Dreaming of a white Christmas?
Book a festive French Alps ski holiday with Erna Low and you’ll wake up on the big day feeling like you’ve stepped into a real-life snow-globe ̶ complete with gorgeous snow-capped mountains, chic chalets, and sublime steeple pines.
With peak powdery conditions, Gallic gastronomical delights, resorts decked out in decorations that delightfully enhance their natural beauty, dynamic days skiing and snowboarding on the slopes and cosy evenings spend clinking glasses around the fire, Christmas in the Alps has every ingredient for making magical memories.
And although Christmas can be magical wherever it’s celebrated, sharing a sumptuous lunch in a majestic mountain setting sounds preferable to getting up at the crack of dawn to prepare a turkey for a houseful of guests, then collapsing on your couch while staring stupefied at the TV specials.
Whether you’re a romantic couple, fun-loving family or gregarious group of friends, bonding in the beautiful French Alps at Christmas is the break you and your loved ones have been waiting for.
Why choose a French Alps festive ski holiday?
There are several superb reasons that savvy holidaymakers head to the French Alps at Christmas and it’s easy to do some things completely differently as well as adding terrific twists to your family traditions.
Here are just a few good reasons you should set off for the French Alps this festive season:
More likely than not, your Christmas at home will be damp, wet and grey, so swapping these dreary elements for bright white snow, big blue skies and dramatic mountains seems eminently sensible. Instead of watching movies about white Christmases and wishing you were there, when you’re spending yuletide in the Alps you need only stroll out your door into a real-life winter wonderland cloaked in the white stuff.
It’s a tradition for many families to take a postprandial stroll after a hearty Christmas dinner in order to get out of the house for some fresh air, walk off impending indigestion and spend some reflective downtime in good company. But imagine how good it will feel to snap on your skis or snowboard instead and hit the slopes to carve out up some festive fresh powder ̶ there’s every chance you’ll benefit from a fresh dump of snow that’s so deep, crisp and even it would make Good King Wenceslas himself grin from ear to ear!
Several French Alps ski resorts have terrific tree-lined runs, so there’s no better way to embrace the seasonal spirit than by whizzing through firs and pines in sheltered glades. If you’re a fan of tree skiing, there are plenty of resorts to choose from, but Corchevel, La Tania and Méribel are particularly blessed by boscage. Immersing yourself in wonderful soothing woodlands with real life Christmas trees beats staring at a miniature domestic version in the corner of your room any day.
No one wants to diet at Christmas, but if you’ve been staying disciplined and maintaining a healthy weight all year round, it’s a shame to let it all slip with a huge extended blowout over Christmas. However, with a ski holiday you can burn off those excess calories on the slopes, which is much more fun than running along slushy pavements or taking to the treadmill. According to Harvard Medical school, downhill skiing can burn 266 calories in just 30 minutes, which is not to be sniffed at!
A festive skiing holiday is a great way to disconnect from workaday worries, switch off from stress, rest and recharge your batteries. Getting back to nature also encourages you to feel more grounded and where better to do it than amidst some of the most stunning scenery on Earth? If you really want to go off grid, you can even combine your Christmas break with a digital detox, staying away from all of your electronic devices for the duration so that you’re always living in the moment and focused on what’s important ̶ whether you’re engaged in sparkling conversations with loved ones or taking in every twist and turn of the perfect piste.
The French celebrate Christmas on the evening of December 24th (Le Réveillon de Noël), so holidaying in France is the ideal excuse for doing a double Christmas ̶ if your Christmas Eve at home is usually spent sitting around and waiting for the big day to come, having a convivial gathering instead will be a breath of fresh air and the ambience is enhanced further by the fact that you’ll be doing it all again the day after. One note of caution ̶ don’t overdo it on the vin chaud during Christmas part 1 or you might end up snoozing through Christmas part 2!
