Winter came for good, and the snow is starting to cover the mountains…Enough to start thinking about a ski escapade! And for that, the French Alps are among the top ski destinations worldwide. With a great variety of resorts, it is certain that you will find anything you want: from top-of-the line slopes for extremely skilled skiers to easy runs for first timers; stations for families or crazy nightlife, low-budget to super chic… you name it!
This is a guide to help you choose the resort in the French Alps that suits best your needs…
IF YOU WANT: ALTITUDE GLAMOUR
GO TO: COURCHEVEL
Usually referred as “The Saint-Tropez of the Alps”, Courchevel is THE prestige access door to the impressive 600-km ski area called Les Trois Vallées (The Three Valleys). Courchevel actually consists of three different villages, located at different altitude (the higher the more exclusive….): Courchevel 1550, more family-oriented; Courchevel 1650, mostly for young people, with many après-ski activities, and the super glamorous Courchevel 1850, or just “1850”. Celebrities from all over the planet can be seen here. There are 2 palaces, 11 ***** stars hotels, 7 Michelin-starred restaurants, and even an heliport or “altiport”, in case you need to arrive incognito…
For more info http://www.courchevel.com
Honorary mention: Méribel
IF YOU WANT: SKI CHIC
GO TO: MEGEVE
With its discrete luxury, this elegant resort is among the top destinations in the French Alps. It is one of the oldest alpine resorts; its traditional farmhouses, the typical wooden chalets and villas give Megève a unique charm. The exclusive hotels and restaurants won’t disappoint even the most demanding guests, the horse-drawn carriages that circulate in the car-free centre give you the impression of being inside a Christmas postcard! The ski area is ideal for beginners and intermediate skiers with a total de 325 km of ski runs to ski in style…
For more info http://www.megeve.com
Honorary mention: Chamonix
IF YOU WANT: FAMILY FUN
GO TO: AVORIAZ
One of my favourite resorts in the French Alps! Located at an altitude of 1800 meters, close to the border with Switzerland, it is an excellent starting point to ski your way through the world largest international skiing area in the world, Les Portes du Soleil (the Sun’s Gates) with its 650 km of ski runs, 283 pistes and 14 interconnected ski resorts (french and swiss, which you can visit with your skis!). The village is car-free, only horse-drawn sleighs are allowed. The roads are actually ski pistes, which means that most of the chalets and apartments are “ski aux pieds”: you leave and come back to your chalet wearing your skis! Besides the many après-ski activities you can enjoy, a new hot spot, kid’s paradise (and adults too!) opened recently: the Aquariaz, a tropical indoor paradise with water games, heated swimming pools and a must for parents: an outdoor Jacuzzi! Exactly what you need to soothe your aching body after a full ski day!
For more info http://www.avoriaz.com
IF YOU WANT: EXTREME SKIING
GO TO: CHAMONIX
Chamonix, at the foot of the Mont Blanc, is worldwide known as one of the best ski stations for off-piste skiing, with mind blowing scenery: think rocky peaks rising above glaciers and snowfields….Chamonix is best known for its legendary Vallée Blanche descent, a lifetime dream for skilled skiers: 20 km of route covering a drop in altitude of 2807 metres! It is considered to be the most beautiful off-piste of the world, covering an unforgettable descent between the Aiguille du Midi (3842m) and Chamonix Mont-Blanc (1050m), traversing a scenery of glaciers of needle-like mountains….
But if you are not fit enough to tackle the Vallée Blanche and still want to enjoy the beautiful landscape, don’t worry! Take the Aiguille du Midi cable car, Europe highest cable car. From the valley floor to the Aiguille, the cable car covers 3777 m in 20 minutes; an elevator will take you to the 3842m summit, where you will enjoy 360° amazing views of the surroundings…
For more info http://www.chamonix.com
Honorary mention: Val Thorens
IF YOU WANT: NEVER-ENDING PARTY
GO TO: VAL THORENS
At Val Thorens the party starts early! A little detour out of the slopes is enough to enjoy la Folie Douce, that is, open air clubbing at high altitude…Of course, this is just an appetiser of what follows at night: bars and clubs with world famous DJs, live concerts, etc..
But Val Thorens is not only party, it’s also first class ski….Being the highest resort in Europe (2300 metres), it guarantees excellent quality snow. It has an ideal location, at the top of Les Trois Vallées and surrounded by 6 glaciers… From la Cime Caron you can enjoy an amazing panoramic view over more than 1000 peaks in the French, Swiss and Italian Alps…
For more info http://www.valthorens.com
Honorary mention: Tignes
IF YOU WANT: SNOWBOARD DELIGHT
GO TO: TIGNES
Second highest ski station of Europe, in Tignes you will find more boarders than in any other french resort, from beginners to highly skilled. Tignes hosts the Freeride World Tour, a series of events in which the best freeskiers and snowboard freeriders compete for individual event wins. Although not as picturesque as its neighbour Val d’Isère, it offers very good powder, excellent slopes and a very busy nightlife.
For more info http://www.tignes.net/en
Honorary mention: Les Deux Alps
Book in advance, especially if you plan to go during Christmas time or in February during the French school break. In order to avoid unnecessary queuing, you can book your ski passes online from the site of each ski resort…
WHERE TO STAY
If you are looking for self-catered accommodation, skifrance.com offers a great variety of apartments, chalets, ski lodges, holiday flats and holiday homes at all the ski stations…
Another good option is Pierre & Vacances, a company that provides villages, residences and hotels in most of the ski stations, as wells as ski packs deals.
Of course, you can always check the tripadvisor site to read reviews about the different types of lodging, find the lowest price and make your reservation…
The Ecole de Ski Francais (French Ski School) is a must, whether you are a first time skier or a skilled one, want private or group lessons. It is extremely well organised with its 17.000 instructors in 250 schools. Ideal for kids, who after each course, if they pass their exams, they will get their degree: from “piou piou” for the beginners up to “étoile d’or” (golden star) for the most skilled.
The cuisine savoyarde is simple but very nutritious (to recover those calories you just burnt skiing…) and is based mostly on potatoes, cheese, cured meats and sausage. Must-try: raclette savoyarde (melted cheese eaten with potatoes, sausages or cured meats), fondue au fromage (melted cheese where small pieces of bread are dipped) and tartiflette (a pie made of cheese, potatoes, lardons and onions). You may also want to taste the tarte aux myrtilles (blueberry pie) and the liqueur de Génépi.
Do you agree with my list? Which is your favourite ski resort?