Snowboarding Holidays in France

Off-piste trails, hair-raising bends and aprés-ski pursuits!

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Jules Pearson

Sophie Gackowski
HomeAway travel expert


Freestyle in La Plagne, FranceWhen it comes to boarding, there’s no denying France takes the top spot. It has the most extreme and largest areas available in the Alps (and thankfully for thrill-seekers, a more laid-back attitude than Britain towards health and safety); but if you’re a newbie, it boasts some of the best schools in the world. Its resorts guarantee great powder because of their high altitude, yet they come in all shapes and sizes regardless of how high you climb.

Yes, there are the modern, purpose-built destinations – which, let’s be honest, leave something to be desired in terms of ‘Olde Worlde’ charm – but there are also genuine mountain hamlets; holiday spots that may have welcomed tourists to their slopes for decades, but firmly cling on to their popularity by constantly developing their snow parks and offering always bigger and better kicks.  

Add to this that French snowboard rentals are easily reached by road or air (and throw in some renowned and pretty rowdy aprés ski for good measure), and it’s little wonder boarders of all abilities hit these slopes in their thousands.

 
Sophie's fast facts on snowboarding in France

 Avoriaz was one of the first ever resorts in France to have a snowboard-only section. Encompassing a park and pipe with lifts solely for snowboarders, it’s been promoting the sport since its beginnings. 

 Did you know that just under a quarter of us are snowboarders? That’s right, only 24% of snow sports enthusiasts board.

 It was 1999 in Les Arcs when Australian boarder Darren Powell set the world outdoor speed record for snowboarding, reaching 126.4mph on ‘The Flying K’.

 Val Thorens was the setting for Europe’s first ever snowboarders, after French skiers-cum-surfers took to the slopes on handmade, primitive boards back in 1983.  

 Karine Ruby, gold medalist for the giant slalom event at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, was raised in Haute-Savoie. Her efforts made her the first ever woman to be awarded a gold medal in the event.

 

 
 

Guide to snowboarding in France


   

Alpe d’Huez: best for beginners Alpe d’Huez: best for beginners

If you’ve never hit the slopes or have already earned your first bruises, Alpe d’Huez is a good bet for beginners. There’s a good range of nursery slopes located close to the centre, so you can let off some steam if you’re frustrated with your frontside spins; and the snow parks have plenty of ramps, jumps and rails to try out once you’ve found your feet. If you’re feeling brave, there’s a good selection of gentle green runs to practice on. Of course, if you’re a seasoned snowboarder with little ones who you’d like to carry on your boarding legacy, this is a great choice for family snowboarding holidays!

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Serre Chevalier: best for experts Serre Chevalier: best for experts

With 32 kilometres of black piste – including the Olympic Luc Alphand – Serre Chevalier is often lauded as the best French resort for expert boarders. It’s also one of the largest in France, as part of Le Grand Serre Che, boasts a recently renovated snowpark (with a pretty gnarly air jump), and two half-pipes. In short, however, it’s the spectacular natural terrain that attracts the advanced: there are plenty of off-piste opportunities, though hiring a guide will let you make the most of it. Weave through tightly packed trees, heart racing at extreme drop-offs, or just indulge your inner speed freak on spectacularly fast flats.

View snowboard lets in Serre Chevalier

 
   
 

   

Avoriaz: best for freestylers Avoriaz: best for freestylers

Avoriaz is often called the snowboard capital of Europe, and it’s unsurprising; especially for freestylers. Tricksters flock here for its five excellent parks, the most popular of which is Chapelle. With jibs, boxes, rails and some three kicker lines, you could spend hours alongside the other boarders here; many of which are seasoned pros. There’s also Arare, a more advanced park, but it’s not at its best till February: they need some sunshine and decent powder to cushion you on those big features! Finally, check out ‘The Stash’; a run with boxes, benches and jumps, which is thankfully shaped every night.

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Chamonix: best for groups Chamonix: best for groups

Chamonix’s an exciting spot, even for the most advanced, and where better to outdo your mates than a resort deemed best for experts? If you all boast different abilities, however, that’s ok: there’s some serious off-piste to be had, the tricksters can check out Le Brevent’s natural kickers, and the less advanced will be accommodated at the pistes of Les Houches. As a year-round destination – Mont Blanc gets and maintains great powder – you can also book your break early or late in the season; and with budget bars located on the slopes, you can always stop off if your legs are turning to jelly.

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La Grave: best for free-riders La Grave: best for free-riders

It’s not for extensive piste (there are only 12 kilometres - yawn!) and it’s certainly not for beginners: La Grave is a free-rider’s dream. Combatting its mere two lifts, however, is that once you’re off them, the possibilities for off-piste are endless. Some even consider La Grave to be Europe’s largest untamed resort, and it’s little wonder: think miles of deep, untracked powder, only die-hard boarders for company and a deadly mountain group: the Oisans. Try the La Meije peak, which has one of the world’s longest vertical drops (2,150 metres is enough to inspire vertigo), with the help of a guide.

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Images

Main Image © Robert van Dijk
Image 1 © Michael Warren
Image 2 © Serre de Chevalier Tourism Office
Image 3 © Leon Wilson
Image 4 © Violet Monde
Image 5 © Ken Goldman
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