The Alpes Maritimes region is located in the south east of France and meets with the Mediterranean Sea. The region adjoins the Italian border and the world renowned French Côte d'Azur. The craggy coastline is stunningly beautiful, with the Alps plunging straight down into the clear blue waters of the Med. At certain times of the year it can be a difficult choice whether to ski or swim.
The Alps are located in the north of the region, with their snowy peaks and their sunny ski resorts within just an hour's drive from the coast. 80% of this region is mountainous, and offers fabulous skiing conditions through the winter months.
The Auvergne is one of France's best kept skiing secrets. This beautiful region remains largely unnoticed by the British, who would seemingly prefer to ski in the more populous and far more crowded regions to the south. Consequently, prices are reasonable and are not inflated as are the more popular Alpine resorts. The area is highly popular with the French, who descend in great numbers for their annual ski holiday.
The Auvergne is home to the Monts Dome range of mountains located to the south west of Clermont Ferrand. The mountains were formed from more than 80 volcanoes. This stunning terrain has several high peaks, with the imposing Puy de Dome overlooking Clermont Ferrand reaching 1465m and the Puy de Sancy at an impressive 1886m, the highest peak in France outside of the Alps and Pyrenees mountain ranges.
With over 300 km of piste and an altitude that ensures good snowfall throughout the season, L'Espace Killy is widely considered to be one of the best Alpine ski areas in Europe. It offers varied skiing to suit all abilities, and is named after the French Olympic gold medallist skier, Jeane-Claude Killy.
Covering the two resorts of Val d’Isere and Tignes, L'Espace Killy has nearly 100 high speed lifts, ensuring fast movement of traffic. Consequently, queuing is rare. It also has more than 200 snow cannons in the event of poor snow conditions. The highest point is the Grande Motte glacier, at an impressive 3,450 metres. The glacier offers virtually year round skiing.
L'Espace Killy is a destination for serious snow sport enthusiasts. Within the ski region, Val d'Isere is directly linked to neighbouring Tignes, but a 6 day pass also covers a day in La Plagne, Les Arcs, the 3 Valleys and Valmorel.
The Grand Massif ski region lies between Geneva and Mont Blanc and is made up of five resorts – Samoens, Les Carroz d’Araches, Morillon, Sixt-fer-a-Cheval and the purpose built resort of Flaine. The first four of these are traditional, charming, and smaller resorts. Flaine is a modern, purpose built resort at high altitude. The Grand Massif is France’s largest ski area and has 265km of piste - offering a variety of terrain for all levels, with reliable snow cover and lack of queues.
From the central Tete des Saix, north facing runs drop down steep mogul slopes towards Samoens, while on the opposite side of the valley, easier runs to Les Carroz are short and varied. The small ski area of Sixt also links into Le Grand Massif via the 14km ‘Cascades’ blue run (although return is via bus). There are outstanding off-piste possibilities and snowparks in this region.
The region Le Grand Serre-Che is located in the French Southern Alps, and borders the mighty peaks of the Park National des Ecrins. Thirteen villages and scattered hamlets are nestled along the upper valley of the Guisane river. This area receives more than 300 days of sunshine per year. Most of the mountain slopes face north or north-east, and so hold snow conditions well, especially at higher altitudes. The weather pattern in this region varies dramatically from that of the Northern Alps, with the resort sometimes having good conditions when other areas are not so fortunate.
Resorts in the region include Serre Chevalier, Briancon, Villeneuve, Bardoneccia and Puy St Vincent.
With a huge glacier to ski, summer skiing, lively après ski and some great advanced off piste skiing and boarding, Les Deux Alpes is an impressive resort. The scenery around Les Deux Alpes is spectacular.
Les Deux Alpes offers a sizeable 200km of ski pistes, one of the biggest glacier skiing areas in the Alps and a huge terrain park. Blue pistes form the biggest percentage of the terrain but there are equal amounts of green, red and black runs. The runs back to Les Deux Alpes can be tricky and crowded. Off-piste terrain in Les Deux Alpes is extensive, whilst the ski area joins the famous La Grave area around the Dome de La Lauze.
Families in Les Deux Alpes will enjoy the straightforward access to most accommodation from the slopes. Lifts are located around the resort and provide access to the many green nursery slopes that are located just above Les Deux Alpes.
Les Grande Rousses is a region located in the sunny Southern Alps. This ski area comprises the resorts of Alpe D'Huez, Auris, Oz, Vaujany, and Villard Reculas, which offer a mix of traditional, and in the case of Alpe D'Huez, modern purpose built ski resorts.
The whole Les Grands Rousses ski area has a 322 lift system, which connects 238 km of pistes catering for all levels. A large number of green and gentle blue runs provide a great introduction to skiing, while variety is assured for intermediate skiers. Expert skiers are in for a treat, as Les Grande Rousses has some challenging terrain, which includes the well known La Sarenne and Tunnel runs. Elsewhere there are 50km of cross country trails and a snowpark suitable for all levels of snowboarder.
