Skiing in France: Tips for skiing the French Alps

If you love skiing, there’s nothing more thrilling than the possibility of skiing in France. If you want to discover some of the world’s best downhill runs or heading cross country, France is a paradise for skiers and certainly not to be missed by any winter sports enthusiast.

Surrounded by some of the most stunning scenery in the world, fresh alpine air, and beautifully contoured runs, you will live a once in a lifetime experience. It’s no wonder France is regarded as one of the greatest skiing nations in the world!

While planning to go skiing in France, you’d be nuts not to consider the French Alps. The terms French Alps and skiing tend to be synonymous and very few think of one without the other. The term alpine is derived from the Alps themselves, and alpine skiing is an attraction that many can not resist. The French Alps welcome tourists from all over the world to appreciate the beauty of the mountains and the wide range of ski slopes available.

Hundreds of skiing resorts in France have become favorites of cross country and downhill skiers, one of the most luxurious and popular of them being Chamonix-Mont-Blanc. This resort has the distinction of being the first to host the Winter Olympics in 1924. Nestled at the foot of Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Western Europe, at 15,744 feet, the region is well known not only for intense skiing but also for the plethora of other mountain sports, including mountain climbing, snowboarding, and even mountain biking in the summer months.

Imagine waking up, looking out the window, and seeing a light sprinkle of new snow, prompting you to run outside and ride the highest cable car in the world to the top of the mountain, to go skiing in France slowly down the slope, with the fresh air freezing. And when you return to your skiing resort in the French Alps, a cup of hot chocolate and a warm fireplace are waiting for you!

Some find the challenge of the ski slopes worth the effort. Pitting their talents against the elements is a way to feel invigorated. A more comfortable route at the base of the mountain, exploring the woods as you cross country skiing can be just as fun, however.

With so many different pastimes available, there is no doubt that skiing in the French Alps carries popularity. Glaciers sculpted the Alps, bringing a mild climate to the valleys situated here. Furthermore, in summer this rich soil turns into a fairytale setting, with the mountains covered in beautiful wildflowers and trails leading to picturesque chalets. This makes the French Alps a venue for outdoor enthusiasts all year round.

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Searching for skiing in France ski resorts & more

Planning to go skiing in France

The French Alps are the perfect destination for hardcore skiers. It’s a big industry in the area and there are many French ski resorts that you can choose from if you plan to go on France ski holidays there. It may sound like it’s far away and inaccessible, but it’s actually really easy to go skiing the French Alps.

You need to prepare your itinerary first. It’s a good idea to fly into the country, then get some rest at the hotel before you head off to the slopes. Maybe you should spend a couple of days in Paris to catch up with the jet lag. Take some time to rest, otherwise your skiing in France experience won’t be memorable.

Next, you’re going to have to pick a resort to go skiing in France. As the industry has become increasingly mainstream and globalized, almost all the ski resorts in the French Alps have websites or at least social media pages. With those, you will easily find those with the best slopes, the best prices, and the best service. You can also use the internet to read reviews from other people who traveled there before. You will find good and negative comments on almost any ski resort, and that’s going to help you a great deal in making your final decision.

Another advantage of the internet is that you can find some excellent travel deals with a bit of research. In addition, it is not necessary to consider booking each individual item separately when you go skiing in France. You’ll find plenty of top-quality package deals that will be included with skiing, lodging, flights, and lift pass. You might even be fortunate enough to find an offer that includes some exotic French food to fill you up after a rough day on the slopes!

Alternatively, you can contact the nearest travel agency to see what they’ve got on offer to go skiing in France. While the travel agent will generally inflate the price to cover their commission, sometimes they offer genuine bargains that are not available anywhere. And what’s more, the travel agent will tell you where to go skiing in France and what to do off the slopes, and nothing can beat that personal recommendation. In addition, they can put to rest any worries or concerns you may have about your ski holiday and answer any questions you might have.

It’s not very practical to carry your own ski equipment on a plane trip, so you’ll probably need to arrange to rent your own skiing equipment as soon as you reach your destination. Typically, this is pretty easy to do. You’re just supposed to remember your size and what kind of skis fit you best, so you can get the right kind from the start and feel comfortable in them.

