The French Alps Must-Ski List
After 7 months of serious snow withdrawal symptoms, I am soooo excited about the fast approaching ski season. Even before the summer was over, I was already obsessively planning my winter’s skiing.
This winter I’ve decided to keep it classy…ish – I’m going to mainly get my skis on in France, and I am going to max those Alps out like never before. Booyah!
Obviously there’s a lot of skiing to be done in the French Alps, so to prevent myself from getting too distracted by ALL THAT WONDERFUL SNOW (!!!) I have made myself a little must-ski list. I am not coming home until I have skied each and every one of the below runs at least once.
These runs are, in my opinion, the best runs in the whole of France, so if you’re going to be around the Alps this ski season maybe try a few of them out – I promise you won’t be disappointed. And keep an eye out for me! I’ll be the one checking off my must-ski list like a maniac! Click to Tweet
To help you choose your own personal must-ski list I have divided my top 21 ski runs into the following categories:
Leisurely and Beautiful
For warming up, cooling down, working off the après-ski and just appreciating how awesome skiing is.
Interesting and Technical (Including Off-Piste)
These runs aren’t crazy difficult but they will make for an interesting days skiing whether you’re looking for a bit of off piste, mogul fields, or general mid-range challenge. These are for when you want to warm your brain up a bit.
Challenging and Satisfying
When your body and mind are warmed up, hit these slopes for a serious challenge. These are the proverbial notches on the bedpost.
Does what it says on the tin – if you do these runs you are a maniac. Make of that what you will!
Leisurely and Beautiful
Courchevel’s Combe de la Saulire is a 3 km laid-back run with a Mont Blanc backdrop | © David Andre
1. Combe de la Saulire, Courchevel – Red
This is the ultimate first-thing-in-the-morning run. It’s relaxing, laid-back, the views are spectacular, the snow is really grippy and they keep it beautifully groomed. It’s a lovely long, wide cruise – perfect for warming up, cooling down, or spending some time with the whole family (it’s a red and 3 km long, so make sure everyone is up for it). The only thing to look out for is the first pitch – it’s a little steep, but once you’re through this bit you’re on easy street all the way to the Saulire lift station. I tend to avoid this run after late morning as it gets really busy and then you lose the relaxation factor.
2. Grand Paradis, Avoriaz – Red
Honestly, if I had to choose one run just for views and beauty, this would be it. It’s so quiet and peaceful – regardless of the time of day or the season, you can ski the whole Grand Paradis and barely meet another soul. The snow is always fresh and there is normally tons of untouched powder. Basically it’s just stunning – you’ll be skiing past mountain farms replete with the occasional mountain goat while enjoying absolute silence for the entirety of this gentle, long run.
3. Grand Solliet, Sainte Foy – Blue
This lovely long blue run was only constructed around 2006. In my opinion it’s a total winner – this is my pick for an end of the day cool down because it’s quiet, long, easy and sunny. If you still have some fuel to burn there are a few interesting off piste sections too.
4. Cascades, Flaine – Blue
You could spend a good leisurely day on Cascades. It’s a long run (14km) and it usefully ends up in the car park where you can grab the shuttle bus back to the main resort. The run itself is reasonably interesting with a few different types of terrain, but really you’ll be doing Cascades for an easy, relaxing day with enough length to give you a sense of achievement at the end.
It’s one of the most attractive runs in this list, with plenty of beautiful scenery to take in and the peace and quiet to fully appreciate it. The only downside is that there are a few very flat bits close to the top where you might have to walk (a bit of a nightmare for boarders), but after that section it’s straightforward enough.
5. Meribel World Cup Downhill (Roc de Fer Blue Run), Meribel – Blue
This is the espresso of warm up runs – it’s fast and reasonably energetic, but still pretty easy. It’s long enough for a proper warm up, it’s suitable for all abilities (you can bring the whole family) and the views are lovely.
Interesting, Technical & Off-Piste
Vallée Blanche, Chamonix – an all-day backcountry adventure | © Pieter Ter Kuile
6. The Stash, Avoriaz – Mixed Level
CNN voted the Stash the number one ski run in the entire world this year. They’re not wrong! It’s so much fun for boarders and skiers alike – you’ve got off piste, tons of hidden features ‘stashed’ away, a terrain park filled with natural wooden features (80 concealed modules in total), secret pathways… basically it’s got it all. There is nothing more fun in the world then playing on the Stash all day long.
Even better – the Stash is good for all levels so you can ski and snowboard here whether you are a novice or an expert. Have fun!
7. Jerusalem, Meribel – Red
Jerusalem is an absolute classic and has to be one of my global must-dos. It’s not super hard, it’s pretty cruisey and wide but it belongs in this category because you can get some interesting practice in, try new things (including getting some decent air if you’re so inclined) and there are some great intermediate-level off piste opportunities.
Another reason Jerusalem is so great is that the snow is always fantastic. So if you’re hitting ice everywhere else, check out Jerusalem.
8. Casserousse, Chamrousse – Black
This is a great little find for the advanced skier – it’s pretty out of the way so you can rely on it being quiet. It offers challenging and varied skiing and, like Jerusalem, has reliably lovely snow all the time. There are some great (and difficult) off piste opportunities here.
In short, Casserousse is a cool little secret which you’ll want to do again and again because every time you’ll find something different to try. Enjoy!
