Skiing France

Ski France for some hooray high above the Tarentaise!
Skiing France is synonymous with funky architecture (Les Arcs).
Ski deep powder in France (La Clusaz).
The classic Vallee Blanche above Chamonix, France.
At a market stall in La Rosiere ski resort, enjoy the cheese in France!
Ski mega resorts in France like Tignes.
Or go from ancient forts to the slopes in Serre Chevalier ski resort.
Ski the world's best resorts like Val d'Isere in France.
Enjoy gourmet French cuisine in mountain huts at Sainte Foy ski resort.
Ski perfect low angle powder at La Rosiere.
Leave powder ski signatures on huge alpine bowls at Sainte Foy.
Let it rip down steep Val d'Isere piste trails.
Or steeper freeride terrain at La Clusaz and other French ski resorts.
Jump for joy in mammoth terrain parks like Les Arcs in France.
Or tree ski in France amongst Serre Chevalier larch forests.
Travel to ski France in style by train to Bourg St Maurice.
Stay at modern ski in ski out accommodation like Tignes in France.
Or stay in traditional ski resort villages like Montgenevre in France.
Enjoy the raucous or relaxed apres drinks at French ski resorts.
Enjoy the view and ski France (Mont Blanc massif's Dent du Géant).

Skiing France

Ski France

Forget frogs, snails, berets, perfume, croissants & the Eiffel Tower. France should be renowned for the fabulous skiing instead! OK the French didn’t pioneer skiing, but they’ve sure taken it on with grand enthusiasm.

With nearly 200 ski resorts in France, it’s surprising that so many can exist in one country without going broke. This speaks volumes for the popularity of skiing amongst the French as well as the Brits and other international holiday makers that make regular pilgrimages to the French Alps & Pyrenees.

Many of the French ski resorts are massive and accessed via super sophisticated lift infrastructure. Increasingly, ski resorts in France, like other ski areas in Europe, are becoming lift, piste & pass interconnected with each other, making the skiable terrain even bigger.

Snow quality in the French Alps resorts is generally incredibly good. Much of the skiing in France is at high altitude (above 2000m), which contributes to improved snow conditions & long seasons in the major resorts. Ski areas near the soaring Mont Blanc on the French-Italian border, as well as the high peaks of the Tarentaise & Maurienne valleys plus the glaciers of the southern Alps are known for being snow sure. However, French ski resorts with base areas below 1500m do suffer more from the vagaries of climate change.

French Ski Regions & Resorts

Ski resorts in France are in three main areas to the country’s SW. The French Alps stretching from Switzerland near Lake Geneva down the coast near Nice has the lion’s share of the ski resorts. The Pyrenees on the border with Spain & Andorra and the Massif Central (between the Alps & the Pyrenees) are the other two main alternative regions to the Alps.

See our Best French Ski Resorts page for more information on where to ski.

French Alps Ski Resorts

The French Alps that border Switzerland & Italy offer some of the most extensive skiing opportunities in Europe plus are home to some of the most well-known & largest ski resorts in the world.

Chamonix at the foot of Mont Blanc is world renown and synonymous with superb off-piste & extreme skiing. It is a collection of disparate ski resorts rather than one large interlinked ski area, yet contrary to popular belief, Chamonix is just as good for intermediate skiers as it is for experts.

South of Chamonix the legendary Tarentaise valley has several mega sized interconnected ski resorts and smaller skiing areas, as well as the snow and elevation to be the Powderhounds pick for some of France's best snow destinations. Sainte Foy ski resort is our favourite and is juxtaposed against the enormity of the other Tarentaise resorts. The ski area formerly known as Espace Killy links the huge resorts of Tignes and Val d'Isère. Known for its high alpine off-piste & glacier skiing, plus over 300km of well-groomed piste, Tignes is perfect for intermediates whilst Val d’Isere is a little more upscale but with sensational freeride terrain. Heliskiing is also available from both resorts. La Rosiere is another Tarentaise ski resort perfect for families.

