The ski season is back! The French Alpine resorts are welcoming their first guests, the lifts are up and running and the skiers are heading for the summits. Our guide to the French ski season will answer all your questions.
Read on to discover all you need to know about the ski season in France…
What are the ski season dates in France?
The first French ski resorts usually kick off the season in late November/early December. These openings are usually subject to certain conditions, particularly snowfall. This year, for example, several resorts such as Les 2 Alpes and Val Thorens had to postpone their opening due to a lack of snow.
Chamonix was the first to open, on November 19. After that dates, openings follow each other until December 17, when the ski season really gets going with the beginning of the school holidays.
The vast majority of resorts close between March and April, although the season may extend into May for some of the higher resorts in the Northern Alps. The weekend of May 8 usually marks the end of the ski season.
All of these dates announced by the ski resorts are provisional and subject to change. Remember to check the official websites.
Which are the best months for skiing in France?
The perfect day for skiing is one when there is enough snow and the visibility is clear. In France, the resorts are at their best in February and the beginning of March. Higher altitude resorts in the Alps and the Pyrenees can also count on the month of December.
What do you need to ski in France?
You’ll need to prepare ahead for your ski holiday – to make this easier for you, we’ve prepared a list of some of the essential equipment for a great ski season (this list is not exhaustive).
- Sunglasses or a ski mask (check the UV rating!)
- A hat, balaclava and a scarf
- Gloves or mittens (and under-gloves for those who are sensitive to the cold)
- A ski suit or trousers and a waterproof jacket
- Thermal undergarments
- A fleece
- Long socks
- A helmet (unless you rent one)
- A backpack and a water bottle
- Après-ski clothing
- Sun cream
- Lip balm
These are available in most resorts and are a simple way to get expert advice and hire the equipment you need, whether you are going skiing, cross-country skiing, snowboarding or need safety equipment.
Few people are aware that booking online is often cheaper. Skiset, Europe’s leading equipment and rental company offers online booking with discounts of up to 50%. OVO Network has a partnership with Skiset which offers guests a further 5% discount.
Your ski pass is one of the most important elements of the ski season. It guarantees access to the ski lifts and slopes, and is specific to each ski area. You can buy your ski pass in the resort, often at the foot of the slopes or in equipment rental shops.
You can also buy your ski pass online, on the ski resorts’ websites or via partners such as travel agencies. This is often a good way to save money. In Avoriaz, for example, discounts of between 26 and 60% are offered on five-day and season passes. However, these discounts are often only valid for certain periods.
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Where is the best place to ski in France?
France is often considered to be the place with the largest ski area in the world. Between the Alps and the Vosges, via the Massif Central, the Jura and the Pyrenees, there is plenty to explore during the ski season.
The high Alps (4000m) are the best known and the most popular for skiing. The Pyrenees (2000m) are perfect for winter sports and the Jura (1300m) is a paradise for cross-country skiing.
Where to ski in France in February
With more than 350 resorts spread across France, there are plenty of choices. In February, snow conditions are usually good everywhere, so the risk of choosing the wrong resort is lower. Here are our suggestions for three family ski resorts.
Valmeinier is a family-friendly ski resort with 89 pistes in the Haute Marienne, in the Northern Alps. It has many facilities that will keep families entertained, such as a nursery for children and babies from three months old. Ski passes are free for youngsters up to the age of five, and guests up to the age of 12 qualify for children’s passes.
Combloux is a family-friendly resort in the Evasion Mont-Blanc ski area. With no less than 66 pistes, it also has the Famille Plus label, which uses 110 criteria to highlight resorts which make efforts to welcome families during the ski season.
With the Garderie de Loupiots creche (from the age of six months), a year-round sledge area and the Randonnée des P’tits Loups snowshoe trail, Combloux is a great choice for families.
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The little-known ski station of Aillons-Margeriaz has a very big advantage – children’s ski passes are valid until the age of 18! It’s a great way to save money. This small family-friendly resort is ideal if you want to avoid the crowds and enjoy the slopes in complete peace. The nursery welcomes children from the age of nine months.
Where to ski in France in April
You can ski in many of the French ski resorts in spring, but especially in the Alps, the Pyrenees and the Vosges.
