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Winter sports in France: downhill skiing and cross-country

France does not have a very good reputation concerning winter sport resorts. The country doesn't deserve this reputation, except for the after-ski events. If you just want to ski, possibilities are superb. Nowhere else in Europe you will find such large ski areas as in France. You must just worry about one thing. Be back in time for the last lift, because you can spend days skiing without taking the same slope twice.

Ski-resort Avoriaz
The resort of Avoriaz is a typical French resort: lots of monotonous, concrete buildings. Photo: Free Online Photos
The bad reputation of France is due to a lack of variety and the monotonous, concrete ski villages, newly built high into the mountains. In most cases, you might recognize these villages by their names. Mostly, the word super or the height above sea-level in meters is added to the name of an ancient village in the valley.
If you want more atmosphere, just choose such an ancient village. The French make it easy to choose them. While the concrete resorts are called station de ski, these old villages are called villages the ski' .
There's one special village to mention. The upper part of Courchevel (called Courchevel 1800) is the Saint-Tropez of winter. Many famous people, like Naomi Cambell, Karen Mulder and Giorgio Armani are frequent guests. Over here, skiing is only the second sport. Star watching is the first.

Who's used to alpine skiing in Austria, will find out a slight difference. Whereas downhill ski routes over there are divided into three levels of difficulty (blue for easy, red for mediate and black for difficult), the French added a green level for very easy descents. These green routes may lead you through very attractive landscapes. As a result of this extra level, blue and red downhills may be slightly more difficult, compared to Austria.
Like everywhere else, off-piste skiing is very popular in France. However, this can be dangerous. You can buy electronic avalanche informers. Meteo-France gives avalanche warnings at its website. The higher the rate of this warning, the more dangerous off-piste skiing is.
By the way, the French word for avalanche is.... avalanche. They couldn't make it easier.

Downhill skiing is possible at numerous skiing areas in the Alps and the Pyrenees. Furthermore, if there's enough snow you might consider the Vosges, Jura and Massif Central areas.
Cross-country skiing is offered at lots of places. It's called ski-de-fond or Nordic.

The skiing season mostly begins with Christmas and ends with Eastern.

Links

General
Skifrance
Actual snow heights
Avalanche warnings
French Skiing School (ESF)
France Cross-country
Skihoo France (portal)
Alps
Alpe d'Huez (Isere)
Les Arcs (Savoie)
Avoriaz (Haute-Savoie)
Chamonix (Haute-Savoie)
Châtel Haute-Savoie
La Clusaz (Haute-Savoie)
Col de la Madeleine (Savoie)
Combloux (Haute-Savoie)
Les Contamines (Haute-Savoie)
Courchevel (Savoie)
Les Deux-Alpes (Isere)
Flaine (Haute-Savoie)
Les Gets (Haute-Savoie)
Le Grand Bornand (Haute-Savoie)
Isola 2000 (Alpes Maritimes)
Les 7 Laux (Isere)
Les Menuires (Savoie)
Alps (continued)
Meribel (Savoie)
Mont Ventoux (Mont Serein) (Vaucluse)
La Norma (Savoie)
Les Orres (Hautes Alpes)
La Plagne (Savoie)
Pralognan-la-Vanoise (Savoie)
Praloup (Alpes-de-Haute-Provence)
Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc (Haute-Savoie)
Saint-Martin de Belleville (Savoie)
Les Saisies (Savoie)
Samoens (Haute-Savoie)
Super Sauze (Alpes-de-Haute-Provence)
Serre-Chevalier (Hautes-Alpes)
Superdevoluy (Hautes-Alpes)
Tignes (Savoie)
Val d'Allos (Alpes de Haute-Provence)
Val d'Isere (Savoie)
Val Thorens (Savoie)
Val Thorens parking (Savoie)
Valloire (Savoie)
Villard-de-Lans (Isère)
Central Massif
Besse/Superbesse (Puy-de-Dôme)
Lioran (Cantal)
Le Mont-Dore (Puy-de-Dôme)
Jura
Les Fourgs / Mont d'Or (Doubs)
Monts-Jura (Ain)
Les Rousses (Jura)
Pyrenees
Les Angles (Pyrénées-Orientales)
Argelès-Gazost (Hautes-Pyrénées)
Ax-les-thermes (Ariège)
Bagneres / Luchon (Haute-Garonne)
Cauterets (Hautes-Pyrénées)
Font-Romeu (Pyrénées-Orientales)
Gavarnie (Hautes-Pyrénées)
Gourette (Pyrénées-Atlantiques)
Guzet (Ariège)
Luz Ardiden (Hautes-Pyrénées)
Ordino en Encalis (Andorra)
Le Mourtis (Haute-Garonne)
Pas-de-la-Casa (Andorra)
La Pierre Saint-Martin (Pyrénées-Orient.)
Piau Engaly (Hautes-Pyrénées)
Porte Puymorens (Hautes-Pyrénées)
Saint-Lary (Hautes-Pyrénées)
Tourmalet (Hautes-Pyrénées)
Vogezen
Kaysersberg / Lac-Blanc (Haut-Rhin)
La Bresse / Hohneck (Vosges)
Bussang (Vosges)
Gerardmer (Vosges)

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