FRANCE

KL100 - - Country Watch -

While France i s known as the most vis­ited coun­try in the world, with its many his­toric sights, cas­tles, the Eif­fel Tower, Paris or even the French Riviera; its win­ter sea­son is also one huge at­trac­tion and highly pop­u­lar amongst skiers around the world. France is a skier’s par­adise and if you are in­ter­ested in get­ting a feel for it, here is what you have to know…

The up­mar­ket re­sort of Courchevel is one area that blos­somed early in the his­tory of French ski­ing. Courchevel is a key gate­way to the vast area of the 'Les Trois Val­lées (The Three Val­leys) which is ar­guably the big­gest linked ski re­gion in the world. Its only ri­val is the Portes du Soleil net­work of ski ar­eas (with Avo­riaz and Morzine at its heart) which spreads across the French bor­der into Switzer­land. The Three Val­leys is dom­i­nated by four ma­jor re­sorts: Courchevel, Méri­bel, Les Menuires and Val Thorens – the high­est ski re­sort in the Alps. Each of these four re­sorts has more than enough ter­rain to keep a skier or boarder hap­pily oc­cu­pied for a week or more dur­ing a ski­ing hol­i­day in France, so the op­por­tu­nity to ski all four pro­vides un­lim­ited per­mu­ta­tions.

In the Portes du Soleil, neigh­bour­ing Avo­riaz and Morzine are gate­ways to a dozen or more fam­ily ski re­sorts in France and Switzer­land - YES you can ski into Switzer­land. Cha­monix, dom­i­nated by the Mont Blanc Mas­sif, is an­other ma­jor at­trac­tion with sev­eral re­sorts scat­tered along the val­ley, in­clud­ing Ar­gen­tière, rated by some keen off-piste skiers and board­ers as one of the best ski re­sorts in France - or the en­tire Alps for that mat­ter. You will also be keen to try the Val­lée Blanche – a clas­sic off-piste de­scent - with a high-moun­tain guide. The tra­di­tional route is not se­ri­ously de­mand­ing, leav­ing skiers to con­cen­trate on the out­stand­ing scenery, but a guide will help ne­go­ti­ate the oc­ca­sional crevasse. There are a hand­ful of more de­mand­ing al­ter­na­tive routes in­clud­ing the Vraie Val­lée Blanche and the En­vers du Plan.

Two more gi­ants of the French ski­ing world which are joined at the hip and un­doubt­edly among the best fam­ily ski re­sorts in France are La Plagne and Les Arcs. They’re cel­e­brat­ing their 10-year-part­ner­ship as Par­adiski, made pos­si­ble by a huge cable car link­ing the re­sorts which opened in 2003. La Plagne has a dozen or so linked ham­lets and vil­lages spread across slopes in all di­rec­tions, while Les Arcs too, like Courchevel, has a hand­ful of ski vil­lages and satel­lite re­sorts at var­i­ous al­ti­tudes.

A ski trip in France gives you a great choice from tra­di­tional towns like Morzine or Cha­monix, to pur­pose-built moun­tain re­sorts li ke Avo­riaz and Flaine, but if you are look­ing for more charm­ing smaller ski vil­lages in France that are full of char­ac­ter, lo­cal fla­vor and charm, then look no fur­ther than Sainte-Foy, Auron, or others like St Martin de Belleville and La Clusaz which can re­ally pro­vide ac­cess to a phe­nom­e­nal ski hol­i­day.

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