Ten Amazing High Altitude Ski Resorts in France

Posted on 03 February 2024

When looking at high-altitude ski resorts in France, the wide range is fantastic. French ski resorts already have a reputation as the world’s best. For those at high altitudes, skiers enjoy magnificent conditions.  High-altitude resorts generally attract advanced skiers lured by the piste terrain and panoramic views, yet many also accommodate intermediate skiers.

The popular ski resorts are easily reached via Geneva airport or Lyon airport, and snow conditions delight experienced skiers, looking for plenty of snow. The sheer size makes them winter playgrounds, from lively atmospheres to ski conditions, fun parks, and thrilling descents. They also attract property hunters eager to tap into the unique real estate markets. With that in mind, let’s look at the towns offering snow guarantees with their high altitudes.

High Altitude Ski Resorts in France

What is Considered High Altitude for Skiing?

There is no strict definition for what constitutes a high-altitude ski resort, but they sit above a certain threshold. Commonly, resorts that are considered high altitude have base elevations around 6,000 feet (1,828 meters) or higher. High-altitude ski resorts offer several advantages, including colder temperatures, which contribute to better and more consistent snow conditions, particularly for natural snow and for maintaining artificial snow.

Colder temperatures and more significant snowfall potential often allows longer ski seasons than resorts at lower elevations. Higher altitudes are also associated with drier air, which leads to lighter, fluffier snow, commonly called “champagne powder.” This type of snow is highly prized. High-altitude resorts may have more significant vertical drops, providing more extended and more challenging runs, and they are less susceptible to adverse impacts of climate change, like rising temperatures, which affect snow quality and duration.

Popular high-altitude ski resorts are in mountainous regions worldwide, including the Alps, Rocky Mountains, Andes, and other mountain ranges. Examples of well-known high-altitude resorts include Aspen, Colorado, and Zermatt, Switzerland. But today, we are looking at high-altitude places in the French Alps, that are ideal to buy property.

1: Val Thorens: Resort Elevation of 2,300 metres

Belonging to Tarentaise Valley, Val Thorens is Europe’s highest ski resort.  The high-altitude terrain ensures optimal snow conditions, making the French resort ideal for late-season skiing, and Val Thorens joins the Three Valleys ski domain with interconnected pistes, providing seamless experiences for skiers. The famous ski resort is renowned for high-altitude terrain, ensuring optimal snow conditions throughout the season, and ski-in ski-out apartments, ski chalets, and ski lodges with panoramic views are desirable property options. The closest airport to Val Thorens is Chambery. Still, with limited flight schedules, many adventurous skiers use Geneva, or head to Val Thorens bus station and use free bus shuttles or Moutiers, the closest train station.

2: Delightful Ski Slopes of Tignes at 2,100m

Belonging to the Savoie department’s Espace Killy ski area, with 300 kilometres of slopes between 1,550 metres to 3,456 metres, Tignes compromises four villages, each at different altitudes, and linked via the lift pass tickets. The highest, Val Claret (2,300m), is followed by Le Lac (2,100m) and then Tignes Les Boisses and Tignes Les Brévières. Grande Motte glacier, which offers late-season skiing, is accessed via Val Claret, and Tignes is also great for off-piste skiing. Shuttle buses to the family-friendly resort from Geneva and Lyon are two to three hours or two hours from Chambéry, or head to the nearest train station, Bourg St Maurice.

3: High-Altitude Skiing in Alpe d’Huez

Sitting in the Isère department, the elevation of Alpe d’Huez at 1,860 metres leads to 250 kilometres of slopes, which comprise France’s fifth most extensive ski area and include the longest black run, ranging from 1,100 metres up to 3,330 metres. Long ski seasons, from early December until late April, are guaranteed thanks to the glacier, and the nearest Grenoble Alpes Isere Airport is just 90-minutes drive away. Alpe d’Huez also offers glacier skiing thanks to Sarenne glacier, which is often skiable in July & August.

4: Val d’Isère for Glacier Skiing

The other half of the Espace Killy ski area, lively Val d’Isère, lies at 1,850 metres. In recent years, the French ski resort benefited from regeneration projects, which followed a two-year redevelopment of the Solaise area, including mid-mountain stations at 2,500 metres. Shuttle buses from Geneva and Lyon are two-and-a-half hours or two hours from Chambery airport. Val d’Isère has a great history of skiing and is a well-established resort with nursery slopes, challenging terrain, and a brilliant choice of bars, hotels, and restaurants worth getting to know.

5: La Plagne Alpine Village at 1,800m

With an average of 5 to 6 metres of snow every season, modern ski lift systems, a vast choice of accommodation, and 134 groomed slopes, British skiers love the fantastic terrain and routes of La Plagne. For lively nightlife scenes, head to Belle Plagne; otherwise, all skiers are accommodated. Sitting on the edge of Vanoise National Park, the purpose-built resort offers many accommodation options, off piste opportunities, and copious days of sunshine, making the town hugely popular.

6: Avoriaz and the Portes Du Soleil Ski Area at 1,800m

The huge choice of snowy slopes and four terrain parks of Avoriaz delights everyone. Avoriaz belongs to Portes Du Soleil, and the car-free ski-in, ski-out destination features unique architecture and vibrant atmospheres. Portes du Soleil offers breathtaking views, including the Dents du Midi and Mont Blanc. In addition to skiing and snowboarding, enjoy various activities like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice skating. Skiers move seamlessly between resorts using lifts and pistes, providing extensive experiences.

