France ski holidays
Why choose a ski holiday in France ?
- 30% of the main ski resorts in the world are situated in France. It is the N°1 destination in Europe with 55.3 million skiers day per year and offers more than 2 million tourist beds in resorts
- France has got the largest linked ski areas in the world, allowing skiers to ski several resorts with one unique ski pass, covering lots of ground and clocking up lots of kilometres.
- Due to the high altitude of the resorts, the season lasts from December to May, and some are even open in the summer. There are reliable snow levels with some of the best snowfalls in Europe regularly recorded.
- France is renowned for offering easy access from all major cities by plane, train or road. Transfers to the resorts are simplified thanks to the modern motorway system.
- French mountains offer a range of options for everyone, from a style, size or budget point of view.
Accommodation ranges from 2* studios, spacious comfortable apartments, 5*spa hotels and a wide variety of chalets and hotels managed by the tour operators.
- All level of skiers is catered for, from beginners to advanced, including lots of challenging skiing for even the most seasoned pro.
Find the perfect ski resort
- Large Domain resort – allow access to a linked ski area with the same ski pass. Ideal for skiers and snowboarders who want to clock as many miles as possible during their holidays.
- Family Plus Mountain resort – a unique national tourism accreditation making a destination ideal for family holidays
- Traditional Village resort – an authentic village with original architecture, and outstanding natural beauty as well as offering the full range of mountain activities
- Snow rider resort – offers dedicated and safe facilities for the latest snow sport disciplines. For all levels and great for teenagers, snowboarders, freestylers.
- Club resort – a good mix of modern styles and facilities for all types of skiing with easy access to many leisure and après-ski activities. Ideal for social types especially teenagers, group of friends, trendy young adults as mixing is encouraged.
- Spa resort – offer ‘wellbeing’ hot spring/thermal spa facilities. Ideal for non-skiers, and anyone who enjoys some pampering and relaxation along with the ski holiday.
Ski resorts are also well adapted to accommodate disabled guests. Adaptations include those using: uniski, dual-ski, bi-ski, dual bar, tandem skiing…
Access to the ski resorts
Access to the French ski resorts is relatively simple and there are plenty of options.
Whether arriving either by plane or train a coach or minibus transfer is the easiest option but some customers like to hire a car and drive themselves. Be aware that the road conditions can change very quickly in the mountains and customers should always be prepared for delays and travel with refreshments etc and in sensible winter clothing.
The four major airports serving the Alps are Geneva, Lyon, Grenoble, Chambery. The resort location will dictate the best one to choose- see the additional info tab on each ski resorts to help you decide the best airport to travel too.
From Belgium and the Nederlands, from mid-December to the end of March, every Saturday, there is a direct Thalys-Neige train from Bruxelles-Midi and Antwerpen-Centraal to Chambéry, Albertville, Moutiers, Aime-la-Plagne and Bourg-Saint-Maurice.
From the UK the direct Eurostar leaves from London, Ebbsfleet and Ashford and takes 7 hours to reach the Alps. There are 2 services a week: a direct overnight service departs Friday evening arrives early Saturday morning and a day time service on Saturdays. See the table below for which resorts can use these services. There is also a direct Eurostar service to Lyon.
At most airports and train stations there are shuttle buses serving the major ski resorts, it is best to book these in advance. Taxis are an expensive way to travel long distances and are best booked in advance. Car rental is also widely available.
Driving to the mountains is often a perfect solution for families allowing them to save money and bring all the extra kit that kids demand! Having a car in some resorts can be a useful enhancement but in other resorts the car is likely to remain in the car park for the week unused.
It is important to check the car parking facilities when thinking about a driving option as it can be expensive and also check if covered parking is available as this save you ‘digging out’ their car after a heavy snowfall.
Snow chains are a legal requirement for all cars and some customers may want to fit their cars with winter tyres too which makes driving in the snow a lot safer and easier.
In the winter many mountain passes are closed so use your sat nav in conjunction with a good map and check the opening of passes before setting off.
Free shuttle in the resorts
It is not easy to walk around resort wearing ski boots and carrying skis. Most of the French ski resorts offer free shuttle services to get around the resort and to reach the pistes. Some extend this to a night service as well. Depending on the resorts this can be a single route or a complete bus network, these internal transfers are usually free and the details can be found at the Tourist Office.
Delicious cuisine !
No one goes hungry in the French mountains with restaurants for every taste, age and pocket and many delicious affordable regional dishes.
In France, Tartiflette is an essential ingredient of every successful ski holiday! Tasting local dishes and enjoying a meal are fully part of the French way of life.
Every mountain region has its own specialities.
