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An expert’s guide to skiing the French Alps

One of Australia’s leading ski travel experts reveals the best places to ski, stay and holiday in the French Alps.

Paris may be the most famous city in France, but this beautiful country has so much more to offer beyond wining, dining and cultural immersion. France is home to some of the largest ski areas in the world and provides skiers and snowboarders with some spectacular slopes on which to flex their skills. However, the best resorts and runs are frequented only by those in the know, so we’ve consulted one of Australia’s leading ski travel experts to learn everything you need to know about skiing in the French Alps.

Gilles Riou is the founder of Top Snow Travel, a leading luxury agency that specialises in ski holidays in France in exceptional locations. A world-class ski enthusiast who has hit the pistes in more than 70 locations across seven countries (40 of which are in France), Gilles has been skiing and snowboarding for more than 38 years.

“From the age of two until 15, I was fortunate enough to visit my family-owned home at Valfréjus, a ski resort in the French Alps. Every school holiday, my loved ones and I would leave our home in Paris and enjoy the atmosphere and excitement of this stunning mountain region. It was here that I developed a sincere love for skiing.” says Gilles.

“I’ve tried every winter activity you can think of, but some of my favourite experiences have been heli-skiing in New Zealand on the South Island, and trying ULM – a microflight – in Tignes Ski Resort,” says Gilles.

gilles riou
Gilles Riou © Top Snow Travel

What makes a ski destination excellent?

The ski area and the village are the two pillars on which a great ski destination stands, says Gilles. “A big ski area with a varied mix of terrain is best,” says Gilles. “From high snow, altitude and open bowls to lower tree runs in the forest for those windy and snowy days with bad visibility.”

The village is where most people spend the majority of their time when off-piste, so it needs to have a great energy, an excellent selection of restaurants and bars, plus some non-skiing winter activities, explains Gilles. “Let’s face it, not every family member can ski from opening to closing, especially when travelling with children and teens. If the kids have a great holiday, the parents will, too.”

Gilles’ guide to skiing the French Alps: Top 10 destinations

Val d’Isère

Val d’Isère is the highest traditional village in the French Alps. Not only does it have a beautiful and charming village, Val d’Isère’s location guarantees snow and is reliable throughout winter with a stunning linked ski area: Tignes-Val d’Isère.
Best accommodation: Chalet Lhotse & Chalet Marco Polo.

Courchevel

Boasting the nicest selection of luxury chalets in the world with a side of the best hotels and restaurants, Courchevel’s properties are so relaxing and cocooning it’s difficult to drag yourself from their opulent interiors and on to the picturesque slopes.
Best accommodation: Le K2 Palace & Le K2 Altitude

Courchevel ski village
Courchevel © Top Snow Travel

Méribel

Méribel has the largest linked ski area in the world and the village is in an idyllic location, set within the heart of the three valleys in the French Alps. With scattered timber seven-stone traditional chalets sprinkled across the mountain and the valley, Méribel offers a unique landscape for visitors to discover.
Best accommodation: Antarès Residences, Le Refuge de la Traye & Hotel Le Kaila

Arc 1950

Arc 1950 is found within one of the biggest linked ski areas of the world, Paradiski, which links Les Arcs Peisey-Vallandry ski area with La Plagne. It’s a small and magical pedestrian-only village with ski-in, ski-out access.
Best accommodation: Premium Residence Arc 1950 Le Village, the superior range in the Prince des Cimes building

Arc 1950 snow village
Arc 1950 © Top Snow Travel

Avoriaz 1800

Avoriaz 1800 is arguably the best family ski resort in not only the French Alps, but all of Europe, too. The village is 100% pedestrian-only and provides easy ski-in, ski-out accessibility from all locations. Exploring the area is done on foot, ski or horse sleigh ride – which operates as the local taxi service. It’s quite a unique experience. Les Portes du Soleil is a major ski sport destination beautiful with more than 600km of slopes, which splits 12 villages within France and Switzerland.
Best accommodation: Premium Residence l’Amara

Chamonix Mont-Blanc

Located by the junction of France, Switzerland and Italy, Chamonix Mont-Blanc has remarkable peaks and a picturesque town centre with magnificent views of the skiable terrain. While Chamonix Mont-Blanc is lovely, guests do have to catch a bus or drive to get to the different slopes, which isn’t ideal for families travelling with children, or those seeking a hassle-free holiday.
Best accommodation: Chalet Alaska, Chalet Azurite & Le Cristal de Jade Residence

skiers hiking across a mountain peak
Chamonix Mont-Blanc © Top Snow Travel

Val Thorens

Europe’s highest ski resort and part of the largest linked ski area in the world, the Three Valleys, Val Thorens provides easy access to the slopes of the French Alps thanks to a purpose-built ski resort and accommodation layout. There are so many winter activities on offer in Val Thorens, a lively atmosphere and a good selection of restaurants, both in the resort and on the mountain.
Best accommodation: Hotel Pashmina & Chalets Cocoon

La Rosière

Set at the fork of the Tarentaise Valley, La Rosière is the snowiest ski resort in France and enjoys some of the region’s most stunning sunset vistas. La Rosière is unique in that its two villages link up with La Thuile Ski Resort in Italy, with the dual country ski area called Espace San Bernardo.
Best accommodation: Résidence Alpen Lodge & Hotel Alparena & Spa

La Rosiere ski village
La Rosiere © Top Snow Travel

Megève

With cobblestone streets running through it’s pretty town centre, Megève has Mont-Blanc views and a beautiful ski area. The only downside is that Megève sits at a low altitude, so the powder isn’t as prolific early in the season or close to spring, or if the winter season is warm. Book Megève at the last minute or for the second half of January before the crazy February school holidays.
Best accommodation: Les Fermes de Marie

Tignes

With multiple villages and an excellent selection of winter activities, Tignes ski area is linked with
beautiful Val d’Isère. You’ll find some of the most unique luxury chalets in Tignes.
Best accommodation: Black Diamond Residence: Chalet Charlie & Chalet Tango

VISIT TOP SNOW TRAVEL TO BOOK NOW

Read more:
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