The most beautiful winter sports resorts are located in the Alps and particularly in Savoie and Haute-Savoie. How to choose your ski holiday and book it at the best price?
Which winter sports resort to choose?
France has an extensive and world-renowned ski area with over 230 resorts. Do you love the mountains in winter and want to enjoy a holiday in one of the many ski resorts in the Northern Alps? The region offers a wide and varied range of resorts such as Val d’Isère, Les Menuires, Courchevel, Les 2 Alpes, Alpe d’Huez, Les Arcs, La Plagne, Le Corbier and La Toussuire.
The ski resorts of Haute-Savoie are also an opportunity to visit Annecy, the Venice of the Alps. You can choose between a traditional resort that has retained the look of Savoyard mountain villages such as La Clusaz. If you’re looking for a family resort with lots of activities for children such as a festival, Le Grand Bornand ticks all the boxes to combine the pleasure of skiing with enjoyable mountain walks.
For those with a passion for skiing and black runs, high altitude resorts such as Flaine, Tignes in Savoie and Val Thorens at an altitude of 2,300m allow skiing from November to May. The Grande Motte glacier in Tignes even allows you to ski in the summer, depending on the level of snow cover. The price of a rental at the foot of the slopes varies according to the number of rooms in the flat and the number of nights. A residence that allows you to reach the slopes on foot is highly sought after, especially if its flats are highly rated by customers.
Some resorts are world famous for the luxury of their hotels, such as Chamonix at the foot of Mont Blanc and Megève. The resorts of this massif also allow skiing on the Swiss and Italian slopes. Each ski area such as the 3 Valleys, the Portes du Soleil, the Portes du Mont-Blanc, the Grand Massif offers you the possibility to ski down hundreds of kilometres of slopes while enjoying the comfort of each residence. The resorts open from the end of November to the beginning of May.
You can also take lessons whatever your level to learn to ski or improve your skiing.
The choice of accommodation is an important part of your winter holiday planning.
We advise you to anticipate your bookings to take advantage of the best prices. In the resorts of the Pays de Savoie you can choose between several types of residences:
- The hotel for a comfortable accommodation with catering and many personalized services in the room.
- The Résidence de tourisme allows you to take advantage of favourable financial conditions, particularly with works councils, and often has an indoor swimming pool.
- The chalet: you have to book well in advance to take advantage of this traditional and more expensive residence.
- Holiday clubs: to have access to numerous activities, a complete equipment with swimming pool, car park and club for the children.
- Rented flats: ideal to benefit from the advice of the owners and advantageous depending on the number of rooms for a family or a group of friends. Studio accommodation is more convenient for being in the heart of the village.
- The youth hostel: the most economical collective accommodation such as the youth hostel in La Clusaz.
When booking your accommodation, you can also book ski equipment hire and ski passes to save money. Before booking one or more nights, you should consult the reviews of previous clients who will give you information on the number of rooms in the flat, the presence of a car park in the residence, the distance between the slopes, the ski lifts and the centre of the village from your accommodation. In times of health crisis, it is important to check the conditions of reimbursement and room occupancy.
Choose a mode of transport
To reach your holiday destination, you can use different modes of transport: car, coach, shuttle, taxi, VTC and train.
The Savoie resorts are particularly well served by rail. For example, the Cluses station serves the resorts of Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval and Flaine.
The Bourg-Saint-Maurice station in Savoie provides shuttle services to the resorts of Courchevel and Tignes. The resort of Saint-Gervais has its own station.
If you come by car, it is important to check the snow conditions and the weather before you leave. The Savoyard departments have an extensive bus network linking the main towns. There are bus routes between the different resorts. Within the resorts, a shuttle bus service, often free of charge, connects the slopes to the village centre. Covered parking in a residence can be expensive but is very useful in case of heavy snowfall. Some resorts are completely pedestrian, such as Avoriaz and Flaine. There is no need for a car, you can walk to the village centre.
Important: During the period from 1st November to 31st March, vehicles must be equipped with either four winter tyres or removable anti-skid devices (metal snow chains, hybrid chains, textile chains, snow socks). Read more about this new regulation on snow tyres.
A ski holiday is first and foremost the pleasure of skiing in all its forms: downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, sledging. At the same time, the resorts offer numerous cultural, recreational and festive activities. Depending on the period of your holiday and the number of visitors, it is advisable to book the activities that interest you before your stay. For example, the resort of Megève offers horse-drawn carriage rides which are very popular.
In Chamonix, the Vallée Blanche excursion and a hike on the Mer de Glace are not to be missed.
