Best Ski Resorts to Check Out on the French Alps
The French Alps are home to hundreds of miles of stunning slopes draped in pristine blankets of white snow. The snow is year-round making them the perfect place for a ski trip any time of the year. The Alps are where Olympic medalists grow up honing their skills, whether for skiing or snowboarding. The French Alps also offer families the opportunity to create lasting memories when they go on holiday.
In fact, the French Alps are such a popular place to ski, that there are almost 300 ski resorts to choose from. So how do you choose when faced with such a wealth of options? Good news for you—keep reading and this guide will tell you about the top 6 ski resorts in the French Alps.
With over 100 miles of pistes in the Chamonix Valley, pros and newbies alike are bound to find something for them. Chamonix boasts gorges, glaciers and impressive peaks that makes this valley stand out from the crowd. Its steep slopes and varied terrain are especially attractive to the daredevils among those who love to ski.
Expert skiers have a plethora of options for slopes at Chamonix. They can head to the top of Grands Montets, or check out the black diamonds in Floria and Flegere, keeping in mind that the snow covering isn’t always reliable in those areas.
The most famous off-piste route in Chamonix is Vallee Blanche, which can be accessed from the Aiguille du Midi cable car. But even the most experts of experts will want to hire a guide for the other numerous off-piste routes.
Pros of Chamonix:
- Plenty of off-piste routes to choose from, with very challenging slopes
- Black diamond runs that will challenge the highest level of skiers
- Jaw-dropping terrain that includes Mont Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps
- Easy to get to from the Geneva airport by shuttle
Cons of Chamonix:
- Not very many easy runs
- Ski areas not linked by lifts, but rather by bus
- Bad weather often shuts lifts down
Après ski in Chamonix
Good news for those looking for a lively scene after a day of skiing in Chamonix. Chamonix is a town where people live all year round, so a night out doesn’t have that touristy, contrived feel. Not to mention, there are plenty of great bars including:
- Chambre Neuf
One of the most hopping bars around, you’ll see live bands, and enjoy dancing late into the night.
- The Pub
If you want to sip your pint while watching live sports, The Pub is the place for you.
- If you really want to party all night long, this is your place; after all of the other bars close, L’Amnesia stays lively with a resident DJ from 1 am until dawn every night.
With high-altitude all around, Val D-Isere will delight intermediate and expert skiers alike. This resort has great snow cover during the whole skiing season, thanks to a high elevation and runs that face north. The Espace Killy is the main ski area in Val d’Isere and is one of the largest mountains in the French Alps. There are a plethora of off-piste opportunities that you’ll definitely want to hire a guide for, including La Face which is a must-do for every expert.
Intermediate skiers will also find some slopes for them, including the Arcelle on Solaise, and the Double M and La Daille.
Another thing that skiers love about Val d’Isère is the Apres ski offerings. The town isn’t exactly a party town, but this ski resort has a lively nightlife where you can party all nightline. There is also plenty of accommodation opportunities.
Pros of Val d’Isère
- Plethora of runs for intermediate and expert skiers
- Great nightlife
- Reliable snow all season
Cons of Val d’Isère
- Not for beginners
- Few sheltered spaces for bad weather skiing
- Avalanche danger results in frequent lift closures
Après ski in Val d’Isère
Val d’Isère is known for its nightlife, with dozens of spots to choose from. If you get done skiing early, you can start the party as soon as 3 PM in the La Foli Douce. Alternatively, if you are looking for a more sophisticated option, you can head to Le Jack, which offers premium cocktails. And finally, if you are looking to party well into the night, there are a number of options including Dick’s Tea Bar.
Intermediate skiers looking to go pro will think they’ve died and gone to heaven at Les Arcs. Les Arcs ski resort is located in the Paradiski ski area. La Plagne is the other resort in the area, but Les Arcs is better for experts and intermediate skiers, the black runs above Arc 2000 feature mogul runs, and the red runs are quick and straight for an exhilarating ride.
Skiers that head to Les Arcs can expect to find a wide variety of slopes with something for every skill level. It boasts a quick lift system, reliable snow coverage and plenty of high altitudes runs over 2,000 meters.
As for Après ski offerings, there’s not a whole lot to do, but there are plenty of cozy bars where you can warm up after a long day of skiing. There’s also an igloo village on Arc 2000, with an ice bar and ice grotto, but these are only open until 5 pm.
If you go to Les Arcs with children, you may want to stay in Arc 1800, which has a ski slope and toboggan run for kids.
Pros of Les Arcs
- Plenty of terrain for intermediate skiers
- Lots of black runs and off-piste routes
- Plenty of woodland shelter makes it great for bad weather skiing
Cons of Les Arcs
- Not a lot of options for beginners
- Pistes have the tendency to get quite crowded
Après ski in Les Arcs
Right after you get off the slopes you can check out L’Arpette Restaurant, where you can enjoy breathtaking views and stay to get your dance on. Other areas and bars you may want to check out include:
- Les Arcs 1600: Plenty of bars that are quiet and good for families
- Les Belles Pintes: Located in Arc 1950; great for a sophisticated atmosphere
- Villards: In Les Arcs 1800 is where you should head if you are looking for a party
If you like French Alps Skiing, then you’ve undoubtedly heard about Courchevel. It is part of the famous Three Valleys located in the Tarentaise valley. It offers one of the world’s most expansive ski areas with plenty of options for skiers and snowboarders alike.
