French Alps

A guide to powder skiing in the French Alps

Powder ski guide Emerald Stay

There's nothing like the exhilarating feeling of getting fresh tracks. But any chance to avoid long, steep climbs is definitely a bonus.

Date posted: 10 February 2020, 12:00pm

Article length: 8 minutes

The French Alps are home to some incredible powder terrain. More than anywhere else in the world, off-piste runs in France are the easiest to get to, and often accessible via lifts. There's nothing like the exhilarating feeling of getting fresh tracks. But any chance to avoid long, steep climbs is definitely a bonus.

Off-piste skiing allows you to see the mountain in a different way. With untouched powder and beautiful scenery, there’s a great deal to explore in the French Alps.

Powder skiing French Alps Emerald Stay

Photo by Henry Perks on Unsplash

What are the best months for skiing in France?

If you're planning a ski holiday in the French Alps, try to pick a month that ensures ideal snow conditions. The ski season in France runs from mid-December until mid-April. Some of the higher altitude resorts, like Val d'Isere, will offer extended ski seasons. They will begin earlier and can run until May if the conditions are right.

For the best powder skiing in French Alps, the ideal months to go are from mid-January until mid-March. Planning your ski holiday around this time gives you the highest chance for big snow dumps. It also delivers perfect conditions for powder skiing.

Related Post: The Best Time to go Skiing in the French Alps

Where is the best powder skiing in French Alps?

If you love to ski powder snow and are looking for some amazing off-piste runs to ride, then look no further. Here are the resorts that have the best powder skiing in the French Alps:

  1. Chamonix

  2. Les Grands Montets

  3. Morzine

  4. Les Gets

  5. Val Thorens

  6. Val d’Isere

Chamonix - The best powder skiing for all levels

This resort is right on the border of Italy, France and Switzerland. With gorgeous luxury Chamonix accommodations and an epic view of the looming Mont Blanc, its Alpine charm is only one of the things it has to offer.

It's the most famous off-piste ski resort in Europe, and it's easy to see why. There are a ton of different terrain options to suit all levels of skiers. This makes it popular for families and pros alike. Whether you love tree-runs, steep drops or powder skiing, Chamonix has you covered.

Powder skiing French Alps Emerald Stay

Photo by Krzysztof Kowalik on Unsplash

With five main ski areas to choose from, the terrain is endless. These areas include Vollorcine, Le Tour, Flegere, Brevent and Grands Montets.

Chamonix offers accessible sections of off-piste skiing for those who are starting out. After only a short hike from the main ski area, you can find beautiful, untouched powder and off-piste areas.

But Chamonix is also known for its epic and testing backcountry. Many advanced skiers come from around the world to ski Chamonix. They come to push their skills to the limits and experience some of the best powder skiing in the French Alps. A great place to start is on the Argentiere glacier, which offers many off-piste routes down to Chamonix.

It’s recommended to hire an off-piste guide as the majority of off-piste terrain is unmarked. Also, your guide can choose a route based on the skill level of your group.

If you, like us, can't wait to feel the addrenaline in this resort, book your Chamonix accommodation!

Les Grands Montets - The most accessible off-piste areas

Though it's a part of Chamonix, Les Grands Montets deserves its own mention. It has unparalleled powder skiing for the area. It's one of the best ski resorts in France and offers the longest season.

Powder skiing French Alps Emerald Stay

Photo by Harrison Moore on Unsplash

The off-piste areas are accessible by lifts and may get quite busy. They are especially full after a lot of fresh snow. Aim to get up early to take full advantage of the fantastic glacial territory of Les Grands Montets.

You can find some of the best off-piste skiing on the Vallee Noire and Vallee Blanche glaciers. They allow you to ski between seracs and crevasses, and they run opposite of one another. Vallee Noir is less busy, but they both offer steep and beautiful powder skiing.

Since the season does start quite early here be aware that some off-piste areas can be rocky. In December, there will likely not be enough snow to provide the best powder skiing in the French Alps. Because of the particular type of terrain, there needs to be a couple of meters of snow to provide a deep enough base. Aim to visit from the middle of January onward to get ideal powder skiing conditions.

Morzine -The most extensive powder terrain

The largest ski area in Europe is the Portes du Soleil. The best off-piste skiing you can find in the area is at Morzine.

It is located on the north-west edge of the Alps and is often the first point of contact for incoming storms. These storms bring with them a ton of snow. This makes the conditions ideal for the best powder skiing in French Alps.

