France’s mountain ranges are a skier’s paradise, but it can be confusing working out which resorts are better depending on how experienced you are and whether skiing with children.
You might also be keen on lots of activities away from the slopes, or are more interested in spending all your energy off-piste, in the snowparks or on daring black runs than on après ski.
Some of the picks offer family holidays in winter wonderlands, and others will catch the eye of serious off-piste skiers and snowboarders in need of some exhilaration.
If you crave the rush of red and black runs, or the freedom of ungroomed terrain read on!
Lets have a look at the best ski resorts in France:
1. Avoriaz, Haute-Savoie
A clever aspect of the design of Avoriaz, straddling the border with Switzerland, is that the slopes remain in the shade for nearly all of the day, but the modern, purpose-built resort is bathed in sun.
There are more than 130 kilometres in the vicinity, while the resort is also at the heart of the Portes du Soleil domain offering another 650 kilometres and 283 runs.
Most of the connecting slopes are high-altitude, suiting skiers with a bit more knowhow.
But there’s a superb ski school with lessons that adapt to parents’ own tuition schedules.
Freestylers can express themselves in the super-pipe and five snowparks, while people in need of off-piste can christen the eight metres of fresh powder that falls every season.
2. Ski Alpe-D’Huez, Isère
For people on holiday in groups, with companions at different ability levels, it can be tricky to find a resort where everyone will be happy.
Alpe d’Huez is a rare example that brings the best for everyone, containing one of the largest ski areas in France.
Advanced skiers can make for the outlying villages in the domain where unique challenges like the world-famous Sarenne run are more accessible.
This is touted as the longest downhill black run on the planet, weaving down the mountainside of Pic Blanc for 16 kilometres.
The lower slopes are for cruisers and newcomers on convivial and broad green pistes.
3. Tignes, Savoie
If you want guaranteed snow then this reliable resort in the revered Tarentaise Valley should be kept in mind.
There’s pretty much a year-round season here thanks to the Grande Motte glacier, served by a dramatic underground funicular.
It’s also linked neatly into the massive Espace Killy along with Val-d’Isère next-door.
What draws winter sport fans is the promise of an unadorned ski experience; just snow-sure slopes, with a healthy choice of pistes for beginners as much as for experts who have an almost endless choice of lift-accessed off powder fields.
Val Claret and Tignes-le-Lac are the highest villages here , and offer the easiest access to the slopes.
4. La Plagne, Savoie
Also in the Tarentaise Valley, La Plagne is made up of eleven smaller satellite resorts spread over an awesome difference in elevation, from 3,250 metres descending 1,250 metres.
It also offers easy access to the mammoth Paradiski domain, which is perfect for advanced, off-piste skiers and is reached by the Vanoise Express Cable Car.
It’s an experience you have to live at least once, as you soar above the steep Ponthurin Valley.
Naturally, given the variety of pistes available, La Plagne suits all-comers but if you’re here with kids learning the ropes then the green runs at Plagne-Centre, Aime-la-Plagne, Plagne-Bellecôte and Plagne 1800 will do the trick.
5. Chamonix, Haute Savoie
Some people just aren’t big skiers, but want to come along for the trip.
And if you’re planning a holiday with someone like this Chamonix has to be top of the list.
That’s because skiing and snowboarding are just one aspect of the experience here.
You’ve got Mont Blanc for one, and the life changing cable car ascent to the Aiguille du Midi, mountain station at 3,842 metres, with the best view of Europe’s highest mountain.
And if you’re a hardcore skier you’ll be in heaven, with epic precipitous descents and swathes of uncharted powder around Grands Montets and Vallée Blanche that you could spend weeks discovering.
6. Serre Chevalier, Hautes-Alpes
Made up of a cluster of villages the floor of the Guisane Valley, Serre Chevalier is nowhere near as fashionable as the likes of Megève and Val-d’Isère, but this adds to its appeal.
It’s an affordable but picturesque destination to get some serious skiing done, for those less worried about an après-ski . The area encompasses six peaks, with most of the skiable slopes found around Villeneuve and Chantemerle mid-way along the valley.
These are mostly original old villages that haven’t lost their character: Briançon for example is a stunning fortified settlement, built by 17th-century military mastermind Vauban to strengthen the region against the Austrians.
7. Val-d’Isère, Savoie
This resort on the end of the Tarentaise Valley hardly needs introducing; it hosted the men’s downhill event at the Albertville Olympics in ’92, and is a regular stop on the FIS Ski World Cup.
It’s a high-end destination, with a luxurious après-ski, abundant fashion emporia and some of the ritziest hotels in the alps.
Where it matters Val-d’Isère is one of the best around with terrain to suit all abilities, connecting seamlessly with neighbouring Tignes to form the Espace Killy with a whopping 300 kilometres of pistes.
