THE ONLY GUIDE YOU NEED TO BOOK A SKIING HOLIDAY IN THE FRENCH ALPS
What used to be a holiday reserved for the bravest and sportiest family members, is now one that’s open and loved by the whole family. If you’ve never taken the whole family to France’s most famous mountain range, booking a skiing holiday in the French Alps can seem overwhelming at first.
We’re here to help.
In the French Alps, there’s something for everyone: luxury ski chalets for those who enjoy the finer things in life, gourmet food, extreme vertical slopes, kid-friendly green slopes, and even alternatives for those who don’t fancy the slopes at all.
But if it’s your first time booking a skiing holiday in the French Alps, things may seem a little overwhelming.
How far should you book in advance?
Where can I find activities for my kids?
Is it better to hire skis or buy them?
Fret no longer. We’ve compiled the ultimate guide on how to book a skiing holiday in the French Alps.
A brief introduction to the Alps
The French Alps have tonnes of different ski resorts for all sorts of tastes. The most popular resorts are:
Chamonix: A resort that lies at the junction of France, Italy and Switzerland, this one is world-renowned for its extreme pistes (though it’s suitable for a variety of levels). It sits at the foot of the epic Mont Blanc, the tallest peak in Europe.
Morzine: Morzine is part of the Portes du Soleil area, which is the largest ski area in Europe. It’s ideal for families.
Les Gets: Also part of the Portes du Soleil area, but a tad bit higher in altitude than Morzine. Skiing in Les Gets is great for all levels.
Avoriaz: The ‘sister’ resort of Morzine, this resort is built on a shelf high above the town at an altitude of 1,800 meters. It isn’t as picturesque as its sister resort.
Megève: In the southeastern French Alps, this is a cute medieval town within the Mont Blanc massif.
Méribel: This resort covers three different villages, and is located in the Tarentaise valley in the French Alps.
Val Thorens: Val Thorens is the highest resort in Europe, at an altitude of 2,300 meters.
Val d’Isère & Tignes: Two resorts near the Italian border, these two are part of the Espace Killy ski area.
Like we mentioned, there are more resorts than this. But these will be enough to get you started on planning your skiing holiday in the French Alps.
How to Book a Ski Trip to the French Alps
The first thing you’ll need to know is the logistics of how to book a ski trip to the French Alps.
Trying to figure all of this out can be overwhelming. The information overload alone is intense: different resorts, how to rent skis, how to get there and where to even start.
Don’t worry, everyone feels the same. That’s what we’re here for.
This is the ultimate, non-scary guide to book a skiing holiday in the French Alps.
The basic logistics of booking your skiing holidays include the following:
But before you book these, of course, you’ll need to decide on a resort. This will largely depend on who is in your group: ultimate mountaineers, those looking to ski a little and relax a lot, or are you a family with kids just starting out?
If you’re going with kids, you’ll want to go with a family-friendly ski resort.
If you’re going with a mixed-ability group, find a resort with a good mix from greens to blacks. A lot of the famous resorts, like Chamonix, have something for everyone. We’ll talk more about which resorts work for whom in this guide.
After you’ve chosen your resort, your next step will be planning your transport.
How to get to the French Alps
You can get to the French Alps by plane, train, coach or car. You can use an app like Rome2Rio to find the best route for you:
Getting there by car
If you’re going by car from the UK, you just need to cross the Eurotunnel. Driving to the French Alps is a great option for people who have families or want more flexibility. You can stop when you want on the road, and you get to use the car while you’re on your ski trip if you want to go see anything else.
The Eurotunnel is a 35-minutes crossing time and has up to 4 departures/hour from Folkestone. You can book for about £30 each way, without any extra luggage charge.
