With over 200 ski resorts in the French Alps, you’d be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed with the amount of choice when deciding where to go on your next ski holiday. So we’ve put together a handy guide with some great tips to help you choose the perfect resort for your next snowy adventure.
A great place to start is deciding on a few aspects that are most important to you and your fellow travel companions; these could be how to get there, budget, your skiing ability, atmosphere or which activities are available in the resort.
How to Get There
Many people choose to fly and then take a transfer or rent a car for the last leg of the journey from the airport to the ski resort. The best airports for travelling to the French Alps are Geneva, Lyon, Grenoble, Chambery and for the Southern Alps, Turin.
Although it’s conveniently located, Chambery is small and has fewer scheduled flight options plus it can be affected by bad weather more easily than the others.
Geneva has the best flight and transfer options with a great range of routes to a wide variety of UK airports every day and private or shared airport transfers to most French resorts. Geneva airport has plenty of facilities to keep you entertained before your flight including great kids play areas and a great chocolate gift shop for last minute souvenirs, though if you’re like us they might not make it all the way home!
For the more independently minded, driving to the Alps is a fantastic option and it’s very often great value as well. You can make the most of fresh snowfall and last minute deals by setting off when you want and best of all you won’t be stuck queueing at an airport or restricted by a tight luggage allowance!
You’ll be able to go at your own pace, taking in the scenery and making pit stops wherever you fancy to enjoy the local food and stretch your legs. If you’re feeling adventurous and want to explore a few different ski resorts then having a car will make this a lot easier than relying on shuttle buses.
Our top tips for drivers are to check the highway code of the countries you’ll be driving through as there’s some surprising differences compared to the UK. Another thing to bear in mind is to be prepared for all weather conditions, making sure you’ve got snow tyres or chains, which can be mandatory to access certain resorts in poor weather. We speak from experience… it’s also not cool to get stuck and have to ask the locals to help push out your car!
Last but by no means least, there’s the train. The Eurostar offers a direct service from London to the French Alps twice a day on Saturdays between December and April. The Eurostar benefits from a generous luggage allowance plus a pair of skis or snowboard.
On the outward journey from London St Pancras there’s three stops in the Alps - Bourg-St-Maurice, Aime la Plagne and Moutiers. From Bourg-St-Maurice there’s quick and easy access to Les Arcs, Val d’Isere, Tignes, Sainte Foy and La Rosiere, from Aime La Plagne the villages in La Plagne and Peisey Vallandry are a short shuttle bus away and from Moutiers Meribel, Courchevel, La Tania, Les Menuires and Val Thorens can be accessed by bus transfers or taxi. It’s important to note that the return train only calls at Bourg-St-Maurice and Moutiers.
Tickets for the Eurostar service to the Alps go on sale in the summer, usually around July so set yourself a reminder because tickets sell fast. Alternatively, if you can get to Paris you can access a greater range of ski resorts by train with frequent departures to the other main train station hubs in the Alps like Lyon and Annecy.
Best for plane: All resorts
Best for driving: All resorts
Best for train: Bourg St. Maurice- Les Arcs; Moutiers- Tignes, Val d'Isere, La Tania, Courchevel, Meribel, Val Thorens, Les Menuires; Aime la Plagne- La Plagne
To make sure everyone in your party is able to enjoy skiing it’s helpful to consider the ability level in your group and pick a resort that’s suitable for the lowest level of skier. Whilst most resorts will have plenty of runs to suit all levels there are a few resorts which are better for advanced skiers and some which are especially good for beginners. For example, Chamonix is a fantastic option for advanced skiers and provides a great range of challenging slopes as well as off piste possibilities so it would be difficult for a mixed ability group to ski together or for beginners to get the most out of the slopes.
On the other hand, resorts like Flaine, Avoriaz and Tignes are more suited to mixed groups and allow beginners to discover much more of the resorts. These resorts provide gentle beginners ski areas and plenty of easy blue runs to allow beginners to explore other areas as well as more challenging runs and off piste for intermediate and advanced skiers. Another thing to note is that resorts which are predominantly ski-in/ ski-out can be much easier for beginners as they won’t have to lug their gear about and can just pop their skis on and go from their accommodation. If you’re a beginner or have beginners in your group always check which runs can be used to access your accommodation as some have access via more challenging slopes.
Something which we highly recommend to anyone, no matter what their ability, is taking skiing lessons or hiring a local guide. They’ll make sure you get the most out of your trip by helping you navigate the pistes and showing you the best hidden spots all whilst improving your skills and confidence. If you fancy getting some lessons or a local guide then it’s worth bearing in mind before you book your trip as they will book up fast even in larger resorts where there’sa huge choice of ski schools. Want to know more about French ski schools? Check out our Guide to French Ski Schools.
