Overview of France
Written by Greg and Heather Burke • Last updated Aug 23, 2017
The French Alps are famed for their skiing, it's the heart of big Alp mountains, beautiful ski chalets, and huge ski resorts- the biggest in the world. France has a long history of skiing, having hosted the first Winter Olympic Games in Chamonix in 1924, and at Grenoble in 1968, and 1992 in Albertville. The French Alps are renowned for their vast ski slopes and luxury resorts in mountain ski villages. Resorts like Les Trois Vallées including Courchevel and Val Thorens, Val D’Isère and Tignes, La Plagne and Les Arcs, Chamonix Mont Blanc, and Grand Massif are among the largest, many of them connecting several ski villages for hundreds of kilometers of alpine skiing. The French invented “après ski” too - so don't expect the fun to stop when the ski lifts do. Enjoy local wine, music in chalets with dancing or the more sublime spa treatments and fine French dining in ski villages at three to five star mountain hotels.
Les Trois Vallées makes up the largest ski resort in the world with 600 kilometers of trails (over 370 miles) served by 160 interconnected lifts among 8 ski areas. It's like Vail, Park City Canyons and Whistler combined. Courchevel is the best known of Les Trois Vallées ski areas, which also includes Val Thorens and Méribel - all interconnected. Les Trois Vallées are ranked in order of elevation. Val Thorens offers the highest alps skiing in the 3 Valleys - at 10,500'. Next up is famous Courchevel and its four ski regions, 1300 (meters) is a charming Savoyard village, while Courchevel 1850 is the highest, with the most upscale resort featuring the best French ski hotels, restaurants, and nightclubs – this is where the rich and famous Europeans ski. Méribel is France’s most well-designed ski resort among Les Trois Vallées in the heart of this vast ski region between Val Thorens and Courchevel.
Val d’Isère Tignes, also called L’Espace Killy for the famous French ski racer Jean Claude Killy, has over 300 kilometers of skiing - all interconnected by 76 lifts. Val d’Isère hosted much of the 1992 Winter Olympics skiing events and provides some of the most famous ski terrain of the French Alps like the men’s downhill Bellevarde Face. Val D'Isère's après ski and nightlife is impressive too - very Savoie faire as they say. Tignes is a more modern resort, lacking the alpine charm in the base villages, but it makes up for that on the mountain with tremendous off-piste terrain and super scenic skiing high up on a glacier.
Paradiski - includes La Plagne and Les Arcs and comprises the second biggest linked ski resort in the world, behind Les Trois Vallées, including skiing on two glaciers, 425 kilometers of skiing with the highest elevation at Aiguille Rouge of 10,583'. Les Arcs are named for their elevation - 1600, 1800, and 2000. La Plagne has 3 high elevation villages with 1970's vintage lodging - driving up from the Valley, the village of La Belle Plagne is the largest and the most authentic alpine in architecture, you are skiing mostly at 2000 and on the Glacier up to 3000 meters.
Chamonix is the epicenter of skiing, and home to the highest mountain peaks in The Alps of Europe, including the famous 15,780' Mont Blanc. Located just 25-minutes from Italy's Courmayeur through the Mont Blanc tunnel or to Switzerland via the Col des Montets, Chamonix offers vast skiing. Chamonix's 145 prepared ski trails include the most famous Vallée-Blanche, Grands Montets and Le Brevent, off piste on the legendary Aiguille du Midi, plus over 30,000 acres of off-piste skiing and snowboarding terrain.
Le Grand Massif is the 4th largest ski resort in France, 5th largest in Europe, located in the Haute Savoie of France. This ski resort was formed in 1980 as a region combining 5 ski areas, Flaine, Les Carroz, Morillon, Samoëns and Sixt Fer à Cheval. Hence the translation of Grand Massif - the big big, with skiing on 77 lifts, and 165 miles of skiing. It's family friendly and more affordable than say Courchevel or Chamonix.