Whether relaxing on the terrace of a private chalet with a glass of wine in hand or racing down steep valleys draped with tumbling glaciers, ski holidays are the ultimate exhilarating luxury. The skiing is at its finest in France, the world’s largest ski resort. From October until May, modern chairlifts are busily linking sizeable ski resorts each with appealing North American lodges and Alpine chalets. Glowing fondues and sticky raclettes are heartily passed around while others unwind in warm spas or gather for conversation in fanciful, cosy bars. This is the definitive list of luxury ski holidays in the French Alps where you can find all of the above and more.
Every year, more people enjoy the winter sports delights of Val d’Isère than anywhere else in the world. Excellent skiing terrain and stunning alpine towns are a winning combination for the ideal ski resort. 94 lifts across 300km of pistes are a fine addition to that. The slopes enjoy a long season of snow-sure skiing and pander to all abilities from beginner to advanced.
Val d’Isère itself is a three-mile long plateau with lofty mountains flanking both sides. The resort starts in the attractive Savoyard town, La Daille, and ends in the hamlets of Le Laisinant and Le Fornet, but despite its size, the pistes are all naturally linked, avoiding the often arduous reality of long hikes or tiresome chairlifts.
Val d’Isère has allured ski enthusiasts from across the globe since its rise to fame and subsequent renovation for the 1992 Winter Olympics. Since then, Val d’Isère has blossomed into a handsome and highly sophisticated winter resort town. Upscale wooden cabins rise imperiously above the powdery snow and pine trees linked by fairylights.
The charming town is best enjoyed in a luxury accommodation. Arrive by Val d’Isere helicopter charter for beautiful aerial views of the 17th century town’s stone houses and church and land by the five-star hotel, Les Barmes de l’Ours, for Michelin-starred dining and an exceptional spa experience.
Once used primarily as a mountaineering resort, Chamonix is now among the very finest of French ski destinations. As its history suggests, the slopes are rugged and wild, more than those of the other featured resorts. Its unique heritage means it is popular among advanced skiers and off-piste free riders.
Chamonix is one of the world’s most diverse ski resorts with ski lifts ranging at 3,842m high and glacier slopes measuring up to 20km long. This is what locals call “le grand ski” and, perhaps, why it was selected as the location of the first Winter Olympics in 1924.
Chamonix isn’t all grizzly mountaineering though. Argentière, Les Houches and a few other smaller resorts located at the foot of Mont Blanc are the essence of Chamonix. They boast a healthy infrastructure of plus restaurants, youthful bars, weekly open-air markets and prestige accommodation.
Unfortunately, public transport and heavy traffic can be a holiday hassle. However, with its proximity to Geneva airport, a Chamonix helicopter charter is often the choice of travel for many and ensures rarely seen views of Europe’s most unique landscape. Within no time, you can be dining upon gourmet food at the opulent Hotel du Mont Blanc or sipping on a cocktail and listening to live music in fashionable bars upon the vibrant Avenue Michel Croz.
Courchevel is widely respected as the French Alps’ perennial luxury ski resort. The four resorts of the Trois Vallées cover 600km of pistes and over 170 lifts. The world’s largest lift-linked ski area also enjoys some of the world’s finest snow and has an unrivalled array of terrains from beginner to expert.
Courchevel is the largest resort of the Trois Vallées and, therefore, has unsurprisingly the biggest and best selection of hotels in the Alps. Of the 34 official resort hotels, two are “Palace” rated and 16 are five-star quality, meaning Courchevel has more luxury hotels than any other French city outside of Paris.
Expect these hotels and the many ski-in/ski-out luxury chalets available to have spa and fitness centres, pools, salt caves, saunas and hot tubs with some of the most spectacular views imaginable.
Furthermore, the five restaurants with two Michelin stars and the “Pamper off Piste” massage and beauty services mean visitors barely have any need to leave Courchevel and explore the rest of the Trois Vallées.
This would be unwise, however, as there is so much to visit in the area from the Ski Mountaineering World Cup and BMW Polo Masters in January to the International Fireworks Festival the following month. After all the excitement of the day, many also enjoy the Méribel valley for live bands and DJs at the Folie Douce and more sedate terraces with excellent wine caves and Alpine views.
by Kate Snesareva, luxury lifestyle writer
Kate, is an avid traveller, regularly making good use of her passport to explore new destinations. She is a writer for various yachting and luxury lifestyle publications and also a passionate photographer.