Most skiers want lots and lots of lift-linked pistes with good snow, and France answers this wish better than any other country. The 3 Vallées (Courchevel, Méribel, Val Thorens, Les Menuires and St Martin de Belleville) is the largest lift-linked ski area in the world, and some believe it is bigger than all the ski resorts of Colorado put together. But Espace Killy (Val d’Isere and Tignes), Paradiski (Les Arcs and La Plagne), Portes du Soleil (Avoriaz, Morzine, Les Gets, Chatel etc), the Grand Massif (Flaine, Samoens etc), Evasion Mont Blanc (Megeve, Saint Gervais etc), Grand Domain Alpe d’Huez, Serre Chevalier and the Franco-Italian Via Lattea are all big areas by any standards.
Nor are French ski areas only sizeable in two dimensions. Les Deux Alpes has pistes at 3600m above sea level. You can ski continuous 2000m (6700 ft) verticals on piste here and at Les Arcs, La Plagne and Alpe d’Huez. Freeriders and off-piste skiers can make even larger descents, most notably at Chamonix and La Grave.
So size definitely matters in France. But it’s not everything. True, there are some high-altitude French purpose-built ski resorts like Les Menuires Flaine and Tignes that unashamedly prioritised good snow and ski-in, ski out convenience over aesthetics, but even they have now been reclad and smartened up. And there are others that predate winter sports such as the venerable spa town of Saint Gervais. The historic centre of Val d’Isere with its ancient church has also been preserved, although it was a close-run thing. Samoens is even older and is officially listed as a ‘Monument Histrorique’. And whilst La Tania and La Rosiere are modern purpose-built ski resorts, they are both attractive places in which to stay. France can also do genuine ‘rustic charm’ like La Clusaz; ‘austere mountain charm’ like Val Cenis; and ‘luxury charm’ like Megeve. And even within the famous ‘high and huge’ ski areas are a few low-lying rural outposts, such as Villard Reculas (linked to Alpe d’Huez), Champagny en Vanoise (linked to La Plagne), Villaroger (linked to Les Arcs) and Venosc (linked to Les Deux Alpes).
Below are our guides to the very best ski resorts in France.