The Paradiski area is another huge Tarentaise ski resort interlinking Les Arcs & La Plagne with 8 other smaller resorts into an area with a whopping 425km of trails. Les Arcs is the pick of them with brilliant access from Bourg St Maurice.

Les Trois Vallées (the 3 Valleys) is the world's largest ski resort. It incorporates an immense area of lift & piste interlinked ski resorts including Val Thorens, Les Menuires & St Martin in the Belleville valley, the upscale Courchevel, the party-centric off-piste surprise of Meribel plus Orelle (so it should be called 4 Vallees, but the Swiss have scored that name for the Verbier area!). The 3 Vallees has a combined 600km of ski runs & a truly vast off-piste. Wondering how long it takes to ski them all? The Powderhounds found out in season 19/20 and, despite some of the crass resort village development, were totally impressed with what we saw & skied.

To the north of Chamonix, remarkably close to Geneva, is the Portes du Soleil ski area. This massive ski resort is a combination of 8 smaller French ski resorts including Châtel, Morzine & Avoriaz, plus several Swiss ski resorts including Morgins & Champery. Portes du Soleil is the closest major ski destination to the UK, so it might be a tad popular! Due to its geographical location, it can get huge dumps of snow in a good year. Another nearby snow magnet is the extensive and lesser known Flaine & Samoens interlinked ski area, the Grand Massif. To give a sense of the size of the resort, Le Grand Massif has a piste trail that runs over 1700m vertical - gob-smacking for a ski area most people in the world have never heard of! Given these resorts proximity to large cities, they can be incredibly busy during peak periods. Other resorts in the Haute Savoie include La Clusaz and Le Grand Bornand near Annecy & the extensive Megève which combines with Les Portes du Mont Blanc and Les Contamines to create the Evasion Mont Blanc ski area with over 445km of trails.

In the southern French Alps, the huge resorts of Alpe d’Huez, Les Deux Alpes, La Grave & Serre Chevalier dominate. The diversity of terrain & ski villages in the region is extraordinary. When the standard skiable vertical in the area is over 2000m (6,562ft), you know you have hit the big time! Another cluster of smaller ski resorts (remember previous definition of small!) are in the mountains further south toward Marseille. The largest of them is Risoul-Vars and whilst you haven’t heard of it; rest assured the ski resort is bigger than most – go figure!

French ski resorts with international links include La Rosiere (linked with La Thuile in Italy – Espace San Bernardo), Montgenèvre (linked with Oulx & Sestriere in Italy - Via Lattea) and of course Portes du Soleil.

An incredible number of smaller ski resorts abound in the French Alps. Smaller being a relative term in that it might best refer to the size of a resort’s reputation as opposed to its actual size. In the Haute Maurienne, the Powderhounds Gems of Bonneval sur Arc, La Norma, Sybelles, Val Cenis and Aussois. Other massive ski areas close by (but receiving less snow!) include Sybelles & Galibier Thabor (Valloire), plus a host of others, provide ample alternatives to the mega resorts further north and at a fraction of the cost. On a powder day, these resorts are equal to or better in terms of skiing & snowboarding quality.

Pyrenees Ski Resorts

To the surprise of many, there are plenty of ski resorts in the Pyrenees, including Ax, Cauterets, Gavarnie, & Saint Lary. Most are relatively unknown to non-Europeans, however the intrepid skiers & snowboarders from the UK have usually staked a claim in them at some point. Pyrenees ski resorts tend to be smaller, less developed, less crowded & less expensive than those in the Alps. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that they are in fact less! The Pyrenees often get more snow in a season than the Alps & many of the resorts have high altitude bases with cold north-aspect terrain to maintain that snow in optimal condition. The Pyrenees are a location to watch & travel to when they have a deep snowpack with more in the forecast.

