France offers skiers and snowboarders more options than any other country in the world and so it is no surprise that the French Alps still attract more people than anywhere else as a winter ski destination.
Nonetheless, exorbitant prices continue to test the resolve of even the most ardent ski fanatics. Make no mistake, these are the ski resorts of the privileged and we are going to look at three of the finest among them.
The perennial luxury ski resort of the Alps. Courchevel has more luxury hotels than any other French city outside of Paris, as well as ski-in/ski-out chalets, countless Michelin stars, a ‘Pamper off Piste’ massage and beauty treatment and private Courchevel helicopter charter services.
Courchevel is an altogether impressive resort. The four resorts of the Trois Vallées combine to make the world’s largest lift-linked ski area with 600km of pistes and over 170 lifts. Courchevel is the largest resort of the Trois Vallées and also happens to enjoy some of the world’s finest skiing conditions from beginner to expert.
Courchevel also attracts visitors from across the Savoie region who gather to witness the Ski Mountaineering World Cup and BMW Polo Masters in January and the International Fireworks Festival the following month. In the evening, crowds flock down to the Méribel valley to experience live bands and DJs at the Folie Douce and more serene bars withstunning Alpine views and excellent wine caves.
Chamonix’s transition from mountaineering resort to international ski destination is extraordinary. The scars of this tempestuous history remain. The landscape is rugged, the off-piste slopes are perilous and the glaciers loom high.
Chamonix isn’t all rough mountaineering and rocky terrain however. The slopes here are generally wider than those elsewhere, a rare virtue in ski resorts. Its unique heritage also means excellent off-piste skiing and high popularity among more advanced skiiers.
Don’t let that discourage you from Chamonix however. It is one of the world’s most diverse ski resorts and Europe’s most unique landscape, with slopes for every level. Ski lifts rise up to 3,842m high and treacherous glacier slopes measure up to 20km long. This is the home of “le grand ski” and the first ever Winter Olympics.
For a slightly different alpine experience, Auron is an interesting winter destination option. Used primarily as a weekend ski resort that serves all the largest towns of the French Riviera, Auron offers a diverse and cultured holiday opportunity. With the nearest airport a mere 80km away, you can explore the ski resort of Auron by day and use a helicopter charter from Nice to navigate the beautiful towns of the Cote d’Azur by night.
Traditionally the most southerly French Alps are unfavourably regarded by most ski enthusiasts. However Auron may be an exception. The resort has more than 130kms of pistes for all levels of skier and has direct access to 40 pistes, served by 24 ski lifts. With most of the slopes above 2000 metres, Auron also enjoys formidable snow falls. A snowboard park with half pipe and myriad steep slopes prime for carving, tell the story of a very diverse ski resort.
That same day, you can return to the Mediterranean to enjoy seafood dishes and the comfort of a luxury hotel in Nice, Cannes or Monaco. This is a truly extraordinary alpine resort and a unique winter destination.