Skiing In France
Ski resorts in France offer some of the best skiing there is in the world in terms of terrain, resort size, tourism and snow reliability. Although you may certainly find countries around the world such as Canada or Japan that offer more snow and better powder, they also have their drawbacks compared to France and other European countries.
Is Skiing in France Good?
France is one of the most well known and popular places to ski not only in Europe, but also in the world. Offering some of the top resorts in the world such as the world-renowned Chamonix or Val d’Isere, there is plenty of top quality skiing to choose from. Each country in Europe has their advantages and disadvantages when it comes to the skiing they offer, and what to look for on a holiday here. France is no exception to this. I will explore some of what you can expect from a ski holiday in France below, and how it compares to resort in other countries around the world.
Altitude of ski resorts in France
The first thing you will notice about skiing in France, or certainly skiing in some of the top resorts in France, is the altitude of the resorts compared to a lot of other ski resorts around the world. You will find yourself far above the tree line, and seemingly far out into the wilderness. All you will be able to see are the snow covered mountains in all directions. This is after all what you are here for! The ski resorts in France tend to be at a much higher altitude on average compared to other countries in Europe such as Austria or Switzerland. At this altitude obviously you can expect more snow, and generally speaking more powder days – in skiing lingo, a powder day is considered to be when there is a significant dump of snow (>15 cm of snow in one day) meaning the possibilities for off-piste skiing are endless! The other advantage of higher altitude is that it is colder and therefore the snow quality is better and not ‘wet’ which you tend to find towards the bottom of resorts where the temperature gets closer to zero degrees and the snow starts to melt. Altitude is not the only factor to consider when it comes to snow quality, but it certainly contributes.
For me the one downside of having high altitude resorts, is that the skiing can get a bit repetitive, with every run looking identical, and there not being much variation in the runs, due to most of the runs being above the treeline. Compare this with some resorts in Austria - which are not as high an altitude, though still high enough for guaranteed snowfall, where you have the chance to do plenty of tree skiing, which if nothing else adds a bit of variety, and in my opinion makes for more beautiful scenery.
Snow depth for ski resorts in France
As mentioned above, due to the French Alps being at a higher altitude than other European ski resorts generally speaking (obviously there are many resorts across Europe with equally as high resorts), France tends to get on average more snow each season that its other European counterparts. Many of Frances top resorts have most of their ski runs above the 2000m mark, which is only good news as far as being snow-sure is concerned. Les Duex Alpes goes all the way up to 3548m at its peak, enabling you to ski on a glacier year-round!
I am by no means saying there aren't resorts in France which have much lower in altitude and wont be guaranteed the snow, but this is where it comes to picking your ski holidays wisely, and weighing up all of your options. Meribel for example, is a ski resort in France very popular ski destination, particularly with British families. This resort is situated at an altitude of 1450m, obviously a lot lower down than some of the other resorts such as Val Thorens at an altitude of 2200m, or La Plange in which most of the ski runs are higher than 1900m altitude. Granted that the altitude of Meribel is certainly high enough to get snow, but there is always a gamble when it comes to booking a ski holiday, and being sure you will be getting snow should be fairly high up on the agenda. If the winter is going through a dry spell of snowfall (which does happen) that extra 500m or so of altitude can make all the difference...
Snow quality for ski resorts in France
The snow quality for a ski resort varies greatly depending on the altitude of the resort, as well as how close it is to the coastline. The higher up the resort, the better quality snow you are going to get, and the further inland, away from the sea the resort is, the better quality and ‘drier’ the snow is going to be. In France, the Alps are on the other side of the country to the coastline and therefore far enough away that it will be unaffected by the sea. As with the quantity of snow being affected by a resorts altitude, so will the quality of the snow, due to it being wetter and slushier. The undisputed best type of snow is dry, powdery snow. The best example of this is found in Canada.
Is skiing in France expensive?
Compared to skiing elsewhere in Europe, the price of skiing in France is extortionate. Everything from the lift pass to accommodation to food and drink is far more expensive than the likes of Austria or Italy. Switzerland is the other expensive country to go skiing in Europe. To take Chamonix as an example for a French resort, you can expect to pay up to €10 for a pint of beer in the mountains.
All in all, France offers fantastic skiing, with a huge variety of different resorts, some catering excellently for families, other suited more for a party scene, and lots of the resorts with spectacular scenery. Though France is generally quite an expensive place to ski, it certainly delivers on snow quality and quantity.