Ski Resorts in France

France is known for skiing, and for the beautiful resorts and facilities that cater to the 120 million visitors to the country to ski each year. The hotbed of all of this activity is, of course, the Alps.

The French Alps are located in the southeast corner of the country, bordering Switzerland in the north, and Italy along the eastern side. The area is taller (north-south) than it is wide (east-west), and id divided into two regions, known as the Northern French Alps and the Southern French Alps.

The northern extreme is in the region around Geneva, and the southern end reaches almost to the Mediterranean Sea, just north of Nice.

Skis have been a useful mode of transportation since prehistoric times, but isn’t known to have been a recreational activity in France until the late 1800s. The first commercial ski tours were offered not long after, in the first decade of the 1900s.

France has the honour of being host to the first Winter Olympics, in Chamonix, which featured Nordic skiing as an event – Alpine skiing would not be introduced to the Olympics until 1936, in Germany, the same year that the chairlift was invented in the United States.

With improvements in ski and travel technology, implementation of lifts and on-mountain hotels and restaurants, improved roads, and an increase in the amount of leisure time for the general population, skiing as a form of recreation has radically expanded over the past century. France has been one of the main players in this trend, and continues to be a top choice for many skiers.

The climate in France varies pretty widely, and through the Alps region ranges from Continental to Mediterranean, the altitude is the main determiner of general weather and temperatures over the winter season.

The average local temperature varies from resort to resort, but don’t stray too far from the Alpine averages:

November -17°/-12°C (low/high)

December -20°/-15°C

January -21°/-16°C

February -21°/-16°C

March -19°/-14°C

April -17°/-12°C

Many mountaineers claim that it gets 1° cooler for every 100m increase in altitude. That means that a temperature of -10°C at a 2000m-high chalet could mean a temperature of -20°C at 3000m on the slopes.

This varies a lot depending on several other factors, but it is something to keep in mind when planning activities in the Alps.

The French are proud of their country and culture and, though normally very friendly and welcoming, they will easily take offense at negative comments of complaints about their people, country or culture. This is especially common in older people, who tend to be more traditional in their expectations. It’s best to embrace the positives, overlook minor negatives, and treat people in a friendly, patient manner; you will normally receive the same courtesy in return.

If you need to interact with someone, even for a moment to ask directions or similar, be sure to say hello, and goodbye (preferably in French). This is seen as a mark of respect and will help grease the wheels of friendly interaction.

French culture is perhaps best known for food. From savoury entrees to sweet pastries and confectionary, the foodie on skis will not lack opportunities to sample local wares in France.

Though some resorts cater more to elite taste buds than others, all of them will have local establishments that cater to discerning customers of both haute cuisine and more rustic dishes – and of course baked goods, cheeses, and wines.

The national language is, of course, French. Though there are many places throughout the country where many of the residents do not speak English, you won’t find this to be a problem at the resorts.

They cater to skiers from all over the world and so staff and locals will have a lot of exposure to English, and most will speak it quite well.

The currency is the Euro. The Euro-to-Pound exchange rate fluctuates of course, but as an estimate to use when eye-balling prices, each Euro is worth about 87p.

France is the most visited country in the world, and so a large portion of its economy is tourism-based. It is diversified, however, and though it has its ups and downs (don’t we all?) it is stable and not prone to sharp changes or crashes.

Popular ski areas include Val Thorens, Courchevel, Chamonix, Alpe d’Huez, Flaine, Les Deux Alpes, Châtel, Le Grand Bornard, La Clusaz, Serre Chevalier, St Gervais, Val d’Isère, Megève, and Valloire, among others.

France is known for large ski areas with varied run difficulties, high-tech lifts and facilities, and reliable snow – largely due to the high altitude of many of the resorts.

It’s easy (and fast) to get to via plane, train or automobile, and as it is one of the most popular destinations for British citizens to visit, the locals are used to the tastes and sensibilities of their UK customers.

