With the ski lifts shut down across the French Alps since December, many of us sorely missed our annual pilgrimage to the slopes. We missed carving the first tracks on pristine slopes, sipping vin chaud on a balcony as the sun set behind the mountains, and cuddling up around a fireplace as the falling flakes outside cocooned us in our own little snow globe.
If you don’t want to miss two seasons in a row, you best get in quickly! Bookings for the 2021/22 season are already open, so now’s the time to plan your next alpine getaway to one of these magical French ski resorts.
The most glamorous resort in the vast Three Valleys ski area, Courchevel 1850 is the place to see and be seen. The resort centre is filled with upmarket stores, trendy bars and nightclubs, and Michelin-starred gourmet restaurants.
The pistes are always perfectly groomed and - as most slopes are North-facing - Courchevel is one of the most snow-sure resorts in the Three Valleys. It’s perfect for intermediate and advanced riders, though there are also plenty of blue runs for nervous first-timers and even a children’s village for the littlest snow bunnies.
With its high altitude, Courchevel’s ski season runs until late April, so there’s plenty of time to hit the slopes… or the stores!
In the heart of The Three Valleys ski area, Meribel is easily the prettiest of the area’s resorts. With traditional wooden chalets in the village and dotted along the pistes, the resort oozes Alpine charm.
There are runs to suit all abilities and two snow parks for more adventurous riders. The descent from the resort’s highest point is known as one of the most scenic in the French Alps, offering panoramic views of the Gébrolaz glacier and Grand Casse.
Meribel’s village centre offers excellent shopping from ski shops to high-end clothing and interior design stores. Twice-weekly there is a charming street market offering fresh produce including locally-made Savoyard cheese. Aprés ski is quite lively, with plenty of bars and pubs for visitors to enjoy a drink or three in before heading back to their cosy chalet.
Originally a small alpine farming village, Val d’Isère has continued to develop into a modern alpine resort whilst maintaining its village feel. Combined with neighbouring resort Tignes, it creates the Espace Killy ski region, one of the largest ski areas in the French Alps, offering runs for every level of rider.
Those looking for a good time both on and off the slopes need look no further than Val d’Isère. From musicians on the rooftop at the on-piste La Folie Douce to late-night dancing at A-lister favourite Dick’s Tea Bar, visitors are not short of a place to let their hair down after a day on the slopes.
The ski season runs from November to late April/early May, making it one of the most snow-sure resorts in Europe.
Unlike the purpose-built resorts, Chamonix is a bustling alpine town with 9000 year-round permanent residents. Situated at the base of the imposing Mont Blanc, the town comprises Victorian and Belle Epoque architecture mixed with traditional and contemporary ski chalets.
Chamonix has five separate ski areas on four different mountains, each with varying terrain and all an easy drive from the town centre. Although there is something for everyone, the resort is best suited for intermediate to advanced riders. Those not keen on skiing the epic 2+ hour run from the top of the mountains should still head up the Aiguille du Midi cable car purely for the panoramic views of Mont Blanc and Chamonix town.
The town’s car-free centre offers a pretty place to stroll and explore local stores, exclusive boutiques, and pleasant cafes overhanging the River Arve. There’s also plenty of après ski bars and several Michelin-starred restaurants to enjoy.
Megève has retained a perfect blend of small-town charm and sophisticated ambiance. It is home to a host of Michelin-starred restaurants and luxurious mountain spas, as well as one of France’s oldest jazz clubs outside of Paris.
The pretty village is centred around a medieval church and the cobbled, traffic-free square features designer boutiques and galleries, an open-air ice rink, and horse-drawn carriages a-plenty.
The extensive ski area is ideal for beginners and intermediates with cruisy tree-lined pistes, though more advanced riders will still find enough to tackle on and off-piste before stopping by one of the many mountain restaurants for lunch.