France is the most popular Alpine country for British skiers and snowboarders. It took advantage of being comparatively late to join the pantheon of ski nations. Unlike Austria and Switzerland, where skiing evolved gradually from mountain villages, France didn’t build many of its most famous resorts (such as Les Arcs, La Plagne and Avoriaz) until the 1960s, so it was possible to select the highest, most snow-sure places to ski in France. However the initial high-rise “space-age” architecture began to fall as the decades unfolded and during the 21st century there’s been a trend to build any new accommodation in a more rustic, sympathetic style alongside the original concrete towers.
There are of course some traditional French ski resorts, the upmarket resort of Courchevel is another area that blossomed early in the history of French skiing. Courchevel is a key gateway to the vast area of the 'Les Trois Vallées (The Three Valleys) which is arguably the biggest linked ski region in the world. Its only rival is the Portes du Soleil network of ski areas (with Avoriaz and Morzine at its heart) which spreads across the French border into Switzerland. The Three Valleys is dominated by four major resorts: Courchevel, Méribel, Les Menuires and Val Thorens – the highest ski resort in the Alps. Each of these four resorts has more than enough terrain to keep a skier or boarder happily occupied for a week or more during a skiing holiday in France, so the opportunity to ski all four provides unlimited permutations.
In the Portes du Soleil, neighbouring Avoriaz and Morzine are gateways to a dozen or more family ski resorts in France and Switzerland. Chamonix, dominated by the Mont Blanc Massif, is another major attraction with several resorts scattered along the valley, including Argentière, rated by some keen off-piste skiers and boarders as one of the best ski resorts in France - or the entire Alps for that matter. They will also be keen to try the Vallée Blanche – a classic off-piste descent - with a high-mountain guide. The traditional route is not seriously demanding, leaving skiers to concentrate on the outstanding scenery, but a guide will help negotiate the occasional crevasse. There are a handful of more demanding alternative routes including the Vraie Vallée Blanche and the Envers du Plan.
Another resort overlooked by the imperious Mont Blanc is Flaine, linked with a handful of sibling resorts, with some of the most extensive slopes in France. That’s even more true of the Tignes-Val d’Isère Ski Area – the linked areas of Val d’Isère and Tignes - formerly named Espace Killy after the celebrated Olympic triple-gold medallist Jean-Claude Killy. Together these neighbouring resorts provide some of the most exciting skiing in France, particularly for off-piste enthusiasts. Tignes has the added advantage of regular glacier skiing on the Grande Motte glacier.
Two more giants of the French skiing world which are joined at the hip and undoubtedly among the best family ski resorts in France are La Plagne and Les Arcs. They’re celebrating their 10-year-partnership as Paradiski, made possible by a huge cable car linking the resorts which opened in 2003. La Plagne has a dozen or so linked hamlets and villages spread across slopes in all directions, while Les Arcs too, like Courchevel, has a handful of ski villages and satellite resorts at various altitudes.
Further south in the French Alps are two more favourites: Les 2 Alpes and Alpe d’Huez. And in the same part of the world, just as those in search of culture and impressive architecture in Austria are drawn to Innsbruck and Kitzbühel, one of the big attractions for ski holidays in France is the Serre Chevalier ski network, linked with the UNESCO world heritage site of Briançon and enjoy the wonderful Roman baths in Montier.
We are very excited to include the resort of Montgenèvre this winter. Also taking advantage of flights into Turin, the transfers are short and our guests have the opportunity to ski in both France and Italy during their stay. Montgenèvre also boasts some of the best snow conditions in the French alps, collecting snow from both it's Italian and French neighbours depending on which way the weather arrives from!