France is still the easiest country to ski from the UK and short transfer times between airports and resorts could balance out lower costs in more difficult to reach places this year. All-inclusive is a good way to make a budget work a bit harder too (cuts down on exchange rate misery). And, there are several less expensive resorts with great access to legendary ski areas, lower price lift passes and no corner cutting on kids’ activities, entertainment or good ski schools. Here are five wide-ranging French resorts worth thinking about for 2016.
1/ 5 Serre Chevalier, Southern French Alps
You can take your pick from over a dozen high altitude resorts in Serre Chevalier and still hit charming, heritage and great for kids just about every time. Long hours of sunshine are another big plus here and an extensive lift network makes the 250km ski-area easily accessible. It’s not the choice for designer shopping and Michelin starred restaurants and the chances of running into royalty are slim, but prices aren’t Courchevel either and the easy going family atmosphere makes up for any lack of gloss. If you want Alpine prettiness, historic spas and patient ski-schools, look at Monêtier-les-Bains: British run New Generation school is famously good with beginners and for getting intermediates to the next level, fast. Characterful Briançon’s the highest town in Europe, close to the ski-area, nice and lively off the snow for kids and home to Club Med Serre Chevalier: all-inclusive includes lessons and lift-passes.
Serre Chevalier is Famille Plus accredited
How to get there: Nearest airport is Turin with 2 hour drive to Serre Chevalier. Direct Ryanair flights between Stanstead and Turin from £104 return in December. Flying time 2 hours.
Find out more about Serre Chevalier
2/5 Les Gets, Portes du Soleil
Another Famille Plus resort, Les Gets is also the one that owns Christmas and if skiing and Santa are the heady mix you’re going for this year, the old man’s living in The Enchanted Forest from November and the atmosphere’s always reliably festive. Pedestrian-friendly streets, excellent nursery slopes, loads of activities including a wild-west theme park and waterpark, good childcare for under 4s and three highly respected ski-schools, are a few other family advantages here. And it’s part of the vast 650km Portes du Soleil ski area so no shortage of slopes, although at 1172m it’s not as high-altitude as some but the difference is usually only in village-level snow cover.
One of the most accessible French resorts for airports and home to Père Noël, troupes of elves and kids’ Christmas entertainment.
How to get there: Nearest airport is Geneva, one hour’s drive from Les Gets. Direct EasyJet flights between London Southend and Geneva from £64 return in December. Flying time 1 hour and 40 minutes.
Find out more about Les Gets
3/5 Montchavin-la-Plagne, Paradiski
Two villages in one: Montchavin-la-Plagne is the original and Les Coches is the purpose-built later addition. But fear not, this might be the biggest resort in La Plagne but it’s still traditional Savoyard in looks and character. So you can expect excellent skiing on the entire Paradiski area thanks to the Vanoise Express and you get sweet chalets, no concrete hotels and fantastic regional cooking too. If that sounds too refined for a family ski holiday, dozens of activities from wild sledging to snowshoe trekking, Mont Blanc expeditions and a choice of kids’ clubs and great ski schools should put your mind at ease. Beautifully well-run picnic rooms on the mountains save a fortune on restaurant lunches and Montchavin’s big on winter festivities, so no shortage of local entertainment in and around Christmas and New Year.
Fast access to La Plagne Paradiski and characterful village atmosphere.
How to get there: Nearest airport is Chambery, one hour and 20 minutes drive from Montchavin. Direct British Airways flights from London City Airport to Chambery from £182 return in December. Flying time 1 hour and 40 minutes.
Find out more about Montchavin-la-Plagne
4/5 Avoriaz, Portes de Soleil
The birthplace of snowboarding doesn’t have the quaint charm of its near and lovelier neighbour, Morzine, but it’s a great choice with older kids and edges out in front for ski-in-ski-out family self-catering. Part of the Portes de Soleil ski-area it’s a good all-level-all-rounder and schools for beginners and skill-honing intermediates are excellent. There’s plenty for kids to do from dog sledding to skating and the board parks are phenomenal. All designed from natural materials, the biggest and best is still Stash but now it’s joined by L’il Stash, so junior boarders have room to get good and the more experienced can show off or get better. If you want more authenticity, staying in Morzine and using Avoriaz is always an option.
French giant for snowboarding and outstanding for first-time boarders.
How to get there: Nearest airport is Geneva, one hour and 40 minutes’ drive from Avoriaz. Direct EasyJet flights between London Southend and Geneva from £64 return in December. Flying time 1 hour and 40 minutes.
Find out more about Avoriaz
5/5 Courchevel, Trois Vallées
Never a bargain ski-break, Courchevel earns its keep by having an incredible lift network and faster than fast access to the massive Trois Vallées ski area. It’s also one of a select few resorts to have specially adapted children’s lifts and has a surprisingly good range of beginner and intermediate slopes – confidence building for kids alone could be worth the expense. Two of Europe’s best snowboard and ski-schools are also here and the non-ski activities cover everything from adventure camps and climbing walls to a dedicated family fun park, Christmas events and a choice of kids’ clubs. The resort’s in Haute-Savoie, so the food’s exceptional and broad-spectrum restaurants mean ‘fine’ dining’s an option, not a rule – spas, designer shopping and chic bars are all part of the après-ski too.
Great skiing for advanced and intermediate but good choice for beginners too.
How to get there: Nearest airport is Chambery, one hour and 30 minutes’ drive from Courchevel. Direct British Airways flights from London City Airport to Chambery from £182 return in December. Flying time 1 hour and 40 minutes.