A family winter skiing holiday in the French Alps might turn out to be one of best winter holidays you take with your family. France has seven of the world’s largest top ten ski areas, so there are plenty of groomed slopes to choose from for skiers of all ages and abilities. French resorts offer great variety, from quaint traditional villages through to large totally purposefully built ski resorts. The choice is yours.
France actually has numerous ski areas in different parts of the country, but for the sake of this article we shall explore some of the northern and southern French Alp areas. These cover higher altitudes and offer more reliable annual snow coverage. These alpine regions border other countries, Switzerland and Italy forming part of the Alps mountain range which stretches east through to Austria. Other areas in France, such as the Pyrenees and the French Massive can be explored another time.
A good family ski resort enables everyone to have a great holiday, from the expert skiers to those who prefer to enjoy the snowy outdoors in other ways. The key is to decide on a resort that has the facilities to suit your particular family. There are usually many outdoor and indoor activities offered close to wherever you choose to stay.
France has some massive ski areas with many interconnecting lifts and ski runs, so you can easily ski the whole week exploring new runs daily. French lift and gondola systems are second to none, constantly being upgraded to ensure that they operate smoothly throughout the winter season. They carry thousands of skiers every day to some of the highest points in the Alps.
Snow cover in these high alpine areas is usually quite dependable, and most ski areas have good snow making facilities in low snow seasons. However, you do run more risk at the beginning and end of the season for reliable snow cover, which is an important consideration if you are booking a holiday six months in advance.
Outdoors activities, aside from alpine skiing and snowboarding, and cross-country skiing are plentiful. There may be snow parks, night skiing, husky dog sledding, tobogganing, snow shoeing, paragliding, and even après ski parties that start on the slopes in the afternoon before moving on to town. If you decide to take a day away from the pistes (ski trails with an artificially prepared surface of packed snow) altogether, you might go swimming in aquaparks, ice skating, test prowess on climbing walls, play ten pin bowling or visit fitness centers and wellness spas. You might even just spend a day just exploring the historical mountain villages that were the original homes of French villagers long before skiing was invented, or take in interesting museums and cinema.
Skiing in the French Alps is never going to be cheap; however, there are a few considerations which may reduce costs for your family holiday. Accommodation is always going to be a large part of the cost, so you might decide to stay in self catering apartments or chalets. By buying your food in a nearby larger town rather than in the resort itself, you can plan for nutritious meals to cook to save money. Not to mention the advantage of being able to choose a few bottles of great local wine for cozy nights relaxing.
Also consider staying in accommodation where you can “ski in, ski out” from the ski area. This means you have direct access to ski lifts directly during the day without having to hassle with extra transport. Some areas are also vehicle free, so your children are free to wander without fear of road transport. Ski in, ski out also means you can return to your apartment easily at any time of the day to take breaks or to eat.
Some ski areas offer great family deals for accommodation as well as reduced lift passes and free ski lessons if your family are just starting out on the slopes. France has great ski schools with instructors who are able to improve your ski skills regardless of what level skier you are.
Below are just some of the best family resorts for you to check out.
Portes du Soliel Area – The Portes du Soliel area is one of the easiest to access, being within easy travel distance of about an hour from Geneva international airport in Switzerland. Portes du Soliel covers the border between France and Switzerland ,so it is even possible to ski from one country to another.
Les Gets is on the lower slopes of the Portes du Soliel area, so it does not always have the snow coverage of its higher neighbors. However, Les Gets does offer a charming village atmosphere with traditional Savoyard chalets as well as modern accommodation apartments. Here you may even find a child friendly chalet with a pre arranged nanny available. The village is pedestrian friendly too, with a road train shuttle to help you get about.
Morzine is another area in the Portes du Soliel worth checking out. It has a lively après scene, but also plenty of space for quiet times. There is also an ice skating rink, a number of wellness spas, and plenty of shops.
Avoriaz, purposefully built in the 1960s for winter recreation, is the highest of the French ski areas in the Portes du Soliel. It is vehicle free, and much of the accommodation is “ski in, ski out” for your convenience. You can even climb aboard a snow cat or horse drawn sleigh to get about. Many families love Avoriaz for convenience and family safety and The Village des Enfants is a special ski school for children
Alpe d’Huez – If your family has various levels of ages and skiing abilities, Alpe d’Huez in the French region of Rhone-Alpez might be the resort for you. There are many beginner friendly slopes as well enough for intermediates and experts. For older teenagers and young adults, there is lots of on slope entertainment with the La Folie Douce show which began in 2013. The fun starts in late afternoon and stretches in the late après scene every day in season. Alpe d’Huez offers accommodation for all budgets too.
La Tania – Another modern purposefully built ski area is La Tania in the French region of Savoie, which was developed for the 1992 Ski Olympics. La Tania is set in a pretty woodland area at the lower slopes of the Les Trois Vallées ski area, which also includes the more exclusive resorts of Méribel, and Courchevel. Le Tania offers great value for such a vast ski area with many varied ski runs. La Tania also has a dedicated ski nursery for younger children from which many beginner ski areas are easily accessed. If you need a babysitter, check out the local tourist office.
Megève – Megève is the resort to head to if you want to experience some old world French charm and character in a genuine French village combined with modern facilities especially for beginner and intermediate skiers. It is located in southeastern France. The village’s streets lined with authentic wooden chalets and cobbled streets are worthy of a picture postcard on every turn. If that’s not enough to tempt you, think of the cozy restaurants serving tasty French food. There are also excellent child minding facilities available for parents who need a little time to themselves. On a plus or minus side, depending on your personal opinion, there is even a McDonalds’ restaurant. Love or hate them, most kids are happy to eat there, and they are not available all over France.
Tignes – Tignes is a resort set at very high altitude, so long seasons are guaranteed. In fact, there are only a couple of months over summer when you cannot ski there. Tignes is all part of the Espace Killy ski area which is part of the massive Val d’isere. This area attracts skiers from all over the world for great slopes and excellent resorts. The high point of the area is at 3,455 meters (11,335 feet), and is the start of one of the longest runs in the Alps down the Grande Motte glacier for a drop of 1,350 meters (4,429 feet). The run itself is much longer, so it could be a great family challenge.
So even if you are reading this in summer heat, I hope that you have found some inspiration to consider a winter holiday in the French Alps in the near future. There are many other resorts to explore, so maybe your first French skiing holiday will not be your last. Au revoir!