never felt the thrill of skiing down a mountain that’s been blanketed in fresh
snow, I’m here to tell you that you’re missing out on one of life’s great joys.
In truth, the perfect winter vacation should include a number of key elements; time on the slopes being just one. However, in my mind, a skiing escape in France ticks all the boxes; and not just because you can soak in countless scenic vistas with a G&T in hand.
One of the advantages of booking a winter escape in the French Alps is the breadth of the season; from November to early April snow days are the norm. Of course, the weather is never guaranteed which is why booking last minute can be beneficial.
November & December: Celebrating the festive season on the
slopes is idyllic, but it comes at a cost. Chalet rental prices rise,
particularly in late December, and visitor numbers peak. Book six to nine
months in advance to secure early bird discounts if you’re planning to travel during
January & February: My personal favourite, mid to late January tends
to offer guaranteed powder dumps, endless blue skies and fewer people on the
slopes. Having said that the first and second weeks of the year are often
overlooked in favour of new year’s resolutions and returning to work, and you
can bag a cheap deal at this time. The snow is generally better in January
before the school holidays start. It gets busy in February half term: the
French holidays take place just after the UK school holidays.
March & April: Toward the end of the season there’s more
chance that you could wind up with shrinking amounts of snow, however for the
weather is more settled and warmer with longer days to enjoy all that lovely
mountain air. You can also take in one of the region’s best live music events, Rock the Pistes.
READ MORE WINTER TRAVEL GUIDES FROM WANDERLUSTERS
Megève? Chamonix? Courchevel? Here’s where to stay during your French Alps ski trip
One of France’s most historic ski areas, Megève is centred around a medieval square that connects a network of cobblestone streets which date back to the 13th century. While its slopes sit at a lower elevation to most in France (the base area is at around 3,000 feet), offering tree-lined runs that are ideal for beginner and intermediate level skiers.
It is also part of the Evasion Mont Blanc ski area system which offers close to 300 miles of trails to explore in neighbouring Saint Gervais.
If you’re competent on the slopes and enjoy all kinds of
conditions both on-piste and in the bar afterwards, head to Chamonix.
Alpine peaks loom large on the horizon everywhere you look in Chamonix where cable cars launch visitors to heady heights on the Mont Blanc massif. Skiers and boarders have a choice of pistes in La Vallée Blanche, the world’s longest ski run, not to mention rows of white off-piste options between Grands Montets and Aiguille du Midi.
One the most lavish resorts in Europe, it boasts designer shops such as Cartier, Vuitton, and Prada and at least three Michelin star restaurants, Courcheval is characterised by champagne cocktails and chic ski wear.
Having said that, it is part of Les Trois Vallées, the largest connected system of ski areas in the world, and so the skiing and snowboarding opportunities are endless. The resort itself is incredibly scenic and the lift pass price relatively affordable.
The French Alps are served by two main airports, Grenoble and Geneva, however travellers from the UK can also connect to their resort via Lyon Saint-Exupéry Airport.
Although not geographically closer, Lyon doesn’t usually suffer from congested roads between it and the resorts meaning transfers are quicker and less stress-inducing than its better-known counterparts.
It’s easy for UK travellers to reach the French ski resorts of Les Arcs, Courchevel, Méribel and Val d’Isère by the special Eurostar ski train which runs from London St Pancras station on Saturdays between December-April and direct on Friday evenings from January-April.
To be honest, I wouldn’t recommend driving to the French Alps unless you well versed with navigating in winter weather. Road conditions can turn quickly and the stress of being at the wheel for hours on end will take away from the relaxing experience of your snow-filled escape.