Powder skiing French Alps Emerald Stay

Photo by Krzysztof Kowalik on Unsplash

Make sure to check out the off-piste skiing on the Chamoissiere and Nyon ski peaks. There are many areas to explore on the Nyon mountain face. Take the TS de la Pointe lift up to the top of Nyon. From this point, there is a multitude of off-piste runs between the on-piste options. Chamoissiere is accessible by either the Chamossiere Express lift or TS des Têtes lift, which has a gorgeous, off-piste bowl.

If you're looking for a local hot spot, don't miss the Vallee de la Manche. The valley has perfect off-piste terrain for powder skiing. It is not too steep and wide enough that you can create your own lines.

There are warning signs present to let you know you're entering a non-patrolled area. From here, it's easy to see the traverse and it opens out into the powder-filled valley. It's simple to access and ends in the valley itself, which offers shuttle service. If you're deep into the season and there's been enough snow you may be able to ride out almost until your Morzine accommodation.

Les Gets - The best for avoiding crowds

Les Gets is also located in Portes du Soleil, but is higher in altitude than Morzine. Since it's not as central, it's an excellent option for those wanting to avoid large crowds. Even in the high-season, it tends to be less saturated with skiers. It is especially clear in the off-piste areas.

Powder skiing French Alps Emerald Stay

Photo by Honza Emler on Unsplash

There are tons of off-piste skiing options in Les Gets, and many have access from the main ski areas. Les Gets has lots of trees which make for fun powder runs between lifts.

A local favourite is Col de Ratti. It's off the beaten path and not as easy to locate as other off-piste skiing areas.

To get to the Col de Ratti:

  1. Ride the main lift to the top of Mont Chery.

  2. Follow either the Marmottes, Mouflon or Chevreuil pistes down to L'Encrenaz.

  3. From here, you will find access to the Col de Ratti.

Another great spot is Mont Chery in general. Mont Chery is full of black and red runs, with little options for beginners or families. For this reason, it tends to be pretty quiet, meaning more fresh tracks for you! If you like skiing bowls, then check out the Chavannes bowl. The bowl itself has a variety of runs from red to black, but there's a lot of potential to ski off-piste between them.

Because of the location of Les Gets, it's essential to check the snow conditions. Avoid going off-piste without looking at avalanche reports. Especially if you're going early December or into late April.

For extra peace of mind, don't forget to book your Les Gets accommodation in advance!

Val Thorens - The best for experienced powder skiers

Val Thorens sits at the highest altitude of any ski resort in the French Alps. It has a long ski season and is located within six glaciers. It's a breathtaking place to seek out some of the best powder skiing in French Alps.

Powder skiing French Alps Emerald Stay

Photo by Christian ter Maat on Unsplash

It is very well known for off-piste skiing, and because of the altitude, it is generally quite safe. Powder skiing at Val Thorens is not suited for beginners. To reach the majority of the untouched powder routes you will need to prepare for a hike. Sometimes, you may need to hike up to an hour to get fresh tracks. But if you have the experience, you can expect some of the most amazing powder.

The run to Lac Du Lou is one of the easier options and also the most spectacular. You can reach this run by taking the cable car to the top of Cime de Caron. From here there are a few routes down to the banks of Lac Du Lou. You can either follow Combe de Rosael, which is a black run or Col de l'Audzin, which is red. Whichever you choose, all routes end at Lac Du Lou.

The slopes are not too steep, making the descent enjoyable and not too exhausting. If you're skiing later in the season, the lake will begin to melt. You will be able to waterski across it when you reach the bottom. It's super fun and offers a unique end to the long run.

Val D'isere - The best powder skiing for beginners

Val D'isere is popular among powder-hungry skiers. It's also located quite high in altitude, so they often have some of the best powder skiing in French Alps. The town itself has an authentic and traditional ski town vibe. It also has a large variety of ski schools and off-piste guides.

So, it's an excellent option for those who feel more comfortable riding with a guide. The mountains have a full-range of lifts. These offer access to even the highest off-piste runs, which means less hiking for you.

If you're looking for a local favourite, be sure to check out Dôme de Pramecou. There is some hiking involved in this track, but it's worth it.

You'll get some incredible views of the western ridge of Pramecou as you make your way towards the base. If you're looking for an adrenaline rush, the steep runs of Couloir des Pisteurs might be more your style. For off-piste that's reliable and fun, the trees at Le Fornet are a great option. They may not give you the crazy rush that you'll get in some of the other areas. That said, you are guaranteed solid visibility, even during whiteout conditions.

The French Alps is the ultimate destination for powder-skiing and offers some incredible off-piste terrain to explore. Whether you’re a beginner, looking to learn the ropes or an experienced off-pister after a challenge, you’ll find it in France.

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