Where are the best places to ski off piste in glorious fresh powder tracks in France? There are many great resorts to choose from, but here are my top two…
ONE: Chamonix, France
FLEXIBILITY is the name of the game here. Situated right at the heart of the Mont-Blanc massif, Chamonix is the perfect gateway into a world of off piste skiing, with easy access to terrain in France, Italy and Switzerland.
Crucially, weather systems differ from one side of Mont Blanc to the other; it can be raining in Chamonix town and an hour away, through the tunnel into Italy there could be a foot of snow (this happened when I was there in February earlier this year – see our video below). The crucial element of this flexibility is that it gives the mountain guides who know the area well the ability to conjure up fresh powder when others around are scratching their heads…
The other major plus about Chamonix is that it is only an hour from Geneva, so you can easily organise a last-minute weekender with maximum time skiing and minimal fuss.
Why I like it: Options, options, options. Loads of varied terrain, awesome couloirs and a hop, skip and a jump from the UK.
What’s not so good: The Chamonix lift system can get pretty crowded at times, so you do sometimes need to be strategic to avoid the queues. It’s not the nicest town either (although be sure to have a beer with the locals at the MBC micro brewery)
TWO: La Grave, France
TERRAIN is what attracts the serious off piste skiers to this tiny French village perched on the valley side and overshadowed by the imposing mountain of La Meije. Although it is relatively unknown by the masses, it is world famous for its off piste terrain and challenging skiing.
La Grave is unique and unlike a typical ski resort, as there are no marked runs, just huge amounts of off piste ‘big mountain’ terrain. Most of the skiing is accessible by the two-part gondola system, which is the only main lift up the mountain.
But despite the lack of an interlinking lift network that you’d find in other resorts, there are endless off piste runs on offer, including a huge amount of fantastic couloirs as well as spectacular glacier skiing. Given the nature of the area, we’d highly recommend tackling La Grave with the assistance of a qualified mountain guide – have a look at the off piste trips we offer.
Why I like it: This place is all about the skiing (there’s no shortage of 40 to 45 degree couloirs to tackle) which gives La Grave a pretty unique atmosphere. Also, where else would you find the front of the guide’s bureau becoming a market stall on Saturday mornings…!?
What’s not so good: It’s not really a place to develop your powder skiing skills – I would only recommend La Grave for experienced off piste skiers. Also, due to the old school lift system there are days when you might have to queue a little bit (talk to the regulars however, and that’s all part of the charm in their eyes!)
If you fancy a Pure Powder off piste skiing experience then you should check out our all new European trips.