It may be pricier than neighbouring Austria and Italy – and also competes with resorts in places such as Spain and Bulgaria – but France has a reputation for world-beating skiing. From the Porte du Soleil to the Trois Vallées and Espace Killy in Val d’Isère, there’s plenty of top-class resorts to choose from. Here’s our pick of the 10 best.
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 neighbouring Tignes, Val d’Isère offers plenty of pistes (and off-pistes) to explore. There are lots of good ski schools for beginners, while advanced skiers will be sufficiently challenged by the off-piste, like 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 The M Bar or enjoying top Savoyarde cuisine at Restaurant Le 1789. A resort that never stops giving, Val d’Isère is truly one of the best ski resorts in France.
Comprising five villages, Tignes is a varied resort made up of different facets, from concrete-built Val Claret and Le Lac to quaint Les Boisses and Les Brévières. Yes, there’s skiing, but Tignes is also home to snow parks, air bag jumps, a half pipe and the longest black run in the Espace Killy, La Sache. This resort is an adrenaline-junkie’s dream. Those looking for a gentler ski holiday will enjoy cruising the blue runs followed by a yoga lesson and a trip to Le Lagon spa in the afternoon. With its high altitude, Tignes offers fabulous views from the glacier down to the purpose-built Lac du Chevril at the bottom of the valley.
Known as one of the classiest and most expensive resorts in France, Courchevel is popular among celebrities and wealthy tourists alike. It is just one resort in the huge Trois Vallées ski area. With different villages at 1850, 1650 and 1550, Courchevel has a well-connected lift system, making it easy to reach connecting resorts such as Val Thorens, Méribel and La Tania. With premium five-star restaurants 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 all fans of this high-end resort.
Making up the filling to the Trois Vallées sandwich, Méribel is the ski resort at the centre of the Tarentaise Valley. With a wide network of green runs, the ski area around Méribel village is perfect for beginners. Good connections to both Couchevel and Val Thorens mean there is a wide spectrum of slopes for intermediate and advanced skiers to discover. Méribel itself is a picturesque village set on a hill with wooden alpine buildings, known for having a lively party atmosphere with great après-ski. Head from the infamous La Folie Douce down to the Le Rond Point, or Ronnies, as it is known, and end up at the Doron Pub. Perhaps a few too many English-speaking tourists for those seeking more French authenticity.
Located at the highest point in the Trois Vallées, Val Thorens is arguably the best resort in the area for top-quality snow. With skiable peaks reaching 3,200m (10,500ft), Val Thorens retains good conditions throughout the whole season. As a purpose-built resort, some may say it lacks character in comparison to other resorts. However, 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. Those seeking entertainment beyond boozing will enjoy activities like the epic toboggan run (not just for kids), zipline and dog sledding.
Making up the Paradiski ski area next door to La Plagne, Les Arcs is a ski resort with a large interconnecting web of pistes between four villages. This means you don’t really need to purchase a Paradiski lift pass, as Les Arcs itself offers a huge number of pistes to cover without having to venture to La Plagne. There are a mixture of pistes, with open runs from above 2,000m (6,562ft) to tree runs around the lower villages. Gaining its reputation as one of France’s original “mega-resorts”, Les Arcs offers a good variety of terrain for different levels and fun activities such as the border cross, snow park and sunrise ski pass.
An ideal resort for intermediate skiers, La Plagne has a heavy proportion of blue runs. It does, however, still offer some more challenging terrains (especially off-piste) and sufficient pistes for beginners. Developed in the 1960s to save the valley’s crumbling mining and agriculture industries, today La Plagne boasts beautiful views and seamless connections to Les Arcs. They’ve also got a bobsleigh, luge and skeleton track put in place for the 1992 Albertville Winter Olympics – you can actually have a go in a real bobsled yourself! For less adrenaline-pumping activities, head to a chilled yoga class or unwind at the spa.
Perhaps one of the most famous resorts in the Alps, Chamonix is known for being one of the oldest ski resorts in the world. Not only did it host the first ever Winter Olympics in 1924, but it is also home to the highest mountain peak in Europe, Mont Blanc. Having gained a sterling reputation for its dangerous and challenging runs, Chamonix is on every advanced skier’s bucket list. Beyond the pistes, Chamonix has a year-round, established community and thriving town. A bounty of activities are available, aside from skiing, such as paintballing and standing on the glass floor of the Aiguille du Midi, a 3,000m+ (9,800ft) high lookout point over Mont Blanc.
Nestled in the Haute-Savoie region, just an hour and 15 minutes from Geneva, Morzine is a popular ski resort with families and party animals alike. It’s connected to Les Gets on one side with gentle, cruisey blue runs, and on the other side, Avoriaz and the giant Portes du Soleil area. Up in Avoriaz, there are two snow parks plus endless terrain to explore – from steep couloirs for advanced skiers to tree runs and dozens of cosy mountain restaurants. It does attract a lot of British tourists, so you won’t find as many French-speaking skiers here.
An alpine village near the Swiss border, La Clusaz’s participation in winter sports dates back to 1907. La Clusaz was historically established as a village specialising in agriculture, particularly herding sheep. This resort has kept its old-school charm, as well as developing into a quality ski resort. La Clusaz benefits from being located only a short distance 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.