If you’re a foodie, you’ll be in seventh heaven during a festive French ski holiday because there are so many delicious seasonal drinks and snacks on offer. A typical aperitif might be a classic kir royale accompanied by olives, nuts, cracker biscuits and dips, while oysters served simply with a splash of lemon juice are a favourite starter and the main meal could be traditional turkey stuffed with chestnuts and served with al dente mixed vegetables, green beans and mushrooms. After a brief break you’ll be served a cracking cheese platter and, last but not least, dessert is often a festive yule log filled with buttercream and sponge and coated in chocolate with a holly and red berry garnish. After this type of seasonal feast, you’ll definitely need a couple of new notches in your belt! Voila ̶ it’s evident there are plenty of reasons that a French Alps skiing holiday is the perfect pick for you and your family.
French Alps Christmas traditions
A French festive ski holiday is a golden opportunity to immerse yourself in a few Alpine traditions which you and your family can have fun trying out while you’re here:
The French take children’s letters to Père Noël (Santa Claus) very seriously ̶ so much so that since 1962 there’s been a law stating that Santa (with the administrative assistance of some of his ‘helpers’!) must respond to every child’s letter with a personalised reply in the form of a postcard. If you’d like to sprinkle a little stardust over your kids’ special day, perhaps this is one tradition to take on board?
The Nativity scene in France is known as the ‘crèche’ and there’s often a healthy competition between French families to see who can produce the most elaborate display, with central figures of Baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph often accompanied by lots of wonderful alternative characters in a creative embellishment of the original narrative.
The ‘anti-Santa’ in France is a fearsome character called Père Fouettard (‘the Whipping Father’) who accompanies Father Christmas in order to spank children who have ended up on the naughty rather than nice list. This tradition has diminished in popularity and it’s probably one you shouldn’t try to revive!
In some countries, the tradition is to leave stockings, fruit, biscuits, and a medicinal drink for Santa, plus some carrots for his reindeer. However, the French tradition is that kids leave their shoes by the fireplace in order for Father Christmas to leave presents in them ̶ a convention which might help thrifty parent economise on presents (provided children don’t have oversized feet!).
Christmas trees are more of a German than French tradition but because of the international ambience in most resorts, you’ll definitely find them here at Christmas, as well as the usual garlands, lights and decorations. Some resorts also host Christmas markets where you can find anything from local crafts to wine, cheese, vin chaud and other delicacies, while you might also see a torchlight procession down the slopes and various celebratory music and light shows. Skating is another activity that’s popular at this time of year and many resorts have public ice rinks.
It’s evident that an Alpine ski holiday lets you combine your own cultural festival traditions with those of the Alps ̶ a winning combination for any family holiday! Festive self-drive options
Travelling to and from your French ski resort at Christmas as safely and securely as possible will naturally be a priority for most visitors. And if you’d rather not fly, a self-drive, self-catering option could be the perfect compromise that allows you to celebrate with your loved ones, just a little more cautiously than usual.
Most Alpine ski resorts can be reached in 10 hours or under from Calais and a Flexiplus Le Shuttle crossing on Eurotunnel takes only 35 minutes, with priority check-in and boarding and the option of accessing drinks and refreshments in the exclusive lounge or remaining in your vehicle. We can also include pre-arranged ski equipment hire and ski passes in your holiday package, meaning that there’s not needed to mix unnecessarily with other groups while queuing for these essentials. While you’re at the resort, everything is in place for you to ski or snowboard in your own bubble and when it comes to apres-ski, you can dine out if you feel comfortable with the adjustments put in place or eat in, either cooking up a storm with delicious local ingredients or ordering delicious delivery meals from a wide range of first-rate establishments. To calculate the cost of this type of skiing holiday, simply choose the ‘self-drive’ tab on our search form, enter your details and dates you’ll see a great value for money deal in a couple of seconds. For a ski holiday with perfect peace of mind, a self-drive, self-catering option is definitely worth considering and we’re delighted to help you make all of the arrangements.