The après ski scene in this area also has something for everyone. Skiiers and snowboarders can head from the slopes into a variety of cafés and restaurants, party the night away in a lively club, or visit the large sports complex in Alpe D'Huez.
Mongenevre is the only ski resort in France with access to the Italian Milky Way ski region. On the Italian side of the border, 5 ski villages form the Milky Way ski area in Italy; Cesana, Claviere, Sansicario, Sauze d'Oulx and Sestriere. The Milky Way region offers 400km of piste, 140 ski slopes, 93 lifts and 1 board park.
The Milky Way offers a high proportion of low level, wooded runs suitable for beginners, with steeper slopes to improve on. There is a large choice for intermediate skiers, whether skiing on the French or Italian side of the mountains. For advanced skiing, the Fraiteve and Moncrons runs are well worth a visit. The area also offers 35 km of cross country skiing, a snow park, and some off piste areas in Sestriere for the pleasure of experienced skiers and snowboarders.
Those looking for a lively nightlife should head to Sestriere, while other villages in the region offer a more peaceful and relaxed après ski experience.
The Milky Way, with it's uncrowded slopes and good snow conditions, offers the perfect ski experience.
Mont Blanc, (or Monte Bianco in Italian - both meaning white mountain) is the highest mountain in the Alps. It rises 4,810 m (15,781 ft) above sea level.
The mountain lies between the regions of Haute-Savoie, France, and the Aosta Valley in Italy. The summit is on the French-Italian border but French cartographers place it within France's boundaries on maps.
The two most famous towns near Mont Blanc are Chamonix in France and Courmayeur in Italy. Chamonix was the site of the first Winter Olympics. A cable car ascends and crosses the mountain from Chamonix to Courmayeur.
The Mont Blanc Tunnel, completed in 1965, runs beneath the mountain between France and Italy, and is one of the major trans-Alpine transport routes.
In December 2003, the world's largest cable car opened in France: a double-decker holding 200 people. It links Les Arcs and La Plagne and the result is the Paradiski ski region; one of the world's largest combined ski areas. The cable car, called the Vanoise Express, spans 2km across between Plan-Peisey in the Les Arcs area to Montchavin on the La Plagne side. Paradiski offers a ski area of 425km of piste served by 141 lifts, 152 green/blue (beginner) runs, 79 red (intermediate) runs and 22 black (expert) runs - all on one lift pass.
In the Northern Alps, between Lake Geneva and Mont Blanc, the France-Switzerland Portes du Soleil area links 12 resorts. Geneva lies on the doorstep of this enormous snowsport region, which provides a unique experience for skiers and snowboarders: 650km of connected pistes and trails. 2 countries, 12 resorts, 3 valleys, 266 pistes, 195 ski lifts, 10 snowparks ... all available on one ski pass! The Portes du Soleil ski area has a unique, personal, natural environment, where the ski-lifts are barely visible.
Regardless of the resort you stay in, high-mileage piste-bashing is synonymous with the Portes du Soleil region. Added to it's great family image and convenient accessibility, the region offers something for everyone. The resorts are set amid craggy peaks with sensational views and the kind of terrain that begs to be explored. For every marked piste there is another option - whether a gladed forest run or wide open powder fields.
Sainte Foy is located close to the Italian border and, as well as having its own little known and uncrowded ski area, is an excellent base for those with a car to visit some of France's classic ski areas. Resorts such as Val d'Isere, Tignes and Les Arcs as well as the cross border French/Italian region of La Rosiere/La Thuile are within a 30 minute drive of Ste. Foy. The resort is also more affordable than most of these giant neighbouring resorts, with the local lift pass (and everything else) far cheaper than most of its neighbours.
Although more of the big operators are now starting to show an interest in Ste. Foy, the resort so far remains remarkably unspoilt and has preserved its authentic charm and local architecture.
Nestled high in the French Alps, this truly magnificent ski area plays host to some of the best skiing in the world. With over 600 km of pistes and over 200 ski lifts, this extensive area attracts skiers and snowboarders of all abilities and offers good ski links between the Three Valleys. Val Thoren provides the highest alpine skiing in Europe, and the views from the highest point are breathtaking.
Beginners and advanced skiers alike can cover a huge amount of ski terrain, with the opportunity to meet up in the same mountain restaurant for a well deserved vin chaud and lunchtime raclette. The Three Valleys is easily accessible from many international airports, including Geneva, Lyon and Chambery, and is also within a good driving distance of the UK.
Despite the fact that each of the resorts comprising The Three Valleys ski network differs from one another, they all share fantastic snowfall records and well groomed wide open pistes.