A lot of these will be adored by intermediate skiers, while experts can conquer the extensive off-piste areas, served by a fantastic lift system.
8. Peyragudes, Hautes-Pyrénées
Peyragudes was born when the villages of Peyresourde and Agudes were combined.
This one isn’t so much for newcomers to the sport, but people with a few seasons of skiing under their belts will have the time of their lives on 20 blue and 20 red runs.
The slopes have a variety of aspects, so some pistes are ideal in the mornings, while others have better conditions in the afternoons.
The pick of the pistes for the more assured skiers is Vallée Blanche with an awesome vertical descent of 1000 metres.
9. Méribel, Savoie
At the western side of the Tarentaise Valley, Méribel is a purpose-built resort that took shape in the 1930s.
Perhaps because of its great age, it’s a charming village-like place to be in the evenings, preferring chalets scattered over a large area to high-rise apartments.
Here you’ll be within the gigantic ski area of Les Trois Vallées, one of the largest in the world.
The wooded slopes around are dotted with sub villages, and this network of satellite resorts is easily accessed by a lift network and shuttle buses.
Intermediates with find the most to love here, with 36 blue runs that make up more than half of Méribel’s pistes.
10. La Grave, Hautes-Alpes
At La Grave you can get back to skiing as the region’s pioneers intended: This destination is all about off-piste and adventure skiing, and for that reason is strictly for the experts.
You can’t even call it a resort, as there are no rope pistes; rather you take things into your own hands, with the help of a guide, on slopes with a difference in elevation of more than 2,000 metres.
So if you know your way down a mountain and hate crowds, this is the one for you, but expect to be kept off the slopes when there’s dangerous weather.
La Grave, is also one of France’s “plus beaux villages”, a huddle of stone and slate houses facing La Meije, the monumental 4,000-metre mountain above the slopes.
11. Valberg, Alpes-Maritimes
Many snow seekers prefer the more famous Isola 2000, on the other side of the Mercantour Park, but Valberg is just as convenient to Nice Airport and has a larger ski area.
There are 90 kilometres of pistes here, 25 kilometres of Nordic trails and a brand new snowpark.
What attracts many people is the sense of warmth and approachability that you only find in the less prestigious resorts.
If you’re on holiday with young ones then the evenings are taken care of: You’ve got a skating rink, cinema and a large heated pool.
And by day they can get started on skis from as early as three years at the resort’s Parc des Boursin.
12. Megève, Haute-Savoie
Most people have heard of Megève, a favourite for Europe’s aristocracy for decades and conceived by the Rothschilds after they fell out of love with Saint-Moritz.
It has a medieval core that was expanded during the 1920s and manages to be quaint and picturesque, but also up-to-date with the latest infrastructure.
As much as any resort on this list it’s a place to stroll and feel at home when you come down from the slopes.
And when you’re skiing you can wend through secluded woodland slopes, while the absence of rocks means that Megève needs only a thin blanket of snow to be perfectly skiable.
13. Isola 2000, Alpes-Maritimes
On the edge of the Mercantour National Park and minutes from the border with Italy, Isola 2000 is one of those resorts that you can reach with an easy drive from the French Riviera.
For a long time this was part of the Kingdom of Piedmont, and was Italian territory until it was handed to France in the wake of the Second World War.
What you’ll notice right away is the resort’s high elevation; at more than 2,000 metres it’s one of the most snow-sure in the region.
Isola 2000 is also known for its many easy-going green runs for cruising, meaning younger kids, teenagers and parents can all ski together.
The only drawback is that it’s not the prettiest destination; up against somewhere like Megève the concrete resort buildings from the 70s are showing their age.
14. La Clusaz, Haute-Savoie
This resort is in the Aravis Range and became a snow sport destination way back at the turn of the 20th-century when the road to Annecy opened up the precipitous terrain around the village to tourism.
So don’t be put off by the low altitude of the La Clusaz, because firstly it’s not so easy to get to, and won’t be crowded with day-trippers.
And the high gradients around the village also ensure some challenging runs.
It’s a resort for intermediates and experts, with 200 kilometres of varied terrain to glide over.
Seasoned skiers and boarders will love the reds, blacks and free-riding opportunities in the L’Aiguille and Balme sectors.
15. Saint-Lary Soulan, Hautes-Pyrénées
On the west side of the Néouvielle Massif in the Pyrenees, Saint-Lary-Soulan hits the mark for families due to its varied facilities.
As well as more than 100 kilometres of downhill slopes, one of the largest skiable areas in the Pyrenees, this resort also caters to people who need a break from the action.
The village, long a popular spa destination for its health-giving waters, now has Sensoria therapy centre providing wraps, massages, a solarium and pools to ease away those aches and pains.
There’s also Pla’ Adet, with a “Kidpark” and snow kindergarten, so smaller skiers up to 12 won’t miss out on any fun.