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Skiing in France

Skiing in France

Skiing in France

Skiing is a popular pastime among British holidaymakers and, with extensive and varied skiing conditions and pretty much year round snow, the French Alps are among the top European destinations for the ski enthusiast. Whether you choose to travel to your resort by car, boat or plane, it is possible to arrive on the pistes in just a few short hours.

No matter what your ability level, France has slopes suitable for all. The French Alps cater for all, from those who have never ventured on the piste, to Olympic standard athletes. The country has even hosted the Winter Olympic Games on three occasions - first at Chamonix in 1924, followed by Grenoble, 1968, and Albertville, 1992.

Many resorts boast excellent facilities and an impressive night life. The beauty of the scenery surrounding pretty snow-covered villages means that ski enthusiasts are returning to the French slopes year after year.

Many resorts now have ski-in, ski-out chalets, where you can literally ski as you soon as you walk out of the door and often these are in enviable positions with breathtaking panoramic views across the mountains and slopes. Some of the best resorts in the French Alps are listed here;

Alpe d’Huez

Alpe d’Huez has the fifth largest ski area in France, with an altitude of 1860m. The highest lift rises to 3,330m and there are almost 250km of piste. The resort caters well for beginners and has more challenging runs for the advanced skier.  Apres-ski facilities include a heated outdoor pool, an ice rink and a vast array of restaurants.  With a snowboard park, great child care options and a bowling alley, Alpe d’Huez is a fabulous resort for families and mixed ability groups of all ages.

Chamonix

Host of the first ever Winter Olympic Games, Chamonix offers terrific skiing for the medium ability and advanced skier. One of the lowest of the French Ski Resorts, Chamonix nestles at the foot of Mont Blanc just 1035m above sea level. Despite its low altitude, most of the skiing areas are located at above 2,000m and snow can be guaranteed almost all season. The highest lift rises to 3,777m and Chamonix provides more than 750km of fantastic piste. Off the slopes, there is a superb night life, helicopter rides over the Mont Blanc range and plenty of walks. The resort is notable for the Aiguille du Midi, Europe’s highest cablecar, and the Montenvers red cog wheel train to the Mer de Glace, France’s largest glacier.

Courchevel

Courchevel is part of The Three Valleys ski area, which was one of the first purpose-built ski resorts in France. Separated into five separate resorts which share the same skiing area, Courchevel 1850, Courchevel Moriand, Courchevel le Praz, Courchevel Village and La Tania offer a first-rate experience for skiers of all abilities. With the centre sitting at 1747m, there are more than 600km of piste available and the highest lift takes you to 3200m. Courchevel 1850 is an exclusive resort which attracts royalty and famous faces from around the world, Michelin starred restaurants and five star hotels add to the luxury of this fashionable resort. As you travel to the lower villages, prices fall to a more affordable level and yet the skiing remains of a high quality, as all have access to the same slopes. An ice rink, health spa and fantastic apres-ski all serve to make Courchevel one of the most desirable ski resorts in France.

La Plagne

La Plagne is another purpose-built resort, this time comprising 10 villages. Set at 1800m above sea level and with the highest lift rising to 3250m, La Plagne shares similar conditions to Courchevel, with 425km of piste completing the picture. Primarily aimed at the intermediate skier, the resort has almost 200 intermediate runs. However, there are also plenty of runs for both the beginner and the more advanced skier.  Snowboarding is also excellent here, with plenty of off-piste boarding and a snowboard park. The resort links to the neigbouring Les Arcs (below) by double decker cable car to create the Paradiski area.

Les Arcs

Sharing the pistes of La Plagne (above) Les Arcs is a group of four villages, with the highest of these sitting at 2000m.  Each village caters for all abilities of skier. However, the resort is proving particularly popular with snowboarders, benefiting from boarder friendly lifts and a great snowboard park with a half pipe. Apres-ski is relatively quiet, with fewer bars and restaurants than some of the busier ski resorts.

Les Deux Alpes

Sitting 1650m above sea level, this pretty village has fantastic conditions for most of the season. The highest lift rises to an impressive 3,568m and there are around 220km of pistes. Suitable for skiers of all abilities, Les Deux Alpes has excellent family and beginners areas but also offers links to the off-piste area of La Grave for the expert. For the snowboarder, Les Deux Alpes has an excellent snowboard park which holds weekly competitions. A busy and active night life mean that Les Deux Alpes is a fabulous place to visit for both the skiing and the apres-ski.

Meribel

Situated between Couchevel and Val Thorens, Meribel is at the centre of the Three Valleys skiing area. The resort sits at 1450m and shares the same slopes as the other villages.  The resort caters for all standards of skiers, the Meribel Altiport area being perfect for new skiers, whilst guides are available for the more advanced skiers to enable them to make the most of the off-piste areas. A marvellous snowboard park and busy apres-ski scene make Meribel a terrific choice for a skiing holiday.

Tignes

One of the highest ski resorts in France, Tignes sits 2100m above sea level. A beginner’s paradise, the resort has 79 slopes suitable for the beginner, whilst also having challenging slopes for the more advanced.  With the highest lift taking you to an altitude of 3,550m and 300km of piste, Tignes is another excellent resort for you to experience.  Apres-ski in Tignes offers nightclubs, an indoor and outdoor heated pool and a health spa. Along with Val d’Isere (below), Tignes makes up the vast Espace Killy ski area.

Val d’Isere

Val d’Isere is among the top ten winter sports destinations in the world. Sitting at 1850m and sharing the same Espace Killy slopes as Tignes (above), Val d’Isere is one of the jewels in France’s skiing crown.  With a wonderful terrain park, a variety of easy beginner’s slopes and a very efficient network of lifts and cable cars, Val d’Isere is popular with both new skiers and extreme skiers alike. Apres-ski, Val d’Isere offers lively nightclubs, bowling and a gym. A popular way for strong intermediate skiers to finish their break is to take a run down the Olympic Downhill course at ‘La Daille’.

Val Thorens

Europe’s highest village, Val Thorens, is the final part of the Three Valleys skiing area.  Sitting at 2,230m above sea level, the village offers access to the 600km of piste shared by Meribel and Courchevel. With wi-fi access available on some slopes, Val Thorens offers something just a little out of the ordinary to the regular skier.  Three late night discotheques, a sports centre, and a cinema, which often shows English language films, all help to make Val Thorens a magnificent centre for a skiing holiday.

Whether you are a beginner, an intermediate or an advanced skier, the Alps have some of the best resorts and skiing conditions in the world, most of which are within sight of Western Europe’s highest mountain Mont Blanc. Combine this with almost perfect snowboarding and a superb apres-ski  and you are guaranteed a skiing holiday to remember in the French Alps.

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