France is the most popular tourist destinations in the world. According to the UNWTO, 79.5 million tourists arrived in France in 2011. From Paris and Versailles to the French Riviera and the Alps, France abounds in tourist attractions.
For Britishers, France has been the traditional destination for skiing holidays. Each year, millions of British tourists descend upon the slopes of the French Alps. Despite the burgeoning popularity of Austria and Switzerland, France remains the number one skiing destination for UK residents.
Courchevel Ski Resort, France by Matt Squirrell / License: Creative Commons
Part of the reason for France’s popularity as a skiing destination is the quantity and quality of ski resorts in the country. Eastern France is dominated by Alpine ski resorts, many of which date back to hundreds of years. Some of the most popular ski resorts in France are:
1. Courchevel, Saint-Bon-Tarentaise
Courchevel is where celebrities, royalty and multimillionaires go for their skiing holidays. One of the most exclusive ski resorts in the world, Courchevel offers facilities like no other resort in France. There are 11 five-star hotels in the resort, and two hotels have even been awarded the rare and much sought after six-star, or “palace” rating. Further, there are a total of seven restaurants sharing 11 Michelin stars between them.
All these facilities come at a price, of course. Courchevel can be frighteningly expensive for the average holidaying family. But if you want the finest ski holiday possible, you can’t go wrong with a trip to Courchevel.
2. Les Deux Alpes, French Isere departement
The second oldest resort in France, Les Deux Alpes has a rich history, challenging runs and plenty to offer for beginners as well as intermediate skiiers. The resort is located at a height of 1,650m with chair lifts going as high as 3,600m. There are plenty of accommodation options, including a Michelin star restaurant. Les Deux Alpes also boasts one of the best nightlife scenes among French resorts.
3. Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, Haute-Savoie
The oldest ski resort in France, Chamonix has grown over the centuries into one of the central skiing destinations in Europe. Unlike many of the other resorts on this list, Chamonix is spread over a vast area and has extensive accommodation and dining options. Skiing in the town of Chamonix is very affordable and the views are breathtaking. You can take a cable car up to Aiguille du Midi which has stunning views of the Alps. The skiing is moderately difficult with very rough terrain.
Aiguille du Midi, Mont-Blanc, France by Cristian Bortes / License: Creative Commons
4. Montgenevre, Haute-Alpes
No resort can match Montgenevre for budget conscious holidayers. The little ski resort town is tucked away near the Italy-France border and offers plenty of challenging skiing opportunities for intermediate to beginner skiiers. The resort has plenty of cheap accommodation options, including all-expenses paid packages that run less than £400 per person.
5. St. Martin de Belleville, Rhone-Alpes
Another value-for-money ski resort nestled in the Rhone-Alpes region of France, St. Martin de Belleville is the quintessential Alpine town. Located at a height of over 3,500m, the resort has plenty of challenging ski routes and is a part of the Three Valleys ski area. Besides affordable hotels and challenging slopes, the resort is also well known for the 2 Michelin star restaurant, La Bouitte.
6. Val d’Isere, Savoie
One of the favorite ski resorts among British skiiers, Val d’Isere is famous throughout Europe for its challenging slopes. The terrain is rough and more suitable for intermediate to advanced skiiers. The accommodation is cheap and plentiful and caters to the British snowboarding/adventure tourist crowd.
7. Flaine, Haute-Savoie
Reasonably priced accommodation, good dining options, and moderately challenging slopes along with good beginner courses have turned Flaine into one of the most popular ski resorts among families. Add breathtaking views of Mont-Blanc to the mix, and you have the perfect recipe for a French ski holiday.
Brad Chambers is a blogger and journalist at Sealskinz.com a centre for sporting apparel and waterproof ski gloves. Brad enjoys, running, climbing and travel and holidaying in the South of France with his two daughters.