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 pall 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 Espace Killy – the linked areas of Val d’Isère and Tignes - named 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 historic bastion-town-cum-ski-resort of Briançon.
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The combined resorts of Val d'Isère and Tignes produce a formidable ski area which stronger skiers and snowboarders will get the most from. The region is named after the celebrated Jean-Claude Killy, who grew up in Val d'Isère, dominated skiing in the late 1960s and won three gold medals at the 1968 Grenoble Olympics.More information
Tignes, with its Grande Motte glacier, is Val d’Isère’s “other half” – between them these two superb ski areas make up the world famous Espace Killy ski area, named after France’s best known Olympic skier, Jean-Claude Killy.More information
Ski Val d'Isère! Even without its sister resort of Tignes, Val d’Isère would be one of the finest ski areas in the world. Together they are pretty much unbeatable, particularly for skiers and snowboarders searching for challenging off-piste terrain.More information
Set high in the Tarentaise region of the French Alps, the slopes of Les Arcs and La Plagne – each already famously large areas in themselves - were joined a few years back to create one of the largest lift-linked ski areas in the world.More information
La Plagne, with a dizzying collection of 10 separate villages - each with its own character and infrastructure - and 140 miles of slopes, has an un usually high number of blue and red runs, giving the average skier an enviable permutation of possibilities.More information
Ski Les Arcs! There’s an astonishing variety of skiing in Les Arcs, with long cruising runs, great off-piste, and one of the longest and most challenging runs in the Alps which takes advanced skiers seven kilometres all the way down to Villaroger, a magnificent vertical descent of 7,500 feet.More information
Ski Meribel If you’re looking for the epicentre of what is arguably the largest linked ski region in the Alps – and therefore the world – you’ve come to the right place. And even if you resist the urge to set off on a big exploration of Méribel’s companion resorts in the famous Three Valleys, the chalet resort of Méribel itself - one of France's most attractive resort – is an absolute delight.More information
Ski Val Thorens! Even during a poor-snow winter, you should be able to count on Val Thorens –Orelle. At 2300m, it’s the highest ski resort in Europe, contributing 93 miles of its own slopes to the vast Three Valleys system which it shares with Courchevel, Méribel, and Les Menuires – a total of 373 miles.More information
Ski Courchevel! In this Sahara of snow, skiers and boarders can undertake the ultimate ski safari. If you want to ski till you drop – this is the place.More information
Skiing holidays in Méribel, one of France's most attractive ski resorts, are an absolute delight. Skiing in Méribel is set in the heart of the famously beautiful Three Valleys ski area, one of the world's largest ski areas and justifiably renowned for its endless exciting terrain for all levels.More information
With claims to being the largest lift-linked ski area anywhere in the world, the huge Portes du Soleil area offers a seemingly endless expanse of runs and no less than 14 individual resorts to explore.More information
Morzine is the unofficial ‘capital’ and gateway to the massive ‘Portes du Soleil’ ski region, which covers 12 resorts in France and Switzerland, with a huge variety of skiing to suit all abilities in an enormous region totalling 400km of pistes.More information
Although it was purpose-built in the 1960s, Avoriaz still has an exciting space-age feel. The highest, and – with neighbouring Morzine - the most high-profile ski station in the huge Portes du Soleil region, the world’s largest international linked ski area, it has an excellent snow record.More information
The Milky Way is an international ski area linking Montgenèvre in France with Sestriere, Sauze d'Oulx, Sansicario, Cesana and Claviere in Italy. Hosting the 2006 Winter Olympics here meant that the ski area was meticulously upgraded.More information