When and Where to Go for Skiing: Winter Holidays in France and Abroad


Winter is approaching and the time has come for Skiing lovers, so book your winter vacation. Some Destinations to cover:

Go skiing in the Alps

Constituting the largest mountain range in Europe, the Alps immediately come to mind when considering a winter vacation: France, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, but also Germany and Slovenia, the Alps stretch over several countries and its highest point is represented by Mont Blanc, located on French soil, while more than 80 of its peaks exceed 4000 meters in altitude.

ski-alpesThis shows that winter sports resorts find a privileged area here, with thousands of kilometers of slopes and a varied geographical environment depending on the regions, altitudes, and countries.

As for the French part, you will have the choice between the Southern Alps and their incomparable sunshine, the mixture of Alpine and Mediterranean influences, – renowned resorts such as Serre Chevalier, Orcières-Merlette, Risoul, Vars, or the more family Praloup which is located in the magnificent Mercantour National Park -, and the more sporting Northern Alps, – with Chamonix, Courchevel, Méribel, Tignes, Morzine, to name only the most famous -, and without forgetting the charming villages which easily compete with the chic resorts. You will practice alpine and cross-country skiing in optimal conditions, having the possibility of going from one ski area to another, either by ski lifts or by regular shuttle services, to make the most of the various facilities and the constantly changing landscapes. A single-pass opens up hundreds of kilometers of slopes, giving your skiing days a very special flavor.

But all the alpine resorts strive to offer, in addition to skiing, a whole range of activities in order to offer attractive alternatives to lovers of discovery: snowboard, of course, dog sled rides as in the days of Jack London, ice diving with guaranteed chills, snowshoe or seal skin hikes, snow scooters, not to mention activities especially reserved for children and families, such as the skating rink, the construction of igloos, snowman competitions, or toboggan races.ski-alpes

The hotel stock is of course up to the winter attendance: rural lodges, apartments for rent at the foot of the slopes, hotels with full or half-board, all-inclusive stays, your desires, and your budget will be the only limits to your choice. A site can also help you find the resort of your dreams, among the 200 or so resorts listed: it is France-Montagnes, which allows you to perform a search taking into account many parameters, such as supervision provided for children, outdoor activities, indoor activities (cinema, swimming pool, sauna, disco, etc.), the type of traffic in the resort (pedestrian or not), the size of the resort, its altitude, etc.

Whatever your drop-off point, you will be sure to find optimum snow cover and paradisiacal landscapes in the Alps: a bright break in the middle of your daily life.

Go skiing in the Vosges

A mountainous mass in the north-east of France, the Vosges have the Grand Ballon as its highest point with its 1424 meters high. Despite its relatively modest altitudes, the region has played an important role in the development of French ski racing, although it has experienced a slowdown in its development in recent years. On the other hand, it is very favorable to the intensive practice of cross-country skiing.

ski-fond-vosgesThe Vosges are just over 2 hours from Paris by train, and less than 400 kilometers by car: spending winter holidays there is therefore an easily accessible solution for the inhabitants of Ile-de-France in particular. Strasbourg residents obviously frequent them even more easily! The region includes 7 main winter sports resorts, which will bring you great sensations in addition to a nature bath: La Bresse is the most important of all. With its three ski areas, it offers alpine skiers something to enjoy just as much as cross-country skiing enthusiasts. In addition, snowshoe circuits (6 circuits over 40 km long), footpaths, a toboggan run, an ice rink, a nursery, and a ludoneige center, allow non-skiers and children of all ages to enjoy greatly their stay.

Also worth mentioning is Gérardmer, nicknamed “the pearl of the Vosges”, located in the heart of the Valley of the Lakes, in the middle of forests and mountains, and renowned for its dynamic character. Here too, downhill skiing and Nordic skiing are highly valued, and a variety of activities are offered to all audiences. Add to this list Xontrupt-Longemer, Ventron, St-Maurice-Sur Moselle, Bussang, and Valtin, and a total of 93 ski lifts, 10 chair lifts, 120 downhill runs, 2 snowboard stadiums, 300 km of cross-country ski trails, and 350 snow cannons, not to mention the various parallel activities, such as sleigh rides pulled by horses, snowboarding, ski or snowshoe hikes with professional guides.

