Skiing holidays in France: 13 of the best French ski resorts

Jan 12, 2018 BY Luke Rees

Skiing holidays in France are more popular than ski trips to any other country. But with over 300 resorts in France to choose from where should you go? Lucky for you we’ve pulled together this list of 13 of the best French ski resorts.

Skiing holidays in France: Val d'Isere one of the 13 best French ski resorts Image Courtesy of Val d'Isere tourist board

Skiing holidays in France

Accessibility plays a big part in the popularity of French skiing with us Brits. Shorter flights mean lower prices and less time traveling. There is also lots of flight choice with Geneva, Grenoble and Lyon airports servicing the Alps plus Toulouse and Lourdes the Pyrenees.

Alternatively, you can easily hop on a ferry or take the channel tunnel and then drive to the French Alps from Calais or Dieppe in around eight hours. You can also catch the Eurostar or take a coach from London direct to the French Alps, this is not possible for Italy, Austria or Switzerland.

But it’s not just the proximity to the UK that makes the France the favourite destination with British skiers. It is home to five of the ten biggest lift linked ski areas, including the Three Valleys which with 600km is the largest in the world.

Furthermore, six of the ten ski resorts with the highest vertical are in France. Top of the list is Chamonix with a lift served vertical drop of 2769m.

Les 2 Alpes one of the 13 best French ski resorts Copyright © Office de Tourisme Les 2 Alpes / Bruno Longo

In terms of skier visits La Plagne tops the list with 2.5 million skier days per season. In the same article you can see that France attracts the most foreign skiers of any country and that 25% of them come from the UK.

But skiing holidays in France are not just popular because they top lots of lists. The best French ski resorts are known to have immaculately maintained pistes, snow-sure mountains, fabulous off-piste terrain and banging après. France also offers great variety with resorts suitable for all abilities and all styles of skier or snowboarder.

On the downside skiing holidays in France can be rather expensive, with only Switzerland eclipsing the cost. However, be sure to check last minute ski deals, as the size of the French skiing industry means there tend to be big discounts when beds aren’t filled. So you can grab a bargain to France.

13 of the best French ski resorts

On its day any ski resort can be the best on the planet. If you have the right conditions and the right people you will have an incredible time anywhere. Likewise you can go to the ‘best’ resort and have terrible conditions and not enjoy it.

Skiing holidays in France courchevel one of the 13 best French ski resorts Image copyright Courchevel Tourisme

So when deciding the best French ski resorts we have tried to take personal opinion out of the equation. Instead we have looked at the stats, what resorts are famous for, and how popular they tend to be with the British market.

We’ve also compared them based on average conditions you’d expect during skiing holidays in France. This is to avoid comparing one resort visited during poor conditions to another visited during epic powder.

Based on this, and in no particular order, below are what we feel are 13 of the best French ski resorts:

Chamonix

Chamonix was home to the first Winter Olympics in 1924 and is overlooked by Mont Blanc – Western Europe’s highest peak. It’s an attractive town with an enviable reputation as Europe’s most dedicated mountain sports hub and undeniably one of the best French ski resorts.

Skiing holidays in France: Chamonix one of the 13 best French ski resorts Flickr CC image by TRAILSOURCE com

Expect serious skiing and superb free-riding, as well as year-round mountain sports and an adrenaline-fuelled après scene. Chamonix boasts the world’s biggest lift-served downhill and, at 22 km La Vallée Blanche is one of the longest off-piste descents on the planet.

Located around an hour from Geneva, the Chamonix ski area is fragmented into different zones. So it can be a bit of a faff to get across town to the area you want to ski – although the free buses help. Its best to decide on an area and stay there for the day otherwise you spend all day on buses.

Best for: Steep and deep freeride, die-hard mountain-lovers and après.

Weaknesses: Not great for beginners, fragmented ski area and off-piste gets tracked out quickly.

Morzine

This large attractive mountain town is located along the stunning River Dranse valley. It plugs into the immense Portes du Soleil ski area, which boasts 650 km of pistes – if it was all lift linked it would be the largest in the world. The slopes are not that high so the season is shorter and snow reliability less than elsewhere.

