Think of ski holidays and France is one of the first countries that comes to mind – and with its high-altitude ski areas, purpose-built resorts and excellent food and après, it’s easy to see why it’s so popular. If you’re keen to hit the French slopes this winter, take a look at some of our favourite resorts to find the one that’s right for you.
Best for beginners: Flaine
Flaine’s known for its great snow, sunny slopes and excellent beginner skiing. The 265km Grand Massif is relatively small compared to most French ski areas, so it’s not too daunting for first-timers. You can learn the basics on the gentle nursery slopes next to the town, then head out to try some of the longer greens and blues. By the end of the week, you could even have a go at skiing all the way from the peak to the village of Sixt on Les Cascades – at 14km, it’s the longest blue run in France, and the scenery on the way down is beautiful.
The purpose-built resort was originally designed in a Brutalist style, but the concrete buildings have gradually been replaced with more traditional, high-quality apartments. And most of them are close to the lifts, so you won’t have far to walk in your ski boots.
Best for high-altitude skiing & après: Val Thorens
For snowsure slopes, you can’t beat Val Thorens – it’s Europe’s highest ski resort at 2,300m, and the slopes stretch all the way up to 3,230m. It’s part of the world-famous Three Valleys ski area with 600km of piste to play on, including four glaciers – and the slopes are highly rated for all ability levels too. Add that all together and this is the perfect pick for an early or late-season holiday, whether you’re going with family, friends or even solo.
Once you’re done skiing for the day, it’s time to celebrate. Luckily, this resort is one of the best in France for après ski. Make a beeline for La Folie Douce, one of the must-try party hotspots in the Alps. Or pop in for a pint at The Frog and Roast Beef, Europe’s highest pub.
Best for intermediates: Les Arcs
Les Arcs is part of the 425km Paradiski area, which is known for its variety of terrain. Intermediates especially will love range of open, bowl-shaped slopes and tree-lined runs. The reds are long, wide and well-groomed so they’re excellent for cruising, and you can head for the sheltered, tree-lined runs when the snow starts falling. If you’re up for challenge, go to the top of the Glacier du Varet and ski the 8km Aiguille Rouge run all the way down to Villaroger – a vertical drop of 2,000m.
The Paradiski is shared with neighbouring La Plagne, and that side of the ski area is great for those who really want to rack up some miles. Catch the double-decker Vanoise Express cable car over to spend a day exploring.
As for where to stay, there are four car-free villages to choose from. Quiet Arc 1600 is the original village, while 1800 is the biggest and sits on the edge of a forest. The liveliest is 1950, which also has lots of Savoyard-style accommodation with ski-in, ski-out access, and is connected to Arc 2000 by a gondola.
Best for young families: La Plagne
Families will be in their element in La Plagne. Our Crystal Childcare is based here so kids can have fun with ski lessons and games while parents enjoy some adults-only slope time. The resort shares the Paradiski area with Les Arcs, but this half is better suited to a family ski holiday. And as well as the range of wide, gentle slopes, there are loads of activities to do when you’re not skiing – have a go at sledging or ice skating, explore the igloos village or splash around in your accommodation’s pool.
La Plagne’s made up of several purpose-built villages that all have easy access to the slopes, and are connected to the main hub, Plagne Centre, by lifts or buses. Each village has its own ski school, shops and restaurants, and there are lots of self-catering apartments that are ideal for families who want the freedom to eat what and when they want.
Best for mixed-ability groups: Tignes
Get the gang together for a group ski trip to Tignes. The 300km Espace Killy area is shared with Val d’Isère and has something to suit every ability level. There are several beginner areas where first-timers can learn the basics, before progressing onto blue runs like the ones around the Palafour lift in Le Lac. Intermediates can head towards Val d’Isère to ski longer reds – don’t miss the Orange run to La Daille so you can stop at La Folie Douce on the way down. And for experts after a challenge, the Sache black run to Tignes Les Brévières is long, steep and full of moguls. Then at the end of the day, you can all meet at a bar in Val Claret or Le Lac to catch up over a drink.
As for choosing your base for the week, there are five purpose-built villages in total. Stay in Tignes 1800 if you’re after a stylish self-catering apartment, or pick Val Claret if you want to be in the centre of the après action.
Best for activities: Avoriaz
Avoriaz has an impressive 650km of piste to explore – the Portes du Soleil ski area is one of the biggest linked areas in France. But there’s also a huge range of winter activities to do when you’re not skiing. At the top of the list is the Aquariaz centre, an indoor waterpark with pools, slides and waterfalls galore. Or if you’d rather be out exploring the area, you can strap on some snowshoes and walk to a mountain hut for dinner, zoom around on a snowmobile or take to two wheels on a fatbiking tour.
In town, you can glide around the outdoor ice rink or snuggle up for a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the pedestrianised centre, and enjoy views of the unique, slanted wooden buildings.
Best for older families: Alpe d’Huez
If you’re hitting the mountain with older kids or teens, give Alpe d’Huez a go. The 249km ski area is superb for all abilities – families will especially love the Marcel’s Farm green slope, which has tunnels, boxes and obstacles, as well as the mini jumps and banked turns in the kids’ park.
When you’re done on the slopes, get stuck into non-ski activities like swimming in the open-air pool, watching an ice hockey match or tackling the indoor climbing wall at the sports centre. And definitely don’t miss trying the Alpine Coaster, which uses virtual reality goggles to transport you to another world as you ride down the twisting track.
Alpe d’Huez also has a wide range of places to stay, from self-catering apartments to five-star hotels, so you’re bound to find something to suit your family.
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