The Markstein, on the route des crêtes, is also a pleasant winter sports resort located between 1040 and 1265 meters above sea level, which saw the ski world cup take place in 1983 and 1987, and which has 8 mechanical lifts and 11 alpine ski slopes. It will particularly appeal to “kite” enthusiasts thanks to the winds which sweep its slopes. Cross-country skiing enthusiasts will be able to admire sumptuous landscapes throughout its 40 kilometers of slopes.ski-vosges

For your accommodation, you will have the choice between various solutions: hotels, furnished apartments, residences or clubs, and even farm inns, all very well listed in different reservation centers (Clévacances, Gites de France, etc.) as well as in the tourist offices.

From a gastronomic point of view, the region is also very well placed and gourmets will not regret their trip: various culinary specialties will make them discover sweet or savory flavors. Quiche, pie, “toffailles” (made from potatoes and bacon), andouilles, but also fragrant cheeses and “brimbelles” pies (blueberries). Do not forget of course the Vosges small wines to accompany your dishes.

Go skiing in the Jura: nature with the family

Do you want nature, without going very far and taking the whole family? The Jura is here! Massif located north of the Alps, the Jura culminates at just over 1,700 meters (with the Crêt de la Neige, in the Ain), which does not make it a holder of altitude records, but the region has known how to take advantage of its many other assets.

ski-de-fond-juraNature activities are particularly developed there, with the famous Transjurassienne as the flagship. The region’s rivers and its various lakes also give it a special appearance, but it is in winter that you will discover all its charms.

Les Rousses has long remained the most famous resort, bringing together 4 villages on the route leading to Switzerland. Things have changed a lot and several villages now offer infrastructures dedicated to winter sports, with a very strong tradition in connection with cross-country skiing, which you can practice on more than 1000 kilometers of slopes. But lovers of downhill skiing and surfing are not forgotten: Lamoura, Longchaumois, Morbier, Les Tuffes, offer you beautiful descents on slopes of several levels of difficulty. And sliding is not the only activity to be practiced in the snow: snowshoeing, dog sled races, horse riding, skating on Lac des Rousses are great too.

After a day in the great outdoors, visitors also appreciate the Jura recipes and the wines that accompany them: Crémants du Jura, Vin de Paille, Seyssel, will be tasted before or after a visit to the fruit farms or the ripening cellars, where you will taste with greediness cheeses (Comté, Morbier, Raclette, Tomme Vaudoise) and cold meats (Morteau sausages, hams, brési) from the region.partir-ski-jura

As you have understood, spending your winter holidays in the Jura has little to do with going to a trendy winter sports resort, although the quality of accommodation and the range of activities proposed have nothing to envy some upscale high altitude villages: it is rather a kind of return to mountain nature, with its rigors and its pure beauties, its pristine landscapes and its assets all in contrasts, its silence, and its spruce forests. You will be sure to find quality snow there (like the French ski team who come to train there regularly), unspoiled landscapes, tasty and invigorating gastronomy, varied sliding activities, and for all levels, and above all, the possibility to savor all these pleasures without facing the crowd.

Just go and the snow, the wind, the trees, the sky, and maybe the laughter of your children or the bells of the sled dogs will amaze you.

Go skiing in the Pyrenees

Choosing to spend your winter holidays in the Pyrenees means having the opportunity to discover more than 400 kilometers of mountains and beautiful diversity of landscapes. You will find certain peaks reaching more than 3000 meters, lakes and torrents, fir forests, and in this often admirable setting, 38 winter sports resorts offer you their trails, including 1000 kilometers dedicated to cross-country skiing.

ski-pyrenees-andorreThe Pyrenees are spread over 5 different departments, which must be added to the Principality of Andorra, rich in its architectural heritage and its nature. On the side of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques, you will have the choice between resorts like Gourette, the closest to Pau, in the exceptional setting of the Ossau valley, with its 300-hectare ski area with the top of the slopes at 2400 meters and which enjoys good sunshine and snow cannons, or for example La Pierre Saint-Martin, more family-friendly and suitable for all types of skiing.

