Skiing in the French Alps is the ultimate winter holiday, whether you’re a novice or experienced on skis. The French Alps are located in the Rhône-Alpes and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur regions of the country. The main towns in the French Alps are Chamonix, Annecy, Chambéry, Albertville, and Grenoble. While there are places in France to ski other than the Alps, the Alps give you the broadest range of ski resorts and the most reliable snow conditions.
The main airports are at Lyon, Chambéry, and Grenoble. Be aware when booking that you may be charged extra for bringing your ski gear. Swiss International is one airline that does not charge extra for ski gear, however. If you’re travelling from the UK, from approximately mid-December through mid-April you can take the Eurostar “ski train” from St. Pancras or Ashford International and go by train to Moutiers, Aime-la-Plagne, or Bourg-Saint-Maurice.
The resorts Courcheval, Val Thorens, and Les Menuires make up the ski area of Les Trois Vallées, which is the largest ski area in the world that’s accessible with one ski pass. There you’ll find 183 lifts and 335 downhill pistes, which make up over 600 km of slopes. The area also has some 2,000 snow cannons, so even if there isn’t enough naturally-occurring snow, there will still be plenty of pistes open. Of the three, Courcheval is the most upscale, and is considered in the same league as Zermatt and St. Moritz in Switzerland.
Les Portes du Soleil is the northernmost ski area and includes a dozen resorts. Of these, Avoriaz is considered the snowboarding capital. Morzine, which is one of the lesser known resorts, straddles a deep river gorge, is very beautiful, and has plenty of facilities for beginning skiers. A Morzine ski pass includes Les Gets, a resort that has several children-only ski runs. Praz-de-Lys and La Chapelle d’Abondance are good family ski resorts with plenty of gentle slopes.
The Chamonix-Megève area includes Chamonix, which lies at the base of Mont Blanc. This was the original French Alps ski resort, and while extremely popular, it is also quite expensive. Nearby, Combloux and Les Carroz, near Megève and Flaine, respectively, are good resorts for families and beginning skiers.
The southern Alpine resort Isola 2000 manages to be one of the sunniest ski resorts, as well as one of the coldest, and one of the snowiest due to moist winter winds off the Mediterranean. The resort has 120 km of pistes, and the slopes are at altitudes of 2,000 to 2,600 meters. Getting there is about an hour and a half by car from the French Riviera, so it is quite popular with people from Nice and its surroundings.
Another large resort, L’Alpe d’Huez, has plenty of beginner slopes as well as off-piste skiing. It’s the closest major resort to Grenoble, attracting many day trip patrons as well as overnight guests. To the west, in Vercors, the Villard de Lans resort is considered a great family resort as well as being very environmentally friendly.
Winter sports in the French Alps are the ultimate winter getaway, and you have many transport choices to get you there easily, whether you’re flying, taking the train, or driving.