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Where to find best skiing in France

France has such a wide choice of ski destinations that it is hard not to become spoilt for choice

EARLY reports from the ski slopes have been glorious this year, with plenty of snow and sun to cheer those who took a chance during the Toussaint holidays.

France has modern, high-altitude resorts in the world’s largest ski area, with tens of thousands of acres of ground. Après-ski is not forgotten and Trois Vallées skiers can dine in a Michelin-starred restaurant every day, with Courchevel accounting for seven establishments and 10 stars.

But to ski, you need snow and that is a problem for many people booking holidays from outside France as they must guess on when and where the best snow will be. That’s not the case for Connexion readers in France.

Certain areas are known for being good prospects. While Méribel is hard hit by the sun, that’s not the case at neighbouring Courchevel, as its slopes avoid the afternoon sun.

Nearby Les Arcs also has north-facing slopes at Arc 1600 and Arc 2000, while Val d’Isère and Tignes benefit from the Espace Killy that has snow even in summer. However, Europe’s highest resort, at Val Thorens, is a better late-season bet.

Here is our guide to the slopes, with information provided by ATOUT FRANCE, the France Tourism Development Agency.

Alpe d’Huez
For: Novices

A picturesque site below the Grandes Rousses Massif has been boosted by the villages keeping their traditional charm. Alpe d’Huez has 131 runs for all levels, including 16 black expert runs and 41 green beginner runs. Children have the Kids’ Island with varied activities, including ski schools and dog sleigh rides, while adults can try speed riding, a combination of paragliding and skiing.
www.alpedhuez.com

Les Deux Alpes

Along with Alpe d’Huez, Les Deux Alpes makes up the Grandes Alpes domain, with 475km of runs. A six-day lift pass is good for both areas, although they are not linked. There is skiing all year on the 3,600m glacier, but the resort is “upside-down”, as the high glacier runs are easier than the steeper lower slopes. Carrying the Family Plus Mountain label, it has a Snowman crèche for children from six months; instruction starts at the age of three.
www.les2alpes.com

Les Arcs
For: Intermediate

ULTRA-modern and with fabulously varied ski, Les Arcs is part of the huge Paradiski Area along with La Plagne and Peisey-Vallandry and has a wide range of packages for all different pockets, especially the young market.
www.lesarcs.com

La Clusaz
Professionals love this resort: it has hosted 18 World Cups and three World Championships, yet it has also been recognised for its services for children, with the Petits Montagnards and Family Plus Mountain labels. It has five massifs to ski for all levels. It hosts the Cross-Country Skiing World Cup on December 18-19.
www.laclusaz.com

Courchevel
For: Experts
Part of Les Trois Vallées, Courchevel has the Family Plus Mountain label. It guarantees services to families and with 900 instructors caters for children, beginners and experts. It was the first to fit chair lifts with the Magnestick system so children in a magnetic jacket are “attached” to the chair lifts during the ascent. It also protects their backs while skiing.
www.courchevel.com

Chamonix
Offering access to Europe’s highest mountain, Mont Blanc, and the Vallée Blanche with its 22km descent, Chamonix is the oldest resort in France and has slopes for all levels. Its main slopes offer different experiences: Brévent/Flégère, is south-facing with exceptional views of the Mont Blanc chain, Grands Montets has high north-facing slopes and Balme is wide and open.
www.chamonix.com

Les Gets
For: Families
Part of the Franco-Swiss Portes du Soleil, there are 12 linked resorts and 650km of slopes for all skiing levels. This year, it has reserved slopes for adult beginners and has the Mappys’ Area, where children are protected from faster skiers.
www.lesgets.com

Grand-Bornand
For: Families
This family-friendly resort has 90km of slopes and a village with a warm atmosphere. A shuttle takes you to neighbouring resorts like La Clusaz. Smart Ski Passes let you start your day any time to ski for four hours.
www.legrandbornand.com

Isola 2000
Enjoy the sea view from what is regularly France’s most snow-covered resort. It has 120km of slopes including 43 runs: four black, 11 red, 21 blue and seven green. It also has a halfpipe, handrails and a Snowpark with sound system at 2,300m.
www.isola2000.com

Megève
Wearing the Best of the Alps and Family Plus Mountain labels, Megève offer high-quality tourism while still giving families pride of place. It also uses Magnestick to keep children safe on the chairlift.
This year, it will have a Swarovski- decorated Christmas tree, adorned with the jeweller’s crystal stars and silver decorations.
www.megeve.com

Les Menuires
In the heart of Les Trois Vallées, Les Menuires has the Family Plus Mountain label and also offers a “Snow Guarantee: Satisfied or Reimbursed”, whereby visitors can have their ski pass and accommodation refunded if fewer than 80 per cent of the pistes are open.
www.lesmenuires.com/hiver