Review of Morzine freeride snowboarding holiday in Portes du Soleil

From Morzine you can explore the Les Gets ski area or head in the opposite direction towards Avoriaz or Chatel. On the piste there are ample beginner and intermediate slopes, making Morzine very popular for family skiing holidays in France.

The vast and spread out ski terrain has abundant wooded slopes that offer plenty of off-piste, along with peaks that provide great freeride above the treeline. The powder here doesn’t get tracked out as quickly as elsewhere, so if you are happy to hike or ski-tour you can find fresh lines for days after snowfall.

Morzine is around an hours drive from Geneva airport, making it one of the best French ski resorts for short stays and weekend ski trips. In-resort, there’s plenty to keep you entertained, with good value accommodation, a vibrant après scene and decent restaurants that don’t cost a fortune.

Best for: Good value, untouched off-piste, short transfers and good nightlife that doesn’t cost a fortune.

Weaknesses: Lower slopes so shorter season and less snow reliability.

Avoriaz

Set in the Portes Du Soleil high above Morzine, Avoriaz provides some of the best slopes in this vast area. The whole town is car free, and pretty much all of it can be accessed from ski trails making it great for family skiing holidays in France.

The Stash. Best ski run in the world. © Avoriaz Touisme Burton Snowboards

The town it built to emulate the shape of mountains, not everyone likes the look but it is much more attractive than many ski resorts. Avoriaz tries hard to have a lot going on, and there is certainly some good après and nightlife to be enjoyed, but it is not a patch on Morzine.

The slopes are excellent with plenty for beginners to experts. It is also home to the Stash one of the most famous ski runs, and offers easy access to the infamous Swiss Wall. There is loads of off-piste and backcountry opportunities that get less tracked out than elsewhere making it one of the best French ski resorts.

Best for: Untouched off-piste, easy access to Portes Du Soleil, car free and families.

Weaknesses: Not as lively as nearby Morzine, harder to reach and more expensive.

Val d’Isere

Popular with serious skiers and serious posers alike. Val d’isere is a pretty village resort that offers as much in the way of cliff-drops and freeride, as it does fine-dining and all-night parties. So bring both your ABS rucksack and Gucci one-piece to one of the best French ski resorts.

Skiing holidays in France: Val d'Isere one of the 13 best French ski resorts Image Courtesy of Val d'Isere tourist board

Whilst beginners tend to stick to Val d’Isere’s ample blue runs, intermediates can explore the 300km of pistes in the wider Espace Killy ski area. Freeriders are blessed with abundant powder-fields, challenging couloirs and endless opportunities for ski-touring.

From wild piste side partying at the Folie Douce, to late night clubbing at the infamous Dick’s Bar, Val d’Isere is one of the best places to party in the Alps. This can make it less attractive to families, but on the plus side the pistes are often quiet first thing in the morning.

Best for: Off-piste action and wild parties.

Weaknesses: Expensive and a lack of easy runs into the village.

Tignes

Less attractive but more down-to-earth than its neighbour Val d’Isere, Tignes sits at the opposite end of the Espace Killy ski area. It tends to operate a slightly longer season, due to its high altitude, which includes summer skiing on the glacier.

Skiing holidays in France: Tignes one of the 13 best French ski resorts Image courtesy of Tignes.net

Whilst off-piste action is high on the agenda it also boasts excellent snowparks for freestylers. Tignes is ideal for intermediates and families who can explore the terrain by skiing to each of the resort’s four distinct stations. The route down to Les Brevieres is particularly appealing.

Tignes provides off the slopes too. Although it has a more subdued après scene than Val d’Isere it is still lively and drink prices are much cheaper. Tignes also provides better value accommodation and food options than Val d’Isere. If you are looking for good value skiing holidays in France then Tignes is one of the best French ski resorts.

Best for: Down-to-earth attitude, good value, great off-piste, cheap après and varied terrain.

Weaknesses: Not the most attractive of ski resorts.

Meribel

Meribel sits in the heart of the Three Valleys – the largest ski area in the world. But in some ways Meribel is better known for its legendary party scene than its awesome mountain terrain.