In the Hautes-Pyrénées, dominated by the Pic du Midi, several resorts will seduce you: Peyragudes and its Vallée Blanche suitable for both experienced skiers and beginners, Barèges-La Mongie, corresponding to the largest ski area in the Pyrenees, located on either side of the famous Col du Tourmalet, or Luz-Saint-Sauveur, located a stone’s throw from the National Park, with its aspect of an old village and its dynamic and modern Luz Ardiden resort, which has just been equipped a wellness center with hammam and spa.

Regarding the Haute-Garonne, resorts more accessible to Toulouse residents will put you close to wild forests but also nearby Spain, high-altitude lakes, and recently reintroduced bears: Superbagnères, at 1,800 meters above sea level, is a lively and friendly resort, with a total of 24 slopes and a snowpark, and allowing access to Luchon thanks to the cable car, where you can enjoy a fitness center but also places of leisure and relaxation such as cinemas, the casino or nightclubs.ski-pyrenees-midi

Nature lovers will rather find themselves in Ariège, where mountain traditions remain intact, and where skiers will discover a preserved and wild space, in resorts like Guzet, or Ax-Les-Thermes, which is both a resort thermal spa and a ski resort: the slopes of Ax-Trois-Domaines will charm you with their journeys among the pines and the fabulous backdrop of very high peaks. And for the more oriental travelers, the resorts of the Pyrénées Orientales have magnificent landscapes and a dozen well-equipped resorts: let us give as an example the small resort of Formiguères, family and warm with its picturesque village and its chairlifts allowing access to many beautiful altitude slopes, and of course Font-Romeu, the most famous of the Catalan Pyrenees.

In conclusion, trying the winter holidays in the Pyrenees will convince you that this massif has nothing to envy to the Alps: you will undoubtedly come back next year!

Go skiing abroad

The ski area in France offers a wide range of destinations, but enthusiasts will no doubt be keen to vary the pleasures and, if they have the financial means, they will want to taste other landscapes and other atmospheres by going abroad to practice their favorite sport. Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, Italy, Germany, Andorra, Finland but also Morocco, Japan, Australia, Argentina, or Lebanon are places that they can then discover, each with different attractions.

A brief overview.

Classic European destinations

In Germany, the mountain ranges are to the south and south-west, with a summit which rises to 2,963 meters, the Zugspitze. A few large resorts, such as Garmish-Partenkirchen, the busiest, or Berchtesgaden, which is also a spa town, offer beautiful slopes and a pleasant atmosphere. In Feldberg, in the Black Forest, you will undoubtedly appreciate the sumptuous natural surroundings, and its lakes in the middle of the woods.

skier-europeAustria is obviously a prime destination: skiing is part of everyday life. The Alps cover more than two-thirds of the country, and four out of nine regions represent a gigantic ski area, covered in snow throughout the winter. In addition, quite a number of glaciers also allow summer skiing. With its 22,000 kilometers of downhill trails and 10,000 kilometers of cross-country trails, its picturesque villages, and lasting snow cover, Austria, therefore, appears to be a must for skiing outside France.

More original, Slovenia has a dozen winter sports resorts, all of which are fairly easy to access and relatively close to the country’s cities. Most of them are small resorts with a friendly atmosphere, offering many activities. In the north of the country, the Krvavec resort, for example, appears to be the sunniest and is located only about thirty kilometers from Ljubljana, the capital.

Another country off the beaten track, Finland: fashionable for ten years, offers superb landscapes, beautiful hospitality, and new snow activities, such as snowmobile raids, diving in frozen lakes, or reindeer safaris. Its snow cover obviously promises the practice of high-quality skiing, and its hundred stations guarantee you always renewed pleasure, at very affordable prices.

For the less adventurous, Italy has the advantage of proximity, while offering a high-altitude domain and very efficient equipment, as well as slopes. Sestriere in particular will seduce you in more than one way: low price, entertainment, 400 kilometers of descent, relaxed atmosphere. Why look any further?

