While Austrian ski resorts have better nightlife, Switzerland’s have more chocolate-box charm and Italy’s more affordable mountain restaurants, nowhere can rival France’s ski resorts when it comes to sheer size of ski area. The 3 Vallées (which includes the resorts of Courchevel, La Tania, 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. 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), the Grand Domain (Alpe d’Huez, Oz, Vaujany etc), Serre Chevalier, (Le Monetier-les-Bains, Villeneuve, Chantemerle, Briançon) and the Franco-Italian Via Lattea (Montgenevre) are all big.
And the large French ski areas are not just sizeable in two dimensions. They have huge verticals too. You can ski continuous 2000m (c. 6,600 feet) vertical descents on piste or off-piste in Les Arcs, La Plagne, Les Deux Alpes, Chamonix/Argentiere and Alpe d’Huez. And off-piste meccas like Chamonix and La Grave provide almost limitless opportunities for freeriders and backcountry ski tourers, with no restricting gates or boundaries.
But skiing in France is not all about size. There are French ski resorts that predate winter sports such as the venerable spa town of Saint Gervais or the historic centre of Val d’Isere with its ancient church. Samoens is even older and is officially listed as a ‘Monument Histrorique’. And whilst La Rosiere is a modern purpose-built ski resort, it is an 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 mega ski areas are a few 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.