Guide to the best Three Valleys ski holidays in Meribel. Image by Méribel Tourisme © Thomas Krief

The local Meribel slopes have enough mountain to satisfy most skiers and snowboarders during skiing holidays in France. But add to this the 600km of pistes in the Three Valleys’ ski area, and it’s one of the best French ski resorts.

Meribel is especially popular with Brits and has a notably good selection of high quality chalets. Meribel holds a firm reputation as a place to both party hard and ski harder.

Best for: Intermediate skiing, vast ski area and party-scene.

Weaknesses: Can be expensive and drunk revellers are hard to explain to kids.

Val Thorens

At 2300m Val Thorens is Europe’s highest ski resort making it as snow sure as ski resorts come. It is found within a bowl in the massive Three Valleys ski area, and offers some of the most challenging terrain and best snow cover of all skiing holidays in France.

Skiing holidays in France: Val Thorens one of the 13 best French ski resorts Image copyright Val Thorens Tourisme

Attracting an assortment of nationalities, this welcoming resort lacks the picturesque charm of some its neighbours. But Val Thorens offers cheaper accommodation, excellent skiing and a congenial après scene. All added together it’s one of the best French ski resorts.

Best for: Early/late-season skiing, huge ski area and a cosmopolitan atmosphere.

Weaknesses: Some people struggle sleeping at 2300m, plus village can be locked down in bad weather.

Courchevel

This classic French resort is one of the Alps’ most exclusive and is a touch more refined than some of the regions ‘bling’ resorts. Part of the Three Valleys ski area, Courchevel offers outstanding ski-terrain, reliable snowfall, picturesque villages, swanky accommodation and a super-efficient lift system.

Skiing holidays in France courchevel one of the 13 best French ski resorts Image copyright Courchevel Tourisme

Off-piste powder bowls, steep chutes and cliff drops appeal to the powder hounds. Whilst the extensive network of immaculate cruising trails, exciting terrain parks and gentle beginner slopes offer plenty of on-piste action. Courchevel also offers a designated improver’s zone, where the uncrowded pistes are perfect for building confidence.

Courchevel is made up of four distinct stations. 1850 is the largest and most popular village, and is where the action is concentrated. Whereas Courchevel 1350 and 1550 and La Tania offer quieter après scenes and better value accommodation. There are more Michelin starred restaurants in Courchevel than any other ski resort.

Best for: First-time skiers, fine dining, splashing-out and vast ski area.

Weaknesses: The main village at 1850 is very expensive and can feel a bit too exclusive, if it’s not your style.

Les Arcs

Les Arcs caters to all levels of skier, and different style of ski holidays across its five villages. Arc 1600 is good for budget skiers and Arc 1800 for younger crowds looking to party. Whilst Arc 1950 is good for self catered families, and Arc 2000 best for ski hotels. Meanwhile Peisey Vallandry is good for independent chalets.

Review of Les Arcs freeride snowboarding holiday in Arc 1800 Image courtesy of Paradiski © Manu-Reyboz

Les Arcs has 200 km of piste, but is also linked with La Plagne giving access to the entire Paradiski Area and 425 km of slopes. Off-piste options are excellent and, with high-altitude skiing available on the glacier, snow cover is reliable.

Les Arcs is massively diverse and a stalwart of skiing holidays in France. It offers everything from picturesque trails to challenging tree-runs, gently sloping meadows to fast mogul runs, motorway pistes to powder bowls and cross-country loops to a big snowpark.

But the fragmented nature of Les Arcs means the après scene is not the best. Although a good night can be had it’s not firing all the time. But even without banging après it’s one of the best ski resorts in France.

Best for: Diverse ski terrain, long runs and long season with reliable snow.

Weaknesses: Nightlife is fragmented across the villages, also prices are high particularly in Arc 1950.

La Plagne

La Plagne is also part of the Paradiski area with 225 km of its own piste and 425 in total, making it one of the best French ski areas. The slopes here are a little confusing as you rarely take a run under the lift you took up. Instead the pistes and lifts help you explore the area, which although confusing at first is ultimately very rewarding.

