Known for high, purpose-built resorts with reliable snow and mammoth ski areas, there’s actually a lot more to France than you'd expect. We've picked out the 10 best skiing spots in the 185 mi swathe of peaks making up the French Alps; the Pyrenees also have a handful of decent resorts.
Due to COVID-19, safety measures were put in place by France which impacted the 20/21 ski season. These included border closures and a national travel ban and curfew which prevented any leisure travel. Ski lifts were closed across the country, however, some resorts were open to locals for non-skiing activities. Such restrictions are not anticipated to continue into the 21/22 winter season.
Courchevel in France is one of the best, and it's not hard to see why. It's part of the largest lift-linked ski area, the 3 Vallées, providing more than enough fun for weeks and home to four unique villages! The separate villages sit amongst the north-facing slopes on the left side of the map and offer probably the most balanced selection of runs in the 3 Vallées. Courchevel 1850 is the largest of the four, complete with luxury accommodation, impressive fine dining and a wealth of other activities. It's no wonder why people love coming to Courchevel 1850!
Val d’Isère has earned its spot on this list for having pretty much guaranteed excellent snow all season long – thanks to its high elevation and mostly north facing runs. Although Val d’Isère is quite a long drive from the nearest big airports and can get overcrowded at times, for many, the thriving center and après ski is worth the journey. It might not have the party town reputation as other ski resorts in Europe but its vibe, lively nightlife and the vast choice of accommodation makes it an awesome pick.
Chamonix is the most famous mountaineering town in France, with a year-round tourist appeal. It's dark location in a gorge and towny feel makes it quite different to many other Alpine ski resorts. The Brévent and Flégère ski areas are directly above the town, but you’ll need to hop on a bus to reach other areas on the lift pass. Its epic steep and deep terrain makes it the ultimate resort for experts who aren’t afraid to go off-piste. There’s so much choice for experts it’s difficult to know where to start, and it might annoy skiers that the ski area is disjointed.
Sitting in the French Alps, Les Arcs offers impressive skiing with plenty of high altitude slopes and snowy bowls. Within the Paradiski ski area, Les Arcs is ideal for the pure skier, with better designed lifts and cleverly-designed trails quickly connecting distant spots. Les Arcs edges it for experts and red run skiers with a steeper pitch, while some of the blue terrain consists of long catwalks. Generally speaking, the lowest villages are prettier and quieter places to stay, while the higher outposts are purpose-built centers which won’t win any beauty contests but have quicker access to the slopes.
If traveling is within your nature, then Avoriaz is the perfect base for exploring France’s second largest ski area, Portes du Soleil, and its 12 ski resorts. The car-free purpose-built village of Avoriaz provides convenient lift links to surrounding resorts, making it an ideal base for exploring the ski area. The local slopes link directly into the main skiing circuit and often have the best conditions in the area when snow is poor, thanks to their altitude. The slopes next to the town are also reliable for snow and you can head for the trees in Morzine on wild days.
Alpe d’Huez serves up some of the best slopes around. While the beginner terrain is superb here, the off-piste routes, black runs, and the occasional tough reds rule the roost. Alpe d’Huez is a sizable, purpose-built resort in the middle of the ski area, with a rocket-shaped church and quite a few activities for non-skiers. From indoor archery, winter paragliding, dog-sledding, ski joering, or just relaxing with a spa treatment, the off-slope options are endless. The town has several suburbs but try to stay in one of the higher ones for easiest slope access.
Serre Chevalier is the ultimate getaway from the purpose-built mega resorts of the Northern Alps without compromising on piste mileage. Serre Chevalier is actually four resorts connected by bus, strung along a busy valley road and marketed under a single label. Chantemerle and Villeneuve are centrally located, Briançon is a World Heritage Site, while Le Monetier is quiet and isolated. With tons to explore, Serre Chevalier’s ski area is filled with high, snowy bowls. Serre Chevalier is perfect for intermediate skiers especially those who are happy with red runs because there’s a wide range of great trails to enjoy here.
Best on the list for extensive slopes without forking out for a more expensive lift pass; Les Carroz is one of the top spots to explore in the Grand Massif ski area. Les Carroz is a sizeable town – though be careful to stay near one of the magic carpet lifts up to the main gondola, or prepare to use buses. While Flaine is most well known here in the Grand Massif ski area, Les Carroz offers easy access to the other ski resorts. Most of Les Carroz’s slopes are wooded and of intermediate gradient, but there are also a few runs dedicated to beginners.
Megève is a genuine, old French town in a broad valley, with a fashionable clientele and the associated high prices for food, drink, and some accommodation. Staying here means you’re centrally placed for all three ski areas; if budget’s an issue, self cater to keep costs down. The slopes are spread across three separate sectors which each have an excellent mix of green, blue, red and black runs, though it’s safe to say that most of the blacks are pretty tame here. In particular, the sheer number of woodland runs at Megeve are perfect for exploring during snowstorms.
If you’re after snowsure skiing without breaking the budget then Les Deux Alpes is for you. A lively resort by French standards, the purpose-built town spreads along the top of a steep-sided pass. Thanks to a convenient row of access lifts at 2 Alpes, you’re unlikely to be staying too far from the nearest one and with no other resorts sharing the ski area, there are no rival bases. Intermediates will love the long runs off the Glaciers chair and the glacier has genuinely easy blues for those less confident. Regardless, you’re bound to find a run that will tickle your fancy.