Massif Central Ski Resorts

Over 30 ski resorts are in the volcanic mountainous region known as the Massif Central in France. All have summits lower than 1900m elevation, but skiable vertical is still over 700m in some resorts. The larger Massif Central ski resorts have up to 60 piste trails and include Super Besse, Le Lioran and Le Mont Dore.

Summer Skiing & Snowboarding in the French Alps

Summer skiing is available in France at 3 ski resorts. Tignes, Val d’Isere and Les Deux Alpes provide glacier based skiing in summer, but climate change is making its ongoing operation difficult - POW (Protect Our Winters). Tignes has the highest and most extensive variety of terrain (including advanced runs) and lifts available in France on the Grand Motte glacier. Val d’Isere has at least 6 easy and intermediate trails on the Glacier du Pissaillas open during summer. Les Deux Alpes has a small number of easy and intermediate trails across its broad glacier, but also an impressive terrain park operating for the summer season.

Skiing in France - Characteristics

When skiing or riding the French Alps expect the biggest skiable verticals in the world, expect some of the most impressive lifts in the world & expect some seriously huge interconnected ski areas with more terrain than one could imagine. No one does BIG better than the French in the world of skiing, so if you looking to go large, put France on your list of places to ski & board.

A wonderful characteristic of most skiing in Europe is the presence of a traditional village at the ski resort base. In France, some of the older ski resorts have an associated village. These traditional towns have evolved into ski towns and they continue to ooze rustic charm. Examples include the charming Val d'Isere, Megeve, Chamonix or the sublime Bonneval sur Arc. However, many of the French ski resorts were purpose built at a time when the architectural style hasn’t necessarily stood the test of time. Resorts like Les Menuires, the upper sectors of La Plagne, parts of Tignes & Les Arcs may lack quaintness and the traditional European alpine style, but they possess advantages such as the convenience of ski-in ski-out accommodation, self-contained apartments and a generally higher resort base altitude that older villages struggle to provide. Many resorts have a combination of old & new or budget & high-end villages. The higher in elevation one goes, the newer & more expensive it gets!

The popularity of skiing in France, in some respects, also contributes to the mainstream French ski resorts being rather expensive relative to other ski areas in Europe (with the possible exception of Switzerland). If on a budget, lower elevation accommodation, use of public transport or free ski buses & self-catering are simple ways to avoid the bill shock when buying lunch at Courchevel! The French have established some of the world’s best ski resort picnic & BBQ areas (Serre Chevalier, Courchevel & Meribel being case in point) providing a fabulous alternative to alpine restaurant dining for the fiscally skint.

One unsavoury characteristic of French (& indeed, much of Europe) skiing is the lack of lift queue etiquette. Aside from the usual ‘step on skis, push to the front all costs mentality’, the French also have an unalienable ability to block entry to the ski lift gates, or, having entered the gates, suddenly want to wait for their friends to join them on the chair, despite the length of the queue or the location of their friends within said queue. Gather your friends together before the queue & get out of the bloody way...! To avoid the worst examples of this behaviour, simple techniques include gratuitous use of elbows & ski poles to hold your position in the line or getting away from busy ski resort base areas by starting early. Lining up for first lifts is the Powderhounds way and it makes for a far more pleasant day. Skiing larger resorts in off-peak periods & not skiing any French resorts during peak times outlined on our When to Ski France page.

The term “après ski” might be French, but most ski resorts in France aren’t as vibrant after skiing when compared to the famous Austrian and Italian ski resorts where partying continues until the wee hours. Party animals shouldn’t lament though. There’s still plenty of après ski action at resorts such as Chamonix and Val d’Isere. The French have even tried to imitate the best Austrian version of après through the multi-resort La Folie Douce venues – they are a lot of fun, even though a tad contrived.

Travel to French Ski Resorts

French Alps ski resorts are best accessed via Lyon St Exupery (LYS) airport for non-European travellers. Geneva (GVA) airport is best for those northern French Alps resorts like Portes du Soleil, anything near Chamonix or in the Tarentaise valley. Minor airports at Chambery (CMF) & Grenoble (GNB) can work as well, particularly on weekends for travellers from within Europe or the UK. The Italian airports of Turin (TRN) & Milan Malpensa (MXP) can be convenient to some areas; particularly the Maurienne, Southern Alps & Chamonix.

