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TOURISM

From high altitude to family friendly: 15 of the best French ski resorts

Home to thousands of kilometres of slopes, France has options for all types of ski holiday - whether you want a family-friendly resort, one with great nightlife, the best slopes or a place with some options for non-skiers, here's a look at the best places to go.

From high altitude to family friendly: 15 of the best French ski resorts
Skiers sit in a chairlift at the Val Thorens French resort on its 2022 opening day. (Photo by JEFF PACHOUD / AFP)

France is home to more than 250 ski resorts and 10,000 kilometres of slopes, so there really is something for everyone – from expert to beginner, family-friendly resorts to party towns.

The French ski regions

The most popular ski destination is the Alps, located in southern France. This mountain range stretches for hundreds of kilometres, culminating in the summit of Mont Blanc, the tallest mountain in western Europe. From the northern alps in Savloie to the famous Trois Vallées, it is home to 600km of runs. 

You might also consider the Pyrenees mountains, located on the border with Spain. The ski resorts in the Pyrenees are known for being more modern, and they are typically less expensive than those in the Alps. 

There’s also the Vosges mountain range, the Massif Central, or the Jura mountains. The Vosges are located in north-east of France, between Alsace and Lorraine. While lower in altitude than the Alps or the Pyrenees, the Vosges have lots to offer, including many runs for cross-country skiers.

The Massif Central are the largest stretch of volcanoes in Europe and remain largely unknown to non-French skiers. The highest peak in the Massif Central is Puy-de-Sancy at 1,885 metres in height. As for the Jura mountains, altitudes go up to 1,720 metres, with several ski resorts for those looking to enjoy a winter vacation right next to Switzerland. 

Keep in mind that warming temperatures have led to some later start times for French ski resorts and even some closures, particularly among those at lower altitude. If you are booking a trip early in the ski season, be sure to do your research on the elevation and expected snowfall ahead of time.

Best options for families

When looking for a family-friendly ski resort, you can always check to see if the resort in question has the label “Famille Plus” meaning it has taken certain steps to ensure that family-friendly options and activities are available for people of all ages.

Avoriaz – Home to three “beginner zones” and 37 green runs, there are plenty of options for new skiers. Children under the age of five ski for free, and the child ski-pass rate applies up to 15 years old, rather than 12 years old which is the limit at many other resorts. The resort also offers English language ski lessons, and is home to a children’s village at the centre of the resort. 

Les Ménuires – Located in the Trois Vallées, the ski resort “Les Ménuires” has held the “Family Plus” label for several years. From snow mazes to sledding, there are plenty of non-ski activities for children to enjoy. The resort also offers childcare for children from three months and older, and chairlifts are equipped with special safety systems (gard-corps). 

Le Grand-Bornand – located in Haute-Savoie in the Alps, the ski area offers day-care centres and ski schools. It has also received a “Green Resort” label for offering a wide selection of environmentally friendly activities. 

Les Karellis – This small ski resort is located in Savoie, and is a great way to avoid the crowds you might find at other more well-known resorts. Also holding the “Family Plus” label, there are children’s ‘clubs’ – a baby club for infants and toddlers, the children’s club (ages three to 11), and the teenager’s club from 12 to 17 years old. Childcare is also available at certain villages in the resort, like Arc en Ciel and Carlines.

Best for high altitude

If your party is made up of experienced skiers and/or snowboarders, then you probably want to head to the high-altitude resorts for the best snow. The other benefit is that these resorts are more likely to have runs open, even if there is a warm spell.

Val Thorens – the highest ski resort in France, and one of the highest in all of Europe. The resort itself is huge, with over 600 kilometres of trails. Much of the ski area is between 2,000 to 3,200 metres in altitude and it can generally guarantee snow from November to May.

Tignes – this ski area is located in Haute-Savoie, with altitudes above 2,000 metres, Tignes has some of the highest skiing in the world, with over 300 km of runs. The ski area is also connected by lift links to another well known resort – Val d’Isere. It also boasts several off-piste options too, as well as ice diving and paragliding on skis for those looking for an extra burst of adrenaline. 