Skiing holidays in France La Plagne one of the 13 best French ski resorts Image copyright La Plagne Tourisme

There are great slopes for all levels, with wide motorway blues, meandering reds and challenging blacks. Off-piste there are vast powder fields to explore and many backcountry options. La Plagne does not get tracked out too quickly so powder can still be found days after snow.

The accommodation is split over nine different areas which makes every station feel small and manageable. Unfortunately this also makes the nightlife very fragmented and far from the best in France. But it is a great destination for families and skiers of all abilities to book skiing holidays in France.

Best for: Great backcountry, varied ski terrain, long runs, good for families and reliable snow.

Weaknesses: Nightlife and après is pretty poor and ski area can feel confusing to get around.

Les Deux Alpes

Located an hour and a half from Lyon, in the Alp’s Dauphine-Isere region, Les Deux Alpes benefits from year-round snow on a large glacier. The ski area is large, the runs are long with everything from wide cruisy pistes for beginners to challenging blacks for advanced skiers.

Review of Les 2 Alpes snowboarding holiday Copyright © Office de Tourisme Les 2 Alpes / Nico Lafay

The resort’s world-class snow-park attracts an ambitious freestyle crowd with a half pipe, many kickers, rails and other features. The legendary off-piste descent into the La Grave ski area attracts freeriders and the off-piste action around the resort is very good – hit the blacks into town on a powder day.

The resort itself lacks the alpine charm of its neighbours, and doesn’t feel as if it has a proper centre. But as a one village ski resort it has an excellent range of shops and entertainment facilities. There is a lively après scene including the piste side Pano bar and an excellent nightlife that goes into the small hours.

Best for: All abilities, freestyle, snow sure and partying.

Weaknesses: Less attractive and mainly difficult runs into town.

Alpe d’Huez

This high-altitude destination for skiing holidays in France is located in the Grandes Rousses massif region. It offers expansive alpine views, crowned by the Sarenne Glacier. The ski area has around 250 km of piste and offers something for everyone on sunny south facing slopes.

Skiing holidays in France Alpe d'Huez one of the 13 best French ski resorts Image copyright Alpe d'Huez Tourisme with Chris Cristodelou.

First timers will be pleased to discover that Alpe D Huez offers a huge beginners’ area. Advanced skiers can put their stamina to the test on the 16km black run and 2230m of unbroken vertical downhill. Off-piste there is plenty of fun to be had, particular since taking over the running of the nearby unpisted La Grave ski area.

High altitude runs and an abundance of snow cannons make this a snow-sure resort with a long season. The nightlife is great with Folie Douce on the piste, plenty of bars in town and a couple of late night clubs. Certainly one of the best French ski resorts.

Best for: Great nightlife, varied terrain, stunning scenery, long runs and sunny slopes.

Weaknesses: Town is ugly and fragmented with poor access from lower to upper areas.

St Lary

St Lary is the only resort from the Pyrenees to make this list of the best French ski resorts. With 100 km of piste it is large enough to keep most skiers and snowboarders entertained for a week. But it is also part of the Pyrenees 2 Valleys ski area that has 247km of runs linking St Lary, Peyragudes, Piau-Engaly and Val Louron by bus.

French Pyrenees ski resort news New ski area Pyrenees 2 Vallees St Lary (C) David Vilanova

In St Lary there is a great range of runs for all levels, although it lacks really tough pistes. However, there is a large snowpark for freestylers, great off-piste and challenging backcountry that has been used in Freeride World tour qualifiers.

The town is pretty, and although not lively like some of those in the Alps it has a really good atmosphere. There is a lovely spa that is worth a visit. The Pyrenees offers different skiing holidays in France to the Alps, it is more authentic and more French, with different food and much lower prices.

Best for: Families, freeriders, varied terrain and a different experience to the Alps.

Weaknesses: Shorter ski season, less English spoken and cannot ski to the town.

We hope you enjoyed out guide to the best French ski resorts. If you are planning to book skiing holidays in France, first be sure to check out our France skiing discounts as you could save a fortune.

 
 
     

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