If you haven’t skied the Southern Alps yet, French Alps’ specialists Peak Retreats think you’re missing out on incredible family holidays, and here’s why.
A mix of high-altitude, long hours of sunshine and outstanding snow makes the Southern Alps a great choice for family ski holidays this winter, particularly as they’re amazingly easy to reach from the UK by road, air or even by train. However, convenience and sunshine aren’t the full story, for that you need to know about the skiing itself, which gives you everything from gentle beginner slopes to thrilling black runs, across an exceptional variety of terrain.
Take a look at four great family resorts which Peak Retreats think might make you a Southern Alps’ convert this winter.
Montgenèvre: a Famille Plus resort with heaps of charm
Set on the border of France and Italy, in the Southern Alps, Montgenèvre is the only French resort in the Milky Way ski area, which gives it access to over 400km of pistes. Alongside that spacious terrain, Montgenèvre’s own ski area spans both South Chalvet-Serre Thibaud and Chalmettes-Gondran Eagle.
When you couple all this skiing space with a good snow record, charming village and a Famille Plus label, it’s easy to understand why families like this lovely resort, a lot.
Also, it’s a great choice for first timers with gentle nursery slopes, easy blue runs and a dedicated zone for beginners and families. Although intermediate and experienced skiers won’t be disappointed here, as not only can you cross-border ski into Italy, Montgenèvre offers good high-terrain and plenty of red pistes.
However, if you’re skiing with teens this winter, you’ll also find the ski area well designed to safely give them a bit of independence, as well as letting them practice at their own pace: great confidence booster.
As for the resort itself, Montgenèvre is over 100 years old and comes with all the quaint prettiness that implies. Apart from being family-friendly, it’s just friendly, full stop. Something you’ll discover shopping at the Wednesday morning market – good opportunity to put your French to the test too.
Why Peak Retreats recommends Montgenèvre
- Easy to reach by road from Calais, and motorway almost all the way, apart from the last 30 minutes.
- The nearest airport is Turin, which has direct UK flights and lies just over an hour away from Montgenèvre.
- You can also travel to Montgenèvre by train: Eurostar from London to Paris, then TGV to Oulx Station. Oulx is 25 minutes from Montgenèvre.
- Dedicated family area at the heart of the village covers 55,000m² and includes a magic carpet, free ski lift, and snow garden.
- The fun Monty Express mountain coaster slaloms for 1,400m through forest: perfect way to end a day’s skiing with kids.
- Other non-ski activities include tobogganing, snowshoeing, luge, sleigh rides, a snow park, cross country skiing, and a village ice rink.
Serre Chevalier: the sunniest ski resort in the Southern Alps
When French families ski the Southern Alps, there’s a good chance they’re basing themselves in Serre Chevalier. Tucked close to Briançon – the highest town in France – a combination of long, long hours of sunshine and snow-sure pistes is almost as appealing as its spectacular views. If you need more of a clue, think 360° panoramas over the Ecrins Mountains and the Italian Alps to Mont Blanc.
Views aside, this is a good resort for beginners with a mix of nursery slopes, green runs and easy mid-mountain areas, along with an excellent local ski school. Intermediates benefit from some of Europe’s longest lifts and a variety of runs both above and below the tree-line: ideal if you want to try different terrains.
More experienced skiers will find plenty off-piste to get excited about, along with some challenging red and black runs, including the Luc Alphand Olympic which runs for 6km into Chantemerle.
But it’s families who really win at Serre Chevalier. Another Famille Plus resort, it offers a superb range of childcare for kids aged from 6 months to 6 years, as well as lots of fun activities to fill time off the slopes.
If you’ve ever wanted to try Ski-joering, this is the place for that. Families can also join a Snow Groomer Ride to discover the secrets of creating fresh-every-morning pistes. Plus, for true thrill seekers, there’s the Giant Zip Line A Go, which flies at speeds of up 100kmph between Grande Serre and the Grand Alpe. Go it alone, if you dare, or brave it à deux.
Why Peak Retreats recommends Serre Chevalier
- You can reach Serre Chevalier in the Southern Alps by road from Calais in about 10 hours.
- Turin Airport is just one hour, 30 minutes from Serre Chevalier, and Peak Retreats will organise private transfers if you want to avoid car hire.
- You can reach Serre Chevalier by train too: Eurostar from London to Paris, then TGV to Oulx Station. Oulx is 50 minutes from Serre Chevalier.
- An extensive lift system includes some of the longest lifts in Europe.