Not only does it offer plenty of skiing opportunities, but it is also where the wealthy spend their holidays. So, if you like to ski among the stars, you should definitely head to Courchevel.
Most importantly, Courchevel is a paradise for expert skiers. It has 150 km of pistes, 58 lifts and plenty of off-piste opportunities. You can even get a special ski pass that allows you to explore the 600 km of piste around all of the three Valleys.
Although the emphasis is on the experts at Courchevel, you can still bring beginner and intermediate skiers, because there is a wide range of terrain available for skiing.
If you are looking for a budget ski resort, Courchevel is not the place for you. This is an upscale resort where those willing to pay extra will live like royalty. After a long day at the slopes, you will enjoy food and cocktails in glamourous lounges, and do a little shopping at Louis Vuitton.
Pros of Courchevel
- Variety for all levels of skiers
- High slopes and reliable snow
- Sheltered slopes for bad weather
- Great for luxurious holidays
Cons of Courchevel
- Sometimes crowded runs
- Quite pricey
Après ski in Courchevel
Courchevel has a lot to offer in terms of lively nighttime Après ski. You’ll enjoy British pubs and plenty of live music. Check out the following spots for a great time:
- Ku de ta
This Après Bar stars the party at 4pm with live bands and a vodka bar to keep you warm
- Les Caves
If you’re feeling flush and you want a party, head to Les Caves. This swanky spot offers guest DJs and is where the locals like to go
- Le Bubble
This is where you should go if you want no pretensions and no judgment. You can eat nachos, sip coffee, and enjoy special drinks with a live band in your ski boots
Avoriaz is home to France’s second-largest ski area and actually has 12 resorts to choose from. It’s part of the Portes du Soleil ski area, providing access to 400km of downhill skiing including 285 pistes. 196 ski lifts serve the pistes, and the resort is smartly designed so there’s never much of a walk to reach a lift.
Avoriaz has something for every level, including wide slopes next to the resort for beginners, always with plenty of snow cover due to the high altitude. Both the Ecole du Ski Français and the International Ski School offer classes at the resort.
For intermediates, there are 240km of blue and red runs, great to get out there and hone your skills. And for experts, 20k of black runs including a steep mogul run, one of the most famous in the Alps.
This ski village is modern compared to others, with ultra-luxurious options as well.
Pros of Avoriaz
- Runs for all levels
- Plenty of runs protected by trees
- Lots of snowfall
Cons of Avoriaz
- Lower levels of the ski area are prone to rain
- The lifts go a bit slow
Après ski in Avoriaz
- Le Tavaillon
If you’re looking for a quieter option, that still has a pub atmosphere then this is your place. There are games and sports, and a heated patio with reasonably priced drinks.
- Le Yak
Head to this French club for a late-night party; open until 2 am
- Wild Horse Saloon
As the name suggests, you’ll be transported back in time to the days of the wild wild west.
Morzine, like Avoriaz, is located in Portes deu Soleil, and is they are connected by lifts and pistes so you can enjoy both resorts while there. Morzine has 80 trails all in all, with 52 red and blue trails for intermediate skiers, and nine for beginners and nine for experts. It features a classic Alpine village with charming chalets and lodges.
Morzine also boasts a vibrant Après ski scene, offering plenty of bars and nightlife. For the non-skiers in your group, there’s a professional size ice rink and swimming pool. There are also options for ice-diving in a lake, snowmobiling, sledding and plenty of shopping. All in all, this is a great option if you’re on holiday with a mix of ski lovers and non-skiers alike.
Pros of Morzine
- Plenty of runs for intermediate skiers
- Lots of non-skiing options
- Interconnected trails with other resorts
Cons of Morzine
- Not a lot of options for experts and beginners
- Not great for luxury options
Après ski in Morzine
After a day on the slopes, head into the charming and rustic village of Morzine where you will find plenty of bars and pubs to help you celebrate a hard day’s work. Some of the best options include:
- Le Coup de Coeur
If you just want to chill with a drink and some food, head to Le Coup de Coeur and enjoy outdoor heating and furs to warm you up.
Party until 5am to the beat of French techno.
- Tibetan Café
Stop here after dinner and order a meter of beer (with a large group of friends).
The French Alps has plenty to offer for skiers of all ages and skill levels. The Alps are home to hundreds of ski resorts, that even the non-skiers will enjoy visiting. Beginners should definitely consider renting their ski gear from resorts, while intermediate skiers may want to consider buying their own gear. Expert skiers should definitely consider heading to Val d’Isère or Chamonix, while those with beginner skiers might want to check out Avoriaz non-skiers will find plenty of other things to do at Morzine.