Skiing at the end of the world

There are destinations that evoke something quite different from snowy slopes and ski equipment… And yet, some of them have become dream choices for lovers of downhill skiing. Morocco, Japan, Australia, Argentina, or Lebanon offer you dream landscapes and unexpected places to practice winter sports activities.skier-europe

Morocco has many peaks over 2000 meters, including 10 over 4000 meters: the chain of the Atlas, not far from the main cities of the country, an ideal area for winter sports, and the station more famous, Oukaïmeden, is only 75 kilometers from Marrakech. Its ski area covers around 300 hectares, and snow is present there from November to April. It is also the best equipped in Morocco.

Even further from us, Japan, with its high altitude mountain ranges and countless ski resorts spread over 600 ski areas, making this country the one with the largest number of resorts! The latter are overcrowded but equipped with cutting-edge equipment, and some tracks are even lit at night. Prefer the Happo-One station, in the Hakuba Valley, which saw the Nagano Olympics take place in 98.

Australia is a priori not associated with skiing activities: rather flat, the continent however has two mountain ranges that are suitable for winter sports, one between Brisbane and Canberra, and the other formed by the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. A little further south, the Snowy Mountains offer the largest ski resort in the country, with Perisher Blue, grouping together four villages and 7 peaks, as well as around fifty ski lifts.

In a completely different atmosphere, Argentina, which has famous peaks exceeding 6,000 meters, has for some years offered interesting possibilities for ski lovers. The latter have the opportunity to ski in the middle of summer, in Los Penitentes for example, in the central Andes, but also in Patagonia, in a still wild and very least exotic setting.

skier-europeLebanon, not necessarily very far but probably quite unlikely as a destination for a winter stay, you will combine your dreams downhill skiing and swimming in the sea. A little over an hour from Beirut, the Beit Meri, and Broummana resorts give you the privilege of skiing while admiring the sea! And nothing prevents you during the afternoon from taking off your skis to go for a dip in the waves an hour later …

More classic but essential for those who want to ski far, North America obviously welcomes ski lovers with great potential: resorts in the Rockies, like Aspen, whose reputation is well established, Vail, which is the vastest ski area in the USA and has unparalleled equipment, or Hidden Valley, which attracts New Yorkers for a weekend, reserved for fans of cross-country skiing.

Go skiing in the Massif Central

The first reflex, when looking for a ski resort for the winter holidays, is not to look at the possibilities of the Massif Central: yet this region offers pleasant places to stay, in an unspoiled setting, where every family member will be able to find happiness. Covering two complete regions (Auvergne and Limousin) and numerous departments, this massif brings together a dozen resorts, with around thirty peaks rising to more than 1000 meters. When the snow is good, no problem to ski and enjoy the pleasures of winter sports!

ski-massif-central-2Super Besse is located on the southern slope of the Massif du Sancy: resort at the foot of the slopes, surrounded by magnificent landscapes, it offers modern buildings, has 22 ski lifts, and offers various activities in addition to skiing: ice rink, snowshoes, tobogganing, fun area, media library, and even the arrival of Santa Claus by sleigh on December 24. In addition, you will have the choice between different types of accommodation and catering inside or near the resort.

Chalmazel is located in the Haut Forez mountains: smaller than Super Besse, the resort is located at an altitude of 1640 meters. The village is known for its 13th-century castle, but the resort also has a lot of charm and offers a variety of activities: snowshoeing on marked trails, children’s areas, hand skiing. Several types of accommodation are possible and restaurants or farm inns provides quality catering.

Le Lioran: in Cantal, perched at 1250 meters, this resort is nestled between the pines, and its domain covers 150 hectares. It offers more than 40 slopes, and its ski lifts include a cable car and 8 chair lifts in addition to the many ski lifts, making it the best-equipped resort in the Massif Central. But it also offers activities such as snowmobiles, quad bikes, sled dogs, the ice rink, balneotherapy, paintball, hockey matches, and a media library. Ideal for family holidays, Le Lioran is also located 2 hours 30 minutes from Limoges and Montpellier and 5 hours from Paris by motorway.ski-massif-central

Mont Dore: Well known for its thermal waters, Mont Dore is also a winter sports resort, located at the foot of Puy de Sancy, the highest peak of the Massif Central. Favoring contact with nature and a family atmosphere, this large village nevertheless offers a well-equipped ski area and dynamic activities. You will therefore have the choice between many forms of individual or collective accommodation, and its connection with Super Besse extends the total length of its slopes to more than 80 kilometers.

