Right from the start, accessibility was a guiding principle in the development of Les Arcs – and it found its fullest expression in the resort’s most recent addition: Arc 1950. Built from scratch between 2003 and 2008, this pretty, low-rise village wraps around a central, car-free plaza, with an off-shoot of the Baptiste Giabiconi piste running right through the middle. As a result, it offers almost instant access to the snow from every one of its résidences. You can start skiing as soon as you’ve snapped your boot buckles shut.
Of course, what happens next depends on your ability. Intermediates will enjoy the great swathe of red and blue pistes above Arc 1600 and Arc 1800, accessed via the Bois de l’Ours and Combocière chairlifts beneath the village. Meanwhile, experts will be salivating at the thought of the off-piste descents on the 2732m Aiguille Rouge. Either way, with glowing bars and restaurants beckoning on the plaza on your return, the sense of convenience is all-encompassing.
You can rely on good snow in all our ski-in, ski-out resorts. After all, each was purpose-built to take maximum advantage of the white stuff – half-way up a mountain rather than on the valley floor, and often on a cold, north-facing slope.
But when it comes to thaw-proof snow, and an ultra-long season, nowhere can quite match Val Thorens. It’s not just that in seven separate places the lift system rises to the snow-sure height of 3000m. It’s the fact that the resort itself sits at 2300m. So on all but the steamiest spring day you’ll enjoy cold, squeaky snow from start to finish. Stay near the Place de Caron, the Rue de Soleil, or the Plein Sud piste, and the fun starts right on your doorstep too.
La Plagne shares the giant Paradiski area with Les Arcs and was built with a similar focus on no-hassle skiing. Many of its small, purpose-built villages stand like islands amidst the pistes, and none is better-integrated than Plagne Soleil and its near-neighbour Plagne Villages. Three separate easy-skiing pistes wrap around their hotels and apartments, en route to the lift hub at Plagne Centre, nearby: and from there, lifts fan out in every direction. There are slopes in La Plagne to suit every level of skier, but the less confident kind of intermediate will like it best. With gentle undulating gradients right across its central plateau, it’s the perfect launchpad for a day of stress-free turns.
No wonder the rich and famous love Courchevel. If you want to look good on skis, without being a powder-munching, mogul-bashing expert, then its beautifully-groomed pistes are hard to beat.
If you’re in the market for luxurious accommodation right next to the slopes, it also has few rivals. The prime location is the long and gentle Bellecote piste, looping back towards Courchevel’s main rallying-point, La Croisette: and it’s lined with billionaire-friendly chalets and five-star hotels. More are scattered through the slightly more discrete Jardin Alpin, in the trees immediately above. In both, you can transition from boot room to snow faster than you can say, “let’s have lunch on the terrace of Le Cap Horn.” Though you might want to check someone else is going to pick up the tab when you do.
It may be more than 50 years since Avoriaz opened to the skiing public, but still it looks and feels like the future. In part, you can thank the dramatic setting for that – on a cliff-top balcony at 1800m, in the midst of the vast Portes du Soleil ski area. The integrated layout of wraparound pistes and high-rise apartment blocks helps too; with the result that no-one needs to walk more than a few paces to start skiing.
Most prescient of all, however, is its car-free design. You leave your vehicle at an enormous parking lot above the resort, and then either jump on a horse-drawn sleigh or pull your luggage to your accommodation on a sledge. The clean air and lack of traffic immediately add to your sense of escape. So too does the snow. Avoriaz has the highest snowfall average of any French ski resort, so chances are you won’t be short of a flake or two.
Located just 30km from Grenoble, tucked between Alpe d’Huez and Les 2 Alpes, Chamrousse features a varied alpine ski area. This resort is famous for hosting the winter Olympic Games in 1968 when famous French skier Jean-Claude Killy won three gold medals.
There are two villages in the resort: Chamrousse Recoin is ideal for the more athletic skiers amongst you, whilst Chamrousse Roche-Béranger is great for families and beginners – and you can ski from one to the other via the fir tree-dotted slopes. There are runs for all abilities, three snow parks and loads of activities from sledging to snow-tubing, plus of course the Olympic area awaits ambitious skiers. There are plenty of bars and cosy bistros, perfect for those who love an authentic French ski holiday.
Since its creation in the 1960s, pedestrianised Les Orres has focussed on being environmentally friendly, with pesticide-free slopes and energy saving facilities. The night skies here are simply sensational. This pretty resort, set in the heart of a majestic larch forest, perches at 2,720m, above the vast Serre-Ponçon Lake, and is ideal for all levels of skiers.
Les Orres holds “famille plus” accreditation, offering activities suitable for all ages, including kids clubs and professional childcare meaning grown-ups can enjoy some snowy me-time. And – there’s a lot to enjoy: 100 km with 36 slopes which enjoy significant snowfalls and feature dramatic scenery and long descents. Plus there’s plenty of activities such as a tobogganing area, skating rink, rail sled, skie-joering and much more. This winter wonderland is a definite family pleaser…
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