Several major ski areas are accessible by train to stations like St Gervais, Chamonix, Bourg St Maurice, Moutiers & Modane, including fast TGV from Paris or Milan.

Whilst public transport works well for some resorts, if not on an all-inclusive package deal, a private transfer will be the more convenient & efficient mode of travel. Search & book private transfers to French ski resorts here.

For more information see the Travel to French Ski Resorts page.

When to Ski France

It is possible to ski France via lifts every month (not day) of the year (although September can have a large question mark over it!). Whether you are skiing a glacier at Les 2 Alpes or Val d’Isere in mid-summer or Val Thorens or Tignes in Spring, skiing & snowboarding in France, like the rest of Europe is only limited by your imagination & sense of adventure. In winter, the vast opportunities in the French Alps are best sampled by Powderhounds in mid to late January when temperatures are cold, the powder is deep, prices are low & crowds are non-existent. Some resort areas known for their off-piste terrain are best sampled in March.

As a rule, many of the French ski resorts are incredibly busy over the Christmas break (Christmas to the end of the first week in January) and during school holidays in February (particularly Paris school holidays). However, many of the larger resorts cope surprisingly well with the numbers & the multitude of ‘smaller’ resorts provide options if forced to visit during these busy times.

See our When to Ski France page for month by month information on the best times to go skiing.

More Reasons to Ski France

Massive interconnected ski areas, variety of ski terrain including tree skiing plus high-altitude snow should be enough reasons in themselves to ski France, but of course part of skiing in Europe isn’t about the skiing or snowboarding at all. A major priority should be the food & alcohol. “Cuisine” was invented in France and some would say it is the wine capital of the world. France definitely comes up trumps in the foodie stakes!

Compare French Ski Resorts to Europe & the World

See how ski resorts in France compare to the rest of the European ski areas on the Europe ski resort ratings page. Alternatively see comparisons to the rest of the world on our Best Ski Resorts page.

Reviews

The Powderhounds Europe team are constantly reviewing new ski resorts in France & Europe or having a second or third look at old ones. See our reviews via the links on each ski resort overview page.

Follow Powderhounds Europe on Facebook or Instagram to see where we are currently skiing.

Ski Tours in France

Safari (Road Trip) Tours

Tarentaise Powder Ski Safari
GUIDED OFF-PISTE ADVENTURE
8 Days | 7 Nights | 6 Days Skiing | 3+ Resorts
Ability: Strong Intermediate to Expert
Ski some of the most famous ski areas of the world in France with an experienced guide riding vertical descents of up to 2,000m through untracked powder even days after a snowfall. Join a "fixed date" tour or get your own group of 4+ together for a custom tour.
Price p/p From price based on twin/double-share room occupancy & min group of 7.
Base/invoice currency is in EURO inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
USD 2,229
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Chamonix Mont Blanc Powder Skiing Safari
GUIDED OFF-PISTE ADVENTURE
8 Days | 7 Nights | 6 Days Skiing
Ability: Strong Intermediate to Expert
Ski off-piste for 6 days around Mont Blanc, discovering the largest glacial ski area in Europe. Ski descents of between 1500 & 2800m in virgin snow via the most beautiful summits & passes in Chamonix France & Courmayeur Italy. Custom tours only, get a group of 4 together for 7 nights of adventure.
Price p/p From price based on twin/double-share room occupancy.
Base/invoice currency is in EURO inc taxes.
Based on group of 7 for min 7 nights.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
USD 2,229
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La Grave-Sestriere Powder Skiing Safari France-Italy
GUIDED OFF-PISTE ADVENTURE
8 Days | 7 Nights | 6 Ski Days | 3+ Resorts
Ability: Advanced to Expert
Skiing between the French & Italian alps over the southern alpine glaciers, this exceptional tour begins in La Grave, France, passes through Serre Chevalier & ends in Sestriere, Italy. Great off-piste combination of high alpine & tree skiing, plus beautiful villages & accommodation.
Price p/p From price based on twin/double-share room occupancy, min group of 7 on an 8 day trip.
Base/invoice currency is in EURO inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
USD 2,229
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See all Safari (Road Trip) tours that visit France here

