Independently researched and written by the Snow Magazine team, sponsored by the experts at Crystal Ski Holidays.
French ski resorts regularly come top when it comes to any ranking of the world’s top ski destinations, but don’t assume the French are prone to resting on their laurels. Innovative resort developments open on a regular basis, and new activities are launched ahead of each season. Meanwhile, new investments in old favourites such as Morzine, Val d’Isère, La Plagne and Val Thorens help them retain their status among the world’s best ski resorts.
France is also Famous for its diversity. The Alps offer some of the steepest and most varied skiable terrain on the planet, and France's ski resorts sit right at the heart of the range. You’ll find everything from large, family-friendly ski resorts like Alpe d'Huez, to smaller ski villages with awesome off piste and fearsome black runs, like La Grave, just a stone's throw away.
Here are ten fantastic French resorts which should be on the radar of anyone dreaming of their future ski holidays.
Huddling in the shadow of the Mont Blanc massif, Chamonix is one of the most famous ski resorts in France, known for its brilliant glacier skiing and the wide range of terrain - hardly surprising considering that it perches at 1,035m, far, far below the resort’s highest lift, which you’ll find at 3,842m.
Although it’s not the prettiest of ski resorts, this ski town - which has a population of 9,000, sits just below the entrance to the Mont Blanc tunnel, hence a near-constant stream of lorries – you’ll find some of Europe’s best skiing here. Chamonix, which held the first winter Olympics in 1924, is famous for its long descents, although the terrain is incredibly varied, too.
For brilliant off piste skiing, head to the Argentière glacier ski area (hop on the Bochard gondola to get there), or get a tree skiing fix on the intermediate runs which weave through the forests in the Brévent-Flégère area. For the ultimate challenge, tackle one of Chamonix’s infamously steep couloirs, such as the Grand Gervasutti Couloir.
Make sure you ditch the skis and squeeze in a ride on the Mont Blanc Tramway, which is France’s highest railway. It's also worth noting that Chamonix's close proximity to Geneva means it's only a short transfer from the Swiss city to the slopes - it takes just over an hour to get to the resort.
Find more information on our full Chamonix ski resort guide.
A vehicle-free ski resort perched at 1,800m, Avoriaz is one of the top French resorts in the Portes du Soleil ski area, which straddles the French-Swiss border.
The combination of its high altitude and a 600-kilometre network of runs ensures brilliant snow conditions, and the ski resort itself is sustainable, stylish and well-equipped, and a great option for anyone seeking to enjoy some some of the best skiing in France in a destination where all the essentials - from restaurants to supermarkets - are in one resort.
A fun fact? The red cedarwood tiles covering many of the buildings were chosen because they’re similar to the ones used on Savoie buildings for hundreds of years. Its eco-credentials make it one of the most sustainability-focussed French ski resorts, and by December 2021 Avoriaz hopes to have ‘Flocon Vert’ (Green Snowflake) accreditation, awarded to French ski areas in recognition of their sustainability efforts. In the case of Avoriaz, these include an energy reduction plan and regular clean-up days.
Our top tip? Prior to your ski holiday, download the resort’s app, which will relay waiting times for ski lifts and offer route suggestions.
Avoriaz is also regarded as one of France’s best ski resorts for families, and with good reason; kid-friendly features include the tepee-dotted Village des Enfants d’Annie Famose, where children and teenagers can come for a wide range of activities. There’s plenty for thrill-seekers too though, including two Burton fun parks and a fantastic half pipe.
Read our full Avoriaz ski resort guide for more information.
You’ll find La Rosière near the edge of the spectacular Vanoise national park. Skiers and snowboarders of all abilities come here to explore the San Bernardo ski area, which links La Rosière with the resort of La Thuile (one of the best resorts in the Italian alps) and is the only Franco-Italian ski area in the Northern Alps.
La Rosière, regarded as one of the best French ski resorts for year-round good snow conditions, has come a long way since the first ski lifts were built by locals in the 1960s, with the most recent flurry of construction taking place in 2019, when £13m was spent on a major expansion, the highlights of which included five new red runs and several new ski lifts, making it one of France's most modern ski areas.
