Overview of the French Alps
The South of France has some amazing gems like Saint-Tropez, Biarritz and the French Riviera; all stunning and glamorous in their own right, but there truly is no other place in the country with such awe-inspiring, magical, natural beauty as the French Alps. It is arguably the ultimate holiday destination in the country, providing an equal combination of picturesque camera stills and high-speed thrills against a backdrop of an authentic Alpine mountain range. Home to some of the most highly-rated ski resorts in Europe, it is not surprising that the French Alps rank among the most visited Alpine regions in the world for ski holidays. The region is made up of up to seven different ski areas, each unique in its way and each being home to many ski resorts. In order to provide insight to help you decide on what French Alps ski resort to choose for your holiday, we have touched on a few significant ski areas and the type profiles that they may be ideal for.
Grand Paradiski : Ideal for family groups
The Grand Paradiski is one of France's largest ski areas. Sitting in the Tarentaise Valley in the Savoy region of the French Alps, the area covers the ski resorts of Les Arcs, La Plagne and the area's hidden gem, Peisey-Vallandry. It has a combined total of 425 kilometres of slopes as well as vast off-piste opportunities. The Grand Paradiski is one of the Alp's most visited ski regions with La Plagne, in particular, holding the record of the French ski resort which receives the highest visitors volume per head, almost every season. Popular amongst holidaymakers, professional snowsports athletes and enthusiasts.
With up to 70% of the slopes sitting at an altitude of 2000 metres and above, the Grand Paradiski ski area has a fantastic snow reliability record across its 3 ski resorts. The area has a combined total of 55 snow groomers that consistently prepare the slopes to ensure quality skiing conditions on the pistes. On the rare occasion of snow shortages on the slopes, the area is well equipped with a network of snow cannons capable of supplementing over 90% of the ski slopes. The ski area has a total of 264 pistes which are made up of 12 Greens, 137 Blues, 79 reds and 39 blacks; all serviced by 79 lifts in total (65 chairlifts, 11 gondolas and 3 cable cars) including the remarkable Vanoise Express double-decker cable car which connects the resorts of Les Arcs and La Plagne. The runs in the Grand Paradiski are suitable for just about all levels of skiers. There is an abundance of nursery slopes and wide-open cruisy blues for beginners. Advanced skiers will be rubbing their mits at the prospect of having a combined 115 kilometres of red and black runs and in particular, a challenging 7-kilometre red and black run which starts at 3226 metres at the very top of the Aiguille Rouge in Les Arcs and descends all the way to Villaroger at 1200 metres.
Even though the Grand Paradiski area attracts skiers across all profiles and demographics, it is ideal for families. There are endless family fun activities and attractions such as the Igloo Village in Arc 2000, Two Seater Sledge rides (perfectly sits one adult and a child), husky sledges and many more. In addition to the several non-ski activities which are great for families, the majority of the villages and resorts are purpose-built, and several operate a pedestrian, door to door skiing system which further helps in enduring a family-friendly atmosphere There are family ski pass discounts, free ski passes for children under 5 years old, dedicated children areas, several well-run children ski clubs and lessons and child care. The area also has several non-ski activities which are perfect for families
Tignes-Val d'Isère : Ideal for snowsports enthusiasts
If your French Alps holiday plan includes high-altitude skiing and vibrant apres-ski nights, the Tignes- Val d’Isére ski area is certainly one of the places where you should consider pitching your tent. Originally named, after the legendary French Olympic ski champion, Jean-Claude Killy, the ski area has recently been officially renamed as the Tignes-Val d'Isère ski area; however, the original name, notwithstanding, is still widely used informally by many when referring to the area. This ski area is one of France's most iconic regions in the Alps. Not only does it have a remarkable skiing and snowsports history, the resorts of Tignes and Val d'Isère, which make up the area, are both very famous ski resorts and hugely popular among travelling Brits who visit these resorts in large numbers every year.
Just over an hour from Geneva airport, the Tignes-Val d'Isère ski area is an absolute beauty to behold. Full of Alpine charm, almost every camera shot can feature in a winter postcard. This ski area is well known for high-altitude skiing thanks to its two glaciers and very high peaks. The slopes here range from altitudes of 1,785 metres to 3,428 metres, thereby ranking as one of the highest ski areas in Europe. The area also has a combined 300 kilometres of pistes, the majority of which are located above 2,000 metres altitude. The pistes across the ski area are very well balanced among the different ski abilities with 23 greens, 27 blacks, 40 reds and 66 blues. The ski area also benefits from a very reliable snow cover throughout the ski season, thanks to its high altitude and mostly north-facing slopes and in the event of any snow shortages, the Tignes-Val d'Isère is also home to a state-of-the-art snowmaking facility.