Single-Base, Multi-Ski-Area Tours

Tarentaise Valley Star Ski Tour
GUIDED OFF-PISTE ADVENTURE
3 - 4 Days | 3 - 4 Nights | 3 - 4 Skiing Days | 3+ Resorts
Ability: Strong Intermediate to Expert
Ski some of the most famous ski areas of the world in France with an experienced guide riding vertical descents of up to 2,000m through untracked powder even days after a snowfall. Join a "fixed date" tour or get your own group of 4+ together for a custom tour.
Price p/p From price based on twin/double-share room occupancy & min group of 4.
Base/invoice currency is in EURO inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
USD 1,182
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Chamonix Alps Ultimate Women's Ski Tour
CUSTOMISED GUIDED SKI TOUR | WOMEN ONLY
8 Days | 7 Nights | 6 Ski Days
Ability: Strong Intermediate to Expert
Ski 3 countries in one week with an all female group based in the legendary Chamonix. Experience the Grands Montets, Aiguille du Midi, the Valley Blanche, Verbier & Courmayeur in amongst the highest peaks of the Alps.
Price p/p From price based on min 4 guests & twin/double-share room.
Base/invoice currency is in USD ex taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
USD 3,195
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Chamonix Ultimate Alps Ski Tour
HOSTED & GUIDED SKI TOUR
8 Days | 7 Nights | 6 Ski Days
Ability: Strong Intermediate to Expert
Ski 3 countries in one week based in the legendary Chamonix. Experience the Grands Montets, Aiguille du Midi, the Valley Blanche, Verbier & Courmayeur in amongst the highest peaks of the Alps. Join a fixed date tour or customise your own private tour.
Price p/p From price based on twin/double-share room.
Base/invoice currency is in USD ex taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
USD 3,195
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See all Single-Base, Multi-Ski-Area tours that visit France here

Single-Base, Single-Ski-Area Tours

Tignes Off Piste Ski Day
GUIDED OFF-PISTE SKIING
2-3hr, Half Day or Full Day
Ability: Intermediate to Expert
Discover the off-piste secret spots of Tignes with an experienced local guide who will show you the best untracked lines around the resort & into the valley. Get your own group together for a custom 2hr, half day or full day tour, or inquire about joining another group. All abilities welcome.
Price p/p From price based on full day tour in a min group of 6.
Base/invoice currency is in EURO inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
USD 84
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Sainte Foy Off Piste Ski Day
GUIDED OFF-PISTE SKIING
3hr, Half Day or Full Day
Ability: Intermediate to Expert
Ski the glorious off-piste terrain at Sainte Foy with an experienced local guide who will show you the best untracked lines around the resort & into the valley. Get your own group together for a custom 2hr, half day or full day tour, or inquire about joining another group. All abilities welcome.
Price p/p From price based on min group of 6.
Base/invoice currency is in EURO inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
USD 84
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Val d'Isere Off Piste Ski Day
GUIDED OFF-PISTE SKIING
2-3hr, Half Day or Full Day
Ability: Intermediate to Expert
Ski & explore the massive off-piste terrain at Val d'Isere with an experienced local guide who will show you the best untracked lines around the resort & into the valley. Get your own group together for a custom 2hr, half day or full day tour, or inquire about joining another group. All abilities welcome.
Price p/p From price based on full day tour in a min group of 6.
Base/invoice currency is in EURO inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
USD 103
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See all Single-Base, Single-Ski-Area tours that visit France here