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Skiing & Snowboarding in the French Alps

Skiing & Snowboarding in the French Alps

A Guide to the Best Ski & Snowboard Resorts in the French Alps

With huge mountains, a laissez-faire attitude to danger, and great weather, the French Alps are widely regarded as the epicentre of skiing and snowboarding in Europe.

Skiers and snowboarders of every stripe flock to the French Alps each winter, from families and couples who enjoy the wide open pistes of the Three Valleys to serious freeriders who pit their wits against the steep terrain of Chamonix and La Grave.

Resorts such as Les Arcs and Avoriaz were instrumental in snowboarding’s early days, accepting riders when it was far from fashionable to do so, while Tignes, Chamonix, Val d’Isère, Courchevel and Morzine are now home to some of the largest seasonaire communities in the Alps. The ski resorts of Les 3 Vallées, with 180 lifts, 600 km of skiing on 330 marked pistes, make up the world’s largest connected ski area and it’s here you’ll find some of the best snow-sure, high altitude terrain in the French Alps.

You don’t have to be a pro to enjoy the best of the French Alps. Most resorts try to cater for every level, with great beginner runs and wide open pistes to cruise down and nail your first turns, fast and fun red runs for intermediates, and more challenging blacks for advanced skiers. Plus easy access to fantastic off-piste skiing and snowboarding wherever you go. The French Alps are often criticised by freestyle skiers and snowboarders for not having enough good quality snow parks (although Avoriaz, Serre Chevalier, Les Arcs and Tignes are trying hard to catch up with the US and Canada), but, when you ride the natural terrain, it’s easy to see why snowparks aren’t always top of the agenda.

Where to go Skiing & Snowboarding in the French Alps

Here’s a selection of the best places to snowboard in the French Alps organised geographically from north to south:

avoriaz-snowboarding-the-stash-3

© Pascal Gombert | OT Avoriaz

1. Skiing & Snowboarding in Avoriaz | Go >

The snowpark capital of France and easily accessible off-piste with lots of steep, fun terrain to ride. It may be home to the strangest architecture on the planet but virtually all accommodation has incredible access to the slopes.
Highest lift: 3200 m. Verticle drop: 2200 m.
Km of pistes: 659 km. Nearest airport: Geneva.

Frontside grab in Morzine, France

© flickr | Chris Hoyle

2. Skiing & Snowboarding in Morzine | Go >

Morzine is your gateway to the Portes du Soleil, a vast area that spreads across the border between France and Switzerland. With several world-class snowparks, incredible freeriding and access to Avoriaz via the Super Morzine gondola, there’s masses of riding.
Highest lift: 3200 m. Verticle drop: 2200 m.
Km of pistes: 659 km. Nearest airport: Geneva.

Freestyle snowboarding in Smoothpark, Chatel

© Sylvain Cochard

3. Skiing & Snowboarding in Châtel | Go >

Châtel is a pretty alpine village situated in the heart of the vast Portes du Soleil ski area and boasts some outstanding snowboarding including the super-fun Smoothpark snowpark. The Châtel Smoothpark snowpark is super fun to ride and is accessible to budding freestylers, but has features for more advanced riders too.
Highest lift: 2200 m. Verticle drop: 1000 m.
Km of pistes: 83 km. Nearest airport: Geneva.

A snowboarder and guide on the Vallée Blanche

© ActiveAzur.com

4. Skiing & Snowboarding in Chamonix | Go >

Situated at the foot of Mont Blanc, Chamonix offers a huge variety of terrain including some of the world’s best freeriding. Cruise the often sunny north facing slopes of Le Brévent, or for a more mellow ride head for the rolling terrain and wide-open pistes of Le Tour.
Highest lift: 3842 m. Verticle drop: 2807 m.
Km of pistes: 170 km. Nearest airport: Geneva.

Tree-lined powder fields in Prarion, Les Houches

© Jean-Charles POIROT

5. Skiing & Snowboarding in Les Houches | Go >

Les Houches packs plenty of freeride punch despite its beginner friendly reputation. From the top of the resort it’s ‘choose your own adventure’ through the trees. Home to Bellevue Park, freestylers won’t be disappointed and there’s plenty of wide open pistes and steep sections for speed freaks. With spectacular views over the Mont Blanc range and great restaurants, there’s a lot to like about Les Houches.
Highest lift: 1900 m. Verticle drop: 950 m.
Km of pistes: 55 km. Nearest airport: Geneva.

Skier performs backflip off-piste in Megève

© Megeve Ski Escape

Skiing & Snowboarding in Megève | Go >

With its charming old town centre, chic atmosphere and sunny setting, Megève provides an authentic and refined ski holiday experience. Although the resort is quite low, it has a good snow record with uncrowded pistes and easy access to some great backcountry terrain, and all with a backdrop of the mighty Mont Blanc. Plus, there are some excellent restaurants on the mountain for lunch.
Highest lift: 2350 m. Verticle drop: 1050 m.
Km of pistes: 445 km. Nearest airport: Chambéry-Savoie.