In addition to its high slopes and excellent snow conditions, the area is also famously known for its vibrant party atmosphere. The Tignes-Val d'Isère ski area is one of the earliest areas to welcome the famed and flamboyant Le Folie Douce parties on the slopes which feature dancers in fancy costumes, live DJ sets and a lot of popped champagne bottles. The Tignes-Val d'Isère ski area caters to a wide range of holidaymakers and whilst families and romantic couples find peace and quiet in the satellite villages of Les Brévières and Le Lavachet the area is most ideal for groups of skiers and snowboarders in search of snow-sure pistes and vibrant nightlife on their holidays to the French Alps. After a day of high-altitude skiing, evenings in the Tignes-Val d'Isère ski area come alive with buzzing restaurants, bars and lounges; some of which roll out the DJ sets and party until the early hours.
The Three Valleys: Ideal for eveyone
The Three Valleys ski area is the largest in the world. It has a combined total of up to 600 kilometres of pistes which are serviced by a world-class network of 200 modern ski lifts. The area is made up of the 3 major resorts of Meribel, Courchevel and Val Thorens; while the smaller resorts of Les Menuires, La Tania, Saint Martin de Belleville and Brides Les Bains complete it. The Three Valleys is quite a unique ski area because each one of its resorts offers something a bit different from the other allowing for an interesting variety of experiences across the area. Nestled right in the heart of the Three Valleys, Meribel is arguably one picturesque of the resort villages in the Three Valleys and is one of the most visited in the area. Courchevel wins the award for the “billionaire's playground”. Famously known to be frequented by members of the British Royal family and other well-known public figures, Courchevel adds a bit of dazzle to the Three Valleys with its Michelin-starred restaurants and 6-star hotels. Val Thorens is the highest village in the Three Valleys sitting at an altitude of 2,300 metres. It operates door-to-door skiing and is also the unofficial party central of the Three Valleys.
Visiting the Three Valleys pretty much guarantees some of the best French Alps skiing experiences anywhere in the country for any skier profile. There is hardly ever a lack of snow cover, with more than 80% of the pistes located above 1,800 metres altitude with the highest piste located at 3,200 metres. The pistes are constantly groomed and the ultra-modern lift system slashes waiting times for queuing skiers.
Ideal for everyone; families, romantic couples, snowsport enthusiasts and party animals are all welcome. The expansive ski area has pistes suited to all ski abilities, families have a plethora of fun activities for the kids to engage in and across all 8 resorts, there is a wide range of accommodation options to suit all budgets.
Portes du Soleil: Ideal for groups
Located only about 1 hour and a half away from Geneva, the Portes du Soliel is a fantastic option for a French Alps ski holiday. One of the largest ski areas in Europe, this ski area is made up of 12 ski resorts and is shared by France and Switzerland. It has a massive 600-kilometre of pistes that cater to all types of ski ability levels. Among the 12 resorts are the well-known resorts of Morzine, Avoriaz, Les Gets, Chatel and Champery. The different resorts differ in their little ways and it is quite interesting to experience the variance in ambience and atmosphere ranging from the unspoiled traditional village of Chatel to the modern purpose-built Avoriaz ski resort. Morzine sits right in the heart of the Portes du Soliel and is a fantastic base from which you can explore the ski area. It is an accredited Plus Famille resort, which is a national seal of approval confirming the resort as having facilities to cater to children and families. Le Gets, located not far from Morzine but sitting below it in altitude, is a small, picturesque French village perfect for families and Champery, the Portes du Soleil's biggest Swiss resort. A traditional Alpine resort, Champery is well known for its authentic Swiss charm and stunning beauty. It is also the gateway to the Swiss border of the Portes du Soliel and via the smaller resorts of Les Crosets and Croix de Culet.
If you are heading to the Portes du Soleil with your friends on your French Alps holiday, look no further than Morzine and Avoriaz for a great time. Both have fantastic apres-ski atmospheres as well as additional non-ski entertainment and facilities. Visiting families will feel very welcome too in the Portes du Soleil with Avoriaz nationally recognised for its family-friendly facilities and approach. Les Gets and Champery are smaller resorts but also very family-friendly.
Le Grand Massif: Ideal for couples, romantic getaways
The Grand Massif ski area sits under Mont Blanc’s gentle gaze. It is an impressively large ski area consisting of 265 kilometres of slopes and over 70 lifts. It is home to the lovely resorts of Samoens, Flaine, Les Carroz, Morillon and Sixt. You are greeted with breathtaking panorama views and beautiful mountain landscapes at almost every angle. The Grand Massif ski area offers fantastic French Alps skiing with its high altitude allowing for some excellent snow conditions on the slopes throughout the ski season which usually kicks off in December and lasts up until mid-April. The majority of the pistes in the Grand Massif area are suited to beginners and intermediate levels even though advanced skiers can still find challenges in the 14 blacks, off-pistes opportunities and of course the 14-kilometre Cascades run in Flaine.
Flaine is the highest-situated resort in the area sitting at 1,600 metres. It is a big hit with families and operates a pedestrian, car-free system within the resort. Samoens, Morillion and Sixt have gentle slopes and also offer a good selection of non-ski activities perfect for families.
Le Grand Massif is perfect for visiting families, thanks in no small part to the facilities and non-ski activities set up for family entertainment, particularly in Flaine and Morillon. Romantic couples on a getaway can look to Les Carroz and Samoens; both of which are quiet and very welcoming.