A Guide to Ski Resorts In France
Whether you’re looking for thrilling runs, lively nightlife or family friendly slopes, skiing in France has it all.
The most well known destinations for a skiing holiday are in the Alps and Pyrénées. Courcheval and Méribel are two very popular resorts, drawing winter sports lovers from around the world.
But there are lots of other options available for ski resorts in France that are not as well known to overseas visitors. What’s great about them is that they can be (a) cheaper and (b) less crowded.
So…we’ll cover a few of the famous resorts, as well as a selection of the little known ones, to help you make an informed choice.
Mountains around Chamonix
Chamonix has some of the most spectacular scenery, and skiing, in the french alps. Out of all the ski resorts in France, Chamonix is one of the oldest and largest, and was the site of the 1924 Winter Olympics. For beginners, head to Le Tour, Les Planards or Le Brevent; for experienced skiiers, try Les Chosalets and Les Grands Montets. For off-piste runs, the Vallée Blanche descent is one of the most well known (this should only be done with a guide).
Chamonix is also popular for ski de randonnée (ski touring), snowboarding and heli-skiing. Even if you’re not interested in snowsports, there’s still plenty to do. You can take Europe’s highest cable car from Chamonix to the peak of Aiguille de Midi, for stunning views of the mountains. The vibrant apres-ski scene can keep you busy for weeks.
Chic and trendy Megève is also one of the most popular ski resorts in France, and is southwest of Chamonix. Megève has some great restaurants (including Michelin rated), cafes and patisseries, posh boutiques and horse-drawn sleighs which add to the villagey atmosphere. Megève is an expensive resort but popular.
Méribel is part of the Trois Vallées (Three Valleys), one of the largest ski areas in the world, and also includes the resorts of Courcheval and Belleville. Méribel is less than 2 hours drive from Annecy and Chambery. It’s one of the most ‘British’ resorts in France and also offering some of the best skiing in France, for all levels. You can ski in summer on the Glacier de Péclet.
Again, Méribel can be expensive for accommodation and eating out. A cheaper, quieter alternative is to stay in the traditional spa town of Brides-les-Bains – it’s directly linked to the Les Trois Vallées by gondola.
The Val d’Isère is another posh skiing area, popular with British and German tourists and is rated by serious skiiers as one of the best all-round skiing regions in the alps. Resorts include Tignes and Espace Killy. The Val d’Isère also has some more interesting winter sports such as ice diving, ice climbing and snowmobiling; mountain-biking, fishing,and hiking is popular in the summer.
Les Deux Alpes and Alpe d’Huez are southeast of Grenoble, with some of the largest summer skiing areas in Europe; its also very popular for snowboarding.
The Pyrénées mountains are not as high as the alps nor are the facilities quite as glamorous as other ski resorts in France, but they can be cheaper and a less crowded alternative.
They are also a good choice for families and beginners (although more advanced skiiers are catered for) and can be good value for money.
There is less risk of avalanches in the Pyrénées, and the resorts have more of a Spanish flavour to them, due to their location. And after a day skiing in the Pyrénées you can have a soak in hot springs – something that the Alps haven’t got!
There are around 40 resorts in the Pyrénées; one of the oldest and more traditional is Barèges. Other good resorts include Cauterets, Artouste, Gavarnie-Gedre, and La Pierre-Saint-Martin.
Here are some fantastic ski resorts in France that are not as well known.
The Aravis region, only an hour away from Geneva, includes the ski resorts of La Clusaz, Grand Bornand, and St Jean de Sixt. The Aravis is still relatively undiscovered by visitors outside of France; it’s popular with french couples and families, and has a very “french” atmosphere.
La Clusaz is a traditional alpine village; Le Grand Bornand and St Jean de Sixt are farming villages that have evolved into skiing resorts without losing their original charm.
Just north of these villages is Le Chinaillon which dates back to the 12th century and is one of the oldest ski resorts in France.
The Aravis is suitable for skiiers of all abilities – from beginners to off-piste – and has a whole range of other fun activities like paragliding, ice skating, snow shoeing and sledging. When there’s a full moon you can go skiing by moonlight in La Clusaz; the resort also has floodlit skiing every Thursday night, as well as an indoor/outdoor pool with views of the mountains!
And there are plenty of mountain restaurants and cafes with log fires, where you can have a glass of vin chaud or sample the local raclette or fondue.
There are a few towns north of Chamonix which offer excellent skiing and charming alpine towns. Châtel is a farming village near the Switzerland border. It’s popular with intermediate and advanced skiiers (and if you want to ski in France and Switzerland in the same day, you can!); there are also ski schools in the town with excellent nursery slopes for beginners.
The town of Samoëns is another ski resort in France, and is listed as an historic monument, with amazing views of Mont Blanc. Samoëns is linked to one of the largest ski areas of the Haute Savoie – the Grand Massif; neighbouring villages include Flaine, Morillon and Sixt. It caters for skiiers of all abilities, especially beginners and intermediate levels. There are plenty of other activities on offer as well, including caving, dog sledging, parapenting, and snowshoeing.
The Massif Central, or Auvergne mountain range, is not well known outside of France for skiing.
The main resorts are Mont Dore and Super Besse, which are located around the Sancy volcano (Puy de Sancy) – the volcano is the highest point in France outside of the Alps and Pyrenees.
The choice of runs may not be as high as the more popular resorts, but there is enough variety to cater for all levels. Cross-country skiing is popular, as well as spa treatments.
If you’re looking for a family holiday, are at beginner level or enjoy cross country skiing, the Vosges Mountains are a great choice.
The mountains here are more gentle and soft, with forests and glacial lakes, making it a popular destination throughout the year.
The largest resort in the area is La Bresse-Hohnec ; other resorts include Gérardmer, Saint Maurice-sur-Moselle, Bussang, Ventron, Le Valtin and Xonrupt-Longemer.
Colmar and Strasbourg are easily reached from the Vosges mountains in case you’d like a break from the snow or want to do something different.
Another little known skiing region is the Jura, only an hour away from Geneva. The Jura is known for its excellent cross country skiing (the Jura has the highest number of cross-country trails in France). The largest ski resort is the Mont-Jura (made up of Mijoux and Lélex-Crozet villages); other resorts include Métabief, Lamoura, Longchaumois and Les Rousses.
The Jura is a great option if you’re wanting a taste of traditional mountain life, with cheaper prices and less crowds. The Jura is also known for its unique wines and cheeses – so you could combine a wine tasting and skiing holiday!