A slick new Hyatt Centric (France’s first) opened in 2017, and in 2020 the Club Med La Rosière flung open its doors. It’s one of the best French ski resorts for beginners and intermediates, although there’s plenty for advanced skiers, too. It’s also a popular heli-skiing spot. Despite being illegal in France, it’s offered by La Rosière’s ski schools - skiers can simply step over the Italian border and be whisked away from there.
Have a read of our full La Rosière ski resort guide here.
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Got a head for heights? You’ll love Alpe d'Huez, which tops out at 3,300m. It’s the largest resort in the Grand Domaine ski area, which combines Auris-en-Oisans, Huez-en-Oisans, Oz-en Oisans, Vaujany and Villard, so it's perfect if you love a base which offers effortless access to neighbouring resorts.
Its location in the heart of the Grand Domaine area means you'll be able to carve up 249kms of ski runs catering to all skill levels –there are 41 green pistes, 34 blue pistes, 40 red pistes and 16 black pistes. Our favourite? The 16-kilometre La Sarenne, which is the longest ski run in Europe. There's also plenty of terrain for off piste fans, who should consider heading to the Pic Blanc area.
It’s another incredibly family-friendly ski holiday destination, hence its Famille Plus designation, awarded (by France Montagnes) to French ski resorts perfectly suited to family ski holidays. It’s also a brilliant choice for fans of sun-soaked ski holidays – it’s known for its warm, sunny days, hence its nickname l’Isle au Soleil, meaning Sunny Island. Our favourite spot for a sun-soaked après ski session? The terrace of the La Folie Douce, by the Marmottes 1 lift.
Take a look a our full Alpe d’Huez ski resort guide for more details.
As much as we love the Three Valleys, ski holidays in the area's most famous resorts - we're looking at you, Courchevel, Val Thorens or Meribel - can be costly. Our advice? Offset the cost of the brilliant-but-essential Les 3 Vallées ski area pass and stay in Les Menuires, a modern, small resort positioned just below Val Thorens which has the feel of an alpine village, thanks largely to the fact that most hotel and bar owners are local, but which still offers easy access to neighbouring resorts.
The resort has plenty to offer beginner and intermediate skiers (52 runs are green or blue, which means plenty of gentle pistes for newbies on their first ski holiday), but fast, easy ski lift connections to other resorts make it a breeze to explore the wider Les 3 Vallées, the world’s largest ski area and home to the French Alps' most challenging runs, including some of France's best off piste areas. Whether you’re a skier or a hiker, make sure you head to the Masse summit to enjoy an incredible 360° panorama (and take a selfie with Le Bouquetin, a 3.5m-high sculpture of a mountain goat).
Get the full lowdown with our Les Menuires ski resort guide.
A high-altitude paradise which forms part of the huge Paradiski ski area and is connected to La Plagne, Les Arcs is one France's most famous ski resorts. It's one which suits all types of skier, ranging from beginners learning the ropes on the blue runs above Arc 1600, or daredevils satisfying their need for speed on runs like the knee-burning Villaroger, which streaks down the side of the Aiguille Rouge and includes 2,000m of vertical drop over seven kilometres.
Love a bit of off piste? Make a beeline for the north face of the Aiguille Rouge or cruise over to La Plagne (the Vanoise Express is the double-decker cable car which connects Les Arcs with La Plagne) and carve up the north face of the Bellecôte. However, Les Arcs isn’t just known for having some of the best skiing in France and a slick network of fast, modern ski lifts - it's also famous for its après ski scene.
Ski holidays here are all about fun - the packed calendar of winter events includes everything from music festivals to sports competitions. When it comes to accommodation, we’d plump for Arc 1800 if après ski is a priority, or Arc 2000 - one of the world's top high altitude resorts - for its doorstep skiing and easy access to some of the best slopes, including the Aiguille Rouge ski area, with its 3,226m summit.
Incidentally, if it's the linked area of Les Arcs that appeals to you most, check out our list of the best linked ski areas in Europe. Whether it's the Grand Massif ski area, nestled between Geneva and Mont Blanc, or the Paradiski region with its lightning fast ski lifts whizzing between Les Arcs and La Plagne, we're big fans of interconnected ski areas here at Snow Magazine - which is why there are so many on this list.
