is located in a perfect southerly position, which means that there are many hours of sunshine here. The extensive ski area means that there are slopes to suit everyone here, and there are also plenty of activities to engage in off the slopes.
  • Méribel is one of the more luxurious ski resorts in the French Alps and here there are plenty of fine restaurants and many bars to hang out at when you are not out on the slopes.
  • Les Deux Alpes is known for its long slopes and beautiful views as the mountains are high and steep here. There is also good après-ski here and many events and festivals are organized throughout the year, which means that this ski resort has many visitors all year round.

Additional ski resorts that may not be as well-known as the ones we have listed, but are basically of the same high class, are Brides-les-Bains, Les Arcs, Flaine, La Plagne and Megève, and we could go on listing ski resorts for a while.

For those who love off-piste, of course you shouldn't forget the little ski resort La Grave. There are no prepared slopes here, everything is about off-piste skiing. With the ski resort's only two lifts, you get up to a height of 3,600 meters and thus have a drop of 2,100 meters back to the village.

The largest ski areas in the French Alps

In addition to fantastic ski resorts, France also has a number of larger ski areas that each contain several interconnected ski resorts, thus creating larger and more diversified areas when it comes to ski terrain. In France you will find the world's two largest ski areas.

The largest ski area is Les Portes du Soleil in the northern parts of the French Alps, and this area is not only the largest in France, it is also considered the largest ski area in the world. However, this is not only a French area as it also extends into Switzerland, but eight of the 12 ski resorts included in the system are located on French soil. In total, there are 650 kilometres of pistes here, and the most famous ski resorts included here are Avoriaz, Chatel and Morzine.

The other giant area you will find in France is Les Trois Vallées which includes seven ski resorts and has a whopping 600 kilometers of groomed slopes, making this the second largest area in the world. This area contains several of the more well-known ski resorts, such as the already mentioned Courchevel, Val Thorens, Meribel and Brides-les-Bains.

Also Paradiski is a huge area with over 400 kilometers of skiing. This one includes the ski resorts of Les Arcs and La Plagne, in other words not the same well-known ski resorts, but there is no risk that anyone will be disappointed by the skiing you get to experience here.

These are only the very largest areas, if you want to read about more large French ski areas you find them here.

Flying to the French Alps

If you're going on a ski holiday to France, flying is the usual way to get here, and here we go through the best airports to fly to if you want to go to the French Alps on a ski holiday.

Even though Geneva is a Swiss city, it is the most suitable place to fly if you want to reach the northernmost ski resorts in the French Alps. There are also plenty of direct flights to here from all over Europe. For example, Chamonix is only 1 hour and 20 minutes' drive from here, Flaine about an hour and a half and Avoriaz, and many of the other ski resorts that are part of Les Portes du Soleil, can be reached in less than two hours.

Another option is to fly to Lyon St Exupéry Airport, which is even more convenient if you want to reach ski resorts further south in the French Alps. From this airport you can reach, for example, Alpe d'Huez and La Clusaz in about two hours and fine ski resorts such as Chamrousse and Vaujany in just over an hour and a half.

Two other airports that are actually even better located than Geneva and Lyon are Chambery Airport and Grenoble's Saint Geoirs Airport. However, since these two airports are smaller there are less direct flights to here, but if you can find fights here these are great options.

It is also possible to fly to Turin in Italy and from there reach lesser-known but still good French ski resorts such as La Norma and Val Cenis in two hours. In terms of distance the way the crow flies, Val d'Isere, Tignes and Les Arcs are not far from Turin, but the driving time if you rent a car is around 3.5 to 4 hours, which many think is a bit too long.

What is the price level in the French Alps?

The French Alps fare well in price comparison with the other large Alpine countries; slightly more expensive than Italy, slightly cheaper than Austria and for sure cheaper than Switzerland. When it comes to food and drinks the price difference is quite large between different ski resorts in France. In more exclusive ski resorts such as Méribel, Courchevel and Chamonix, a pint of beer can be around 10 euros, while a beer in the more "normally priced" ski resorts costs around 6 to 7 euros. The same applies to the food. A pizza costs in the more expensive ski resorts often between 15 and 20 euros, and in others between 10 and 15 euros. The food in general is much like most other countries if you visit a normal restaurant.

France is actually the cheapest country compared to the other Alpine countries when it comes to ski passes. The average among all ski resorts in the French Alps is 43 euro for a day's skiing. At most, you pay in Brides-les-Bains, where a 24-hour pass costs 75 euro. The lowest you pay is Gresse en Vercors where the price is 26 euro. However, keep in mind that the more days you buy a ski pass for, the cheaper the daily price will be as a rule, expect 10 to 20 percent cheaper.

Ski equipment rental usually costs between 150 and 200 euros for a week for a ski packagewith skis, boots and helmet for an intermediate skier. Beginner equipment is slightly cheaper and of course there are more advanced packages that are a bit more expensive. The difference between the ski resorts is not huge, even the more expensive ski resorts stay roughly within the same price range.

The French Alps are a foodie's dream

If you are a foodie, or just simply enjoy eating well in a finer restaurant and aren't afraid to spend a bit of money on food, France has some of the best culinary ski resorts the Alps have to offer. You will find five French ski resorts on our list of the best ski resorts in the Alps for foodies, a list which is also topped by Courchevel.

But it's not all about fine dining. Here you have some local dishes that are served a lot in the French Alps, which are a must to try when you are on a skiing holiday in France. As the French Alps are quite extensive from north to south, it is not certain that you will find these dishes everywhere though.

  • Tartiflette is a type of potato gratin that is prepared with Reblochon cheese as a topping. Furthermore, the dish contains onions, bacon, cream and white wine.
  • Diots is a sausage from the Savoy region made from pork that also contains the spice nutmeg. This sausage is often served grilled or fried with various accessories, but is also used as an ingredient in various dishes.
  • Le Farçon (sometimes also called farcement) is a type of potato cake that also contains onions, cream, raisins and prunes and is then wrapped in bacon. This makes the dish both sweet and salty at the same time. It certainly sounds like a fun combination of ingredients, and is therefore a matter of course to try if you find it on the menu.
  • Raclette is a soft cheese that you eat melted, how much melted you decide yourself as you get a hot tray on the table where you "cook" it yourself. In addition to this, you usually eat potatoes, pickled vegetables and various charcuterie. A dream for cheese lovers, in other words.
  • More cheese. Fondue Savoyarde is the French version of this Swiss national dish. The French version is not that different, but the French often add garlic as an addition. Perfect as dinner for a tired skier.

Don't forget the Pyrenees!

Although the Alps are primarily where you choose to spend your ski holiday in France, there is also another mountain range to explore - Pyrenees. This mountain range, which is shared with Spain and Andorra, does not have the same heights as the Alps, but in a normal winter the snow supply is good here too, and the skiing is still of a high standard. In addition, you get to experience a different atmosphere and a different type of food here. If you want to try skiing in the French Pyrenees, ski resorts such as La Mongie and Saint Lary Soulan are recommended.

Map France

Ski resorts in France