Méribel
For: Intermediate
Enjoy Les Trois Vallées to the maximum as Méribel has all the other resorts accessible on just one lift and the Ski Liberty Pass allows skiers to go wherever they like. The Mini Pass area for beginners has chair lifts equipped with Magnestick.
www.meribel.net

Montgenèvre
For: Novices
Offering one of the world’s biggest ski areas, The Milky Way, comprising 400km of slopes in France and Italy, it also recently unveiled the longest toboggan run in France. It also has the Family Plus Mountain label with 5000m² of beginners’ snow.
www.montgenevre.com

Morzine
One of the 12 Portes du Soleil resorts, it has a new six-person chair lift for rapid access to the Arbis slope, the longest piste, going from the 360° panorama over the Mont Blanc range and Lake Geneva, and down to the village centre. Christmas lasts two weeks with shows, musical parades, events and free afternoon snacks.
www.morzine-avoriaz.com

La Plagne
For: Intermediate
Although it has a wide range of slope levels for beginners and advanced skiers, La Plagne has relaunched the off-piste Le Dérochoir run as a black slope to make 17 black runs. It also has top-class freestyle areas for both beginners and advanced skiers.
www.la-plagne.com

Serre Chevalier
For: Intermediate
France’s top stand-alone resort has a high-profile foreign community, giving a strong cosmopolitan air on the slopes and for the après-ski. Another Family Plus Mountain label site, it has events for all ages organised throughout the season.
www.serre-chevalier.com

Tignes
The Grande Motte glacier has been open since September 25 and people can still be skiing next May. Free-ride skiing and snowboarding is an integral part of the culture in a resort renowned for exceptional off-piste facilities. Safety, however, is the priority within the resort.
www.tignes.net

Val d’Isère
The gateway to the Espace Killy, a great ski area with two glaciers and 300km of pistes, 60 per cent of which are above 2,200m. It includes Calm Zones for beginners and a SnowPark with progressive jump runs (green, blue, red and black). It is a Family Plus Mountain resort.
www.valdisere.com

Val Thorens
Best for: Novices
Europe’s highest resort, at 2,300m, is in Les Trois Vallées and offers Ski-in, ski-out ease of use and real village life. The free easy ski area is being made better for beginners, with two new green runs, one virtually flat for those just finding their feet on the slopes and the second Z-shaped for those making their first turns.
www.valthorens.com

Peyragudes
With 49 slopes and 60km of pistes overlooking the Louron valley, Peyragudes was the first Pyrénéan resort to start speed-riding, a mixture of skiing and paragliding at speeds of 40-80kph. It makes huge quantities of artificial snow throughout the winter.
www.peyragudes.com

St-Lary
Best for: Families
One of the most important ski centres in the Pyrénées, it has up-to-date facilities such as new lifts and snow cannons for its three ski areas of 100km of pistes. It also has seven kilometres of marked routes for snow-shoeing. St Lary is renowned for being family-friendly, and it has the Family Plus Mountain label.
www.saintlary.com

Piau-Engaly
Surrounded by 3000m summits, variety is the key here. It has the longest slope in the Pyrénées at seven kilometres, but it is accessible to all levels of skier.
www.piau-engaly.com

Grand Tourmalet
The largest of the Pyrénéan resort still retains the flavour of a mountain village. Long ski-runs are set off alongside learner slopes, freestyle and free-ride areas and the descent from the Pic du Midi. Grand Tourmalet has 39 ski lifts and 100km of pistes.
www.grand-tourmalet.com

Luz Ardiden
A young, dynamic resort with modern facilities and three ski areas that offer pretty runs, including the five-kilometre Beautiful Blue connection Luz-Ardiden, Aulian and Bederet. For those who like fresh, powdery snow, the Bernazaou has 1,250m2 to be explored.
www.luz.org

Cauterets
Best for: Novices
This spa town, with its Belle Epoque architecture and pavilions from the 1900 Great Exhibition in Paris, is classified as a historical monument. Skiing is spectacular as the panorama stretches across the Crêtes du Lys, the Vignemale, the Ardiden, the Pic du Midi and in the distance the plain of Tarbes. Thirteen ski lifts give 36km of pistes.
www.cauterets.com

Gavarnie
The cirque of Gavarnie is a Unesco world heritage site. Skiing is fantastic, as it has the aspect and the height to have great snow. At 3,000m, the skiing is the stuff of dreams with something for everybody: long blue runs, KidPark for beginners, Buzzpark with new pistes, plus a Nordic Ski and snow-shoe area. It also has Les Marmottes, the longest green slope in the Pyrenées.
www.gavarnie.com

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