Double Cork 1080 in La Clusaz

© switchmag.fr

6. Skiing & Snowboarding in La Clusaz | Go >

Get away from the crowds and experience an unspoilt French mountain town just an hour’s transfer from Geneva airport. Great for beginners but scratch the surface and you’ll find lots of good tree runs and kickers. See French legend Candide Thovex here on powder days.
Highest lift: 2600 m. Verticle drop: 1500 m.
Km of pistes: 132 km. Nearest airport: Geneva.

Freddy Kalbermatten in Arêches-Beaufort

©David Tchag

7. Skiing & Snowboarding in Arêches-Beaufort | Go >

Jake Blauvelt, Freddy Kalbermaten and Eric Jackson’s latest snowboard film Naturally could have been shot anywhere in Europe, but the crew chose Arêches-Beaufort. Why? Incredible freeriding, beautiful scenery and snow covered chalets perfect for backside 540 roof drops!
Highest lift: 2320 m. Verticle drop: 1120 m.
Km of pistes: 50 km. Nearest airport: Geneva.

Snowboarding in La Rosière

8. Skiing & Snowboarding in La Rosière | Go >

Located high in the Tarantaise Valley between Bourg-Saint-Maurice and Val d’Isère, La Rosière backs onto the Italian side of Mont Blanc. Reputed for its huge snowfall, La Rosière is popular with freeriders, and it’s the only place in the French Alps where you can go heliboarding.
Highest lift: 2641 m. Verticle drop: 1465 m.
Km of pistes: 150 km. Nearest airport: Geneva.

Snowboarding in Bourg-Saint-Maurice

© Andy Parant

9. Skiing & Snowboarding in Bourg-Saint-Maurice | Go >

Bourg-Saint-Maurice, popularly known as Bourg, is the biggest town in the Tarantaise Valley. Bourg has easy access to freeride mecca St Foy, La Rosière, Tignes and Val d’Isère, and a direct link via funicular to Les Arcs and the Paradiski area.
Highest lift: 3250 m. Verticle drop: 2000 m.
Km of pistes: 425 km. Nearest airport: Geneva.

Looking down on a snowy Sainte-Foy

© OT Sainte-Foy

10. Skiing & Snowboarding in Sainte Foy | Go >

St Foy is known as the freeride mecca of the French Alps. Although the resort only has 6 lifts, once you see the terrain you can access you’ll soon understand why; powder pillows, perfectly graded rollers, lots of tree runs and drops everywhere.
Highest lift: 2620 m. Verticle drop: 1550 m.
Km of pistes: 25 km. Nearest airport: Geneva.

Skiing & Snowboarding in Les Arcs

©Thomas Foster

11. Skiing & Snowboarding in Les Arcs | Go >

Les Arcs is a massive ski area but with new high-speed chairlifts, including some six seaters, it’s quick and easy to get around. Hire a guide and experience the amazing off-piste run down Aiguille Rouge, or hit Vallandry for fast and fun red runs. It’s all here!
Highest lift: 3250 m. Verticle drop: 2000 m.
Km of pistes: 425 km. Nearest airport: Geneva.

Snowboarding in La Tania

12. Skiing & Snowboarding in La Tania | Go >

A fantastic base from which to ride the Three Valleys, La Tania has some nice steep pistes, loads of natural jumps and amazing tree runs, so you can still ride when the rest of the Three Valleys are stuck in a white out.
Highest lift: 3230 m. Verticle drop: 2130 m.
Km of pistes: 600 km. Nearest airport: Geneva.

Snowboarding in La Plagne

13. Skiing & Snowboarding in La Plagne | Go >

La Plagne is known for its mellow pistes good for beginners, but be prepared to push as there are lots of flat spots. More experienced riders keep their boards waxed or hike up from Bellecôte for some high altitude untracked runs. Part of the Paradiski area, access to Les Arcs is via the Vanoise cable car.
Highest lift: 3250 m. Verticle drop: 2000 m.
Km of pistes: 425 km. Nearest airport: Geneva.

Snowboarding in Tignes

©worldsnowboardguide

14. Skiing & Snowboarding in Tignes | Go >

Tignes is a huge purpose-built ski resort that offers snowboarding every day of the year thanks to access to the Grand Motte glacier. The sheer variety of terrain, from high-quality pistes to world-class freeriding and great snowparks to the infamous Killy dash, means there’s something for everyone no matter what your ability.
Highest lift: 3450 m. Verticle drop: 1900 m.
Km of pistes: 300 km. Nearest airport: Geneva.

