Where can I ski in France? Difficulty level: Cheaply?
November 6, 2013 3:37 PM   Subscribe

Hi, I am looking for tips or advice on how to ski cheaply in France.

The past few years I've really enjoyed skiing in Utah, love the not needing to rent a car, great skiing, and ability to get great deals on that great skiing as a single, non-driving person. However, this year I am looking for a certain ...je ne sais quoi!

Is there any way (of course there is but I don't know it) to ski in France at a decent resort (I like steep- not La Grave steep, but challenging is nice) as a single female without shed-loads of cash?

Second annoyance level- I teach High School so it unfortunately has to be on school holidays- which may or may no coincide with those in France/Europe...ie Easter probably will, Feb prob won't.
posted by bquarters to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (3 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
So good news... actually skiing in France is dirt cheap. Food is pretty cheap too.(although they don't do american style cafeterias, so you end up eating whatever snacks/sandwich you grabbed on a lift or on the side of a trail) many ski areas are also accessible by public transit, so one can completely avoid a car.

But lodging.... omg the lodging is where you get gouged.

Personally I recommend Avoriaz, and the broader area of Portes du soliel for a quieter experience. If you are an amazing skier, then Chamonix/mount blanc is where you want to end up.

The school holiday thing isn't as bad in France, which staggers their winter breaks across regions (so the whole country isn't off for two weeks at once).

I (a woman traveling alone with fancy ski gear) did a three week tour of the french and swiss Alps in 2009, and it was an amazing experience, but man did I get screwed on lodging. Even staying in hostels. Me mail me for more details.
posted by larthegreat at 3:56 PM on November 6, 2013

My sister learned in Chamonix, she loved it!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:23 PM on November 6, 2013

Those two areas are probably what I'd recommend too. France is full of incredible ski areas, many of which are virtually unknown, and you can ski very cheaply by going to smaller places - but for a trip over the Atlantic, you want to go for something special.
The other huge ski French areas like Espace Killy (Tignes, Val d'isere) and the Trois Vallées (Meribel etc) are colossal, and they are great places to ski but a bit lacking in charm, I find.

Another possibility might be Alpe d'Huez and have a day in La Grave - there are no half term crowds there for obvious reasons! You can join a guided group for the day. You don't have to do the couloirs, and the normal routes are not actually all that steep, less than a black run, I would say. It is really something special as an experience.

Anyway if you wanted a huge, linked area, Portes de Soleil would be a good choice - there are some very charming, classic alpine villages scattered about the place, Morzine is a nice town and I personally have a lot of love for Avoriaz and its slightly Evil Empire modern architecture.

If you would like a bit more challenge and personality, I think Chamonix is really unbeatable - it's got more French character than any other big area, as it's a proper mountain town rather than solely a resort. The skiing is very varied and the scenery is pretty much unequalled in my opinion. You can also round off your week with the Vallée Blanche which is a 17 km off-piste run from 3842 m (you MUST go with a guide or join a guided group as it's not difficult to ski but is heavily crevassed)

The on-piste eating is sadly not one of its strong points (if you do decide to go there memail me for more tips!) and I always take sandwiches for lunch.

The classic cheap bunkhouse in Chamonix is the Vagabond at 20 euros a night, so you can move up from there accordingly...
I think the best way is to look for a flat for the week - these can often be found very inexpensively - try homelidays or holiday-rentals. In Chamonix, try Snostation or myfrenchchalet. If you can cope with a bit of French, French sites are often cheaper - try leboncoin.fr. However, you will have much better results and prices going for a saturday-saturday week - French sites especially tend not to offer flexible dates, so if that's important, stick with international ones. Here's a useful view of the layout and villages. I would get booking now, as half term fills very fast.

French half terms are indeed not that bad on their own, but have a look at your dates and try very hard not to hit the UK half term as that is really bad. Paris half term is also to be avoided if possible. If you have no other choice, you might want to think about Easter if it's not too early - you may find, on checking, that you Easter holidays are not that close to the French ones.

If you are there in the busy weeks, the main thing I find is that older lift systems can create bottlenecks - The US seems a bit less prone to this in my experience. So the answer is to get up early, be on the mountain before all the families, have a snack, ski through their lunchtime (when it's quiet), then you have your lunch while they are all having their two afternoon runs. It thins out after about 3ish, I find.

Lift passes are very reasonable compared to the US - however, the various deals and vouchers available in America just don't exist in France. You just turn up and buy them.

Anyway feel free to memail me with any qs :)
posted by tardigrade at 2:10 AM on November 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

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