If you don’t mind the hassle of flying with your equipment when you go skiing in France, there are also thousands of dedicated ski shops to support visitors, and some of them have some pretty good bargains!

France is lucky enough to offer great wine, great food, great culture, and great skiing! If you plan to pick France for your next ski trip, don’t spend all your time on the slopes, get out there to experience the local lifestyle. Sample the delicacies and experience the delights of this highly metropolitan European country.

Make sure you prepare well in advance to go skiing in France – a passport is important if you want to get your foot out of the country. Without it, you’re not going to experience the beauty of French skiing, and you’re going to lose the money you paid for your holiday, so this really is a critical factor.

Skiing in France resorts

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular skiing in France resorts. If you’re planning to enjoy your winter holidays in France, this information will prove useful to you.

chamonix skiing in france
Skiing in France: Chamonix, one of the best French resorts

Chamonix Mont Blanc

Nestling in the shadow of Mont Blanc – Europe’s highest peak at 4,807 m – Chamonix lives and breathes the mountain’s history. Chamonix has long been hailed as a mecca for hiking and mountaineering, with bearded mountain men in de rigueur rusty alpine gears seen strolling around the city and telling unlucky listeners stories of leaping crevasses, evading rock falls, and hiking peaks. There’s Mont Blanc to be summed up, the north face of Les Drus to be approached, and Les Grands Jorasses to inspire.

Actually, Chamonix first came to prominence as a summer tourist destination in the 19th century, and the first cable car opened in Le Brevant for summer walkers. Now, Chamonix is just as renowned for its winter sports as one of the most challenging ski resorts in the world, including the world-famous Vallee Blanche – the most successful off-piste adventure in Chamonix.

Skiing in France at Chamonix

Starting from the Aiguille du Midi – one of the most visited and spectacular panoramic points of view in the world – and with the services of a guide, you will ski an uninterrupted 22 km past blue ice formations, roaring crevasses, and dropping glaciers. It’s a 2.8 km vertical descent across some of the most impressive alpine landscapes.

Then, of course, there are Les Grands Montets with iconic off-piste and glacial models, the Aiguilles Rouges and the Pas De Chevre.

Chamonix blends its globally famous resort for skiing in France with an elegant, cosmopolitan, and bustling city center. With its cobbled streets, magnificent old houses, rich heritage, and open squares, Chamonix is much more than just another French ski resort. It retains much of its original mountain charm and a very French, very friendly, and alpine atmosphere.

Chamonix, one of the oldest ski resorts in France, is quietly transforming from an outpost of wizard climbers and skiers into a much more international, elegant, and varied resort.

Yes, the climbers still flock to Chamonix in the summer, and the unwashed skiers are the first to climb the mountain to carve their tracks in the snow, but now Chamonix draws a much more diverse crowd. You’re just as likely to see Chanel opening in front of a nearby climbing shop, while the nearby spit and sawdust turn into a swanky bistro. That doesn’t mean the local French bars crammed with burly mountaineers are not there, it’s just that now they’re jostling for the attention of a mixed clientele.

There’s a vast array of things for travelers to enjoy when they go skiing in France. With an impressive sports and swimming complex, beauty salons, spas, tennis, ice rink, cross country skiing, paragliding, husky sledding, guided snowshoeing, cinema, museum, casino, and weekly market with fresh local produce; and a multitude of stores, designer boutiques, bars, restaurants, terraced cafes and nightclubs, Chamonix offers a mix of skiing, old-town charm, after skiing and shopping.

There are still a lot of options when it comes to eating out. All tastes and budgets vary from the obligatory burgers at Poco Loco to the standard Savoyard fondues at L’Atmosphere and the nine-course gastronomic delights at the Hammeau Albert 1er.

Or, in 20 minutes, you can nip under the Mont Blanc massif through the Mont Blanc tunnel and arrive in Courmayeur, Italy, with its own very unique regional varieties. And if you’re tired of ski wear stores, salamis, and penknives, you’re just one hour away from Annecy, the Venice of the Alps, with its charming old town and glistening lake. And did I mention the stores?

