Our Favorite French Alps Tours
The French Alps in Depth
Get to know the French Alps
Think cozy ski resorts, beautiful chalets, dynamic slopes, and the most breathtaking mountain views. The Alps spans eight countries, reaching their pinnacle on France’s Mont Blanc. The 15,777-foot high peak (4,808m) is not only the Alps’, but Europe’s highest. The French Alps have been attracting skiers with a century, with powder white snow and dynamic Olympic-grade slopes. In fact, the very first Winter Olympics was held in Chamonix in 1924. They returned to the region in 1968 and 1992. Experienced skiers can test their skills on La Face de Bellevarde, made famous during the 1992 Winter Olympics. Chamonix and the Trois Vallées’s Courchevel are the most famous ski areas internationally. French Side Travel can also organize trips to other Alpine destinations including Val Thorens, Les Gets, and Val-d’Isère. Wherever you choose, you’ll fall in love with the stunning French Alps.
This region of the Alps has been inhabited for thousands of years. In 118 BC, the Romans Empire forged a road, The Domitienne Way. The French and Italian Alps road incorporated Gaul and Spain into Rome. Skiing was popularized here in the 19th century when the French alpine military brought the new Scandinavian invention of the “ski” to France. Soon the first skiing school opened on the slopes. It was, however, the first-ever Winter Olympics in Chamonix in 1924 that cemented recreational skiing as a sport and put the French Alps on the map.
Many visitors to France will already be familiar with fondue, but it’s just one of many hearty cheese dishes to be tried in the French Alps.
Raclette is a similar idea where the cheese is melted at the table and served with potatoes and charcuterie. Another favorite is tartiflette, a gratin of reblochon cheese bacon, creme, onions, and white wine.
When to go: Skiing is possible from early December until late April. Snow conditions are best from January through March. December offers Christmas markets and holiday activities. March is a great time to come, with agreeable weather, nice ski conditions, and lighter crowds. For summer activities, particularly hiking, come in August and September the only months without snow.
By Plane and Car: Fly to Geneva, Switzerland. Reach Chamonix (1 hour) and Courchevel (2 hours) by rental car or private driver.
By Train: From Paris or southern France, the TGV train can get you close to many French Alps resorts. Upon arrival, you may need a shuttle or driver.
What to eat and drink:
Cheese: The French Alps are cow country! Many great cheeses are made here. Cheese lovers should try the Reblochon, Beaufort, Tomme de Savoie, Abondance, and Emmental de Savoie. Those who prefer goat cheese will enjoy the Chevrotin.
Wine: Wine, mostly white, is produced in the Savoie region. Although the grapes are planted at a high elevation they thrive due to a surprisingly warm and sunny microclimate south of the peaks. The Jacquère white and Mondeuse red are the most popular varietals. Seyssell and Crémant de Savoie are recognized as AOP appellations.
Vermouth, notably from Dolin, is also made in the region.
Aromatic génépi is a herbal liqueur made in the French and Italian Alps that has a similar flavor profile to absinth, but sweeter. It is served as an after-dinner digestif.
Experience the French Alps
Located in the shadow of Europe’s highest peak, le Mont Blanc, Chamonix is one of the world’s first ski towns. It features exceptional on-piste and off-piste skiing, including the Vallée Blanche’s 9,000-foot (2,800m) descent from the Aiguille du Midi back to Chamonix. Alternatively, take the cable to the top of the Aiguille du Midi (12,605 feet or 3,842m) to appreciate the spectacular views of Mont Blanc and the French, Swiss, and Italian Alps. Back in town, the nightlife is as famous as the skiing! Enjoy the great restaurants, exciting bars, and pulsing nightclubs.
Posh Courchevel joins Méribel and Val Thorens to form the Trois Valleys (Three Valleys), the world’s largest interconnected ski area. Together they boast over 370 miles (600 km) of ski slopes and endless, accessible back-country skiing. Besides the legendary skiing there’s plenty to do. The après-ski options are as exciting as the slopes, with seven Michelin-star restaurants and many sophisticated bars. Posh Courchevel is a favorite of celebrities and the British Royals.
While best known for its pristine skiing slopes, the French Alps offer many diverse and exciting activities in the winter. Some popular options include hiking with snowshoes, ice-skating, and cross-country skiing, and dog sledding. Those favoring more relaxing activities should take advantage of the fine spas or tour Christmas markets. After a day out, cheese lovers should be sure to try a hearty raclette or fondue to warm up!
The French Alps are just as charming in the summer months! Hike along the mountain paths and past crystal clear lakes. See the mountains from above while paragliding. See them from below while white-water rafting and kayaking. You can also try canyoning, a sport where hiking, climbing, rappelling, and swimming meet, as you travel through pristine Alpine canyons. Summer in the French Alps is a paradise for outdoors affectionados.