In the Alps cheese is a popular ingredient and is found in Fondue savoyarde, raclette , tartiflette. Other popular food include ravioles, tourtons and Savoie wines…
Half board is the usual formula offered by hotels and catered chalets, but there is nothing better than a good meal out.
Over 600 restaurants are listed in culinary guides. Many Michelin starred restaurants are found in the French mountains and over 35 are located in the Savoie Mont Blanc resorts. Two of them have 3 stars: “Le Flocon de Sel” in Megève and “La Bouitte” in Saint Martin de Belleville. Courchevel holds the record in 2015 with 7 starred addresses.
The abundance and diversity of local products contribute to a simple and delicious local cuisine. Restaurants at the heart of the resorts offer a choice of local and international menus, to cater for the diverse taste of customerd. Menus and prices are on display outside restaurants and words of mouth will do the rest!
On the slopes:
Lunch on the slopes is a must for all holidaymakers. There are many altitude restaurants designed to answer the skiers’ needs. Service is quick thanks to buffets, dishes are offered at reasonable prices and people can either enjoy their meal on the terrace in the sun or inside. Many restaurants also offer a à la carte service for those who enjoy a more leisurely lunch. Some restaurants are even open in the evening, after the slopes have closed, you can access them on snowshoes or skidoos.
Online grocery shopping is in the Alps as well !
Ever dreamt of arriving in your self-catering apartment with a full fridge?
So clients can fully enjoy their holidays from day 1, Off Course, a local company from Savoie has it covered.
There is no need to rush to the supermarket on arrival in a resort. With few clicks on-line before departure, clients can order their weekly shopping and it will be delivered in their apartment on arrival.
You can either use the service « Off Courses A la Carte » and choose from more about 800 products, or go for the easy option with a preselected shopping basket « Off Courses Semaine complète » and let them deliver what you will need for the week. All the essentials are included plus a few specialties to introduce you to some local gastronomic cultures!
Off Course is the perfect solution for a self catered holiday because they have already done the hard work and identified exactly what is needed for a week in the mountains. This service is available in more than 60 resorts.
Popular accommodation options
- A wide range of hotels. Hotels vary from extremely plush 5 star hotels to family run pensions with more basic facilities. Both half board and Bed and Breakfast are widely available. A popular option is a ‘Club’ formula, which often include ski packs, childcare and entertainment in the price.
- Chalet board usually consists of breakfast, afternoon tea and cakes and a 3 or 4-course dinner with house wine. All this is prepared by a chalet host or hosts who sometimes ‘live in’. They will also look after the housekeeping and general chores. These hosts usually have 1 day off a week when guests will have to eat out. There is a wide variety of standards available and several will specialise in sectors like family holidays and gourmet dining.
- Self-Catering is a very convenient option for a ski holiday. In many resorts apartment blocks were developed to be very convenient and are often centrally located with great access to the pistes and resort facilities. Apartment standards vary considerably from very basic and relatively small sized apartments, which offer great value for money options for anyone on a budget to spacious, trendy and stylish apartments with all mod cons and in residences with spas, swimming pools and concierge service.
Self catering holidays good to know
It is important to be aware that on a self-catering holiday in France the apartments are sold as ‘Holiday Homes’ and certain aspects are not always included as standard and might be paid for as optional extras these include:
• Bed Linen
• Bath Towels
• Cleaning Kits
• End of Stay Cleaning
Equipment: Buy or Rent ?
Because skiing and snowboarding have evolved enormously over the past years, and because ski rental has become more affordable, more and more skiers rent their ski equipment. Renting offers a number of advantages: skiing with recent equipment, having a choice of models depending on the snow conditions and, no need to service or transport the equipment.
Tuition: Step-by-step progress for everyone
Winter sports used to revolve around skiing, but the choice is much greater andtuition is possible for many disciplines:
– Downhill skiing, on or off-piste
– Nordic skiing (Cross-country skiing, biathlon…)
– Free ride or free-style skiing or snowboarding…
Tuition for every type of skiing and snowboarding is offered to beginners, experts, disabled.
The ESF offers private or group lessons for children on a half day, whole day or weekly basis. There is also a full range of offers to cater to the requirements ofadults of all levels.
Childcare solutions including lunch are provided in many resorts so that parents can enjoy a full day on the pistes.
ESF has introduced fun, safe and carefully regulated structures for children:
- Piou Piou Club, are designed for children from age of 3. They are taught to enjoy mountain holidays through play in a safe and dedicated area (mini-ski lift, figurines…)
- Jardin des Neiges: this safe and enclosed play area is designed for ski beginners aged 3 to 6. Youngsters learn skiing under the supervision of instructors.
