Skiing in the French Alps is the stuff of dreams. Schussing down tree-lined groomers, dropping into knee-deep powder, followed by a late afternoon demi-peche (beer with peach syrup) and dunking bread into Savoyard cheese fondue for dinner.
Of course, France hosted the first ever Winter Olympics in Chamonix in 1924, which was when skiing really hit the mainstream. So if you are putting a ski destination on your bucket list, you’d better choose one in the French Alps.
If you’ve heard of one ski resort in France, it’s probably Val d’Isere. Part of the huge Espace Killy, this vast area has hosted the Winter Olympics and world championships, attracting the best skiers on the planet. From gentle nursery slopes to steep and deep off-piste, the terrain is varied. Neighbouring Tignes even has a glacier for summer skiing.
Chamonix makes even advanced skiers look like novices. This small town attracts the world’s most extreme adrenaline seekers, from championship skiers and professional mountaineers to BASE jumpers and wingsuit pilots.With Mont Blanc towering above and vertical views of the valley below, it is truly an astonishing place to ski. Beginners can head to Les Houches, while lovers of off-piste should book a guided ski tour through La Vallee Blanche.
This is one of the most popular resorts with British skiers, and it is easy to see why. Nestled in a tree-covered valley, Morzine is well connected to Avoriaz, Les Gets and 650km (404mi) of Portes du Soleil trails. Morzine combines family-friendly ice rinks and hot chocolate stops with a vast array of bars for late-night ravers. Don’t leave without sampling a homemade scotch egg and a pint brewed on-site at La Bec Jaune.
Sandwiched between Courchevel and Val Thorens, Meribel is the lively cousin to these world-famous ski resorts. It’s known as the party centre of Les 3 Vallées, the biggest ski area in the world. In fact, the total ski area here is four times larger than Paris! Hit the slopes at 9am while the pistes are freshly groomed and finish the day with an après-ski session at the famous La Folie Douce – best ski-boot dance moves at the ready.
Sainte-Foy is a quaint Savoyard village with log-burning stoves and wooden chalets, just 30 minutes from the behemoth resorts of Val d’Isère and Tignes. Carve down the treeless pistes at the top before dropping into the network of tree runs further down. While it doesn’t have the buzz of the much bigger resorts, it also lacks the crowds and queues, making for a more serene holiday. Top tip: Sainte-Foy shares a border with Italy, where heli-skiing is allowed, so backcountry adventurers can take advantage of this.
Brush shoulders with the rich and famous in this cobbled medieval village.Megève is known for its Michelin-star restaurants and world-class hotels. It’s a good choice for those who like cruising easy intermediate runs, plus you can always buy the Mont Blanc Unlimited pass, which also includes the Chamonix Valley. When the snow starts to fall, head for the trees and enjoy untouched powder – most visitors here tend to stay inside when clouds form overhead.