Val d’Isère – with the village sitting at 1,850 metres, the highest ski lift goes up to 3,456 metres. Known for off-piste skiing, the area links eight resorts and 600 kilometers of runs, from valleys to glaciers. Val d’Isere is known for being a luxury ski resort (daily passes average at €63 for adults) with a long season.

Most affordable

While the high-altitude resorts listed above tend to be more expensive, there are several choices for those looking to enjoy winter sports in France on a budget.

Aussois – Ranked as one of the most affordable ski resorts in France, Aussois is located in Savoie and offers over 50km of slopes. The average price per day was €34.50, with accommodation coming out to approximately €400 per week to share a four-person apartment. 

Chamrousse – This resort is located in Isère and it is known for being one of the ski stations of the 1968 Olympic Games. The budget friendly resort offers 90 km of slopes, with daily passes averaging at €36 per day.

Cauterets – Found in the Hautes-Pyrénées, this resort is ideal for those looking for both a resort and a spa. It also offers proximity to nature, being right on the edge of the Pyrenees National Park. Daily ski passes start at €34.85 the day.

Most nightlife

Once the skiing ends there is the après-ski, and there is quite a wide variation in the type of nightlife on offer in French resorts.

Tignes – the Tignes resort, already listed above as one of the top high-altitude resorts in France, is also known for throwing an unmissable New Year’s Eve party each year, and it is home to many bars and nightclubs. The ski area comprises of five villages, so visitors have plenty of après-ski options.

Les 2 Alpes – Known for having a young and festive reputation, this ski resort located in Isère is well-known for its soirées. One of its popular bar/ clubs offering DJ sets and live music is the Pano Bar, located at 2,600 metres in altitude.

Méribel – Also known for its après-ski scene, the Méribel ski resort is popular amongst French people and foreigners alike. Some popular destinations for your night out on the slopes are La Folie Douce, the Le Rond Point, and Doron Pub. The ski area itself is offers plenty of green runs, so it is a good place for beginners, but it is also well-connected to other resorts in the Trois Vallées, like Val Thorens which offer more advanced slopes.

Best for groups with non-skiers

If you are heading off with some non-skiers in the mix, it is important to find resorts that offer other activities besides skiing and snowboarding.

La Clusaz – Located in Haute-Savoie, this resort is known for offering many restaurants, bars, and stores. It is also under an hour away from the Geneva international airport, so it is not too difficult for the non-skiers to get away for a day if they need a break from the mountains. The resort is also home to a warm, outdoor swimming pool. 

Les Arcs – This resort, located in Savoie, is known for having many non-ski related activities. From an ice rink, sledding, yoga classes, an ice village, and aquatic centre with saunas, hammams, and jacuzzis, there are plenty of non-winter sports options for the non-skiing members of your group.

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PARIS

Eiffel Tower to reopen Sunday as strike ends

France's Eiffel Tower that had been closed for five days by a strike will reopen Sunday after the monument's management announced a deal had been struck with unions.

Eiffel Tower to reopen Sunday as strike ends

The stoppage since Monday at one of the world’s best-known tourist sites was the second within two months in protest at what unions say was insufficient investment.

The tower’s operator SETE said it had reached agreement with the unions on Saturday “under which the parties will regularly monitor the company’s business model, investment in works and revenue through a body that will meet every six months”.

With an aim to balance its books by 2025, both sides also agreed to see an investment of some 380 million euros up to 2031 toward works and maintenance of the tower, the statement said.

SETE extended apologies to visitors caught in the strike action, which resulted in the loss of some 100,000 admissions.

The Eiffel Tower booked a shortfall of around 120 million euros ($130 million) during the Covid pandemic in 2020 and 2021.

SETE has since received a recapitalisation of 60 million euros, which unions say is insufficient given that major maintenance work is needed, including a fresh paint job.

Visitor numbers dropped sharply during Covid due to closures and travel restrictions, but recovered to 5.9 million in 2022 and 6.3 million last year.

The masterpiece by architect Gustave Eiffel has been repainted 19 times since it was built for the 1889 World Fair.

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