2011 Mountain activities

Thinking of booking a ski holiday in France? You certainly will be after reading our top 10 reasons to spend your winter break at a French resort. Cheap flights, English speaking instructors, thermal spas and fondue are just the tip of the iceberg.

French ski resorts are easy to get to

Thinking of booking a ski holiday in France? You certainly will be after reading our top 10 reasons to spend your winter break at a French resort. Cheap flights, English speaking instructors, thermal spas and fondue are just the tip of the iceberg.

French ski resorts are easy to get to
As far as transport links are concerned, you couldn’t hope for more than four French airports: Chambery, Grenoble, Lyon Bron and Lyon St Exupéry grouped so closely to each other and the surrounding ski resorts. There are plenty of cheap flights on the low cost airlines that service these destinations. Chamonix, Val d’Isère, Méribel, Morzine and many more are within two hours drive. Geneva airport in Switzerland is also very conveniently located and with this in mind, even a short ski break is possible.

World renowned ski resorts
A dry ski slope in the UK might be OK to practice on but it can’t really compare to real snow or the ambience of one of France’s picturesque and world renowned ski resorts: Tignes, Chamonix, Val d’Isère, Méribel and Morzine to name but a very few. Earlier this year, some French resorts, including: Piau Engaly, Les Menuires, Val Thorens, and Risoul went so far as to guarantee potential holidaymakers good snow or their money back. France is home to some of the largest ski areas in the world (Les Trois Vallées, Paradiski Espace Killy…) that can still challenge experienced skiers.

English speaking ski instructors
As France is home to some very well established ski resorts, it follows that their ski schools should have plenty of experience, especially when it comes to teaching visitors from abroad how to ski. But fully bilingual instructors aren’t the only advantage of taking lessons at a French ski resort. The Ecole du Ski Français has such highly qualified instructors that the joy of skiing really is available to all – children can join in from the age of three and there are specially trained instructors to help blind or disabled people too.

There’s something for everyone
Nowadays, ski resorts in France have so many winter sports to offer, even just in terms of different ways to ski. There is cross-country skiing, off-piste skiing and night-time skiing amongst others. However, snowshoeing and skidooing are also gaining in popularity, as is ski joering, which involves being pulled along on skis by a horse. More extreme sports enthusiasts might be attracted to ice diving, ice driving, bobsleigh or parapente (like paragliding with skis). But to ease yourself in gently, there’s always ice-skating or a trip to one of France’s many thermal mountain spas.

France from another perspective
The mountainous areas of France that attract skiing enthusiasts in winter might be covered by a blanket of snow but there are still plenty of things to see and do. Activities such as ski touring, which involves hiking on skis, will allow you to take in some of the most spectacular scenery that would otherwise be inaccessible. On foot or halfway up a ski lift, you’ll get to see France in a different way. Plus, the typical wooden chalet style accommodation with log fires and beautiful views are unlike anything you’ll find elsewhere in France.

Après ski: the music, bars and festivals
France’s most established ski resorts have put as much time and energy into making sure visitors enjoy themselves off the slopes as they do on them. Some resorts boast a livelier nightlife than others but whether or not you are after cheap beer and a club where you can dance till the early hours, there are some good live bands to listen to and various festivals during the year.

Delicious local produce in Alpine cuisine
Spending a day on the slopes will give you the perfect excuse to indulge yourself at dinner time. The promise of a hot and hearty meal after all that outdoor activity is enough to persuade even hardened skiers to put down their poles and come in out of the cold. As well as the famous Fondue Savoyarde, combining some of the best local cheese (usually Compté and Beaufort) and white wine, there are stews and potato-based dishes to look forward to. The area is also well known for its cold meats including dried sausage and smoked ham. Fruit tarts are a traditional way to round off a meal.

Combine a city break with a ski break
The advantage that many of France’s ski resorts have is that they are located close to other important places of interest, so you could easily combine a city break with a few days on the slopes. Grenoble is one of the major cities in the Rhône-Alpes and is a great place to explore on holiday. Its cable cars allow a close up view of the Bastille, an ancient fortress carved from rock on the side of a mountain. Even closer still to the ski resorts are traditional mountain villages and farms, some of which offer tours so you can see how local cheeses like Reblochon and Raclette are produced.

Famille Plus for peace of mind
When you take your family on a ski holiday in France, look out for the Famille Plus Montagne label that signifies an approved environment geared towards families on holiday in the mountains with facilities and entertainment suitable for children aged from 18 months to 12 years or over. Safety is high on the list of priorities for such establishments, which must have professionally trained staff to look after the children and a medical service for children. The label, which looks like a blue star, is recognized by the French Ministry of Tourism.

Great offers on ski holidays in France
Depending on your budget, you could opt for a self-catering chalet to share with a group of friends or a luxury catered chalet or hotel. Skiing requires a fair amount of kit but most of this is available to hire once you arrive at the ski resort. So if you’re just starting out, you needn’t worry about making a costly investment early on or having to pay extra to take skis on the plane. If you need a lift pass (in some cases, beginners might not) then these can be bought online in advance, often the cheaper option.

This article first appeared in FrenchEntree.com

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