You can also book snowshoeing excursions with a guide to discover the fauna and flora of the snowy valleys. The resort of Châtel offers a huge zip line: “Le Fantasticable” which allows you to fly over the Hameau de Dranse at 100km/h at a height of 240m over a distance of 1200m. The flats in a serviced residence can also offer entertainment. The resorts also organise festivals and musical gatherings to take a breather after a good day’s skiing. Depending on the health conditions, you should check the information and notices to find out how many places are available and the conditions for reimbursement.
Ski passes and rentals
The ski pass or skipass is a card that gives you access to the ski lifts for downhill skiing: gondolas, ski lifts and chairlifts. For cross-country skiing, it is the access to the slopes that is controlled. The ski pass is not free and can be purchased in different ways: the ski pass alone, the ski pass with accommodation and the ski pass with accommodation and equipment hire.
If you don’t have your own equipment, you can hire skis, snowboard, poles, boots and helmet on site. This is practical if you come by public transport or if you do not regularly practice winter sports and do not have your own skis. Check out the various reviews and information on the ski rental companies in your resort to get the best prices and find out about the refund conditions in case of cancellation of your stay.
The price of a ski pass is cheaper in France than in Germany or Switzerland. As an indication, it costs 50 € for a day in a resort with 200 km of pistes and 40 € for a medium-sized resort with 100 km of pistes. Ski passes in a small village cost around €30 per day. Finally, for a ski area of around 20 km, the price is around €15.
Holiday advice: when and how to go skiing?
Holidaymakers who want to book a ski holiday often ask themselves this question: when to go. There are more favourable periods in terms of economy. Even if the criterion of snow cover is decisive. Global warming reduces the coldest periods, but good snowfalls allow resorts to open their ski areas from November to April. Our advice according to the period to leave at the right time and at the best price:
- Christmas and New Year: this is the magical time for families to experience the magic of Christmas on the slopes. The resorts are open from mid-December, and holiday packages are offered at attractive prices. Many festivities are proposed for the passage to the new year.
- February holidays: this is the most popular period of the year, so book at least 3 months in advance. The best rates are before mid-February, at the beginning of the holidays.
- March and April: depending on the snow conditions, this is an interesting period with promotions of up to 40% outside the Easter holidays. A good plan to book a few nights in a chalet in Chamonix near Mont Blanc.
To make sure you have every advantage on your side for your holiday, we advise you to: train physically before you leave, bring warm and light clothing, keep well hydrated, protect yourself with a helmet, sun cream and sunglasses. Before you leave you can practice putting chains on your car. Remember to check your insurance cover, particularly for the conditions of reimbursement of your accommodation, whatever the type of accommodation: chalet, studio or tourist residence.
Shops and services
The resorts offer many shops selling clothes and ski equipment to equip you. The restaurants at altitude offer excellent Savoyard specialities such as fondue, raclette, tartiflette and diots au vin blanc. At the end of the day, you can meet at the bottom of the slopes for musical entertainment as in La Clusaz.
The bars and clubs then take over for lively nights. The social networks will tell you with the different opinions the favourites of the moment. For night owls, it is important to remember that the slopes are less busy and of better quality in the early morning.
If you are not staying in a hotel, there are many mini-markets in each resort during your stay. However, prices are often quite high. We recommend that you do your food shopping in the valley in supermarkets or hypermarkets before you reach the resort. If you come with young children, you can book places in the crèches and nurseries near your accommodation. Finally, if you wish to take ski lessons or have your children take ski lessons, it is useful to plan this before your arrival during the busy school holidays.
The essential slope webcam
It is the reflex of many holidaymakers: before leaving for a resort, watch the webcams of the ski area to see the weather and the level of snow. The images are live or slightly delayed. If you want to book a weekend at the last minute, this is the best way to find out the exact weather conditions of a resort in Savoie and Haute-Savoie.
Here are some examples of live images from the webcams of winter sports resorts in the Savoie:
- Webcam of the slopes of Chamonix
- Webcam of the slopes of Val d’Isère
- Webcam of La Sambuy
- Megève webcam
- Avoriaz webcam
The weather forecast is also an element to take into account in terms of safety. In the mountains, and particularly in the Alps, the weather can change rapidly, with the appearance of fog. This is a must if you want to go snowshoeing or off-piste skiing. The areas in the Alps that have a north-facing mountain range allow you to ski in resorts later in the season, such as Val Thorens and Val d’Isère.
Local weather reports are often also available on the resorts’ mobile apps. If the weather is bad, you can take advantage of municipal facilities such as swimming pools, ice rinks and cinemas.