All you need to know about the Jura and the Vosges
Les Rousses (Jura) 1,120-1,680m
Four villages, slopes carpeted in thick forests, frozen lakes and a warm and welcoming "Scandinavian" atmosphere provide the perfect backdrop for Nordic skiing and a host of activities on the slopes. From Lamoura to Bois d'Amont, and Prémanon to the small town of Les Rousses, there are no fewer than six downhill ski areas here covering a distance of 50km right by the Swiss border - a single lift pass is available to take advantage of this diversity. Les Rousses is a mecca for cross-country skiing with 220km of marked tracks wending their way through the pines. If it's a family holiday and the true spirit of the Jura that you're looking for, the resort has everything you need: a swimming pool, ice rink, shops, arts and crafts, and above all the extraordinary (and huge) maturing cellars for Comté cheese in an old military fort - not to be missed!
Métabief-Mont d'Or (only in french) (Doubs) 1,000-1,420m
With 40km of downhill runs descending from the summit of Le Mont d'Or (two sides with very different styles) and three other ski areas nearby, this resort has plenty of downhill options, as well as a snowpark and boardercross course. Cross-country skiers are spoilt for choice with 210km of delightful tracks, such as the trail to the neighbouring village of Les Fourgs, and 32 other groomed circuits for classic and skating style enthusiasts. Here, as everywhere else in the Jura mountains, you really get a sense of its wide open spaces - to get a feel for the life of a trapper, why not try your hand at ski joring, or head off on a dogsleigh or snowshoe trek. With the TGV train stations of Frasne (in France) and Vallorbe (in Switzerland) just 10 and 20km away respectively, Métabief is without doubt the closest resort to Paris, which is less than three hours away by high-speed train!
Monts-Jura (Ain) 900-1,680m
Nestled in the pretty Valserine valley, the villages of Crozet-Lélex and Mijoux-la Faucille (along with Menthières and La Vattay) offer a combined total of 120km of cross-country trails - the most popular activity in this range. However, the line of peaks dominated by the Crêt de la Neige (1,720m) also has huge potential for downhill skiing with 60km of pistes and 30 lifts (including two cable cars). From on high, the wonderful views take in Lake Geneva, with the Alps in the background. Snowscooting and snow-kiting are also on offer for those seeking more adrenalin. The Monts-Jura are accessible from Geneva and its surrounding area (Pays de Gex) via the La Faucille pass; in addition, its village resorts are linked by shuttle bus (1hr) to the TGV train station in Bellegarde.
This general website provides an initial overview of the entire mountain range. It identifies the key characteristics of the Jura both as a destination and as a region that is proud of its traditions and its arts and crafts, such as precious stone- and diamond-cutting, clock-making, wood, pastoral farming etc. The vitality of this mid-mountain region is perpetuated by its dairy cattle farming, its fruit and cheese producers, forestry activities and its cured meats, which are traditionally smoked in a huge chimney known as a "tuhé".
This network of Nordic sites connects different cross-country ski trails to create a long-distance route for keen cross-country skiers. The 175km itinerary runs from Giron to Morteau, from one end of the mountain range to the other, through unspoilt landscapes which are part of a Parc Naturel Régional, and is based around a dozen stages which can be undertaken in one go or a few at a time. A separate "snowshoe" trail (with dedicated markings) also exists, passing through immaculate fields and delightful pine forests with accommodation in gîtes along the route. Why not head off with a qualified snowshoe guide for a uniquely serene experience!
Just one of many examples of a traditional Jura village, La Chapelle des Bois is huddled in a pretty valley close to Mouthe and Morbier (two famous names in Jura gastronomy!) and is a popular winter destination for cross-country skiing enthusiasts with its 110km of dual-purpose trails for both classic and skating styles. It is the perfect illustration of the "art de vivre" of the Franche-Comté region, where conviviality and local gastronomy go hand in hand!
La Bresse (Vosges - on the Lorraine side of the range) 900-1,150m
This small town of 5,000 inhabitants boasts three downhill ski areas along its valley, including Le Hohneck, a symbolic peak in the Vosges (with 28 ski runs and 300 snow machines), and a totally renovated area at the foot of the pistes. A passion for downhill skiing is very much part of life here, where local inhabitants happily head for the ski lifts at six in the morning, even at the weekend! For those on holiday who prefer a later start to the day, the floodlit ski area remains open until 10pm several days a week. The resort also has 50km of cross-country tracks around Lac du Lispach, as well as a "Nordic park" leisure area and a link with the Gérardmer ski network. Away from the slopes, Bresse has a swimming pool and fitness complex, in addition to an ice rink with an attractive roof made from local wood. The TGV station at Remiremont is just 25km away.
Munster - Gaschney (Haut-Rhin - on the Alsace side of the range) 900-1,280m
The downhill ski areas of Schnepfenried, Le Tanet and Gaschney in particular (with its total of 15 ski lifts and 20km of pistes) are located close to this charming village in an area famous for its cheese. If Nordic skiing is more your thing, you'll delight in trails that wend their way through forests or on ridges heading towards the Col de la Schlucht (at an altitude of 1,280m) or Le Markstein. The area is also a paradise for snowshoe enthusiasts.
Gérardmer-Xonrupt (Vosges - on the Lorraine side of the range) 870-1,150m
Nestled in the Vallée des Lacs, Gérardmer has 20 ski lifts and a similar number of downhill runs (including some that are floodlit) across the Mauselaine ski area, plus 100km of cross-country trails (towards Bas-Rupts and Longemer) following the contours of streams (known locally as "rupts") that bubble beneath the snow and ice. An eclectic range of leisure facilities and activities (including several themed wildlife parks nearby) add to the area's appeal.
Le Markstein-Grand Ballon (only in french) (Haut-Rhin - on the Alsace side of the range) 1,000-1,424m
Situated to the north of Colmar and Mulhouse, this ski area has 40km of cross-country trails and 10 downhill runs. Although modest in size, a few years ago Le Markstein hosted a prestigious World Cup downhill race on an officially accredited slalom run! The scenic surrounding area, the Pays de Guebwiller, is a perfect vision of true Alsace authenticity.
Ventron (only in french) (Vosges - on the Lorraine side of the range) 900-1,100m
With 9 runs accessed via 8 chair and drag lifts, the Ermitage Frère Joseph ski area in the south-west of the Vosges has been developed with families in mind by several generations of the Leduc family. Back in the 1940s, '50s and '60s, the 11 brothers and sisters were all top-level competitive skiers and brought their experience and passion for skiing to this charming village.
Val d'Orbey (only in french) (Haut-Rhin - on the Alsace side of the range) 929-1,050m
Located between the Col du Bonhomme and the Lac Blanc, close to the vineyards of Kaysesberg, this ski area has 9 lifts, 14 downhill runs and 40km of Nordic ski trails. Visitors will undoubtedly enjoy the friendly atmosphere of the Pays Welsche, between Saint-Dié and Colmar.