Posted on 13 February 2022
Annually, millions of people visit the French Alps, in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur and Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes regions of Europe. With the tallest mountain at 4,808 metres, the Alps command fame among winter ski enthusiasts. Yet, the French alps have become about much more. The French alps transformed themselves into an outdoor hub and diversified tourism into 12-month money-making trades. This impacted tourism and local real estate markets. Forgetting urban landscapes, mountain ranges are now preferential places to live and holiday by delivering everything in abundance. Let’s look at the alps, reasons to visit, what to do and prominent locations.
Guide to the French Alps
How to Get to the French Alps
There are many ways to get there. Some visitors and owners of property drive there, especially British holidaymakers who use channel ferry services. Fly into Chambery, Geneva, or Grenoble airports for air travel with transfers times to towns between 45 minutes to 4 hours. Meanwhile, train journeys from other places arrive at Moutiers, Bourg St Maurice, Lyon, Chamonix, Briancon Annecy, and Chambery. More about driving to the Alps.
When is the Best Time to Visit?
To ski in the Alps, resorts open in December, depending on their altitude. However, they generally run to April. This is when Spring kicks in, so Mother Nature gets to work. Trees reclaim vibrant green colours, flowers grow, and outdoor enjoyment turns from snow to biking, hiking, and camping. This continues through summer when temperatures climb until autumn, when landscapes turn into a vivid red, orange, and yellow kaleidoscope.
Four Largest Ski Areas
Paradiski: Covering 420 kilometres featuring 239 slopes, this area connects La Plagne, Champagny-en-Vanoise, Peisey-Vallandry, and Les Arcs town. Aiguille Rouge peak means “Red Needle,” and skiers flock here for 7-kilometre pistes.
Les Trois Valles: Covering 600 kilometres and featuring 338 slopes, Three Valleys connect Courchevel, Orelle, Méribel, La Tania, Val Thorens Brides-les-Bains, Saint-Martin-de-Belleville, and Les Menuires. With an average five-month season, enjoy Europe’s most prominent winter playground.
Grand Massif: France’s fourth most extensive mountain place offers 265 kilometres of pistes, 140 slopes and 72 lifts. Unlike other sites, one benefit is lesser crowds at mountain lifts. In addition, this area offers banks, forest trails, and 64 kilometres of cross country runs. For places to stay, look at Sixt Resort, Samoens, Flaine, Morillon and Les Carroz:
Portes du Soleil: 288 slopes over 650 kilometres link Morzine, Avoriaz, Les Gets, Chatel, Saint-Jean d’Aulps, La Chapelle d’Abondance, and Montriond resorts. Spread over France and Switzerland, some resorts in this Alps area attract criticism for architecture styles, while others maintain traditional alpine ambience.
Reasons to Visit the French Alps
1: Beautiful High Mountain, Sky, and Landscapes: If you hate urban living, long traffic queues and the daily grind, escape to the alps. Bring your camera and get that Instagram account ready for incredible shots.
2: Good Health: Doctors often say get outdoors for our mental health, and there is no better place to recharge your batteries with French Alps air and physical enjoyment like hiking.
3: Culture: While manufactured resorts sold out on their culture, some have not. Strolling around places like Val D’Isère reveals traditional ways of life that locals love. Find out about conventional French alpine architecture.
4: Local food: Take your tastebuds on culinary journeys by tucking into traditional food. Local cheese and cream are delicious, along with dishes made using ingredients like berries, fish, game, and mushrooms.
5: Transport Choices: For chalet owners, getting there is quick, which is why they buy property. So, it doesn’t take long to get here when they fancy hitting the slopes or relaxing by beautiful lakes.
6: Variety of Destinations: Beautiful places run into hundreds of choices. Some sit in remote locations, while others like Chamonix attract various nationalities. Of course, let’s not forget luxury, upmarket Courchevel, or quaint Tignes.
7: Ski Accommodation: While resorts offer ski apartments, French Alps visitors love staying in traditional chalets with log fire, wooden balconies, and modern appliances. Book modern, luxury villas for an indoor swimming pool.
Prominent French Alps Resorts
Courchevel: Sitting in the Eastern French Alps, Courchevel comprises four different villages. Just a 2-hours’ drive from Geneva airport, try chocolate tasting sessions alongside luxury brand name shopping. In addition, Courchevel features indoor ice skating, helicopter sightseeing mountain tours, and speed riding.
Val d’Isère: Sitting in South-eastern France, 5 kilometres from Italy’s border, France’s best mountain destination offers 300 kilometres of pistes, gondolas, lifts and tow-ropes. Expect vibrant après ski sessions with local cuisine and ski schools for beginners and ice-driving, diving, skating, paragliding, and winter walking.
