The concept of a nationwide, two week vacation for the purpose of skiing seems somehow frivolous. But perhaps it’s just my envy as an American, not having grown up with same luxury. In Colorado, we generally take day trips or long weekend ski trips. Either that or we move to the mountains for the ski season and become “ski bums”. But the French take this holiday very seriously, as they do all vacations. Making sure their kids get rigorous training in the sport is no exception either. Frivolities aside, it’s a fantastic institution!
Within France, the Alps and Pyranees host hundreds of thousands of slope-hungry visitors from all over the world each ski season. Among the numerous destination choices in the Alps, Les Trois Vallées, Chamonix and Val D’Isère are a few of the most visited.
Found in the Tarentaise Valley, Les Trois Vallées is the largest ski resort on the planet. And, as the name indicates, there are three valleys connected with 183 ski lifts and over 600km (370mi) of ski slope, making it easily possible for any level of skier to take a new trail each run. Not only that, but the majority of lodging at the resorts is conveniently situated just at the base of the ski trails. Ride right up to your front door, pop off your equipment and let the “après ski” begin!
Also found in the Tarentaise Valley, Val d’Iser is a mere 5km from the Italian border. It’s “chalet” style architecture is in part what makes this town one of the most beautiful ski areas in the world. It’s also been host to the Winter Olypics and many World Championship competitions. Groomed slopes and backcountry slopes alike, Val d’Iser tends to be a higher difficulty level. But there is also a wide variety for beginner levels as well.
A bit further South, Chamonix Mont Blanc is a haven for extreme-sports athletes and wealthy vacationers alike, known primarily for being the highest mountain in Europe Having hosted the first winter Olympics in 1924, Chamonix is also the oldest ski resort in France. Their is much history to add to this experience. And although the size doesn’t compare to Les Trois Vallées, the stunning scenery from the slopes and overall unique culture make it worth the steeper, ritzy price of admission. It’s something to see at least once!
Attention ski-loving foodies! For the ultimate enjoyment during your ski vacation, head to Alta Badia, Italy where you will find 12 gourmet mountain huts. These huts are run by chefs, many of whom also have Michelin rated restaurants in the surrounding villages. Gourmet “Slope food” tastings while skiing between huts? Yes please!!
Here are a couple other things to keep in mind while planning your ski vacation:
- It’s very unlikely to find lodging for less than a week’s time.
- Ski rentals are fairly affordable at the resorts. But, if you prefer to save yourself the hassle and buy gear ahead of time, try: GO Sport, Decathlon, Vieux Campeur or Quicksilver.
- Après-ski! A new trend of “after-skiing” culture has become equally important to the present generation ski/snowboarders. Don’t forget to check out the hottest happening wherever you choose to go!
Stay safe and take advantage of one of the best things about the winter season. Get your ski on!