Other small resorts deserve to be discovered, such as Chastreix or Laguiole Brameloup, which will easily prove to you that the Massif Central sometimes has nothing to envy the neighboring Alps: now it’s your turn to explore all of its hidden resources!

Skiing with children: precautions to take

You have found a family resort, booked accommodation where everyone will find their place, and all you have to do is prepare the luggage to be able to enjoy a restorative holiday in the snow with your family. Be careful, however, skiing with children cannot be improvised, and some precautions must be taken to ensure that everything takes place in the best possible conditions, for them… and for you!

ski-infantsRegarding the altitude of the station, doctors advise not to exceed 1,200 meters for children under 6 months and 2,500 meters for children under two years. Also know that children can start skiing very early, before 4 years old if they like it. But in all cases, the priority is to protect them from the cold: full wetsuits are very practical to avoid open stomachs, even if they are less so in case of urgent need! The gloves and the hat (or the balaclava, more convenient), without forgetting the glasses, and the helmet of course. Do not forget to bring the sunscreen.

Once in the resort, don’t forget to have your children’s equipment checked by professionals: bindings adjusted to the child’s weight, skis adapted to their size, shoes in the right size. For the first few days, prefer easy slopes to promote a gradual warm-up, and never force him if he wants to stop and says he is tired. So that he spends himself in good conditions, and that he can withstand the cold, make sure he has a good breakfast (milk, fruit, cereals), and put in his pockets a briquette of fruit juice to compensating dehydration and dried fruits in the event of a sudden downturn. At meals, choose slow sugars and starches.

On the slopes, children can access the ski lifts alone, provided they are over 1.25 meters tall and take the cable cars without a guide if they are over 7 years old. It is in any case in your interest to take out the insurance offered at the ski lift ticket offices, which covers the costs of rescue and transport to the hospital in the event of an accident.ski-infants

Is your child still too small to ski, but you want them to enjoy the fresh air and sublime landscapes? You can ride it in its sled or in a baby carrier, as long as you do not take any risks: cover it warmly because if it does not move, it will tend to cool down faster, do not leave it still for too long, and let him stretch his legs from time to time, and above all, do not ski with him on his back because a fall could be very serious for him.

Finally, if your child is old enough to learn to ski, prefer the intervention of a professional to instructor.

Go to the snow with a baby

Holidays are always more complicated with a baby: a stay in the snow is no exception to the rule! The winter sports season requires precautions so that the whole family can get the most out of the mountain and its pleasures. Here are some ground rules, and some tips that will help you enjoy your vacation while pampering your little one.

  • For the well-being of the baby, do not stay in a resort at an altitude of more than 1600 meters.
  • The journey to get there will be an opportunity to gradually adapt to the rise in altitude: stop several times, give him a milk bottle or the breast feed so that swallowing prevents the baby from having an earache.
  • Baby SkiingWhen you arrive, protect it from the cold with suitable equipment: it does not move as much as you do and promotes rapid cooling. The essential elements for his comfort: a complete suit, a hat or balaclava, mittens, warm socks, and lined shoes.
  • The most recommended time to take your baby out are those between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. preferably when the weather is mildest.
  • During backpacking rides, don’t forget that they are still with you and be aware that they can get cold quickly! In addition, when the ride is prolonged, it is possible that the baby placed in a backpack or a stomach bag undergoes compressions on the level of the arms and the legs, risking to cause more or less serious accidents. To remedy this, take it out of the bag from time to time.
  • Also remember to moisturize his skin, protect his face and lips with full screen, but also make him wear sunglasses, because of the violent reflection of the light on the snow. If it cannot stand them, a cap with a visor is also effective.
  • The ambient air has a low humidity level, which you must compensate by making your baby drink more often than usual.
  • An absolutely essential piece of advice: skiing with your baby on your back is out of the question! If you cannot give up the pleasures of skiing, most resorts offer baby clubs where your baby will be surrounded and warm while waiting for your return to the bottom of the slopes.

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