Chamonix: As another resort with beautiful mountain views, Chamonix keeps tidy and aesthetic appearances. Sitting at the France, Italy, and Switzerland junction, cable cars take skiers to Aiguille Midi and Pointe Helbronner peaks for unbelievable landscapes. Geneva airport, 75 minutes away, makes Chamonix ideal for weekend breaks, while four mountain ranges offer 152 kilometres of runs.
Morzine: This delightful resort at 1000 meters altitude offers modern facilities, decent bars and restaurants for excellent après ski sessions. Morzine is an all-rounder with green, and red runs, blue trails, and eight black trails, as well downhill runs. Enjoy off-slope things to do like night skiing, ice hockey, bowling, snowmobiling, swimming, and skating.
Les Gets: Sitting a 70-minute drive from Geneva, this place offers 280 slopes at 2350 metres altitude, alongside many skiing opportunities and eleven other resorts. There are also many things to do in Spring, Summer, and Autumn. Otherwise, expect themed bars, restaurants, shops, and local Savoyard cuisine.
Combloux: This French Alps Mountain village gives residents incredible views of majestic Mont-Blanc. Combloux was the winter Olympics first location in 1924 and is another ski resort with a traditional ambience. Ski schools offer private and group skiing lessons. Annecy-Haute-Savoie-Mont Blanc Airport is a 40-minute drive away, but visitors use Geneva, a 60-minute drive away.
Samoens: Sitting at 1600 metres altitude, Samoens means seven mountains that refer to the quaint village’s peaks. Having received the Famille Plus Montagne label, families will instantly feel at home here, as do beginners who access extensive beginner slopes. Regarding year-round destinations in the French Alps, Samoens is marvellous when snow falls away. Moreover, Geneva airport sits just a 70-minute drive away.
Things to Do Other than Skiing
Golfing: French Alps golf courses feature stunning mountain scenery. Flaine‘s 18-hole, par 63 course opens from July to September, while Lac De Tignes course offers more facilities, including schools and clubs for kids. Robert Trent Jones senor, golf architect, designed Chamonix’s course. Professional golfer Henry Cotton designed Megeve‘s course.
Chamonix Tourist attractions: Skywalk, known as Step into The Void, hangs off the 3777 metres Aiguille Midi Mountain edge. Mer De Glace is France’s largest glacier, boasting ice sculptures and mam made grottos. Mont Blanc tramway offers scenic rides or enjoy relaxation by Lac Blanc and Lac De Gaillands lakes. As well as offering helicopter and paragliding flights, indulge in golf or thrilling rides on a 1300 metre Coaster ride.
Cycling Routes: Tour de France passes through the French Alps every year, appealing to experienced and novice bikers. Places like Chatel open summer chairlifts for easy access to 600 kilometres of tracks, while other hotspots include Morzine. Enjoy the Bourg d’Oisans and Alpe d’Huez 1143 metres route. Other famous trails include Savoie road, Col de L’iseran beautiful ascent, Col du Mont Cenis, and Col du Télégraphe.
Alp d’Huez: Pic Blanc at 3330 metres in the French Alps offers beautiful views and is easily reached via cable car for off-slope activities. Palais des Sports et des Congress is the best sports centre. Adrenaline lovers like Le Signal peak for paragliding. Also enjoy helicopter tours, sleighing dog rides and a coaster ride, with ten beds and vertical drops. Lastly, visit Grotte De Glace Ice Cave Museum, or pay your respects at Eglise Notre-Dame-des-Neiges church.
Gastronomy: We love French cuisine. Dishes feature fresh ingredients and delightful cooking methods. Food lovers sometimes say Paris takes your tastebuds on culinary journeys. However, many places easily match the city. Local bakeries sell pastries and cakes and indulge in Michelin Starr restaurants, but remember to make reservations well in advance.
Off Slope Activities in Winter: Tourists automatically think about skiing and slopes for winter French Alps activities. Yet, those Alpine mountains feature much more. The French Alps achieved this through diversification. Roughly 20 years ago, local councils realised the French Alps had more to offer in winter than just snow and got to work organising things to do when not skiing. Read more about getting off the slopes.
National Parks: Ecrins, Mercantour and Vanoise national parks are ideal for great outdoors lovers. Vanoise opened in 1963 and features much flora and fauna. Additionally, when the snow melts away, it offers perfect trekking trails. Meanwhile, Ecrins is an excellent choice, but Mercantour hosts 1 million visitors annually. More about National Parks.
Après Ski: While Après-ski features added touches of luxury in all towns, this afternoon pleasure pursuit is turned into winter events, with memories. Whether cocktails, spirits, appetisers or fine dining, upmarket ambience makes perfect luxurious ski holidays. French towns do après-ski with style and finesse, about resorts for Après ski.
Also, about the French Alps
With the French Alps rise in popularity, people now look at properties for sale. If you want to become the owner of a French ski chalet or apartment, browse our portfolio here. Each listing contains everything, like contact details to find out more via email about property in the French Alps.