Classic Christmas ski resorts
You’ll find something special in every Erna Low ski resort at Christmas, but some really pull out all the stops to ensure visitors really have a fantastic time that’s truly unforgettable. Here are a few delightful destinations that really embrace the magic of the festive season:
Val Thorens is a high-altitude resort that’s the most snowsure in Europe and its Christmas celebrations will also take you to the peak of excitement and entertainment. Week-long celebrations here last through until Boxing Day and include a torchlit piste descent performed by ski instructors, a Santa’s Grotto with warming vin chaud provided for parents waiting for their kids to bargain with the man himself, and spectacular firework displays aplenty. In the past Val Thorens has also hosted activities like ice carving competitions and Elf concerts, so there’s something to keep everyone happy. Part of the Three Valleys ski area, Val Thorens offers access to a vast 600km skiable area and has been voted the world’s best ski resort on several occasions. If you want a memorable Christmas where the apres-ski and on-piste activities are beautifully balanced, this is a wise choice.
Alpe d’Huez is one of the best places in the Alps to spend a family-focused Christmas and there’s a wide range of charming activities on offer. A trip up to the ice caves is a must ̶ the sylvan scenes dextrously crafted from solid ice are magical and the host is Santa himself! The local ski school performs their own torchlit slope descent here too and it culminates in a fab fireworks display on the snow front, while the tourist office opens stalls to top up everyone’s festive cheer with revitalising vin chaud. Animation displays and live music are usually a central part of the festive offering in Alpe d’Huez and past headline performances have featured everything from opera to acrobatics. The skiing is also superb here ̶ with a resort height of 1860m and a prime position at the foot of the 3300m Pic Blanc, conditions are perfect and there’s a vertical of 2300m between the top and bottom of the lift network. Alps d’Huez is also known as L’Isle Au Soleil since it enjoys over 300 days of sunshine a year, so there’s every chance you’ll enjoy the perfect combination of a white and sunny Christmas!
Tignes is the second-highest resort in Europe after Val Thorens and another resort that expends every effort imaginable to ensure guests and locals alike enjoy a rollicking Christmas. Festive celebrations here start in early December and the marvellous Christmas market in Tignes Le Lac sets the scene with artisan food and souvenir stalls, while Tignes Val Claret hosts a fun-filled snowboarding competition where you’ll see Santa, his elves and even Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer pulling off amazing tricks. On Christmas Eve Santa tours all of the Tignes villages by sleigh and spreads a little festive magic for mesmerised kids, while parents sip warming vin chaud.
Sainte Foy is the perfect resort for your Christmas ski holiday if you’re a romantic who loves old world charm. Although this is actually a relatively new ski resort it has been carefully designed in the traditional Savoyard style, with cosy chalets sprinkled around its slopes and forested fringes. Most people’s idea of a picture-postcard Alpine village, Sainte Foy enjoys great snow conditions thanks to a microclimate enabled by its northwest orientation and snowfall that enters from the Italian Alps, the on and off piste action for advanced and intermediate skiers is superb and skiing on the village slopes for novices is free. If you’re yearning for a beautiful Alpine bolthole to spend serene Christmas bonding with your family or significant other, this is a savvy choice. Tempted by a French Alps ski holiday this Christmas? Let Erna Low create the ideal tailor-made package for you that includes everything from transport to accommodation and ski hire, passes and even lessons.
With a proud pedigree introducing the best of the Alps to the rest of the world, we’ve got the experience, expertise and connections to cater for your every need ̶ we can help you choose a resort that suits the skiing and snowboarding preferences of every member of your group, find accommodation with doorstep skiing, source chalets, apartments or hotels with amazing amenities and take care of all other arrangements so that you can immediately relax and enjoy yourself.
When you head off for an Alpine adventure at Christmas, an Erna Low ski package ensures that all the details are taken care of so that everyone has the time of their life ̶ your Christmas is special, so we’re passionate about getting every element right first time.