This is without considering the spectacular high mountain scenery: the steep glaciers, the steep Aiguilles, one of the highest cable cars in Europe – the Aiguille du Midi at 3,842 m – the Mer De Glace, the Parc de Merlet for children and families, and a charming alpine town and typical mountain villages and hamlets scattered along the Chamonix valley.

If you’re looking for a holiday to go snowboarding or skiing in France, or an alpine summer vacation with mountain biking, canyoning, hiking, climbing, and more, then Chamonix is the perfect choice for you!

Beyond skiing in France at Chamonix

  • Paragliding Tandem Flight over the Alps in Chamonix. Take to the skies in complete safety from 2,100 meters (3,900 feet) on a tandem flight with an instructor. Enjoy breathtaking views of the Alps as your pilot navigates the air currents from Plan Praz or Plan de l’Aiguille. Get a video and HD images of your flight upon landing.
  • Gruyère Day Trip from Chamonix. A full-day tour of Gruyères from Chamonix. See Cailler Chocolate Factory and sample delicious Swiss chocolates. Visit the Alpine town of Gruyères, famous for its traditional Gruyère cheese. Admire the views of the UNESCO-listed Lavaux Vineyards and Lake Geneva.
  • Day Trip to Swiss Cities with a Visit to Chaplin’s World and Steamer Boat Cruise from Chamonix. After lots of skiing in France at Chamonix, you can enjoy a day out at Lake Geneva and explore the UNESCO wine route, Charlie Chaplin Memorabilia, cruise on a belle epoque steamer, and the romantic Chillon Castle, then stroll through the elegant Old Town streets of Montreux. You’re also going to visit the Mountain Studios where Freddie Mercury made his last Queen album.

courchevel skiing in france
Skiing in France: Courchevel, one of the top French ski resorts

Courchevel 1850

Courchevel 1850 is one of the best locations to spend a luxurious holiday skiing in France Alps. Boasting one of the largest ski areas in the world, Courchevel is also one of the best places to go skiing in the French Alps. This high-altitude glacial resort is located in the heart of Les 3 Vallées. It is both the highest and the largest of the five resorts, offering a trendy mix of luxury ski holidays, boutiques, and fashionable restaurants and bars.

Courchevel 1850 shares the Les 3 Vallées ski area with Courchevel 1650, Courchevel 1550, Courchevel Le Praz 1300, and La Tania.

  • Courchevel 1650, better known as Sunny Moriond because of most of the day’s sunshine, is the second-highest in the villages. It is an attractive old village full of restaurants serving Savoy specialties and is conveniently situated only a short gondola ride away from Courchevel 1850.
  • Courchevel 1550, Courchevel Le Praz 1300, and La Tania are beautiful and quiet resorts nestled between pine and pine forests. Skiers are spoilt for choice as the Les 3 Vallées region offers extensive and varied terrain throughout its five resorts.

Popular for great skiing in France, Courchevel also provides a variety of after-skiing activities. In its art galleries, the epitome of luxury and sophistication, you’ll find over 100 shops with common brand names and prominent works of art. Other sports include snowshoeing, snowmobiling, ice skating, and tobogganing.

Skiing in France at Courchevel

The well-groomed ski area of Courchevel offers excellent skiing in France with 600 km of slopes, 189 lifts, 1932 hectares of slopes, and 24,711 acres of off-piste skiing and snow reliability from Christmas to mid-April.

If you’re a novice or an experienced skier, the resort caters to both skills. There are excellent beginner slopes in both 1850 and 1650, as well as demanding off-piste corridors with some incredibly difficult black runs set to challenge even the most experienced. Go skiing in the French Alps between Courchevel’s four villages, or head off to Meribel and other resorts within Les 3 Vallées. During peak weeks, you may want to head for the quieter slopes of Courchevel 1650 or the satellite resort of La Tanis, avoiding the more crowded streets of Les 3 Vallées.

For snowboarders, there is a snow park in Le Plantrey, a canyon and dunes in Les Verdons and a hoop in Biolley. And it’s easy to get around on a luxurious ski holiday with modern lifts, with some great free-riding available.

