It’s not just the proximity to the UK that makes the French Alps a favourite destination with British skiers: home to some of the world’s biggest ski areas, best off-piste terrain and boasting unparalleled alpine appeal, ski resorts in France are bursting with potential.
Whether you book a cheap flight or pack the skis - and family - into the car and drive, France has plenty to offer.
Our top 10 list highlights France’s very best ski resorts, each selected for their outstanding ski terrain, on-piste and in-resort action, and unique character.
Home to the world’s first Winter Olympics (1924) and guarded by Western Europe’s highest peak, Mont Blanc, this attractive town has an enviable reputation as France’s most dedicated mountain sports hub; expect serious skiing and superb free-riding, as well as year-round mountain sports and an adrenaline-fuelled après scene. Just over an hour’s transfer from Geneva, Chamonix boasts the world's biggest lift-served downhill and, at 22 km, one of the longest off-piste descents on the planet: La Vallée Blanche.
Best for: Die-hard mountain-lovers
Despite sitting right on the heart of the Three Valleys- the largest ski area in the world - Meribel is sometimes better known for its legendary party scene than its awesome mountain terrain. Meribel itself has enough mountain to satisfy even the most adventurous skiers for a week’s snowboarding holiday, but add to this the entire Three Valleys’ ski area, and its 600km of pistes will have you returning year after year to explore new terrain. Especially popular with Brits skiing in France, and with a notably good selection of high quality chalets, Meribel holds a firm reputation as one of the country's leading resorts.
Best for: Intermediate skiing and party-scene
Popular with serious skiers and serious posers alike, this pretty village resort offers as much in the way of cliff-drops and untouched powder, as it does fine-dining and all-night parties. Whilst beginners tend to stick to Val d’Isere’s ample greens and blues, intermediates can explore the 300km of pistes in the wider Espace Killy ski area, and off-piste fans are blessed with abundant powder-fields, challenging couloirs and endless opportunities for ski-touring. Bring both your ABS rucksack and Gucci one-piece.
Best for: Off-piste action and bling parties
Less attractive but more down-to-earth than Val, Tignes sits at the opposite end of the Espace Killy ski area and tends to operate a slightly longer season, due to its high altitude.
Whilst off-piste action is high on the agenda here, Tignes is also ideal for intermediates and families on ski trips who can explore the terrain by skiing to each of the resort’s four distinct stations - the route down to Les Brevieres is particularly appealing and is a popular lunch-time route. Tignes also offers a more subdued après scene and better value accommodation than Val d’Isere.
Best for: Down-to-earth attitude, off-piste and varied terrain
Europe’s highest ski resort (2300 m) is found within a central bowl in the Three Valleys, and offers some of the most challenging terrain and best snow cover in the area. Attracting an assortment of nationalities, this welcoming resort lacks the picturesque charm of some its neighbours but offers cheaper accommodation, excellent skiing and a congenial après scene.
Best for: Early/late-season skiing and a cosmopolitan atmosphere
Catering for all levels of skier, this purpose-built resort is made up of several stations, at varying altitudes. Les Arcs offers 200km of pisted ski runs and has access to the entire Paradiski Area, which opens up a further 225km of downhill skiing. Off-piste access is excellent and, with high-altitude skiing available on the glaciers, snow cover is reliable. This massively diverse ski area also takes in picturesque trails, challenging tree-runs, gently sloping meadows, fast mogul runs, motorway pistes, powder bowls, cross-country loops and more!
Best for: Diverse ski terrain
This classic French resort is one of the Alps' most exclusive and is a touch more refined than some of the regions ‘bling’ resorts. Part of the Three Valleys ski area, Courcheval offers outstanding ski-terrain, reliable snowfall, picturesque villages, swanky accommodation and a super-efficient lift system.
Off-piste powder bowls, steep chutes and cliff drops appeal to the powder hounds, whilst the extensive network of immaculate cruising trails, exciting terrain parks and gentle beginner slopes offer plenty of action on-piste.
Courcheval also offers a designated improver’s zone, where the uncrowded pistes are perfect for building confidence. Made up of four distinct stations, Coucheval 1850 is the largest and most popular village, and is where the action is concentrated, whereas Coucheval 1350 and 1550 offer quieter après scenes and better value accommodation.
Best for: First-time skiers and splashing-out
This attractive mountain town is located along the stunning River Dranse valley and plugs into the immense Portes du Soleil ski area, which boasts 650km of pistes. The vast ski terrain and abundant wooded slopes offer much opportunity for advanced skiers and, with ample beginner and intermediate slopes, Morzine is also popular with families.
One of France’s most accessible resorts, Morzine lies within an hour’s drive of Geneva airport, making it ideal for short stays and weekend ski trips. In-resort, there’s plenty to keep you entertained, with good value accommodation, a vibrant après scene and a floodlight ski area that stays open till 10pm.
Best for: Short transfers and weekend ski trips
Les Deux Alpes
Located an hour and a half from Lyon, in the Alp’s Dauphine-Isere region, Les Deux Alpes benefits from year-round snow on Europe’s largest glacier.
The resort’s world-class snow-park and legendary off-piste descents in the La Grave ski area, attract an ambitious freestyle crowd, and there’s plenty of on-piste action here too, with wide cruisy pistes for beginners and challenging blacks for intermediate and advanced skiers.
The resort itself lacks the alpine charm of its neighbours but has an excellent range of shops and entertainment facilities, with a lively après scene and excellent nightlife.
Best for: All abilities
Alpe D Huez
This high-altitude, classic French resort is located in the Grandes Rousses massif region and offers expansive alpine views, crowned by the Sarenne Glacier. First timers will be pleased to discover that Alpe D Huez offers a huge beginners’ area, and advanced skiers can put their stamina to the test on the 16km black run and 2230m of unbroken vertical downhill. High altitude runs and an abundance of snow cannons make this a snow-sure resort and south facing slopes make for sunny ski days.
Best for: Varied terrain, stunning scenery and sunny slopes.