Best for beginners: Morzine, Les Gets, Flaine, Les Houches
Best for advanced: Chamonix, Val d’Isere
Best all-rounders: Avoriaz, Tignes
Atmosphere & Activities
All of the resorts in the French Alps are unique in their own way so there really is something for everyone! The smaller resorts tend to be quieter and more traditional with buckets of charm and are great value for money. Often these smaller resorts were once traditional farming villages with wooden chalet style buildings close to the slopes but not necessarily ski-in/ ski-out like you would get in a purpose built resort.
If a cosy and traditional ski resort is what you’re after then we’d recommend Meribel for a luxurious trip, Samoëns for access to a great ski area and Les Gets for families.
As mentioned, the larger purpose built resorts usually offer easy ski-in/ ski-out accommodation as well as plenty of choices for eating and drinking out. If being right on the slopes is what you’re looking for and having plenty of choice when it comes to all things off the slopes then we’d recommend Val Thorens and Avoriaz as fantastic all-rounders that are sure to please everyone and although it’s got a fantastic range of slopes for every ability, Tignes has some especially good spots for those looking to do some more adventurous skiing.
For families, all of the main resorts have fantastic activities for kids but to give you some inspiration, here are some of our favourite family friendly options.
Les Gets is ideal because of its gentle beginner’s slopes and fun Indian Village beginners play area.
Families will love Avoriaz because of all of the off the piste activities like Aquariaz, Le Lil’ Stash kids snowpark, sledging and cinema to name just a few.
Les Arcs is also a fantastic option with snowy activities like dog sledding, ski-joering and snow shoeing to keep the whole family entertained when they’re not skiing and when you are, Mille 8 is great fun for little ones learning to ski or building their confidence.
Finally, Val d’Isere has a huge selection of activities for families from ice driving and glacier walks to relaxing spas, you’ll be spoilt for choice! All of these resorts have a great range of ski schools and family friendly accommodation too.
Val d’Isere is known for having a cool après scene thanks to hot spots like Dicks Tea Bar and La Folie Douce. Val Thorens is also worth a mention and is home to Europe’s highest nightclub, Malaysia, and a great selection of bars providing a well-earned pint or cocktail after a day on the slopes.
Chamonix has a wealth of cool bars like Elevation 1904 and South bar where you can party into the night to live music. The resort is also host to festivals like Musilac at the end of April each year which has features big names like Razorlight, David Guetta, Blink 182, London Grammar and, would you believe it, Elton John! If you want to find out more about the best après in the French Alps then check out our blog post.
If you want to know more about any of the French resorts then check out our resort pages where we have handy guides to help you get to know the resorts including accommodation and ski school guides.
Best for traditional charm: Samoëns, Le Grand Bornand Chinaillon
Best for families: Les Gets, Avoriaz
Best for après: Val d’Isere, Chamonix
Best for families: Montgenevre
Best all-rounders: Val Thorens, Tignes
If you want to stay somewhere lavish then Val d’Isere and Courchevel are the places for you. Both resorts ooze luxury and are full of high-end bars, restaurants and designer shops to enjoy when you’re not exploring the slopes.
For budget friendly skiers, smaller resorts offer great value for money accommodation but if you prefer a larger resort then La Plagne is a great choice too. If you know you won’t be venturing far then many resorts, like Les Gets and Les Houches, do local passes which cover a portion of the wider ski area and will cost less than the full pass.
If you don’t want to be restricted by a local pass some ski areas offer very reasonable rates like the Aravis ski area where passes are about €50 cheaper than big name ski areas like The 3 Vallees.
Best for luxury: Val d’Isere, Courchevel
Best for budget: La Clusaz, Les Gets, Les Houches, La Plagne
When to go
Our final tip is to consider the time of year you’re looking to go skiing. If it’s early or late in the season and you’re booking in advance then we’d suggest picking snow sure high altitude resorts like Val Thorens, Tignes and Val d’Isere.
We hope this has made planning your ski holiday a little easier and maybe even convinced you to try somewhere new this coming season! Head over to powderbeds.com to find the perfect accommodation for your next trip or if you’re still undecided on where to go or want some help, give our sales team a call on 0131 240 3300 or email [email protected] they love skiing as much as you do and have years of experience in the Alps so they’ll be sure to find the perfect place for your snowy adventure.
Posted by Kirsty Druce on Friday 10 May 2019