7: Spectacular Views in Les Deux Alpes at 1,650m

Les Deux Alpes has Europe’s largest skiable glacier and is also one of France’s oldest resorts, sitting in between two separate valleys with stunning views. Breaking down into the former farming village of Venosc and Mont De Lans, freestyle skiers love this area, and catered chalets offer ideal architecture to keep in with alpine themes. As one of France’s best downhill resorts, Les Deux Alpes, in the Oisans region, near La Grave and about 71 kilometres (44 miles) southeast of Grenoble, is easily accessible by road and features “Les Deux Alpes Snowpark,” which attracts freestyle enthusiasts with features like jumps, rails, and superpipes.

8: Les Arcs 1,600m

Consisting of 4 purpose-built villages, to cope with growing concerns of lack of snow, Les Arcs invested in 600 artificial snow machines and is joined to La Plagne via the Paradaski area and to Bourg St Maurice train station via the funicular railway. The resort is divided into several altitude levels called “Arcs.” The highest is Arc 2000, offering stunning views of the surrounding mountains. The resort also includes Arc 1600, Arc 1800, Arc 1950, and Arc 1950. The Aiguille Rouge peak stands at 3,226 meters (10,584 feet). Arc 1950 village within Les Arcs is known for pedestrian-friendly designs, charming architecture, and upscale accommodations. Developed by the Canadian company Intrawest, the area is recognized for ski-in ski-out convenience.

9: Meribel 1,400m

Sitting in Savoie and belonging to Les Trois Vallées, Meribel lies at 1,450 metres. Still, chalet developments rise up the valley to 1,700 metres. The closest ski resort, Méribel-Mottaret, at 1,750 metres, also joins the lift pass tickets open to all slopes. Loved by British homeowners, skiers are on slopes at well over 2,000 metres in no time, from which they link into Les Trois Vallées’ 600 km of slopes. Shuttle buses from Geneva, Grenoble Alpes Isere Airport, and Lyon are two two-hour or 75-minute transfer time from Chambery Airport. (Learn about Meribel in France.)

10: Courchevel: Elevation of 1,300m

Also within Les Trois Vallées, Courchevel’s skiable terrain and linked villages sit at different altitudes. The main village, Courchevel 1,850, is named after the altitude. A little lower is Courchevel Moriond , then Courchevel Village and Courchevel Le Praz. Courchevel has the most Michelin-starred restaurants. Bus shuttles from Lyon and Geneva are around two hours or 75 minutes from the closest airport, Chambéry. Skiers access Grand Couloir from the summit of La Saulire (2,738 meters or 8,983 feet), which is reached by taking the Saulire Express gondola. The Grand Couloir run has a narrow entrance, and skiers must navigate carefully due to steep and sometimes icy conditions. (About Courchevel in France.)

What is the Highest Ski resort in the World?

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, also called Yulong Snow Mountain, is a striking mountain massif in the Yunnan Province of southwestern China, near Lijiang, approximately 15 kilometres north. The highest peak reaches 5,596 meters (18,360 feet) above sea level, and the mountain ranges span considerable areas with multiple peaks. The mountain is known for the southernmost glaciers in the Northern Hemisphere that contribute to the headwaters of the Yangtze River.

The mountain holds cultural significance for the local Naxi people, and their Dongba script, an ancient pictographic script, is still used. This popular tourist destination attracts visitors for its stunning scenery, alpine landscapes, and cultural heritage. The mountain offers various skiing routes, and cable cars take visitors to higher elevations, providing panoramic views.

Adventurous Skiers also Like Zermatt in Switzerland

Zermatt, in the Swiss Alps, offers exceptional skiing experiences. At a high altitude, Zermatt sees the skiing areas extend to even greater heights. The highest point reachable for skiing is Klein Matterhorn, served by Klein Matterhorn cable car, also known as the “Matterhorn Glacier Paradise.” Klein Matterhorn, one of Europe’s highest cable car stations, reaches 3,883 meters (12,739 feet).

The high altitudes of Zermatt contribute to excellent skiing conditions, with long winter seasons lasting from late November to early May. Higher elevations often ensure reliable snow cover and good-quality snow, attracting skiers worldwide. Ski slopes cater to all skill levels, from beginners to expert skiers, and include various runs, challenging descents and more leisurely routes.

Zermatt has a well-developed, modern lift infrastructure, including cable cars and chairlifts, facilitating easy access to elevations. After the slopes, Zermatt offers vibrant après-ski scenes with numerous bars, restaurants, and cafes, and visitors enjoy the charming atmospheres of the car-free village. In addition to skiing, Zermatt offers various winter sports activities, including snowboarding, ice climbing, and winter hiking, making the area versatile for winter enthusiasts. Zermatt’s high-altitude skiing experience combines challenging slopes, stunning scenery, and charming alpine atmospheres, making the region famous for world-class skiing adventures.

Also, About Skiing in France

Best Glacier Skiing in Europe: Feeling adventurous? The best glacier skiing in Europe, through icy terrains and untouched powdery slopes in mountainous regions, is the most extraordinary holiday. Glaciers are large, slow-moving masses of ice that form where more snow accumulates in winter than melts in summer. They are found at high altitudes throughout Europe.

High Alpine Peaks: From the high-altitude ski resorts in France to alpine peaks that reflect the elegance of Mother Nature across three countries. Often attracting mountain climbers and becoming hubs of winter sports, high peaks are a world away from urban living. The Alps Mountain range belonging to Europe stretching for 750 miles across alpine countries of Switzerland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, Slovenia and France.