It’s been years since you last shredded powder with your family, but now, you are finally ready to make your return to the French Alps this winter. As excited as you may be, the reality of plotting out a snow holiday on your own has suddenly dawned on you.
You’re not the first to undertake this responsibility though – we’ve all done it before, and in this extensive guide, we’ll walk you through each of the steps that will get you from your London flat to the top of the steepest run at Val d’Isere.
To buy gear or rent?
Once you’ve decided to hit the slopes this winter, getting geared up should be the first matter you should sort out. Much of the equipment you’ll use can be rented at the hill, though this can get expensive if you plan on heading to the mountains with any regularity over the coming years. If you are just going to the French Alps to have fun with friends and have no plans on pursuing skiing or snowboarding seriously, then renting is the way to go. If possible, try to hire your gear off-resort, as this will save you bundles of Euros. There is some gear you’ll want to buy no matter how frequent future snow trips will be. Obviously, this includes a well-insulated and waterproof winter coat, ski gloves, and a pair of goggles.
On the last count, you may think your shades will work just fine, you need to realize this sport will put your pair of designer shades in serious jeopardy – one spill and they may end up broken. Furthermore, a standard pair of sunglasses doesn’t offer wrap-around protection from reflected UV rays, nor does it cope with sprayed snow well. For this reason, spending at least £30 on a basic pair of snow goggles will offer superior protection from sun and snow while keeping your pair of Ray-Bans from getting involved in an accident.
Work out your lower body this summer/fall
You may think of yourself as a healthy adult (and we have no doubt you eat reasonably well and work out regularly), but snow sports like skiing and snowboarding has a habit of exposing those who skip leg day.Avoid walking around on what will feel like a pair of withered twigs after day one of your trip by training your lower body like the pros do in the off-season. The motions you’ll go through to turn and stop on the mountain exert tremendous amounts of stress on everything from your hip flexors to your calves, so pick exercises which train them. Eat slightly more than you need calorically for a couple months, and aggressively challenge your lower body muscles with ever escalating amounts of weight.
Your work will pay off once the time comes to hit the slopes, as your legs (aside from a bit of soreness which can be remedied by spending some apres ski time in your hotel’s hot tub) will be able to handle the punishment you throw at it.
Pick a ski resort best suited to your clan
Once you have figured out your gear situation and have begun to get your lower body in shape, the next task is the big one: picking the resort at which you and your group will play. The French Alps are chock full of different snow sports experiences – from no-frill hills where it is all about skiing and snowboarding, to full-on luxury operations with resort villages which boast exclusive boutiques and five-star restaurants, there is a resort that is right for you.
Let’s go over a few stand-out options below:
If you are responsible for plotting out a lads trip to the French Alps and have the chance to score some sweet ski deals in Meribel, we recommend you jump at the chance to do so. While this resort is rightly famous for its boisterous apres ski scene, the pistes it offers won’t disappoint young risk-takers, as there are plenty blue and red runs to choose from. There is even an airbag in their terrain park, allowing you to work on your tricks without risking a serious injury.
Novices are well looked after as well, as the lower parts of the mountain have lots of green runs to choose from, and with links to adjoining ski areas, you can also check out their terrain.
La Tania (Courchevel)
One of the newest additions to the collection of resort villages which comprise Courchevel, La Tania was built in the run-up to the 1992 Albertville Olympics. Many of the stations in Courchevel can be pricey, but La Tania provides more affordable prices while retaining access to the higher villages set above it. At 1,300 metres above sea level, its altitude is the lowest of the Courchevel villages – this can cause snow issues during El Nino years, but with extensive snowmaking equipment, this is rarely a big problem.
On the plus side, those who love glade skiing or not being blasted in the face by blowing snow will love the slopes here, as the trees provide plenty of challenge for intermediate skiers and boarders while shielding those on groomed runs from the wind which blows hard at higher elevations.Unlike the more hectic stations further up the mountain, La Tania is a great choice for those seeking romance and peace & quiet – if you are an introvert or a couple, this is the spot for you.
Val d’ Isere
Consider you and your travel mates to be excellent snow shredders? Spend your French ski holiday in Val d’Isere, a perennial stop on the World Cup tour for its challenging pistes. This isn’t to say there is nothing for green skiers and boarders – there is enough to keep them entertained without fearing for their life – but the steepness and technical challenges the red and black runs will pose makes this place an amazing destination for experts. The top of the mountain offers glacier skiing, helping to give this resort a long snow season while having a run sharing agreement with neighbouring Tignes ensures nobody in your group ever gets bored by what this area has to offer.
At the base, numerous cafes will keep caffeine addicts satisfied, while Val d’Isere’s proximity to Italy ensures the restaurants here offer plenty of amazing Italian cuisine.
Which accommodation type do you fancy?
So, you’ve picked the ski resort you want to tear up this coming winter. With that hurdle cleared, figuring out where you’ll lay your head at night is the next one you’ll need to jump.
People of all budgets frequent the French Alps: this means a variety of accommodation options are available. Let’s examine each in detail below:
If you are a student or earn a modest income, don’t let the eye-popping costs of hotels and resorts stop you from experiencing the French Alps. At each of the resorts mentioned above, there are hostels which offer bunks for a fraction of the price of a hotel room. On top of this, kitchen facilities which allow you to fix your own meals, allowing to stretch your meagre savings further still. The biggest advantage of this accommodation type: common areas which allow single travellers to meet their counterparts. If you don’t have a crew to roll with, this fact alone should be enough to get you on the slopes this winter.
From budget, family-run operations which offer little more than clean beds, wi-fi, and warm hospitality to luxury affairs that will give you the peak experience you are after, hotels are by far the most popular accommodation option for those hitting the slopes in the French Alps. When choosing yours, don’t just go with something based on price: read reviews carefully to gain an accurate picture of the property. This can help you get excellent value for your travel dollar while avoiding overrated hotels.
Tired of the downsides of hotels (e.g. noisy neighbours, sterile rooms, etc)? Make this the year you go with a chalet or self-catered apartment. Unlike a hotel room, these spaces feel more like home, with a living area, kitchen, and bedrooms. While they may cost more on absolute terms, these spaces become competitive or even cheaper than hotels if you can get a troupe of friends and family to share the expense. Imagine an entire chalet that is off-limits to all but you and your group. Sounds like the perfect base for a fun ski/boarding holiday to us!