The French Alps Off-Piste Must-Ski List
If you’re a skier looking to add a touch of adventure to your next season, it might be time to up your game and head off-piste. Step away from the crowds and experience the mountain as it’s supposed to be experienced. After all, there’s nothing as exhilarating as going it on your own!
Here’s our pick of the 20 best backcountry runs organised geographically from north to south.
1. Les Grands Montets, Chamonix
Not one for the faint hearted, 2000 m of vertical drops and challenging off-piste routes make Les Grands Montets in Chamonix ski resort a big hit with thrill-seekers. Don’t forget to pack your avalanche gear!
2. The Vallée Blanche, Chamonix
Just a short cable car journey away from Chamonix centre, the Vallée Blanche offers stunning views and a 2800 m drop along the 23 km descent. For strong intermediates and experts, this is a varied and challenging descent. This is glacial terrain and a guide is essential.
3. La Chavenette, Avoriaz
Avoriaz’s La Chavenette route is so hard it has its own difficulty rating! This orange route is affectionately referred to as the Swiss Wall and is known as one of the wildest off-piste routes in the Alps.
4. La Balme, La Clusaz
Despite the masses of off-piste terrain in La Clusaz, the resort remains relatively quiet. So plenty of room to explore! La Balme offers lots of opportunity for exceptional backcountry adventure.
5. Shaper’s Paradise, Sainte Foy
Compared to some of the other backcountry descents on this list, Shaper’s Paradise is a doddle! Natural jumps, half pipes and some steep sections make for a fun and versatile run that you can loop round and do again and again.
6. Le Monal, Sainte Foy
Feel at one with nature on this peaceful run at the uncrowded resort of Sainte Foy. This one takes you way off the beaten piste, so a guide is highly recommended.
7. The north face of La Foglietta, Sainte Foy
You earn your turns when undertaking this 1,700 m descent; there’s a 45 minute boot-pack along the ridge to the start of the run. Don’t let that put you off, it’s part of the adventure and the reward is epic.
8. Aiguille Rouge, Les Arcs
The North facing Aiguille Rouge benefits from great powder and exciting off-piste opportunities. Les Arcs also also has some great marked but unpisted runs to practice your technique in relative safety.
9. Glacier col du Nant, La Plagne
This glacier run isn’t called the giant fridge for nothing. The 3 km descent covers 1750 m of vertical drop and is as exhilarating as it is challenging.
10. Guerlain Chicherit, Tignes
Know as the hardest off-piste descent in the whole of the Tignes ski resort, this run is one for hard-core skiers!
11. Le Couloir du Chardonnet, Tignes
Popular for its steep powder couloir, this off-piste descent begins at the Grattalu chair lift and winds down to Grand Huit. Watch out for avalanche risks during periods of heavy snow!
12. Bellevarde’s Banane, Val d’isere
Val d’isere is loved by seasoned thrill-seekers for its extensive off-piste possibilities. Easy to reach – Bellevarde’s Banane leads back down to the village with some steep drops and rollers along the way. Air-time and leg-pump guaranteed.
13. The Spatule, Val d’isere
Stretching from Rocher de Bellevarde to La Daille, the Spatule off-piste run is full of steep bits, bumps and gorgeous views!
14. Dou des Lanches, Courchevel
It’s not all après and luxury in Courchevel. Courchevel has plenty of challenging off-piste areas to explore, but our favourite is Dou des Lanches. Just make sure you head out early to take advantage of the best snow!
15. Le Geffriand, Val Thorens
If it’s steep descents and breath-taking alpine backdrops you’re after, Le Geffriand in Val Thorens is the place to go. The glaciers surrounding this resort mean high altitude and great snow!
16. Le Grand Sablat. Alpe d’Huez
Alpe d’Huez has three well known, off-piste runs and steep, mountainous terrain. Le Grand Sablat has pleasingly wide and winding turns for some playful skiing.
17. Les Cheminées de Macle, Alpe d’Huez
The second of the off-piste runs in Alpe d’Huez is considerably more challenging. From sheer drops and jump turns to narrow sections and hard packed turns- this route is for experts only.
18. La Combe du Loup, Alpe d’Huez
The popularity of the sunny La Combe du Loup means it can get crowded at peak times. The run goes all the way down to Col de Sarenne.
19. Les Vallons de Chancel, La Grave
La Grave is legendary for its crazy off-piste descents. This is the least challenging of the bunch. A pleasant, open descent with plenty of room to link your turns and step up the pace.
20. Le Pan de Rideau, La Grave
Glaciers, steep faces and knife-edge ridges make Le Pan the hardest piste in La Grave. You better rope up!
What are you Waiting For?
If this has got you excited about striking out beyond the pistes and into the backcountry, we say, go for it!
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