France is home to some of the most iconic ski destinations in the world. In fact, there are 364 different ski resorts scattered across its five mountain ranges. French ski resorts range from low-key ones that have evolved from quaint farming villages to huge high-altitude purpose-built ones with modern amenities. They all have unique personalities and styles that appeal to skiers and snowboarders all over the world.
With so many resorts on offer, choosing the best one for you and your group can be tricky. For example, you may want a beginner-friendly resort, a party atmosphere, or a luxurious experience. Some French ski resorts are big enough to offer all these things and more terrain than you can shake a ski pole at.
In this article, we will give you an overview of France’s 5 main mountain ranges to go skiing (excl Corsica which also has some ski resorts). We also use our inside knowledge to tell you which is the best and why.
The 5 Main French Mountain Ranges For Skiing And Snowboarding
The French Pyrenees is a mountain range between France and Spain, forming a natural barrier between the two countries. The Pyrenees stretch about 430 km (267 mi) from the Mediterranean Sea to the Bay of Biscay.
The range offers a variety of landscapes, including high peaks, deep valleys, forests, lakes, and rivers. It is a popular destination for Spanish and French skiers and snowboarders. This region is rarely visited by overseas skiers and snowboarders, as it is often overshadowed by the more prominent Alps.
However, the French Pyrenees has a surprising number of ski resorts offering a variety of terrain and facilities. For example, Grand Tourmalet is the largest ski area in the Pyrenees, with over 100 km (62 miles) of ski runs spread across two resorts, La Mongie and Barèges. Or for something with more charm, Cauterets is an excellent option with over 36 km (22 miles) of ski runs, thermal baths and a range of other activities.
Pyrenees ski resorts I have a reputation for lack of snow. But this reputation stems more from the Spanish side of the border. They indeed have milder winters than the Alps, but they get a good coating of snow. Also, the French resorts are on the north side of the range, which helps to preserve snow quality.
The Jura Mountains are a sub-alpine mountain range in eastern France, between the Rhône River and the Swiss border. The range stretches over 350 km (217 miles) and is known for its rugged terrain, deep valleys, and picturesque forests.
In the winter, Jura is a popular cross-country and downhill skiing destination. Cross-country skiing is particularly popular in the Jura Mountains, with over 2,000 km (1,242 miles) of well-groomed trails available for all levels of skiers. The trails wind through the forested valleys and provide stunning views of the surrounding landscape. The Jura Mountains are also home to the Transjurassienne. This famous cross-country ski race takes place annually and attracts cross-country ski racers from around the world.
For downhill skiing, there are several ski resorts in the Jura Mountains, including Les Rousses, Morbier, and Métabief. Les Rousses is the region’s largest ski resort, offering over 220 km (137 miles) of downhill ski runs, cross-country ski trails, and snowshoeing routes. Morbier is a smaller resort with over 40 km (25 miles) of ski runs, while Métabief offers over 37 km (23 miles) of ski runs and a snow park for freestylers.
The region is also known for its après-ski activities, with traditional restaurants serving local dishes such as fondue and raclette. All washed down with the local distinctive and unusual wines. The most famous wine is vin jaune (yellow wine), with its sherry-like taste and sweetness.
The Vosges Mountains are a range of low mountains in northeastern France near the German border. The range stretches for about 200 km (124 miles) and has a maximum elevation of 1,424 meters (4,672 feet) at the Grand Ballon.
The Vosges Mountains are home to several ski resorts, the largest of which is La Bresse-Hohneck. La Bresse-Hohneck’s ski area has over 220 hectares (543 acres) with 39 ski runs and 50 km (31 miles) of cross-country ski trails. The resort also has a snowpark for freestyle skiing and snowboarding.
Vosges has many traditional restaurants serving local dishes such as tarte flambée and Munster cheese.
The Massif Central is a mountainous region located in the southern and central parts of France. It covers an area of approximately 85,000 square kilometres (33,000 square miles) and includes several mountain ranges, plateaus, and volcanic peaks.
The ski resorts in the Massif Central are known for their scenic locations and family-friendly atmosphere, making them popular with both beginner and intermediate skiers.
Super Besse is the Massif Central’s largest ski resort, with over 135 hectares (334 acres) of ski area and 27 ski runs. Mont-Dore is a smaller ski resort in the Massif Central, with 41 ski runs and a range of winter activities, including cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. The resort is located in the heart of the Auvergne Volcanoes Regional Nature Park, providing stunning views of the surrounding volcanic landscape.
The region is also known for its traditional cuisine, including dishes such as truffade, aligot, and pounti, which can be enjoyed in the local restaurants and cafés.
The French Alps are a mountain range located in the southeastern part of France, bordering Italy and Switzerland. The range stretches for approximately 250 miles (400 km). It has several peaks over 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) high, including Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Western Europe at 4,810 meters (15,780 feet).
