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Skiing in France

October 12, 2012 By: Jena Tesse Fox Travel Agent


Courcheval is one of eight linked resorts and villages in Les 3 Vallées.


Your clients may be surprised to learn that a full 30 percent of the world’s major ski resorts are located in France, with 325 distinct ski areas throughout the country. Recently, representatives from four French ski areas came to New York to show off what makes them unique, and Travel Agent got a quick taste of what the country has to offer. 

High-tech Skiing

Les 3 Vallees has a dedicated app that can work for iPhone, iPad and Android. (Visit to download). The app features a friend-finding service that pinpoints other app-users throughout the area, a calculator to measure vertical height and speed, an itinerary-builder (guests can create their own runs according to skill level, weather and availability at different slopes and lifts), and—of course—maps of the region and resorts.

Les Gets resort is adding several tech innovations, including a “Video Zone” that will allow skiers to record their own personal videos free of charge. Located in the Perrières area, the zone has a parallel slalom run, open to the public, with integrated timekeeping. Guests can register their ski-pass on entry and the video system starts automatically filming each skier individually during their descent. At the end of the run, skiers can immediately view their video on a screen and find all their videos on the Internet to share via social networks. (Visit for more information.)

About that ski pass: Several resorts and regions offer special cards that give discounts and lets visitors pay only for the skiing they actually do. The swipe-cards let visitors ski by the day, half-day or hour, and (perhaps best of all) can be refilled online. This means that there is little waiting in line at the lifts or at the visitor centers.


Les Portes du Soleil has 12 interconnected ski resorts, including Morzine and Les Gets. Paradiski has three resorts, including La Plagne and Les Arcs. L’Espace Killy has two resorts—Tignes and Val d’Isère—while Les 3 Vallées has eight resorts.

Les 3 Vallées is reportedly the world’s largest ski area, and would fit all the major ski regions from the western U.S. (Aspen, Steamboat, Vail, Whistler and Squaw Valley) into its perimeter. It has 380 miles of interconnected runs, 172 ski lifts, peaks that go up to 10,500 feet and a total descent of over 205,000 feet.

Portes du Soleil
“The Swiss Wall” at Avoriaz, Portes du Soleil.


Les 3 Vallées has eight linked resorts and villages: Courchevel, La Tania, Méribel, Brides-les-Bains, Les Menuires, Saint Martin de Belleville, Val Thorens and Orelle all make up the world’s largest ski area, linked together by runs, ski lifts, and mountain peaks.

The resorts in the area range from low-cost options to prestigious five-star and “Palace”-rated properties. Most of the hotels and resorts are ski-in/ski-out. This winter, the region’s ski season runs from December 8 to April 26, 2013.

Good to know: Méribel will get its first five-star hotel in December when Le Kaila opens its doors. We hear it will have a remarkable pool with an aquamarine course, geysers, counter-current swimming, a waterfall, hydromassage seats, jacuzzi, and air loungers. The spa will have six treatment booths, including two double massage booths.

Children learning to ski
Children learning to ski in Meribel.


Dedicated skiers will want to explore the “Naturides” in the Espace Killy ski area—marked black slopes that have been secured against avalanches, but not groomed, preserving natural snow conditions according to changes in the weather. The area has 186 miles of slopes, most of which are at the intermediate or advanced level. 

The Portes du Soleil ski area has 12 resorts linked by 404 miles of ski runs. It is unique in that some of the resorts are across the Swiss border, and visitors can ski in either country. Morzine and Les Gets are both traditional villages within the Portes du Soleil that offer wooden chalets and small hotels as well as family-owned restaurants.  

Agent Advice

Stephanie Ramos, Ramos, marketing manager at Maritz Journeys in Fenton, Mo., says that the French Alps offers the broadest range of skiing opportunities anywhere in Europe (in regards to where the snow conditions are most reliable). “However, additional areas of France offer a range of opportunities such as: the Jura, the Vosges, the Massif Central and the Pyrenees. All of these areas have downhill and cross-country ski resorts. Some of the most popular ski areas in France are the ‘Three Valleys’ (Trois Vallées), which incorporates Courchevel, Meribel and Val Thorens and ‘L’Espace Killy’ which links Tignes and Val D’Isere. Other noteworthy ski areas in France are the ‘Portes du Soleil,’ the newly created ‘Paradiski’ area which links La Plagne and Les Arcs with the Espace San Bernardo.

“Depending on the time of winter when you wish to go, there are different options, between Northern and Southern Alps, where you can almost be 100 percent certain to find good snow conditions.

When asked why skiers should opt for France over Switzerland or Colorado, Ramos said that France’s ski areas provide some of the best variety of skiing. “The region has nice options for skiers and snowboarders of all levels. French ski resorts appeal to all, with resorts that range from traditional to ski-in ski-out modern resorts.”

As for advice to other agents booking ski trips to France? “First and foremost, thinking through the type of ski experience your clients are looking for is most important. Is it a family-oriented ski trip? Are they looking for ski to door access? Are the clients at a beginner, intermediate or advanced skill level? All important question is to make sure the ski adventure is everything your clients imagined.


At Courchevel, Nordic skiing has attracted a growing number of followers, so that 41 miles of ski trails are now regularly maintained and freely accessible. Nine different loops of varying levels allow seasonal practitioners and novices alike to take part in their favorite sport. Hint: Cross-country skiing is a great alternative for joggers.

Families, take note: Courchevel’s Family Park is a combination of a snow park and leisure area, ideal for relaxing off the slopes with family or friends. It includes an obstacle run, a big air, rails, tables and a boarder cross. Different events are held here, including a giant snowball fight and the Verdons by Night program.

Verdons by Night will take place every Wednesday from December 26 to March 6. Participants will pass through the Family Park and the Verdons slope and will return to the resort after dark. For participants, this is the opportunity to ski in a unique atmosphere while enjoying freestyle demonstrations while testing out equipment. Last winter, 600 people attended the outing every Wednesday.

Snowboarders take a break at Val d’Isère.


In Savoy, Paradiski has 264 miles of ski slopes and top views of Mont Blanc, Pierra Menta, and other famous mountains in the region. It is one of the few large interconnected domains and links the ski resorts of the mountain ranges Les Arcs/Peisey Vallandry and La Plagne using the largest cable car in the world, the Vanoise Express

A unique feature that sets Paradiski apart is its nearly a mile-long Olympic bobsled course. Adventurers can whisk along the course at nearly 70 miles per hour and try a decidedly different winter sport.

Paradiski is open this season from December 15 to April 28, 2013.

For all information about skiing in France, visit

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About the Author

Jena Tesse Fox
Jena Tesse Fox covers Europe, Africa, Australia/South Pacific and business travel for the Questex Travel Group's publications. The daughter of history teachers, she can spend...

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