Getting to the French Alps by train
Train stopped at snowy Chamonix train station in the winter
You can also get to the French Alps by train. This is the most beautiful and most eco-friendly option, but not the shortest, easiest or cheapest. Here are a few ways to get to the French Alps by train. The Alps are accessible from:
From those cities you can take the following:
Getting to Chamonix by train:
Take train to Bellegarde via TGV (book from SNCF)
Bellegarde to St Gervais via TER (local train)
St Gervais to Chamonix on the Mont Blanc Express Train
Getting to Morzine by train:
Go to Cluses via TGV (book from SNCF)
Take a local bus to Morzine
Getting to Les Gets by train:
Go to Cluses via TGV (book from SNCF)
Take a local bus to Les Gets
Also, from St. Pancreas International or Ashford International train stations you can also hop on the Eurostar Ski Train and get to the French Alps by train.
The trains take you directly to Moûtiers, Aime-la-Plagne and Bourg-St-Maurice, which are close to many French Alps ski resorts.
Getting to the French Alps by coach
Getting to the French Alps by coach is relatively easy but not quick. If you’re looking for a more eco-friendly way to get to the Alps or can’t bear the thought of flying, coach is a great option.
Companies like Flixbus will take you to Geneva or Annecy, or even directly to Chamonix. You can also take coach services from London Victoria Coach Station to Cluses in the winter, stopping at Folkestone and operated by Snow Express.
Getting to the French Alps by plane
The closest and best-connected airport to most of the French Alps resorts is Geneva. From there, you can take a train or coach to get to your resort.
Other well placed airports are Chambery, Grenoble and Lyon St Exupery.
Where to stay in the French Alps
One of the best things about a ski holiday in the French Alps is staying in a cosy and rustic-yet-modern ski chalet. You can stay right in the authentic Alpine towns of Chamonix, Les Gets and Morzine. Here are some options for chalets in prime French Alps resorts:
Ski equipment: Should I pre-book ski hire?
Best practice is to always book your ski hire in advance. The ski shop will only need your height, weight and skill level to prepare for your arrival. That way you’re sure to have what you need. You can usually pre-book from the website of the resort you’ll get your lift tickets from.
Is it cheaper to buy or hire ski equipment?
This depends on a few factors. As for most things, if you use it often, it will be cheaper to buy. If you’re only going once a year and you’re flying or taking the train to the French Alps ski resort, it will probably be easier and cheaper to hire your ski equipment.
How to buy lift passes for a ski resort
This step is relatively easy. You can either buy them online in advance (as we always recommend) or buy them at the ski resort on the day you arrive. Prices range from €26 for a day pass to €327 for an unlimited week pass.
How to plan a family ski trip in France
Not all families are alike -- some have very small children that will need accommodating, others have older kids who can handle the snow. The place you pick and how you plan your family ski trip will depend on who’s coming with you.
Make sure you’re going to the right location. The bigger the resort, the more likely it is to have a variety of terrain with a little something for everyone. However, smaller resorts may have less pressure for the kiddoes.
For the easiest ski slopes, scroll down to our section on where to ski in the French Alps for beginners.
But apart from skiing, there are plenty of kid-friendly activities in the French Alps that can easily keep the kids’ schedules busy throughout your whole ski holiday. From an enchanted forest to riding around on snowmobiles, there’s no shortage of activities.
Related Reading: 10 Great Winter Activities For Kids in Portes du Soleil
Planning a DIY ski holiday to the French Alps
The ultimate question when you learn how to book a ski holiday in the French Alps is: “should I DIY it or book a package holiday?”
It’s tempting to go the all-inclusive route: you book it in one sitting, you get the ski passes, food and a roof over your head. But they tend to be more expensive than a DIY trip unless you manage to book a very late, last-minute deal.
If you’re doing a family ski trip, it’s possible you’re tied to school holidays. Packages are most expensive during Christmas and half-term. If this is the only time you can go, you’re better off DIYing it.
Plus, in a DIY ski holiday, you can book much nicer chalets than you would get in a package, and you’ll have far more flexibility. The only issue with DIY is that you become responsible for everything: the accommodation and its services, transfer, and transport. So the only advantage of a ski package is protection for missed flights/transfers.
