The most popular destination for Brits by far and for very good reason. Home to epic mountains, vast ski areas, huge quantities of accommodation and some of the world’s top resorts, it is easy to see why France is such a hit. Add in easy access from the UK – whether you’re flying, driving or catching the train – and France also becomes arguably the most convenient destination too.
With so many resorts to choose from knowing where to start can be a daunting prospect. A great place to begin however is deciding on what sort of holiday you’re after. If maximising your piste miles, exploring vast areas of off piste and enjoying lively, bustling mega-resorts is your thing then your choice is endless. As a starting point, Tignes and Val d’Isère combine to form the vast Espace Killy, Courchevel, Méribel and Val Thorens join forces to make the Three Valleys, Avoriaz and Morzine link up as part of the Portes du Soleil and Les Arcs and La Plagne joined in 2003 to form the Paradiski.
You can also throw the epic off piste of world-famous Chamonix Valley and the family-friendly resort Flaine in the Grand Massif (both of which are home to Freshtracks chalets) into the mix. Then, if you’re looking for peace, quiet and something more traditional try smaller resorts such as Châtel, La Clusaz and Sainte Foy, or if you’re after something different head to the Pyrenees and the likes of Cauterets, Font Romeu or Peyragudes.
On the accommodation front, France is one of the few countries still offering lots of catered chalet holidays, adding another option to the huge range of hotel and self-catered apartments. The latter are particularly popular in the bigger resorts – expect good value but fairly basic facilities. Take care when booking your rooms and choose a recently built or newly renovated hotel or block, as some of the older buildings can be a bit shabby.
Understandably, food and drink play a big role in a French ski holiday. By avoiding the large self-service canteens and sticking to the traditional mountain huts and restaurants you’ll get the best food – think raclette, tartiflette, incredible cheese and locally-made charcuterie. This of course should be washed down by delicious French wine and maybe even a shot of the local spirit, Génépi.
The après ski scene is also a big feature at many of the major resorts, particularly those packed with international visitors. The world famous Folie Douce brand has expanded from its spiritual home in Val d’Isère to the like of Avoriaz and Alpe d’Huez in recent years, whilst Méribel and Tignes remain popular party spots. Elsewhere, the music tends to be quieter and the pace slower, but there are few better things than unwinding after a long day on the slopes with a glass of vin chaud.
As mentioned, getting to the ski resorts of France is very easy. The Alps are within easy reach (via one of the numerous transfer companies) of Geneva and Lyon airports, whilst Toulouse is nice and close to the Pyrenees. Driving is also a good option, taking around 10-12 hours and the Snow Train into to Moûtiers or Bourg-Sainte-Maurice is a great sustainable option.
All of these positives do come with a downside however. At weekends and during the school holidays, most resorts are absolutely packed – great if you’re looking for lively après but not great for lift queues and crowded pistes. Traffic can also become a big problem and flights do become really expensive, especially at February half term. So if you want to experience French skiing at its best, mid-January and March are the months to visit!