- One of the sunniest ski resorts in the Southern Alps with up to 300 sunshine days every year.
- One of four villages in the foothills of the Ecrins National Park, Serre Chevalier accesses 250km of pistes and a mix of forested and open runs.
Auron: the family all-rounder in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur
If you want to go big in the Southern Alps this winter, Auron is the resort to choose. Although, it’s less than an hour and a half’s drive from Nice, it sits at 1,600m, and is a ‘Famille Plus’ resort dedicated to family-focused fun.
If range matters to you more than size, you’ll be pleased to know the resort is divided into four different areas and offers wide, green runs for beginners, as well as an advanced and intermediate area in the Auron Snowpark, and a dedicated family area on the Ubac Slope.
Plus, it couldn’t be more perfect for tiny skiers trying out for the first time, as it features a fun snow garden for ages three and over, along with the Oursons Nursery for even younger kids.
Yet another Famille Plus resort, Auron covers all bases from excellent professional childcare and activities for all ages to handy shopping and a personalised welcome for all families.
It also leads the field on off-the-slope fun for kids with safe, free tobogganing on two runs of 45m and 65m: great way to end a ski day. And if originality is what you’re after, you can play the oddest football of your life here: inside giant, transparent bubbles on the Auron ice rink.
Another unusual feature is the children’s snowmobile circuit which lets kids as young as six race round specially designed tracks. If you’re thinking a little competitive excitement before dinner, you’re not wrong.
Why Peak Retreats recommends Auron
- Auron is less than 1 hour, 30 minutes from Nice Airport. Direct UK flights to Nice take from 2 hours and Peak Retreats can organise private transfers from the airport.
- Alternatively, travel by Eurostar to Paris, take the TGV train to Nice and catch the bus from Gare Nice-Ville to Auron.
- A good all-round Famille Plus resort with something for all ages.
- One-of-a-kind family activities to round off ski days perfectly with kids.
- The resort sits close to the magnificent Mercantour National Park.
Isola 2000: the most southerly resort in the Southern Alps
Skiing within sight of the sea isn’t an every day occurrence at Isola 2000, but it’s not unheard of, as this most southerly Southern Alps resort definitely comes with a hint of the Riviera in the mix.
However, it’s also high-altitude which means great snow cover, lots of lovely sunshine and mostly above-tree-level skiing: hence the potential of sea views on clear days.
Isola 2000 offers 120km of pistes and a good variety of beginner and intermediate runs. In fact, it’s a great choice for novices, thanks to slope-side accommodation, and a large nursery area, as well as its dedicated family park.
More experienced skiers have the St-Saveur sector to look forward to, particularly the black Lou Mesclun piste which runs for an astonishing two and a half miles.
Off the slopes, the Auavalle Aquatic Centre features a 25m pool with a 30m long slide, along with a separate children’s and toddler pool which incorporates a cute waterfall. And if you want less swimming and more soothing, the centre also offers saunas, steam rooms and hot tubs.
Why Peak Retreats recommends Isola 2000
- Nice Airport is 1 hour, 15 minutes from Isola 2000, and Peak Retreats can arrange private airport transfers to the resort.
- Les Cabris Winter Camp offers all-day childcare for 6 to 11 year olds with a focus on outdoor activities and snow-based fun.
- As a purpose built resort, Isola 2000 has a wide range of shops, restaurants, bars and essential services like banks and doctors.
- The dedicated family park includes mini-boardercross for beginners, along with child-friendly rails and kickers.
- A large choice of slope-side, ski-in-ski-out accommodation makes Isola 2000 a good choice for families with younger children.
Peak Retreats: Best Ski Operator, Telegraph Travel Awards 2023
Peak Retreats has been named Best Ski Operator at the Telegraph Travel Awards 2023 thanks to their high level of personal service and an understanding of families that comes from having plenty of ski-loving parents on their team.
Of course, as French Alps specialists, Peak Retreats are also the people to talk to first about the Southern Alps. And if you like the idea of discovering somewhere new or a bit of a hidden gem, they specialise in those too. Plus, when it comes to getting places, you can book self-drive holidays or travel by train with Peak Retreats, and airport transfers are just as easy to arrange.
Currently, Peak Retreats features holidays at over 70 French resorts, which gives you so many possibilities, all with superb family accommodation and excellent skiing as standard. Too much choice? Again the personal service comes into play here. So if you want advice, first hand recommendations or you’re looking for something very specific, you only have to ask. Peak Retreats are pretty passionate about ski holidays and they love to share their expertise.