Skiing in France
Why choose France?
Over 200,000 Brits per year choose to visit France with the sole intention of indulging in winter sports. Whilst skiing in France may be relatively expensive, the resorts are easier to reach than those in other European countries. France is just a short train journey away for many people living in the UK and for others, budget flights to the major cities are plentiful. You can often find good deals with Eurostar that will take you from London to Paris for a reasonable rate. From Paris, the impressive French public transport system will allow you to reach the resort of your choice in no time at all. Visitors from the UK are often pleasantly surprised by both the speed and the quality of service provided by the TGV (high-speed French trains which travel throughout the country). These trains certainly provide a welcome change from the British rail network! Cheap flights to Paris and major cities such as Lyon, which is located close to several large ski resorts, are usually on offer from budget airlines such as Easyjet. However, other airlines such as British Airways sometimes have good deals as well. The resorts are busy throughout the season and whilst queuing times may be frustrating in the peak months, the scenery found in both the Alps and the Pyrenees remains largely unspoilt.
The snow is very reliable and the ski season in France is relatively long. Cheap deals can often be found towards the end of the season when the snow conditions are not at their peak. Boredom is simply not an option in France, since many of the resorts offer easy access to other nearby skiing areas. If you purchase a ski pass for the area you have chosen to stay in, it will often allow you to use the lifts in other areas. Therefore, if your resort caters specifically for beginners and intermediates but you are after more of a challenge, you can leave the kids behind to practice their skills on the more gentle slopes and take the appropriate lift to some difficult black runs that technically belong to another resort.
Whatever your budget and taste, there will be a resort in France to suit you. If you crave traditional architecture and old cobbled streets, resorts such as Megeve will keep you happy. On the other hand, if you are solely interested in the action on the slopes, purpose-built resorts such as La Plagne may be more appropriate. The standard of accommodation in French ski resorts is generally very high. The French love their traditional chalets but many of the larger hotels have great reputations and provide good service.
The main resorts
The most popular resorts include Les Arcs, Megeve, Courchevel, La Plagne, Val d’Isere, Meribel, Chamonix, Les Deux Alpes, and Val Thorens. The Three Valleys ski area is also very popular with British skiers. Some of the resorts are more appropriate for families with young children. These include La Plagne and Megeve, resorts which offer family-orientated entertainment as well as some quiet restaurants and small bars. However, others are more suitable for younger skiers, especially those travelling with a group of friends. These resorts include Les Arcs and Val d’Isere, both of which offer a rich and varied nightlife, as well as exciting skiing opportunities. Make sure that you thoroughly research your choice of resort before booking to ensure that you will get the most out of your holiday.
As well as skiing and snowboarding, the French resorts offer many exciting activities. The most popular of these include ice-skating, dog-sledding, hiking with snowshoes, paragliding, viewing the scenery from the perspective of a helicopter, and curling.
The people, culture, and food
The French have a largely unfair reputation among much of the UK population. The truth is that the French are very friendly and will often go out of their way to make your visit memorable. For example, French ski schools have a very good reputation worldwide, primarily as a result of the friendly instructors who patrol the slopes of many of the country’s ski resorts. They also, on the whole, speak very good English, which is an extremely important factor to consider for many Brits choosing a destination for their skiing holiday. The service provided in the top ski hotels in the country is absolutely superb and the staff will usually do all they can to help you during your stay.
One of the major attractions of France as a destination for any kind of holiday, whether it be skiing or sightseeing, is the fantastic food. French cuisine is very diverse and the people are extremely passionate about their food. You will be able to sample some of the best, basic French food by visiting the local supermarket in your resort. The traditional French baguette, served with some locally sourced cheese and cold meats, will fill you up at lunchtime and provide you with the energy you need for an afternoon on the slopes. However, if you would prefer to have a slightly longer break from skiing during the middle of the day, you can join the locals in a French restaurant. It is standard practice in France for people to enjoy a lengthy lunch break, sometimes lasting for as long as two or three hours. This tradition is honoured in nearly all the French ski resorts. Many French skiers will spend a couple of hours in a local restaurant enjoying a hearty lunch before hitting the slopes again.
French culture honours geographical variation. Whilst the French are fiercely patriotic, there are significant regional differences in traditions, accents, food, and attitudes. This means that you can visit a different French resort every year for ten years and feel like you are visiting a different country each time. Whilst some of the French ski resorts have lost some of their character over the years, the large majority still retain a uniquely French atmosphere. This is primarily as a result of the large number of French skiers who choose to visit their local ski resort during weekends and school holidays rather than travelling abroad.
A good place to look for French skiing holiday is at France Ski Holidays.