Top Snow Travel offers the opportunity to book ski lessons together with the accommodation. This offers a number of advantages: you save time, availability is guaranteed and sometimes discount are available.
France’s ski resorts, large and small, are among the best equipped in the world. France is famous for its linked ski areas, which allow you to ski on the slopes of several resorts with the same ski pass. The resorts are mostly linked by lifts, giving skiers the opportunity to clock up the kilometres without taking their skis off.
The largest linked ski area in the world is found in Savoie Mont Blanc, along with several other impressive ski areas:
- Les Portes du Soleil (650km): Abondance, Avoriaz, La Chapelle d’Abondance, Châtel, Les Gets, Montriond, Morzine, Saint Jean d’Aulps, and some Swiss resorts
- Les 3 Vallées (600km): Brides les Bains, Courchevel, Les Menuires, Méribel, Orelle, Saint Martin de Belleville, La Tania, Val Thorens
- Paradiski (425km) : Les Arcs/Bourg St Maurice, Champagny-en-Vanoise, Montchavin-les-Coches, Peisey-Vallandry, La Plagne, Plagne-Montalbert, Villaroger
- Espace Killy (300km): Tignes, Val d’Isère
In the Southern Alps,
- La Voie Lactée (400km): Montgenèvre and Italian resorts
- Serre Chevalier Vallée (250km): Serre Chevalier Vallée, Briançon
In the Pyrénées,
- Grand Tourmalet (100km): Barèges, La Mongie
Every year, French resorts invest tens of millions of Euros in maintaining and upgrading their ski lifts. They are among the safest and fastest in the world.
There are different types of lifts:
– Cable cars. These large cabins can carry up to 200 people.
– Gondola lift. With cabins for 4 to 16 people, they can carry up to 3000 people per hour.
– Funitel lift. These cabins can carry up to 30 people and operate even in high winds.
– Chair lifts. These lifts are open air but can be closed in case of bad weather.
– Ski lifts.
– Carpet belts for young children and beginners.
There’s always something going on in the mountains
Both in winter and summer, resorts are full of events and shows that attract people from all over Europe.
Resort weekly entertainment program include Father Christmas visits, torch light descents, Easter egg hunt, free “vin chaud” (=mulled wine), streets markets of local specialties, even ski competitions and displays.
Alongside the strong cultural heritage of the region many resorts play host to extremely varied program of cultural events and festivals, such as: film and jazz festivals, art exhibitions, ice sculpting competition, wine and food weeks, polo on snow, as well as a plethora of popular music festivals.
No winter holiday would be complete without some serious après-ski! And France knows how to party.
Après-ski can start as early as after lunch and you will find venues on the pistes where live music is being played and bars become a dance floor. Ski boots compulsory!
But, it can also continue into the early hours in the clubs and bars.
Whilst Austria has long enjoyed a reputation for lively venues on the pistes, France has recently taken the concept and given it a contemporary “Gallic twist” and the terraces of many a local hostelry will be graced with the biggest names from the Ibiza Club scene.
Music lovers are exceptionally well catered for with rock and pop festivals throughout the season featuring big name acts such as Kasabian, Jungle and 2manydjs.
Other snow activities
The main activities in the mountains in winter may be skiing and snowboarding, but to enjoy a mountain holiday without skiing, there’s also plenty of other snow orientated activities to do –for every taste and age.
Thrill seeker can try: skidoo, ice driving, ice climbing or diving, paragliding, scenic flights, bobsleigh, snowkiting , snow biking or ski joering (pulled by a horse on skis).
For a more relax way to enjoy the mountains: snowshoeing, dog-sledding, sledging, hiking on prepared path or just spending time in the picturesque villages and browsing for souvenirs or the latest snow fashion accessories.
When the weather is bad, or if you simply feel like a change of scenery, enjoy the indoor leisure facilities provided by most mountain resorts.
The French mountains have long been a top destination for the wellbeing and relaxation provided by water. Many resorts feature thermal spas, hydrotherapy and wellness centres, which when combined with pure mountain air, have a most invigorating effect.
Families and children are especially well catered for with most resorts featuring top quality indoor swimming pools. Several resorts even boast full scale water parks, such as:
- Aquariaz in Avoriaz: it is the most innovative tropical aquafun park in the mountains with varied slides, rides and pools.
- The Lagon in Tignes on the banks of the Lake has a training pool plus waterfall, caves, bubble beds and geyser.
Lift passes will often include access to indoor leisure facilities, with a choice of sporting activities such as climbing wall, state of the art gym, squash courts, golf practice, volley-ball, basket-ball, tennis.