Every winter a third of Brit skiers fly, drive or take the train across the channel for their annual French ski holiday – we’re easily France’s best tourists! And despite our grumbles about French prices and French service, we adore the French Alps – from the traditional villages to the purpose-built high-mountain resorts. Here we pick ten of the best… France has everything – from family favourites such as Morzine and Megève to cult destinations like La Grave and Chamonix; from hidden gems such as La Clusaz and St Lary, to high altitude, snowsure paradises like Val Thorens and Val d’Isere. And you can be sure that we Brits will be the ones dancing on the tables of Meribel when it’s après-ski o’clock.
Chamonix is one of the most iconic names in big-mountain skiing and is rightly revered for its epic descents and off-piste terrain. Every skier should come here at least once. Chamonix isn’t your average ski resort. This historic valley town at the foot of Mont Blanc, is synonymous with huge vertical descents and extreme off-piste. However, you don’t have to be an expert to enjoy Chamonix, as there are other more conventional ski areas in the valley, five in total, mostly spread some distance from the town, but served by bus and/or train links, which can get very crowded! Chamonix’s most famous off-piste terrain is the must-ski Vallée Blanche descent, accessed from the Aiguille du Midi which is reached on the world’s highest vertical-ascent cable car. The ski routes off the summit are accessed via a catwalk along an exposed arête, are totally off-piste, and you shouldn’t attempt them without a guide. The Grands Montets ski area at Argentiere, 8km up the valley from Chamonix, is the other main freeride playground. Beyond there, at Le Tour, is the La Balme ski area, which offers the best slopes for novices and intermediates. Chamonix’s own local pisted ski slopes are found on the lift-linked Le Brévent and La Flégère ski areas. You’ll find a good range of intermediate cruisers and some excellent inter-piste freeriding. We also recommend the wooded slopes of nearby Les Houches for days when visibility is poor higher up the mountain