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Skiing in the French Alps

Skiing in the French Alps

A Guide to the Best Ski Resorts in the French Alps

Huge mountains, quick transfer times, epic lift-accessed off-piste and resorts suitable for all abilities make the French Alps a top choice for your next ski trip.

When it comes to skiing the French Alps are world-class. You’ll find everything from internationally famous resorts with hundreds of kilometres of groomed pistes to traditional Alpine villages where skiing is part of everyday life. These mountains are also home to the mighty Mont Blanc, western Europe’s highest mountain with endless possibilities for ski mountaineering, steep skiing and full-day epic off-piste descents. Plus, a whole shebang of other activities.

In France, people talk about the Northern French Alps and the Southern French Alps. The Northern Alps stretch from Chamonix and the Portes du Soleil down to the Tarentaise and The 3 Valleys. The Southern Alps include ski resorts just south of Grenoble all the way to Mediterranean coast.

Skiing in the Northern French Alps

The Northern French Alps offer big mountain terrain and some of France’s most famous ski resorts. Think Chamonix, Tignes, Val d’Isère and Meribel, Courchevel and Val thorens in the legendary Les 3 Vallèes. Fast and efficient ski lift networks zip you around the resorts. It’s not just high-altitude super resorts though, you’ll also find some great smaller resorts at lower altitudes. Quieter and less expensive, if the snow’s good lower down, these can be a good option. Check out Areches-Beaufort and La Clusaz. The Northern French Alps also offer easy access from Geneva, Chambéry and Lyon airports which means less travel time and more time on the slopes.

Skiing in the Southern French Alps

With 300 days sunshine per year and a great snow record, the Southern French Alps shouldn’t be overlooked. Where the French Alps meet Provence, these ski resorts have a laid back atmosphere and some amazing skiing terrain. From the jagged peaks of the Ecrins to the coastal mountains in the Mercantour National Park, there’s great piste skiing but also some of France’s best ski touring. Transfer times to Alpe d’huez and Les 2 Alpes are around 1 h 15 min from Grenoble airport, while Serre Chevalier is just over 2 hours. For Isola 2000 you’ll probably want to fly into Nice, and it’s very possible in springtime to ski one day and swim in the Med the next.


Skiers 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 all-mountain skiers who pit their wits against the steep terrain of Chamonix and La Grave.

Resorts such as 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 aim to cater for every level, with great beginner runs and wide open pistes to learn and practice your first turns, fast and fun red runs for intermediates, and more challenging blacks for advanced skiers. Plus easy access to some amazing off-piste skiing wherever you go.

The French Alps are often criticised by freestyle skiers 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 ski the natural terrain, it’s easy to see why snow parks aren’t always top of the agenda.

French Ski Resorts Map

Here’s a list of the top French Alps ski resorts, organised geographically from north to south:

Skiing in Avoriaz in the French Alps

© OT Avoriaz

1. Skiing 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.

2. Skiing 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.

3. Skiing 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 skiing 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 off-piste ski guide on the Vallée Blanche


4. Skiing in Chamonix | Go >

Situated at the foot of Mont Blanc, Chamonix offers a huge variety of terrain including some of the world’s best off-piste skiing. The often sunny north facing slopes of Le Brévent are great for fast top to bottom runs. Advanced skiers, don’t miss the Grands Montets or the epic Vallée Blanche. For a more mellow ski, 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.

Skiing in Les Houches

© Pierre Raphoz

5. Skiing in Les Houches | Go >

Les Houches has some fantastic off-piste skiing despite its beginner friendly reputation. From the top of the resort you can ‘choose your own adventure’ through the trees. Home to Bellevue Park, freestyle skiers 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.

6. Skiing 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.

7. Skiing 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. Look out for French skiing legend Candide Thovex here on powder days.
Highest lift: 2600 m. Verticle drop: 1500 m.
Km of pistes: 132 km. Nearest airport: Geneva.

Skiing in Areches Beaufort in the French Alps

© OT Areches-Beaufort

8. Skiing in Arêches-Beaufort | Go >

Arêches-Beaufort is a traditional French Alpine village located halfway between Albertville and Bourg-St-Maurice. It’s a beautiful resort with a great snow record and easily accessible off-piste. Renowned for its great ski touring, there are itineraries for all abilities. Arêches-Beaufort also plays host to the hair-raising Pierra Menta ski-mountaineering event.
Highest lift: 2320 m. Verticle drop: 1120 m.
Km of pistes: 50 km. Nearest airport: Geneva.

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

Bourg-Saint-Maurice, popularly known as Bourg, is the biggest town in the Tarantaise Valley. From Bourg-Saint-Maurice you have easy access to Tignes and Val d’Isère, off-piste mecca St Foy, and a direct link via the funicular to Les Arcs and the Paradiski area.
Highest lift: 3250 m. Verticle drop: 2000 m.
Km of pistes: 425 km. Nearest airport: Chambéry (1 h 22 min).

10. Skiing 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 abundant snow, La Rosière is popular for off-piste, and it’s one of the only places in the French Alps where you can go heli-skiing.
Highest lift: 2641 m. Verticle drop: 1465 m.
Km of pistes: 150 km. Nearest airport: Chambéry (1 h 24 min).