Read our full Les Arcs resort guide here.
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A ski resort founded by British Colonel Peter Lindsay in 1938, Meribel is a pretty French resort wedged into a forested valley known as Les Allues. Although it’s part of the massive Les 3 Vallées, one of the world's most legendary ski areas (its fantastic network of super-fast ski lifts provides easy access to neighbouring resorts, including both Val Thorens, the highest ski resort in Les 3 Vallées, and Courchevel), there are plenty of reasons to stay put, including Meribel’s 150km of pistes at altitudes of between 1,450m and 1,700m.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ll need to cruise over to other Three Valleys resorts such as Courchevel (famous for its designer shops and fine dining) for some posh nosh, either – fuel your ski holidays with delicious food at one of Meribel’s many fantastic restaurants. The ski resort's culinary offerings are some of the best in the Alps, and includes L'Ekrin, where Michelin-starred Chef Laurent Azoulay serves up some seriously creative cuisine.
Our full Meribel ski resort guide has even more details about the resort.
It takes under an hour to get from Geneva to La Clusaz, where you'll find world class skiing, wonderfully varied terrain and a fabulously wide range of winter sports in one of the most northerly resorts in the French Alps. It's a destination which has been welcoming skiers since the 1920s, long before the purpose-built boom which kicked off in the 1950s.
It’s one of the best ski resorts in France for beginners and intermediate skiers (the resort’s 85 runs include 31 blue and 16 green) as well as freeriders, who can carve up the powder-filled La Balme bowls.
Speaking of which, the La Balme area should definitely be on the radar of any freerider – this is where world-renowned freerider (and local hero) Candide Thovex learned his craft. And while you might not be able to ski like Candide, you can now dress like him, because in 2021 the skier opened a boutique selling his self-titled clothing range, right in the resort centre. Another timely reason to visit the resort is the night skiing sessions on the Cret du Merle piste, due to start in late 2021.
Go to our full La Clusaz ski resort guide for more info.
Part of the Portes du Soleil ski area, which straddles France and Switzerland, Les Gets is the ideal resort for anyone looking for ski resorts close to Geneva (it takes under an hour to get to the resort). Its beauty is its versatility – stay put and you’ll have access to 71 runs covering 120km and served by 47 lifts, but take on the Portes du Soleil ski area and you’ll have access to 600 kilometres of slopes.
Part of the Chablais Alps, one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the Western Alps, it’s a resort which has retained the feel of a village. Despite being close to Morzine, the main road leading to the popular French resort bypasses Les Gets, so there’s little traffic, and the main resort has a compact-but-quaint centre filled with catered chalets and hotels with direct slope access. After a hard day on the piste, head to the Les Sources du Chéry pool complex, which opened in late 2019 and has hot tubs, saunas, a steam room and a salt room.
Check out our full Les Gets ski resort guide.
Les Deux Alpes
Les Deux Alpes sits in the shadow of Europe’s largest skiable glacier and is one of the most popular ski resorts for high altitude skiing. One of the most popular French ski resorts with British skiers, it's a place that's expanding at a rate of knots.
Since December 2020 Les Deux Alpes, which has 200km of pistes served by 43 ski lifts, has been managed by SATA Group, which will invest a whopping €290 million in the resort over the next 30 years. SATA’s plans involve putting it on the map as a four-season destination, which shouldn’t be too hard given the fantastic glacier skiing on offer.
Anyone who loves skiing down long, fast descents and tackling challenging terrain in world-renowned ski areas will love Les Deux Alpes Our favourite run is the one which takes you from the glacier’s 3,600m summit down to the Mont de Lans village at 1,300m. But you won't simply find some of the best skiing in France if you head to the glacier – other reasons to head there include the ice cave, Belvédère des Ecrins skywalk and fantastic Les Glaciers restaurant.
