White-knuckle skiing isn’t for all of us, so if you ski purely for pleasure where exactly do you go? After skiing over 60 resorts in France, I reckon I now have a pretty good idea. The French Alps attract countless skiers from all over the world, so most of them head for areas which attract media attention and get star billing in ski brochures.
For the rest of us that’s good news, since lots of ‘second-league’ resorts (in terms of skier numbers) are less-pressured and therefore perfect for relaxed skiing, outside French school holiday periods. With that in mind, I thought I’d share a quick rundown of some of the most memorable places where I’ve enjoyed laid-back, scenic skiing in the French Alps:
You’ll find Combloux in Haute-Savoie below the Aravis Massif between Chamonix and the Val d’Arly – just across the valley from chic Megève, in fact. That means it’s easy to reach, either via a 1 hr transfer from flights into Geneva (or 15 min more from Chambéry Savoie Mont-Blanc) or by road from Sallanches or Albertville.
Combloux’s ski area and most accommodation are tucked away on the mountain, well-hidden from those driving through the valley en-route to Chamonix. They don’t know what they’re missing. When you get there it feels small-time and down-homey, but your very first chairlift ride tells you that there’s lots of fun to be had here, on sheltered, tree-lined pistes topped-off by wide cruising pistes with a dramatic backdrop of nearby Mont-Blanc. I reckon there’s something of the wild, natural spirit of Canadian skiing in the long forested runs over to neighbouring La Giettaz.
Here’s my full resort review: https://www.mountainpassions.com/winter/ski-resort-reviews/alps/ski-combloux/
Just about the friendliest place I’ve ever skied, La Toussuire sits just above the Vallée de la Maurienne (home to Valfréjus, Valloire, Valmeinier and Albiez-Montrond) and close to the Franco-Italian border. La Toussuire is the largest of six linked villages of Les Sybelles, the 4th biggest ski area in France. Over the years they’ve worked hard to bring it all together, with a highly-capable, modern lift system serving lots of great, well-groomed cruising terrain. Just to the north are Val Thorens and the 3 Valleys, so Les Sybelles are in the firing line for frequent heavy snowfalls.
Getting there is straightforward via transfers from flights into Chambéry Savoie Mont-Blanc, Lyon and Grenoble airports, or high-speed TGV rails services direct from Paris into nearby Saint-Jean de Maurienne.
Here’s my full resort review: https://www.mountainpassions.com/winter/ski-resort-reviews/alps/ski-la-toussuire/
I’ve no idea why the Espace Diamant, which unites the ski areas of the Val d’Arly and Hauteluce, remains one of the best-kept secrets in the French Alps. Thanks to the nearby presence of Mont Blanc it has a great snow record, and it’s one of the very few places where it’s possible to ski a satisfying full circuit. Along the way there’s a wealth of varied terrain, which passes through some pretty spectacular scenery.
Les Saisies is the largest of the villages, a year-round living and working mountain community, with a welcoming traditional appearance. But if you want something smaller and even more relaxed then you’ll love neighbouring Crest Voland. They’re both located between Megève and the Beaufortain valley, so enjoy quick transfers from flights into Chambéry Savoie Mont-Blanc and Geneva airports, plus a shuttle connection from Albertville’s TGV high-speed rail services from Paris.
Here’s my full resort review: https://www.mountainpassions.com/winter/ski-resort-reviews/alps/ski-les-saisies/
Sited just south of Lac Léman (a.k.a. Lake Geneva), Les Gets is a mere 15min drive from the A40 motorway exit at Cluses (which has high-speed rail links from Paris) or around an hour’s transfer from Geneva airport, so it’s among the quickest and least-stressful ski resorts to reach. It’s also one of a dozen villages in both France and Switzerland which together produce the vast Portes du Soleil ski area. For distance-freaks, the attraction is near-limitless skiing on some 600 km of slopes amid fantastic scenery. Others, of course, just take it easy and enjoy the local terrain, set on both sides of the village.
Given such a wide choice of villages in which to stay, why go for Les Gets? Well, in many ways it’s a tough choice between here and Châtel (another firm favourite of mine, whose ‘Petit Châtel’ sector is great for relaxed, cross-border skiing) but ease of access, combined with a charming, traditional Alpine feel to the village and some superb hotel accommodation just edge it.
Here’s my full resort review: https://www.mountainpassions.com/winter/ski-resort-reviews/alps/ski-les-gets/
The name isn’t exactly stick-in-the-mind snappy, but bear with me on this one. Think of Saint-François Longchamp as the sunnier and more reasonably-priced sidekick of neighbouring Valmorel. Their combined terrain, known as ‘Le Grand Domaine’ sits on the either side of the Col de la Madeleine (a familiar name to Tour de France followers), which finds Saint-François in the Maurienne, while Valmorel is in the Tarentaise.
Things are always more relaxed in the sun, and sure enough, Saint-François feels friendlier, more down-to-earth and its lift system has the edge, too. Oh, and there’s plenty of varied skiing, with the emphasis on wide, blue-graded cruising. Getting there is pretty straightforward, too – it’s readily accessible by road from Albertville and Grenoble, with flight transfers from Chambéry Savoie Mont-Blanc (nearest) or Grenoble airports.
Here’s my full resort review: https://www.mountainpassions.com/winter/ski-resort-reviews/alps/ski-saint-francois-longchamp/