The Sainte Foy Ski Resort in the French Alps

© OT Sainte-Foy

11. Skiing in Sainte Foy | Go >

St Foy is famous for having some of the best off-piste skiing in the French Alps. Although the resort only has 6 lifts, once you see the terrain you can access you’ll soon understand why; huge powder fields, perfectly graded rollers, lots of backcountry tree runs and drops everywhere.
Highest lift: 2620 m. Verticle drop: 1550 m.
Km of pistes: 25 km. Nearest airport: Chambéry (1 h 36 min).

12. Skiing in Les Arcs | Go >

Les Arcs makes up part of the massive Paradiski ski area and 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. If that’s not enough, you can take the spectacular cable car over to La Plagne. It’s all here!
Highest lift: 3250 m. Verticle drop: 2000 m.
Km of pistes: 425 km. Nearest airport: Chambéry (1 h 52 min).

Piste skiing in La Plagne

© OT La Plagne

13. Skiing in La Plagne | Go >

La Plagne is in a beautiful setting and is known for its mellow pistes good for beginners with easily accessible intermediate-friendly off-piste. Bootpack up from Bellecôte for some high altitude untracked powder runs. Part of the Paradiski area, access to Les Arcs is via the spectacular Vanoise cable car. Snowboarders beware, there are lots of flat spots in La Plagne, so make sure your board is freshly waxed up before you go.
Highest lift: 3250 m. Verticle drop: 2000 m.
Km of pistes: 425 km. Nearest airport: Chambéry (1 h 38 min).

Off-Piste Skiing in Tignes

© OT Tignes

14. Skiing in Tignes | Go >

Tignes is a huge high-altitude purpose-built ski resort that offers skiing 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 off-piste and great snowparks to the steep and challenging Sache run, 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: Chambéry (1 h 58 min).

Backcountry Skiing in Val d'Isère

© Andy Parant

15. Skiing in Val d’Isère | Go >

Val d’Isère has got everything you could want in a ski resort: some of the best piste skiing 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 in the unlikely event you get bored!
Highest lift: 3450 m. Verticle drop: 1900 m.
Km of pistes: 300 km. Nearest airport: Chambéry (2 h 1 min).

Saulire ski area in Courchevel, France

© OT Courchevel

16. Skiing in Courchevel | Go >

Courchevel is the best resort in The 3 Valleys for sheer variety of terrain. With plenty of steep easily accessible off-piste, an abundance of fantastic tree runs, well groomed pistes and mellow beginner slopes, Courchevel is an ideal all-round resort. Plus you can ski across to Méribel and the rest of Les 3 Vallées.
Highest lift: 3230 m. Verticle drop: 2130 m.
Km of pistes: 600 km. Nearest airport: Chambéry (1 h 34 min).

17. Skiing 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: Chambéry ( 1 h 18 min).

18. Skiing in Val Thorens | Go >

Val Thorens is Europe’s highest ski resort and gets an average of 9 metres of snow per season, so good snow conditions are pretty much guaranteed. The slick lift system whisks you up to 3200 m and there’s masses of great off-piste terrain to explore. Be aware though, the whole resort is above the tree line, so whiteout conditions aren’t uncommon. If that happens, head down the valley to La Tania and ski the tree-lined pistes.
Highest lift: 3230 m. Verticle drop: 2130 m.
Km of pistes: 600 km. Nearest airport: Chambéry ( 1 h 42 min).

Skiing in La Tania in the 3 Valleys

© Topflight

19. Skiing in La Tania | Go >

A fantastic base from which to ski Les 3 Vallées, La Tania has some nice steep pistes, loads of easily accessible off-piste terrain and some amazing tree runs, so you can still go skiing when the rest of The 3 Valleys are stuck in a whiteout.
Highest lift: 3230 m. Verticle drop: 2130 m.
Km of pistes: 600 km. Nearest airport: Chambéry ( 1 h 19 min).

Off-Piste Skiing in Alpe d'Huez

© Laurent Salino

20. Skiing 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 (1 h 23 min).

21. Skiing in Les 2 Alpes | Go >

Les 2 Alpes is a massive ski resort in the Southern French 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 off-piste terrain. Extreme powder junkies can ski La Grave on the same pass.
Highest lift: 3568 m. Verticle drop: 2298 m.
Km of pistes: 200 km. Nearest airport: Grenoble (1 h 14 min).

Extreme couloir skiing in La Grave

© Jason Thompson

22. Skiing in La Grave | Go >

La Grave-La Meije, isn’t a typical ski resort. It’s a serious mountain environment where you ski down an unmarked, non-patrolled area at your own risk. 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 extreme freeskiing at its very best.
Highest lift: 3560 m. Verticle drop: 2150 m.
Km of pistes: 9 km. Nearest airport: Grenoble (1 h 32 min).

23. Skiing in Serre Chevalier | Go >

Serre Chevalier is home to some of the best off-piste skiing 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 masses of excellent natural terrain.
Highest lift: 2830 m. Verticle drop: 1630 m.
Km of pistes: 250 km. Nearest airport: Grenoble (2 h 7 min).

Freestyle skiing in Isola 2000

© OT Isola 2000

24. Skiing in Isola 2000 | Go >

Just 80 kms from Nice airport, in Spring it’s possible to ski 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.

Organise your ski trip

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 ski trip.

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