As for the après ski? You’ll be spoiled for choice in this popular resort, which has more bars than you can shake a (ski) stick at. Standout venues include the Bistrot Chamois Lodge for its great range of local wines and Smithy’s Tavern for the cocktails (we recommend the Smithy’s Old Fashioned, but don’t blame us when the hangover kicks in).
The resort also has a fantastic selection of accommodation, ranging from catered chalets to luxury hotels such as Chalet Mounier, a spa hotel with a Michelin-starred restaurant. Finally, it’s worth noting that this is a resort with a bright future. In addition to the recent investment, it’s believed that it will soon be connected to Alpe d'Huez (and possibly some other smaller neighbouring resorts), something which is expected to happen by 2023.
Take a look at our full Les Deux Alpes ski resort guide for more details.
It might seem perverse including a place with fewer than 500 visitor beds and a single lift on this list of the top French ski resorts. But for a certain kind of skier, ski resorts don't get much better than La Grave—in France, Europe, or anywhere else in the world, for that matter.
Among the smallest ski resorts in France, La Grave nonetheless enjoys an outsized reputation as one of the best places on the planet for freeride skiing. Think Chamonix, without the crowds, or Jackson Hole, with far gnarlier descents. What the mountain lacks in infrastructure, it makes up for in the steepness and technicality of its terrain, and the decision not to develop it any further is a deliberate one—it's all un-pisted backcountry. Left as God intended, for brave free skiers to ride however they want.
The glaciated peak at the top of the ski resort is La Meije, a famously gnarly mountain that was one of the last major summits in the French Alps to be conquered. The bulk of the skiable terrain is down the mountain's north face, which doesn't see much sun, but gets plenty of snow. Given the conditions and the available off piste terrain, it's little wonder luminaries like the American big mountain pioneer Doug Coombs chose to make their homes here (and it's a mark of this mountain's seriousness that Coombs was killed here a few seasons' after setting up shop).
As you might expect from such a place, the village is a no-frills affair—a ribbon of traditional alpine chalets with a couple a 70s hotels strung out along a road beneath the iconic cable car. La Grave's version of ski in, ski out accommodation are the vans parked near the bottom of the slope, and while there can be a lively après ski scene, this is the kind of place where if the snow's falling, the bars will be empty. If you want pampering, luxury and a range of child-friendly activities, you're best off heading elsewhere (to nearby Alpe d'Huez, for example). But if your idea of a good ski holiday is all about knocking off the gnarliest lines possible, La Grave is arguably the best ski resort in the world.
For the longest time, Tignes was viewed as the ugly stepsister to Val d'Isère's sparkling Cinderella—a beast which served to enhance its neighbour's beauty. In the past few years however, there's been something of a reassessment of the resort's reputation.
Partly this is because 1970s Brutalism—the style so beloved of France's ski resort architects, which dominates Tignes, Flaine, and the other ski resorts founded around the same time—is having a bit of a moment. But it's also because the original reason they built a ski resort here, an an accessible, but very high bowl, now seems more prescient than ever, as the planet warms. These days, the higher your base is, the better, and at 2,100m above sea level the village of Tignes Le Lac is as high as ski resorts in France get. It's the country's highest ski resort, a title it shares with Val Thorens.
As well as being snow sure, the terrain here is excellent, with plenty of variety—from massive, wide open reds and blues, to tight, technical off-piste couloirs. There are tree runs down near the village of Les Brevieres for when the visibility's bad (along with some excellent off piste terrain) and skiing on the glacier for when it's hot. Snowboarders and freestyle skiers will appreciate the full-sized superpipe (one of the few left in Europe), the terrain parks, and the playful terrain of the legendary Palafour run (known to locals simply as P4).
The accommodation in Tignes is as varied as the ski area , with options to suit every budget. Because of the altitude, and the snow tends to be good in the early and late part of the season, when lifpasses are often cheaper, making thus one of the most popular ski resorts with school groups. And while the village might have fewer of the traditional chalets and Michelin starred restaurants that make Val d'Isère so des res, it still exudes a certain alpine charm.
Combine the variety of the various separate villages with the consistently good snow conditions, and the sheer size of the ski area, and its easy to see why Tignes is now considered one of the top French ski resorts.
Read our full ski resort review of Tignes here.
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