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.