9. Vallée Blanche, Chamonix – Off Piste | Go >
This, for me, is what skiing is all about. If you can only do one run on this entire list this would be the one that I would recommend above all. It has everything. It’s exciting, thrilling, the views are amazing, it’s challenging yet accessible to confident intermediate skiers. In terms of features it has every type of skiing you could possible want: moguls, ice, powder. You could do the Vallée Blanche every single day for a week and never get bored. It takes a full day (for most people) to get down but honestly it provides most satisfying skiing I’ve ever experienced.
A few things to look out for: the narrow ridge that you have to cross to access the Vallée Blanche is terrifying. There is no way around this, I’m sorry, but trust me it’s worth it!
Second – unless you and your whole party are amazing skiers take a guide, don’t be mental. You’ll have way more fun with a guide and you are way less likely to die, both of which are important considerations.
10. Combe du Vallon, Meribel – Red
This is a good long easy run with some interesting variations in terrain and great off piste potential. It offers amazing views and great snow all day and all season long. It’s really just a solid, enjoyable slope – what more can you ask for. Word of warning – don’t join the blue ‘Ours’ at the bottom or you’re in for a lot of poling.
11. Aiguille Rouge, Les Arcs – Red and Black
The Aiguille Rouge is a great endurance run with varied terrain and fairly epic length – it starts on a steep black and then after about a third of its length relaxes into a red. The village at the bottom, Villaroger, is beautiful and a great place to recoup ready for your next lift.
12. Sache, Tignes – Black
Sache is another Alpine classic. It’s on the more difficult end of this category, mostly because it offers some whopper moguls. The terrain is variable but challenging throughout. You’ll get a great workout on this run and there are some nice steep bits. Only down side is that it can get a bit busy – best to try it first thing when it’s a bit quieter and the snow is at its best.
13. The OK, Val d’Isere – Red
Named for local legends, Henri Oreiller and Jean-Claude Killy (the most successful and wild spirited downhill racers in skiing history) this run will throw everything it has at you. It’s not particularly difficult but it’s made up of pitches that that will push you in all the right ways. This is one of the most fun runs in the whole world.
Challenging and Satisfying
Sarenne in Alpe d’Huez is the longest black run in the French Alps | © OT Alpe d’Huez
14. La Face, Val d’Isere – Black
La Face is a good, old-fashioned, steep ‘n deep thigh burner. It’s a solid black challenge and while it can get very icy in places it’s certainly not the most difficult in the area. You can’t beat La Face for a good workout and usually a couple of massive moguls. The only annoying thing is that it can get a bit crowded at times.
15. Cosmiques Couloir, Chamonix – Black
This couloir is steep and dangerous, but oh so perfect when the snow is right! Watch out for key hazards: getting in and getting out. Also be aware that once inside the couloir is split into three parts by rock bands. Conditions in Cosmiques change rapidly, so be careful. Despite the dangers however, the views are breathtaking and you often have the couloir all to yourself to enjoy.
16. Couloir Croix des Verdons, Courchevel – Off Piste
There is a 50 metre hike to get into this couloir so it tends to stay fairly quiet. It’s pretty challenging, and you should get a good bang off completing it. You’ll need to be a fairly strong skier and you’ll need your wits about you to navigate this couloir. You need to know you’re up to this before entering as once you’re in there is no way out except to finish it.
17. Sarenne, Alpe d’Huez – Black
As the longest black run in the French Alps, Sarenne offers something for everyone. The length itself offers an endurance trial while more advanced skiers can opt to hit up the mogul field. Many people consider Sarenne more of a red than a black so intermediate skiers can get a good challenge here too. The views from the top are spectacular.
18. L’Aigle Noir, Morzine – Black
This is my number one when I want to cut up some serious moguls – it’s steep, difficult and unforgiving. Perfect when you want a really hard work out. This is not a pretty slope but it will work you hard and you’ll keep coming back for more. It’s my 50 shades of grey slope.
The near vertical and moguly Swiss Wall ski piste in Avoriaz
19. Grand Couloir, Courchevel – Black
If you’re in the mood for a bit of abject terror, this is the run for you. With an 85% slope, a 200m narrow, ice ridge that has to be navigated before you even get into the couloir, and a narrow, icy, mogul-filled entrance, the Grand Couloir is not for the faint of heart. I’m going to do it once. Just to say I’ve done it. Oh, and beware, this run is directly under a lift so your every move will be being watched.
20. The Swiss Wall, Avoriaz – Black
The Swiss Wall has a reputation for being one of the most difficult runs in the Alps – it’s steep, fast, and full of moguls. Even more terrifying, the descent is so steep that you can’t see what’s ahead at the starting point, so you just have to push off into thin air and hope for the best.
In truth, when there is fresh snow this is a beautiful, challenging and rewarding run. But if you don’t get the conditions even the truly expert skier will be pushed to the edge by the Wall.
21. Couloirs des Freaux, La Grave – Off Piste
Couloirs des Freaux is recognised not just as one of the most difficult runs in France, but also in the whole world. It is long, narrow, steep, prone to avalanches and the conditions change from hour to hour.
However, if you love adrenaline and you have the skill to manage this descent safely, there is nothing like it!
So there you have it, that’s what I’m going to be doing this winter. I literally can’t wait. If you do make it to the Alps I hope you have an absolute ball! And if you try any of my must-skis, please let us know how you get on! Click to Tweet