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Skiing in France montagnes

La Plagne

La Plagne is another one of the largest single ski resorts in the world, with 212 km (approximately 132 miles) of slopes operated by 144 ski lifts and a 4-minute cable car ride to Les Arcs. This ski resort is made up of ten villages and is not only one of the most popular resorts to go skiing in France, but probably the most visited ski resort in the world.

In addition to skiing events, visitors can also enjoy other events such as bowling, work out in a fully fitted gym and leisure center, go hang-gliding and ice-skating, or get away from the winter chill by taking sauna baths.

For a family trip, there are more than 200 shops for shopping or dining in La Plagne in a multitude of restaurants. Bars and dance clubs also light up La Plagne at night.

Skiing in France at La Plagne

La Plagne is often referred to as the ‘third generation’ French ski resort, with its modern architectural designs, has possibly also inspired other ski resorts in France, such as Flaine, Avoriaz, and Les Arcs, to move towards new world-class architecture and to abandon the charming rustic designs of traditional ski resort architecture.

Skiers in La Plagne will experience a number of pistes and off-piste permutations, from exhilarating steep descents to the gigantic Bellecote glacier (3,000 m or nearly 10,000 feet), then a delightful cruising down peaceful meandering larch lined avenues to the quaint villages of Montchavin-Les-Coches, Champagny-en-Vanoise, and Montalbert.

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Skiing in France resorts: Les Arcs, one of the best ski resorts in the French Alps

Les Arcs

This resort has a Eurostar train terminal at Bourg Saint Maurice, making it the most open high-altitude ski resort in France.

Skiing in France at Les Arcs

Les Arcs is also known to have pioneered the so-called ski evolution method, which is used for fast learning by switching rapidly from short skis to longer skis.

Les Arcs is also the home ground of the Kilometre Lancee in which the daredevils of the massive 237cm or 8 ft skis, dressed in thin aerodynamic plastic suits and the ‘Darth Vader of Star Wars’ type viewfinders, speed up the specially built track at an exhilarating speed of up to 240kph (150mph) or more.

Just like La Plagne, Les Arcs ski resort has acres and acres that seem to never end in a pleasant cruising skiing terrain, and its off-piste opportunities are simply fantastic.

skiing the french alps
Happy to be skiing in France

Les Houches

The village of Les Houches is situated in the heart of the French Alps, in the north east of the Rhone Alps. Nestled at one end of the Chamonix valley in the Mont Blanc region of the Haute Savoie Les Houches, it had long been considered the only satellite village of its far more illustrious neighbor Chamonix – the world capital of skiing and mountaineering.

Of course, the locals knew better, and many high mountain guides, ski instructors, and pisteurs have long since migrated to this quiet and pleasant corner of the Chamonix valley – attracted as much, perhaps, by its magnificent setting at the foot of Mont Blanc, its calm, tranquility and traditional ambiance as its most affordable land. However, it wasn’t long before the resort was known as a small gem in the middle of Mont Blanc Massif and tourism flourished due in large part to Les Houches’ extremely easy access to and from Geneva airport.

It wasn’t always that way. It was only with the building of a new road between Le Fayet and Chamonix in 1860-70, and then with the arrival of the train in 1901, that Les Houches started to open up to summer tourism. It was then that Les Houches had become a small holiday resort, and the first hotels and holiday homes had started to appear.

Les Houches began the building of the Bellevue cable car in 1936-7 as a winter destination. Since the 1960s, the increasing growth of the number of travelers coming for skiing in France has led to the construction of new lift systems. But it was with the digging of the Mont Blanc tunnel (1959-65) and the completion of the Route Blanche in 1990 that the village of Les Houches opened up to the rest of Europe.

Located at a height of 1000 meters, Les Houches is a nice family resort with an outstanding panoramic view of the Chamonix Aiguilles that surrounds the Chamonix valley. The village is made up of a variety of small hamlets, with numerous old farms and chapels and enjoys spectacular 360 views, some nice tree-lined skiing along trails winding through the woods (perfect for bad weather days), and two of the best mountain restaurants in the valley.