Snowboarding in Val d'Isere

15. Skiing & Snowboarding in Val d’Isère | Go >

Val d’Isère has got everything you could want in a resort: some of the best pistes in the French Alps, one of the highest tree lines in Europe, steep chutes and couloires and an excellent snow park to top it off. Plus the rest of the off-piste in Tignes if you get bored!
Highest lift: 3450 m. Verticle drop: 1900 m.
Km of pistes: 300 km. Nearest airport: Geneva.

Snowboarder hitting a jump in Courchevel

© Flickr | erozen

16. Skiing & Snowboarding in Courchevel | Go >

Courchevel is the best resort in the Three Valleys for sheer variety of terrain. With plenty of steep freeriding opportunities, an abundance of great tree runs, well groomed pistes and mellow beginner slopes, Courchevel is an ideal all-round resort.
Highest lift: 3230 m. Verticle drop: 2130 m.
Km of pistes: 600 km. Nearest airport: Geneva.

Snowboarding in Meribel

17. Snowboarding in Méribel | Go >

Méribel is a picture perfect mountain town with access to Les 3 Vallées ski area and its 600 kms of pistes and 200 lifts. Méribel itself has plenty of great terrain including immaculate pistes and fun off-piste runs to keep all but the most extreme riders entertained.
Highest lift: 3230 m. Verticle drop: 2130 m.
Km of pistes: 600 km. Nearest airport: Geneva.

Skiing & Snowboarding in Val Thorens

©OT Val Thorens

18. Skiing & Snowboarding in Val Thorens | Go >

Board-friendly Val Thorens is Europe’s highest ski resort and gets an average of 9 metres of snow, so good snow conditions are pretty much guaranteed. However, the whole resort is above the tree line, so cloud can ruin your day. The slick lift system whisks you up to 3200 metres and powder fields abound.
Highest lift: 3230 m. Verticle drop: 2130 m.
Km of pistes: 600 km. Nearest airport: Geneva.

Off-Piste Skiing in Alpe d'Huez

© Laurent Salino

Skiing & Snowboarding in Alpe d’Huez | Go >

The Alpe d’Huez Grand Domaine links 7 resorts and a total of 250 km of pisted runs. The terrain lends itself well to improving your skiing over the course of your holiday. There’s a roughly equal split of beginner, intermediate and advanced runs and the higher you climb, the steeper and more technical the terrain becomes.
Highest lift: 3300 m. Verticle drop: 1440 m.
Km of pistes: 251 km. Nearest airport: Grenoble.

Snowboarding in Les Deux Alpes

19. Skiing & Snowboarding in Les Deux Alpes | Go >

Les 2 Alpes is a massive ski resort in the southern Alps with one of France’s best snow parks and a lively nightlife in 1650. Spend your time blasting the pistes off the top of the glacier or hone your freestyle skills in the park. Snow-sure and lots of challenging terrain for freeriders.
Highest lift: 3568 m. Verticle drop: 2298 m.
Km of pistes: 200 km. Nearest airport: Grenoble.

Freeriding in La Grave, French Alps

©B. Boone

20. Skiing & Snowboarding in La Grave | Go >

La Grave is an extreme snowboarder’s paradise. When the snow falls, there is no other resort like it in the world. Mind blowing terrain covering over 2 km of vertical drop with couloirs, massive cliffs, gullies, chutes, steeps, trees and crevasses. La Grave is freeriding at its very best.
Highest lift: 3560 m. Verticle drop: 2150 m.
Km of pistes: 9 km. Nearest airport: Grenoble.

Three girls snowboarding in Serre Chevalier

©OT Serre Chevalier

21. Skiing & Snowboarding in Serre Chevalier | Go >

Serre Chevalier is home to some of the best freeride snowboarding in the southern French Alpes. Largely uncrowded, especially if you head up the valley to Monêtier-les-Bains, you’ll find an abundance of great pistes, lots of nice tree runs and loads of good natural hits.
Highest lift: 2830 m. Verticle drop: 1630 m.
Km of pistes: 250 km. Nearest airport: Turin.

Riding a rail in Isola 2000

©OT Isola 2000

22. Skiing & Snowboarding in Isola 2000 | Go >

Just 80 kms from Nice airport, in Spring it’s possible to ski or snowboard in Isola and take a dip in the Med all in one day. A small resort compared to the big hitters, but with well-connected pistes, a good lift system and terrain varied enough to keep even advanced riders amused for a week, Isola 2000 shouldn’t be overlooked.
Highest lift: 2610 m. Verticle drop: 810 m.
Km of pistes: 120 km. Nearest airport: Nice.

French Alps Skiing and Snowboarding Holidays

We’ve partnered with some of the best ski schools, off-piste guides, accommodation providers and resort transfer companies in the French Alps to help you organise your holiday.

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