The French Alps has some of the best ski resorts in the world, with over 200 ski resorts and 3,000 ski lifts spread across the mountains.
Possibly the most famous ski resort in the French Alps is . This iconic mountain town is located at the foot of Mont Blanc. Its 5 ski areas offer a range of ski runs for all levels of skiers. But most of the terrain here is geared towards off-piste skiing and snowboarding, so it is ideal for more adventurous visitors. A must-do off-piste route during a visit to Chamonix is the Vallee Blanche, a classic route steeped in history.
and are also popular ski resorts known for their long ski runs and reliable snow conditions. Val d’Isere is the more upmarket and attractive resort, but Tignes has excellent skiing. They are linked by the same ski area, so you can ski between them during your stay.
Les Trois Vallées is the world’s largest interconnected ski area, comprising several ski resorts, including , , and . The area offers over 600 kilometres (373 miles) of ski runs, so there is more than enough to cater to skiers and snowboarders of all levels. There are also several snow parks, cross-country skiing, and plenty of opportunities for off-piste skiing. You will also find many family-friendly activities on and off the slopes in Les Trois Vallées, ideal for kids.
Other popular ski resorts in the French Alps include in the Portes du Soleil, , , Les Deux Alpes, and . These resorts offer a range of ski runs and other winter activities, such as snowshoeing, ice skating, and dog sledding.
The French Alps also offer a range of luxurious accommodations, including chalets, hotels, and apartments. The region is also known for its après-ski culture, with various restaurants, bars, and nightclubs offering entertainment after a day on the slopes. Overall, the French Alps provide a world-class skiing experience with stunning mountain scenery, excellent ski conditions, and a range of activities both on and off the slopes.
Why The French Alps
Is The Best Mountain Range For Skiing And Snowboarding
During our time visiting many French ski resorts, we learned that the French Alps are the best for skiing out of all the French mountain ranges; here are a few reasons why we recommend the region to our guests:
A Wide Variety of Ski Resorts
Typically the average cumulative snowfall in the French Alps at 2000m per season is between 5m and 8m in the northern Alps and between 3.5m and 5.5m in the southern Alps. The highest average snowfall at the resort level in France is found in Avoriaz, which gets about 7.5m every winter.
Extensive Ski Terrain
The French Alps have some of the largest and most extensive ski areas in the world, with over 600 kilometres (373 miles) of ski runs in some ski areas. This means that skiers have access to a wide range of ski runs, from gentle beginner slopes to challenging black runs.
Many of these areas feature world-class snow parks, too. They are often designed to cater to beginner freestylers and seasoned pros with a range of suitable features.
The French Alps are also known for their excellent off-piste skiing opportunities, which attract advanced and expert skiers from around the world. Many ski resorts have knowledgeable guides who will take you to the best places and keep you safe.
An Excellent Après-Ski Culture
The French Alps are known for their vibrant après-ski culture, with various restaurants, bars, and nightclubs offering entertainment after a day on the slopes. This makes the French Alps not just a skiing destination but also a social destination.
Excellent Childcare Options
Most ski resorts have excellent childcare facilities, especially the more family-orientated ones. You can expect creches, kid’s ski schools, and nannies. All will give you peace of mind that your little ones are well looked after during your stay.
Plenty Of Other Activities Other Than Skiing And Snowboarding On Offer
Ski resorts offer their visitors much more these days. You can choose from a wide range of activities to enhance your French Alpine experience and create lasting memories. For example, see the Alps from the sky from a paraglider or helicopter. Alternatively, explore the terrain on a snowmobile or dog sled.
The more developed ski resorts also have a range of leisure facilities and spas to enjoy. These are perfect for bad weather days or just for resting your legs.
Well Located For Experiencing Other Countries And Resorts
There are a few ski resorts in the French Alps close to international borders. In fact, some ski areas straddle borders, allowing you to ski into Italy or Switzerland using the same lift pass. This means you can have authentic Italian cuisine at lunch and tuck into French delicacies in the evenings.
Many French ski resorts are linked via lifts and pistes, allowing you to experience many in one trip. But you’ll find that resorts that aren’t connected are also pretty easy to get between. This means you can pick one as your base and travel between resorts by road or helicopter, allowing you to be back in time for dinner.
Great Airport Transfer Times
Many of the ski resorts in the French Alps are serviced by big airports. You can get to most of them pretty quickly from these airports via private transfer. But if you want the ultimate convenience, you can arrive by helicopter.
Wrapping Up Where To Ski In France
Overall, the French Alps offer a world-class skiing experience with stunning mountain scenery, excellent ski conditions, and a range of activities both on and off the slopes.
We love these French winter destinations for their fantastic ski areas, luxury accommodation, and the experiences they offer visitors. This is why we have handpicked the best accommodation options available in each resort. We are confident that with our help, you will have the perfect French ski holiday.