If you plan everything well and in advance, DIY is usually the best route. Don’t feel overwhelmed. We can help show you how to book a ski holiday DIY style.
When is the best time to go skiing in France
You’ve got the who, what, where and how.
But the million dollar question when you plan a skiing holiday in the French Alps is “when”. It’s possible your ski holidays are restricted to the big three: Christmas time, February half-term and Easter holidays.
If you aren’t limited by school holidays, there are a few things to consider when you decide on when to book your French Alps skiing holiday:
Are you with small children who can’t handle very low temperatures? If so, later in the season might be better.
Do you want to avoid the crowds? January is the quietest time of the year, though the coldest.
Looking for the perfect combination of the best snow and bluest skies? February is probably the best month, although it will be the most crowded and most expensive.
There’s a time for every kind of ski trip. It just depends what you’re looking for.
Best apres-ski resorts in the French Alps
After a long day on the slopes, it’s important to wind down the right way. For some of us, that means good music, good drinks and good vibes. Some of the best memories people make on the slopes are at the parties.
The French Alps have some of the best party ski resorts worldwide.
Photo from La Folie Douce
If you want to join the party, drop your kids off at the babysitter and check out some of the exciting nightlife that the French Alps has to offer. Café Chaud in Morzine, for example, is far from only being a cafe — it has some of the wildest parties in the Alps, with beer pong championships and beastly themed parties.
But be careful -- you need to ski down! Otherwise, there are plenty of bars and nightclubs in the towns of Morzine and Chamonix themselves. Chamonix even has a local brewery if you’re looking for something more relaxed.
The nightlife in the French Alps is vibrant and there’s something for every taste.
Where to ski in the French Alps for beginners
With the iconic vertical slopes of Chamonix and intimidating stature of the Mont Blanc, the French Alps may not sound like a place for beginners.
But the French Alps has skiing for everyone, regardless of your level. There are plenty of resorts full of green and blue pistes (and not just for kids). Morzine, for instance, is a world-renowned family ski resort with not only plenty of easy slopes, but also a tonne of non-ski related activities.
The excellent ski schools make Morzine a great place to learn how to ski or snowboard. It’s also a great place to take a mixed-level group — the Morzine slopes have a bit of everything, from tree-lined powder to wide and safe greens.
There’s also Avoriaz, which is the most snowsure resort in the whole Portes du Soleil area, with many high-quality snow schools to learn from.
Best places for off-piste ski in the French Alps
If you’re on the other end of the ski holiday spectrum, wanting to use it for extreme-sport-induced adrenaline rush, the French Alps is brimming with supply.
You can sometimes find the best powder skiing in France in the same place as the beginner slopes, making the French Alps the perfect place for a mixed-level group.
Of course, the first place that any well-intentioned snowhound will tell you is Chamonix. Chamonix is the Alpine legend for extreme alpinists. It’s the world capital of mountaineering and serves 5 main ski areas. You can have your pick between tree-lined slopes and powdery, adrenaline-producing verticals.
Avoriaz offers a bit for everyone: family friendly slopes and grisly drops for the more extreme in your group.
Val Thorens is another good place in the French Alps to hit the powder. It’s the highest resort in Europe and has some of the most snowsure slopes in the Alps.
Kid-friendly activities in the French Alps
While your kids can enjoy the greens and blues of the beginner slopes, some of them might fancy something else. The French Alps, particularly the Portes du Soleil region, have a ton of fun activities for kids of all ages.
You can take them to ride snowmobiles, play laser tag, snow archery, and even to play in an enchanted forest. If you want to stay active but aren’t ready for skiing yet, you can take your kids to the Morzine ice rink right in the centre of town.
