The French Alps are one of the world’s most amazing natural amphitheatres.
The Mont Blanc, which straddles the French-Italian border, is the highest peak, towering over renowned ski resort Chamonix at a mind-boggling 4808m. Meanwhile, other legendary mountain ranges in the French Alps include the Beaufortain Massif, the Vanoise Massif, the Lauziere Massif, and the Mercantour Massif.
This is also a heartland of global snow sports. Indeed, many world-class ski resorts like Val Thorens, Courchevel, Meribel, Avoriaz, La Plagne, or Val d’Isere have a magnetic attraction for skiers and snowboarders.
But a number of French ski resorts are also part of interlinked ski areas. This is good to know when you’re travelling there for the first time, as variety adds some spice to any snow sports vacations. Multi-resort areas offer more slopes to discover, with a greater range of difficulty to cater for all ski levels. Moreover, staying in a linked area also provides more bang for your buck.
With that in mind, here are four awesome French Alps ski areas where you can perfect your downhill – and enjoy a vibrant apres-ski life! – to consider for your next winter holiday.
1. Espace Killy
Named after French downhill skiing hero and triple Olympic champion Jean Claude Killy, Espace Killy comprises the terrific twin resorts of Tignes and of high-altitude Val d’Isere. With a skiable area of 300km, much of which is at altitudes of over 300m, and 158 well-groomed pistes, there are exciting runs for skiers of all abilities.
In terms of apres-ski, you can party until 4am at the renowned Dick’s Tea Bar in Val d’Isere. Another popular option is The Marmot Arms in Tignes Le Lac, which is a welcoming British-style boozer. There’s also plenty of family fun to be had off the slopes, with a kids skicross course, a toboggan run, husky dog sledging, and horse riding on offer.
Paradiski comprises the famous ski resorts of Peisey-Vallandry, La Plagne, and Les Arcs. In total, these three great resorts combined share an expansive skiable area of 425km. This includes 264 pistes to suit skiers and snowboarders of all abilities. These are conveniently linked by the super-efficient Vanoise Express. A whopping 70% of the slopes here are at heights of over 2000m, and notably, the thrilling 7km Aiguille Rouge to Arc Villaroger run includes a mind-blowing 2000m vertical drop.
The apres-ski is diverse, catering for relaxed families, couples on a romantic getaway, and party-lovers alike. For instance, La Tete Inn at Belle Plagne is a cosy, traditional Alpine pub, while Mojo Bar at Peisey-Vallandry is a laid-back spot with a warm atmosphere for intimate cocktails with your significant other. Whether you’re looking to warm yourself up with a couple of mulled wines by a chimney fire in a traditional chalet, or to dance all night in a club, you’ll find your perfect evening hang-out in the Paradiski resorts. There’s a wide range of chalet-style and contemporary accommodation here and Alpine holiday firm Erna Low can easily advise on the best choice for your group.
3. Grand Massif
The Grand Massif is located in the middle of the Alps. This sprawling Haute-Savoie ski area is beautifully overlooked by the Mont Blanc. That location carries a nice perk: you’ll be able to spot France’s star peak under all its different angles as you ski or snowboard down the 139 slopes available here.
Overall, the Grand Massif has a total skiable area of 265km connected by 70 lifts. The five fab villages that make up the Grand Massif are Morillon, Les Carroz, Sixt, Samoëns, and Flaine. As each of them is very distinct, there really is something for everyone here.
The apres-ski is excellent and there’s a wide variety of venues to choose from, including Le White Club in Flaine, which is great for live music, and Irish establishment Covey’s Pub in pretty Samoëns, where you can grab a great pint of Guinness. There are several ski schools for kids here and lots of off-slope entertainment, including ten-pin bowling, husky dog sledding, and the Speed Dragoz Alpine rollercoaster.
4. Serre Chevalier Vallée – Briançon
Named after the two places that make up its bounds, the Serre Chevalier Vallée – Briançon linked area covers the whole mountain range lining the south-facing valley running from fortified, historical Briançon, which is recognised as the highest official city in France, and the high perched ski town of Serre Chevalier. The 250 km of slopes of these linked ski resorts are a good bet if you’re looking for some nice winter sun to come back from your ski holiday with a tan, as the area is known for enjoying 300 days of sunshine per year.
Just like the other options on our list, the Vallée’s resorts provide a wide range of apres-ski entertainment options. Having been formed from several old villages, Serre Chevalier has a fantastic range of traditional, cosy restaurants where you can enjoy the best Alpine food specialties (fondue anyone?!) the French mountains offer. Meanwhile, you can find more city-like attractions in bigger Briançon.
A big asset of this area is the presence of natural hot water baths where you can relax and nurse your sore legs after leaving the pistes. Home to two hot springs, Le Monêtier les Bains was already used as a thermal spa as far back as in Roman times. Today, Les Grands Bains du Monêtier is a giant, 4,500-m2 thermal centre that makes a perfect haven for weary skiers and wellbeing seekers.
For convenience, value, and enjoyment, we’re big fans of France’s large linked ski areas, which double or triple not only the kilometers of slopes available to you, but also your options for off-piste fun. So choose whichever of these three French Alps ski areas satisfies your requirements best, book up, get your sow sports gear out of ski storage, and hit the slopes ̶ you can thank us later!
Have you been to any of these ski resorts in the French Alps before? Where do you normally ski? We’d love to hear it, so share your experience in a comment below!
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