Ski Holiday France: Destination Ideas and Travel Tips
Where and when to find the best deals, which airports to fly to, and general info on insurance and equipment hire.
France offers some of the most challenging and formidable pistes in the world, as well as a wide range of wintersports – including snowboarding, toboganning and ski touring (which is like hiking on skis).
France takes skiing seriously and every level of ability is well catered for.
Chamonix Mont Blanc
Ski season start roughly in December just before Christmas and then finishes around the end of April. The cheapest time to go is at the beginning and the end of the season and in January. The busiest times would be Christmas and New Year, as well as the school holidays (late February and early March).
As well as nordic (cross country) and alpine (downhill) skiing, there’s off-piste (hors piste in french) for the more experienced; ski touring (ski randonnée), can take you to the less accessible places outside the main resort areas. You can also ski in the summer (July and August) on the high altitude glaciers, in places like Tignes or Val d’Isère.
As a general rule, the downhill runs are colour coded to show the level of difficulty: green (beginners), blue (intermediate), red (advanced) and black (very advanced). Cross country ski trails are marked as easy or difficult.
The top ski holiday france destination would be the Alps along the Italian and Swiss border, followed closely by the Pyrénées in the south, near Northern Spain. There are a few alternatives as well which can be cheaper – such as the Massif Central, Jura and Vosges.
For the French Alps, you can fly into Chambéry, Geneva, Grenoble or Lyon St-Exupery Airports. For the Pyrénées: Pau, Toulouse and Carcassonne; Perpignan, Montpellier, Lourdes and Biarritz are also options.
For other ski holidays france ideas such as the Massif Central – closest airports would be Clermont-Ferran Auvergne or Lyon; and for the Jura: Lyon, Basel/Mulhouse and Geneva.
Train services within France to the ski areas are excellent (you can pick up “La Neige en Direct” at SNCF train stations, which provides more info). For example, you can take the Eurostar from London (Waterloo station) to Moûtiers, which is the gateway to Les Trois Vallées ski area; or to Bourg St-Maurice for the Val d’Isère. For the Jura, the trains stops at Bellegarde, Dôle, Mouchard, or Vallorbe.
You can easily hire skis, snowboards, boots and poles in the resorts. Lift passes come in all sorts of combinations – from daily, to weekly, monthly and seasonal. Many passes will give you access to neighbouring resorts.
So, how to get the best deals? Unless you are truly experienced in organising a ski holiday France and have an indepth knowledge of the area, booking a package deal through an agent tends to be cheaper (and alot less hassle) than booking everything yourself.
Travel agents can secure cheaper rates and have more ‘buying’ power.
In saying that, if there is a package deal that appeals to you, before you go ahead and book, do your own research into the area to make sure its right for you. For example:
- How close is the accommodation to the skiing (eg is it walking distance or will you need transport?)
- How will transport be arranged between the airport and your accommodation?
- What about skiing equipment? If you’re bringing your own, where can it be stored?
- What ability level is the skiing area suited to? – beginners, intermediate, advanced, families, or a mix? What is the snow quality like? Is there a risk that snow conditions will be unsuitable and the runs may close?
- If you’re bringing the kids: is it family friendly, does it offer services such as childcare, or laundry?
Insurance is essential in case of theft or injury. Many of the package deals offer insurance. Check the small print though, to ensure that the cover is appropriate for your plans – some insurers don’t cover off-piste accidents, for example.
You might come across Carré/Carte Neige insurance – this is not a full insurance policy; it’s more of a top-up which works in tandem with your main insurance policy. It will cover you for transporting you off the mountain – but that’s it – it doesn’t cover you for surgery fees. Seek the advice of a professional if necessary, and read the small print – you’ll be glad you did.