Les Houches also has the widest range and the highest number of runs in the Chamonix Valley, offering everything from the gentle greens and blues to the world-famous Kandahar – a frequent feature of the FIS Men’s World Cup downhill circuit. Indeed, many racers consider the Kandahar to be second only in difficulty to the Hahnenkamn Streif in Kitzbuhel. The length of the run is 3343 meters with an outstanding 870 m of declivity and the winning time is less than two minutes. With its series of technical passes and jumps, like La Cassure and Le Goulet, the Kandahar is also considered to be one of the most stunning downhill slopes in the world.

Les Houches provides a multitude of events to fit all preferences and inclinations throughout the year. In addition to snowboarding and skiing in France, Les Houches offers dog sleighing, outdoor ice skating, snowshoeing, indoor climbing, paragliding, and local markets selling new regional produce during the winter ski season. During the beautiful summer months, you can climb, trek, mountain bike, paraglide, play tennis, or just relax and enjoy the fresh mountain air and breathtaking scenery. Combined with a range of bars and restaurants, shops and museums to visit and discover, there should be enough to keep you busy during your stay.

skiing in france alps
Skiing in France: Val d’Isère

Val d’Isère

France is also home to the world-famous Val d’Isère skiing resort made famous by top French skier Jean-Claude Killy. It is a draw for visitors all year round, with a near guarantee of absolutely perfect weather. In addition, the resort caters to all levels of experience and abilities, so you’re sure to find a challenge for your taste somewhere!

The central area is made up of the Val Village, where everyone gathers at night for a lively after-skiing, and the satellite mini-resorts of La Daille and Le Fornet are all connected by a free bus service. La Daille, the first village you can find when you exit the last tunnel, is near to some of the great slopes, while Le Fornet is situated at the far end of the Isere valley.

Considered by many the best French ski resort, Val d’Isère offers excellent skiing from late November to early May and is the ideal choice for beginner and advanced skiers. Its ideal skiing conditions, guaranteed snow, and a fun atmosphere off the slopes make it a great attraction for everyone. Renowned for its after-ski events focused around Rue Principale, Val d’Isère’s entertainment ranges from vibrant bars to elegant tea rooms. With neighboring Tignes, this area is one of Europe’s main winter playgrounds.

Val d Isere has plenty of nurseries and ski schools catering to children of all ages. Other sports include dog sledding, snowmobiling, and paragliding. It’s the ideal ski resort for groups with various interests.

Skiing in France at Val d’Isère

The combined region is collectively referred to as Espace Killy. There are 90 ski lifts, 300 km of trails, and a new hands-free lift pass system. Eight access points provide access to the mountain, including a high-speed gondola from the center of the village and an underground funicular from La Daille. From here, a network of tracks and lifts leads to Tignes on one side and Rocher du Charvet on the other. The OK downhill course, even from the top of Bellevarde, is a moderately challenging yet pleasant downhill route to La Daille.

Thanks to the consistency of the snow and the excellent powder skiing, Val d’Isère is home to off-piste skiing and free travel. Those who are prepared for some serious off-piste skiing in France will find themselves spoilt for choice by the variety of tracks. Hire the expertise of a local guide and try the Face du Charvet, a steep powder classic from the Grand Pré chair.

The French lift system in Val d’Isère is both fast and effective, a good option for the boarders, and there are very few drag lifts. There is also a terrain park just above the gondola of La Daille, providing excellent facilities for both beginners and experts. Luxury ski holidays in Val d’Isère in France are a popular destination for all tastes.

Selected travel deals to go skiing in France at Val d’Isere

Ready to go skiing in France?!

Now that you’ve learned how to plan your trip to go skiing in France and you’ve also discovered the best skiing in France resorts, all you have to do is choose a destination, take advantage of some awesome travel deals, and hit the slopes! Then enjoy all the apres ski relaxation offers.

About the author

Mirela Letailleur The Travel Bunny

Mirela Letailleur is a Romanian travel blogger living in the South of France. She writes on The Travel Bunny travel blog about affordable travel in Europe, creator of unique free travel guides, local travel expert. Problem solver. Wannabe coffee guru.

Read more about Mirela Letailleur

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