Related Reading: 10 Great Winter Activities for Kids in the Portes du Soleil
Must-try Alpine foods for ski holidays
You’ve got the sport part sorted...but now for the good stuff. Where, and more importantly, what are you going to eat? A skiing holiday in the French Alps is more than just a ski holiday. It’s a whole experience. You go to the cute Alpine town, you stay in a luxury chalet, and you eat the typical foods.
Mountain dishes in the French Alps are as cheesy and creamy as they get. The first thing that probably popped into your head when you read Alpine food was probably fondue, which is French for ‘melted’ (cheese). And the cheese usually comes locally from the mountain cows.
Other than fondue, some other must-try Alpine foods for your ski holidays are:
Tarte aux myrtilles
Brioche de Saint-Genix
You’ll have to hit the slopes pretty hard the next day to burn these calories off.
Activities for non-skiers in the French Alps
If you’re planning a ski holiday in the French Alps for a big group, chances are some of your party members aren’t skiers. Or snowboarders. Or sports people.
Good news: you can still bring them along! Yes, you can go to a ski resort and not ski.
And you don’t only need to sit at a spa all day. There are plenty of activities for non-skiers in the French Alps. You could join the kids, for instance, and play some snow laser tag or snow archery.
If you just decided to tag along with the family but prefer a more relaxed holiday, most resorts in the French Alps have a spa you can go to for massages and relaxation. Or you could even stay in a luxury chalet with a private sauna to make the most of it.
From luges, carriage rides, to tasting the finest Haute Savoyarde cuisine, there’s something for everyone on a ski holiday, even if you’re not in the mood for winter sports.
Eco-friendly skiing in the French Alps
In today’s climate, it’s important to consider your carbon footprint at all times, especially during your ski trip. Ski holidays, unfortunately, can be really bad for the environment if you aren’t careful.
Downhill skiing means:
Creating more resorts at higher altitudes (due to melting snow at lower altitudes)
Using tons of water & chemicals through snow cannons
Causing deforestation to create new resorts
Littering and rubbish
Carbon emissions from plane and car travel to pistes
There are a lot of ways to prepare for a more eco-friendly ski trip. For one, you can choose to take a train or coach instead of the plane.
Then you can choose to go to an eco-friendly ski resort. Here’s our post on the best ski resort for your eco-friendly holidays.
Planning a weekend ski trip
Some people are lucky and can take a whole week off for their ski holidays. Others can only take the weekend. But you can still easily plan a weekend ski trip to Chamonix and other resorts.
If you fly into Geneva, Chamonix is pretty close and you won’t waste too much time. You can stay in the town itself which is close to bars, restaurants, and the lifts themselves.
The closest ski area to the Chamonix town is Brevent. Also, Chamonix has 5 different ski areas so you can usually find good skiing regardless of your level or the weather.
If you want minimum hassle time for your weekend ski trip, you can stay in Morzine, which has slightly easier access to the slopes and is also close to Geneva.
Planning a group ski trip
Trying to plan a group ski trip can be daunting and frustrating. Everyone has different levels and budgets. And there’s just so many questions and information to get.
To get the ball rolling on a ski trip, you need to start early, and you need a ‘leader’ to take command.
Get one person in charge of booking. If that’s you, do your research before approaching the group with a proposal. Don’t provide too many options. People will enjoy the trip regardless and it will be far easier if you have fewer options.
If you want to plan a group ski trip to the French Alps, we recommend Morzine as your venue. It’s great for group ski trips because it has slopes for every ski level and it has a great nightlife.
Plus, you can get phenomenal group accommodation like this luxury chalet in Morzine.
Follow this guide and take things one step at a time, and your group ski trip in Morzine will be as smooth as the slopes.
Now you should be fully equipped to plan a skiing holiday in the French Alps. All you have to do is book it and go enjoy the slopes!
If you are DIYing your skiing holiday this year and want a full-service accomodation with concierge, babysitting and more, check our luxury chalets in the Chamonix, Morzine and Les Gets ski areas.