Many a bearded backcountry American has been heard to drawl with gushing pride, “I skied Chaaaam,” while on the other side of Mont Blanc the boutiques and bling of Courchevel have Russian millionaires arriving by the (private) helicopter load. But between the extremes are the reasons that we love France – the vast, well-linked areas of Espace Killy, Portes du Soleil, Trois Vallées and Paradiski, with their endless miles of groomed pistes; the relaxed attitude to exploring the snow off-piste; the choice of two mountain ranges; the mulled wine at lunch time; the fresh baguettes and the cheese.

There are undboutably some visually uninspiring resorts – Les Arcs, Les Menuires, Avoriaz and central La Plagne, to name a few – but it's not hard to find a more traditional French ambience in villages like St Foy, Saint Martin de Belleville and Châtel where the way of life has barely changed for 50 years. Despite the poor exchange rate and the insane prices of the likes of Courchevel and Val d'Isère there are still bargains to be had. Many resorts now offer family ski passes or the opportunity to buy your lift passes in advance. And the traditional drink-as-much-wine-as-you-can chalet holiday will save you a fortune in bar bills, especially if you go off-peak. One constant criticism of French ski resorts is the size of self-catering accommodation. It is not unusual to book a four-person apartment only to spend the next week with two of you sleeping in a cupboard and the other two on the floor. A future worry could be snow reliability in lower-level resorts like Megève and Morzine, despite the increase in snow-making facilities. Yes, it is true that some of the lift systems are in desperate need of updating but it has been noted that skiers don't like waiting in queues and there is evidence of heavy investment. If you like clocking up the mileage and loud après-ski then France is for you. However, if you want freeriding and a laid-back attitude, France is for you, too.

Facts & Figures
Currency Euro (€)
Time zone GMT +1
Country code +33
Ambulance 15
Police 17
Fire 18


A huge choice of resorts with something for everyone – families, beginners and experts.

Four huge interlinked ski areas.

Four grades of piste with very easy runs for real beginners.

Generally good food and wine at affordable prices.

Alpine centres with a long history of winter sports and mountaineering.


Small cramped self-catering accommodation.

Expensive when compared to other European countries.

Some lift systems are antiquated and lift queues can be enormous during February and early March.

Many on-mountain restaurants are of a poor standard.

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