The best French, Swiss and Italian ski resorts near Geneva Airport
If traffic’s light and road conditions are good, you can be on your skis within an hour of leaving Geneva Airport. But which of the nearby ski resorts is best for families, for high snowsure pistes, for beginners, for off-piste skiing, or for a romantic weekend? And if you have a mixed group who all want different things, which is the best all-round resort?
Photogaph of skiing in the Portes du Soleil, the largest ski area close to Geneva. © JF-Vuarand / Châtel Tourisme
Below is our pick of the best ski resorts within easy reach of Geneva for each of these categories. We have included estimated transfer times to and from Geneva airport, but these are based on normal road and traffic conditions. At peak times, or in bad weather, you should allow more time. Or better still, use a specialist ski transfer company because they know what they are doing and have vehicles equipped for driving on mountain roads in wintry conditions, with plenty of room for skis, snowboards and the rest of your luggage. There is a list of good transfer companies at the end of this article.
Best Ski Resort near Geneva for Families: Avoriaz
Approximate drive time from Geneva Airport: 1 hour, 35 mins
Avoriaz is family-friendly right from the moment you arrive, which is normally by cable car from Morzine after a short transfer, followed by a short ride in a horse drawn sleigh, which should get even the most cynical child excited by the holiday that is just about to start. The resort is compact and ski-in, ski-out so no need for long walks to the lifts, pistes or shops. The childcare facilities are among the best in France and there is an excellent choice of child-friendly ski schools. The resort is high enough (1800m) and snowy enough that your children should be able to ski on and play in real snow, but Azoriaz is not so high that it’s likely to be unpleasantly cold for small children. Lastly and most importantly there is a lot of good skiing for every standard here, not just locally, but in the wider Portes du Soleil ski area, which Avoriaz is in the middle of.
Best Ski Resort near Geneva for high snowsure pistes: Nendaz
Approximate drive time from Geneva Airport: 1 hour, 45 mins
Nendaz is lift-linked to Verbier and together with six other villages they form the high and huge 4 Valleys (“4 Vallees”) ski area with over 80 lifts and over 400kms of runs. But Nendaz has three advantages over its more famous neighbour. Firstly Nendaz is quicker to reach: it’s less than 2 hours by car from Geneva airport, although if you want a really easy transfer you should fly to Sion Airport, because that’s about a 15 minute taxi ride away from the resort; secondly Nendaz is more North-facing, and therefore despite being 140m lower, its resort-level runs usually have better snow; and thirdly it’s not as expensive, especially if you want accommodation close to the lifts. But whether you opt for Verbier or Nendaz, you will always get access to the high snowsure slopes of Mont Fort (3330m), Mont Gele (3025m), Col des Gentianes (2950m), Greppon Blanc (2700m) and Les Attelas (2730m).
Best ski resort near Geneva for beginners: Flaine
Approximate drive time from Geneva Airport: 1 hour, 15 mins
Flaine has everything beginners need: free nursery slopes close to the accommodation with reliable snow; some nice easy runs for beginners to progress onto covered by a special discounted ski pass; and an excellent choice of English-speaking ski schools for beginners of all ages. And it’s also important that Flaine is not just a beginners resort, because novices often make up only part of a group, and they don’t want to feel that they are constraining the skiing of the others – and on that count, they won’t have any worries because Flaine is part of a large ski area (le Grand Massif) with plenty of high class skiing for intermediates and advanced skiers as well. There are hardly any chalets in Flaine and the centre of the resort is rather ugly, so if these are deal breakers, you should try Flaine’s lift-linked satellite resort of Les Carroz which is lower down the mountain but is easier on the eye and is full of chalets. It’s also one of the very quickest transfers from Geneva of any resort – about 50 minutes.
Best ski resort near Geneva for off-piste: Chamonix
Approximate drive time from Geneva Airport: 1 hour, 10 mins
There are plenty of reasons to grumble about Chamonix: the ski areas are fragmented and only connected by buses and trains; the standard Chamonix Valley lift pass does not cover the highest lifts or the best tree skiing; and even if you buy the most expensive pass lift (the MBU), you still you have to book ahead if you want to ride the highest lifts. But these are just minor irritations to true off-piste enthusiasts who know Chamonix is the freeriding centre of Europe, because nowhere else has the same combination of high lifts, large snowfalls and steep sided mountains; and nowhere else has so many guides to help you explore them.
Best ski resort near Geneva for a romantic weekend: Megeve
Approximate drive time from Geneva: 1 hour, 15 mins
Megeve tugs on all the heart strings, particularly after a dusting of snow: cobbled streets; horse drawn sleighs; an old church; a medieval car-free centre with upmarket shops selling antiques, jewellery, fine foods and fashionable clothes; the best mountain restaurants in all of France; and hotels that range from the super luxurious to smaller, cosier family-run establishments. And then of course there is the skiing. Megeve’s vast Evasion Mont Blanc ski domain is shared with St Gervais, Saint Nicolas, Les Contamines and Comboloux (which all make pretty good romantic boltholes too) and with its tree-lined slopes is almost as pretty as Megeve itself. It’s probably too low-lying and short of tough pistes to keep an expert busy for a full week, but for a weekend it’s perfect, whatever your skiing standard.
Best all-round ski resort near to Geneva: Morzine
Approximate drive time from Geneva Airport: 1 hour 25 mins
Nominating Morzine as the best all-round ski resort within easy reach of Geneva might be contentious as it’s not really a ski resort at all: it’s an attractive small town in the mountains which just happens to have access to great skiing, both on the local slopes it shares with Les Gets, and in the wider Portes du Soleil ski area, which stretches across to Avoriaz, Chatel, Champery and lots of other smaller resorts. There really is something for everyone here, including non-skiers, family skiers, advanced skiers, keen skiers, party skiers (it has one of the liveliest apres-ski scenes in France) and even skiers on a tight budget.
Recommended Transfer Companies
Here are some recommended transfer companies that operate out of Geneva Airport, with the principle destinations they cover (in alphabetical order).
AlpyBus: Avoriaz, Courchevel, Flaine, St Martin de Belleville, Les Menuires, Val Thorens, Verbier,
ChamExpress: Chamonix, St Gervais
GVA Transfers: 3 Valleys (all villages), 4 Valleys (all villages), Les Arcs (all villages), Avoriaz, les Carroz, Chatel, la Clusaz, Nendaz, La Plagne (all villages), Samoens, Tignes, Val d’Isere, la Thuile, Tignes, Zermatt,
MegevExpress: Megeve, St Gervais
Mountain Rescue Transfers: 3 Valleys (all villages), Les Arcs (all villages), La Plagne (all villages), Tignes, Val d’Isere
MorzExpress: Avoriaz, Les Gets, Morzine
Author: William Micklethwait