The Easter holidays are a great time to enjoy the slopes with fewer people and more sun. But the end of the ski season also means less snow, so you should consider high-altitude resorts such as Tignes, Les Arcs or La Plagne.
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Where to find information about the resorts and slopes
The easiest way to get information about the different ski resorts is to visit their official websites. They will have information about the altitude, the number and level of the slopes, the facilities and the activities available other than skiing. Here are the websites for some of the main ski areas in France.
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It is also possible to consult travel guides for information on the most popular ski resorts and the best deals on ski passes. If you prefer, you can contact the ski resorts directly, for example by telephone.
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What are the opening times for the ski lifts?
Lift times vary, according to the ski resort, the weather conditions and the time of year. As a general rule, they open between 8 and 9 am and close between 4 and 5 pm at the end of the day. During the school holidays, they may be open for longer.
These times are given as an indication. Please check the display at each lift for the exact closing time.
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Which are the three best stations for learning to ski?
When you’re just learning to ski, choosing a resort is not easy. Ideally, you should look for somewhere with plenty of green and blue runs, safe areas for beginners, a beginner ski pass and ski schools. Based on these criteria, we think these are the top three places to learn to ski in the best conditions.
The Portes du Soleil area has plenty of blue and green runs to choose from, and very good snow conditions throughout the season. We also recommend Les Gets for its “Mappys” area – a free and secure area for beginners in a quiet environment away from other skiers. With four gentle slopes and a conveyor belt, it’s the perfect stress-free place to learn and have fun.
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The family-friendly ski resort of Méribel has many advantages, including a large ski area – the Trois Vallees. The Zen Zones are protected slopes for beginners, far from other busy areas. Méribel has another major advantage – reduced rates for beginners. so you only pay for access to the beginner areas.
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The ski station of Avoriaz has 32km of blue and green runs, which are perfect for families and novice skiers. There is also a safe, dedicated area for beginners called Youcanski – it’s a piste several kilometres long far from the crowds. Avoriaz gives everyone the chance to enjoy the ski season!
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Where and how to learn to ski in France
Learning to ski on your own is not easy or fun, and it can be dangerous. That’s why most ski stations offer lessons for beginners with qualified instructors from the ESF (Ecole de Ski Française).
These are available for both children and adults. Children’s lessons are usually offered in groups, but you can also ask for a private lesson with a dedicated instructor.
ESF has created the Piou-Piou clubs to provide a fun and safe learning experience for children aged from three to six.
Where can you eat in the resort?
Ski resorts offer a wide range of restaurants and bars both at the foot of the slopes and in the mountains.
As they are often crowded during the high season, and more expensive, many skiers opt for picnics and snack bars.
Mini-markets, grocery shops, bakeries and other local shops often offer holidaymakers convenient lunch options. But be warned – prices in the ski resorts can be up to 20% higher than elsewhere. Consider doing your shopping in advance and taking it with you to save money.
Is night skiing possible in France?
It may surprise you to know that it is indeed possible to ski at night in France. Many ski resorts such as Manigod offer night-skiing facilities.
The slopes are lit up so that skiers can enjoy skiing long after the sun has set – it’s an incredible experience! However, it’s not without risks, as there is less visibility, so it’s all the more important to follow the safety guidelines and to be careful.
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How much will my skiing holiday cost?
It is difficult to give a precise budget for a ski holiday, as it depends on so many factors, such as the destination, the length of stay, the type of accommodation and the activities you choose.
In general, you should budget between €900 and €1,000 per person for an average week. This would include transport, accommodation, ski passes and equipment, food and extra activities.
How much might it cost if I have an accident on the slopes?
Skiing is not without its risks, and accidents can be serious and need specialist medical teams. It’s therefore important to have good health insurance – check your contract before you leave to avoid unpleasant surprises.
However, general health insurance is unlikely to cover rescues on the slopes and transport from the ski resort to the hospital, so it’s wise to take out winter sports insurance for the ski season. The rates are not fixed, so our figures are just an estimate.
- Remote rescue: 750 euros
- Local rescue: 140 euros
- Helicopter rescue: 30 euros per minute
Please note: Insurance depends on where the accident took place and whether it was on marked ski runs. The rules for off-piste skiing are different.
We hope you have found this article useful. Do you have a question that we haven’t answered? Let us know on our social networks. And don’t hesitate to follow us to enjoy the season with us and avoid missing any news.