Situated in the Espace Killy ski area, Val d’Isère is renowned for its vast and challenging ski area, lively après-ski scene, historic alpine charm, and stylish chalets. Spanning a huge ski area from Le Fornet to La Daille and with fast, easy connections to Espace Killy sharing buddy Tignes, Val d’Isère offers a lot of ground to explore. An engaging terrain for advanced skiers as well as beginners, challenge yourself with off-piste such as the Vallée Perdue and race down the infamous 1992 Olympic black run, the Face de Bellevarde. For rewarding relaxation after a day on the mountains, choose from table dancing in ski boots at La Folie Douce, indulging in a premium cocktail at Le Blizzard or enjoying top Savoyarde cuisine at restaurant 1789. A resort that never stops giving, Val d’Isere is truly one of the best ski resorts in France.
Comprised of five villages, Tignes is a varied resort made up of different characters, from concrete-built Val Claret and Le Lac to historic Les Boisses and Les Brevieres. Offering a wide range of snow sports activities including snow parks, air bag jumps, a half pipe, and the longest black run in the Espace Killy ‘Sache’, this resort is an adrenaline junkie’s dream. With a gentler side, Tignes also boasts some of the most interesting natural features you will find in a ski resort, including the Aiguille Percée and hidden ice caves. With its great height the resort also provides views of the purpose-built Lac du Chevril which sits at the bottom of the Tignes valley. A long and rewarding ski course from the top of the Glacier du Grande Motte down to the historically intriguing Barrage de Chevril, Tignes’ different areas make it one of the most diverse and unique ski resorts in France.
Known as the classiest and most expensive resort making up the huge Trois Vallées ski area, Courchevel is popular amongst celebrities and wealthy tourists alike. With different areas – 1850, 1650 and 1550 – Courchevel has a good range of courses to ski and a slick, and it has a well connected lift system making it easy to reach connecting resorts such as La Tania and Méribel. With premium five-star resorts and a bounty of designer shops to peruse, Courchevel is inundated with many a fur-clad skier. You might even spot the Beckhams or Prince William and Kate Middleton who are known visitors of this high-end resort.
Making up the filling to the Trois Vallées sandwich, Méribel is the resort in the centre of the Tarentaise Valley. With a wide network of green runs, the ski area around Méribel village is perfect for beginners, and with good connections to both Couchevel and Val Thorens there is a wide spectrum of slopes to discover. In spite of Méribel’s low location there is always potential to get to higher snow-sure ground. Méribel itself is a picturesque village set on a hill with wooden alpine buildings. A largely English-speaking resort, Méribel lacks a little French authenticity but offers a friendly atmosphere and a good few pubs for some great après-ski. Head from the Méribel-Courchevel Folie Douce down to the famous Rond-Point ‘Ronnies’ and end at the cheerful Doron Pub.
With the highest point in altitude in the Trois Vallées, Val Thorens is arguably the best resort in the area for quality of skiing. The highest ski resort in Europe with skiable peaks reaching 3220 meters, Val Thorens is very reliable for quality of snow and retains good conditions throughout the whole season. With ambitious heights to reach, a number of glacier points in Val Thorens offer stunning mountain views over the other side of the valley. As a purpose-built resort, some may say it lacks character in comparison to other resorts, but with a number of fun bars and the biggest night club in the Alps, Malaysia, which features live music and fire-eating entertainment underground , there is plenty of fun to be had here.
Making up the Paradiski ski area with next door La Plagne, Les Arcs is a resort with a large interconnecting web of pistes between Les Arcs 1600, 1800, 1950 and 2000. This means that purchasing a Paradiski lift pass isn’t really needed as Les Arcs itself offers a huge amount of ground to cover without having to venture to the neighboring resort La Plagne. There are a mixture of pistes, with open runs from above the height of 2000 meters down to forest covered runs which mainly surround lower villages. Gaining its reputation as one of France’s original ‘mega-resorts,’ Les Arcs offers a good varied range of courses for different levels and enjoyable activities such as the border cross and water jump.
Also visit our article on ski resorts in the Pyrenees.
An ideal resort for intermediate skiers, La Plagne has a heavy proportion of blue runs. It does, however, still offer some more challenging terrains and sufficient pistes for beginners. Developed in the 60s to save the valley’s crumbling mining and agriculture industries, today La Plagne boasts beautiful views, seamless connections to Les Arcs and a bobsleigh, luge and skeleton track put in place for the 1992 Albertville winter Olympics. La Plagne has a throng of activities on offfer, with the thrilling and unique opportunity to bomb down the bobsleigh track, the chance to whizz around on a snow mobile or to unwind at the spa.
One of the most famous resorts in the alps, Chamonix is known for being one of the oldest ski resorts, for holding the first Winter Olympics in 1924, and for being situated on the highest mountain peak in Europe, the Mont Blanc. Having gained a sterling reputation for its dangerous and challenging runs, Chamonix is one of the coolest and most infamous ski areas. With a large population, Chamonix-Mont-Blanc is the fourth largest commune in France and therefore has an established community and thriving town. A bounty of activities are available, including lots of other sports aside from skiing, paintballing and museum visits. Chamonix is endlessly entertaining and as one of the oldest ski resorts it has preserved the personality exuding from the Victorian buildings in the area.
Situated between Val Thorens and St-Martin-de-Belleville, down in the Belleville valley but still in the reputable Trois Vallées ski area, LesMenuires has the benefit of being connected to lots of neighboring resorts whilst retaining its own less busy slopes. Another benefit to being less busy is its slightly lower price in comparison to the more popular resorts of Val Thorens: Méribel and Courchevel. With plenty still to offer, Les Menuires has a toboggan run, a swimming pool and a snow-biking track.
An old alpine village near the Swiss border, La Clusaz’s participation in winter sports dates back to 1907. La Clusaz was anciently established as a village specializing in agriculture, particularly herding sheep. This resort therefore keeps it historic charm as well as having developed into a quality ski resort. La Clusaz benefits from being located a short distance away from Geneva, which is reachable in just an hour, and it is therefore the perfect destination for a last minute skiing break, without the hassle of a long airport transfer.
By Bethan Sweeting
If you are looking for ski resorts near the capital then read our article on best ski resorts near Paris. Or if you are looking to ski in the South of France then find out more information on ski resorts on or around the French coast.