France also has a lot of purpose-built resorts which offer ski-in, ski-out accommodations, restaurants, and other facilities. Traffic-restricted town centres are also common in these resorts, which makes time spent off of the slopes safer and more enjoyable.

Les Carroz
As part of the Grand Massif Ski Area, Les Carroz offers its own runs, plus those of Morillon, Samoëns and Flaine. It is a real, traditional village that just happens to have skiing, so visitors get to experience both the skiing...
La Clusaz
La Clusaz sits just west of the Swiss border and offers runs for all levels of skiers, with a special wealth of choices for intermediates. The community is friendly, appreciative of good food, and supports local recreational...
Chosen not only for the terrain, but also for the stunning views of nearby Mont Blanc, Chamonix has been in operation since the beginning of the twentieth century, and was popular long before that as a destination of choice for...
Megève has been running since 1916 and has been a hub of luxury skiing almost as long. There is a traditional air about this place, from the medieval centre to the alpine-chic hotels and Michelin-starred eating establishments,...
Serre Chevalier
This valley, with its string of villages and ample skiing terrain, is an attractive spot for those whose focus is primarily on the slopes.  Popular with families, those who can overlook the busy central road and some of the...
Les Deux Alpes
An attractive resort for boarders and expert skiers, Les Deux Alpes also offers a wide choice of runs and off-piste fun for beginners and intermediates. With the largest skiable glacier in Europe, the area has some attractive...
Less than an hour and a half from the airport in Geneva, Flaine is easy to get to, and you won’t eat up too much of your holiday in getting there. It is part of the Grand Massif Ski Area, boasting 145km of its own runs and...
Just inside the northeast corner of the Parc National de la Vanoise, and part of the Trois Vallées linked ski area, Courchevel in a great place for skiers of all skill levels, with an abundance of choice, especially for...
Alpe d’Huez
The first thing that comes to mind with the name Alpe d’Huez, is ‘sunshine.’ Three hundred days a year, the sun shines down on the beautiful slopes of this resort, offering skiers the chance to ride the line between the...
Val Thorens
Val Thorens is the highest ski resort in Europe, which means a very long season, and very reliable snow. It sits in the middle ground between family resort and party town, with enough of each to suit a wide range of ski...
Avoriaz, the main resort in the famed ski sports destination ‘Portes du Soleil’, is considered by many the most advanced and alluring Alpine resort in Europe. Easily accessible from Lake Geneva’s Thonon and the...
La Plagne
In terms of ski passes sold and number of beds available, La Plagne is the biggest ski resort in the world. Linked with Les Arcs via the Vanoise Express it also forms part of the vast Paradiski area. This high mountain plateau is...
Val d’Isere
With runs used World Cup and Olympic downhill, a large number of green slopes plus everything between, Val d’Isere caters for skiers and snowboarders of all levels. A world-class resort with a global reputation for partying,...
Good snow cover and an excellent choice of terrain make Tignes one of France’s most dependable ski resorts. And, combined with neighbouring Val d’Isere, it forms the immense Espace Killy ski area. Unlike some ski areas, the...
With its chalet-style buildings and mountain village feel, Morzine has managed to maintain a traditional atmosphere. It’s also the largest resort of the 650km Portes du Soleil ski area, which combines 14 villages on the...
Meribel is one of the prettiest resorts in the Alps, with a traditional and friendly village atmosphere. Sitting in the heart of the vast Three Valleys ski area and linked to Courchevel, La Tania and Val Thorens, there are more...
Les Arcs
Les Arcs is part of the mighty Paradiski ski area in the French Alps with a whopping 425km of pistes. With 70% of its slopes above 2000m it offers high altitude skiing and is as snow sure as ski areas get. The pistes vary from...
Les Gets
Les Arcs is part of the mighty Paradiski ski area in the French Alps with a whopping 425km of pistes. With 70% of its slopes above 2000m it offers high altitude skiing and is as snow sure as ski areas get. The pistes vary from...