With the seasons playing such an important role in how your ski holiday is going to pan out, it isn’t the kind of trip that’s usually booked on a whim. The months between December and April offer a number of different reasons to go skiing in the French Alps, but it all depends on what you’re looking for. Here’s a month-to-month guide to help you decide.
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It’s not hard to work out why spending December around snow topped mountains and quaint traditional villages is a great idea. With the cliché of a white Christmas being a guaranteed forecast in the Alps, this is the kind of trip that dreams are made of.
But it’s not just about admiring the scenery; December is also a great time to hit the slopes. This is because the snow conditions are often great, and also the fact that if you time it well, it can be reasonably quiet. The latter reason only applies to Christmas though, with New Years Eve being a very popular time for a ski holiday.
Many resorts in the Alps celebrate Christmas in their own special way. In Méribel, Santa arrives on a horse-drawn sleigh with a troupe of acrobats, handing out gifts whilst a New Orleans jazz band plays Christmas songs. At Courchevel, the festivities last a whole week, with street parades, light shows, fireworks, and a jolly Santa handing out gifts.
As well as Christmas festivities, being in the snowy Alps for New Year’s Eve can be an incredible experience, especially if you want to celebrate in style. Après ski has long been a popular alpine pastime, and if there’s one time of the year for a party, it’s New Years Eve. Most resorts hold big après ski parties, but one to make note of is the raucous 1920’s themed masquerade party in Val d'Isère. It’s known to be one of the best New Year’s après experiences around.
With schools going back soon after the Christmas break, January is a great time for a ski holiday if you want to avoid the crowds.
Quieter slopes can be a real treat for skiers of all abilities. If you’re a beginner, having the nursery and blue pistes to yourself makes everything so much easier. There’s less pressure to get things right straight away.
Fewer crowds when you’re an experienced skier is a true blessing. The shorter queues for ski-lifts means more time on the slopes, plus you don’t have to worry about your speed, as there are fewer people for you to watch out for. If you’re looking for a more daring ski adventure, January is a great time to go off-piste. This fresh, untouched powder is a dream for any experienced skier. Please note that skiing off-piste carries inherent risks, and should not be done without a guide, the appropriate equipment, knowledge and skill level.
February is a popular time for ski resorts in the Alps, with half term being the ideal time for parents to whisk the whole family away on a winter ski adventure.
There are positives and negatives that come with skiing in February. The negatives are obvious: it’s crowded and quite expensive.
But don’t let this put you off, as resorts and ski areas often factor in the influx of people for this period of time, so the crowding will never be too bad. All of these extra people also mean resorts also put on more entertainment which they wouldn’t do at other times of the year.
Half term isn’t the only reason why February is a popular time to ski in the Alps either; it’s also down to the typically fantastic weather conditions. With bright blue skies and powdery slopes, there’s no better time to visit a location where the snow is pretty much guaranteed to be perfect.
With the days getting longer and the slopes quieter, March and April are great months for French ski holidays.
As winter turns to spring, the weather in the Alps starts to warm up and the daylight hours get longer, meaning you’ll get more time on the slopes and you won’t have to wrap up quite as much. Another benefit of the warmth is the fact that you can really appreciate being outside. You can make the most of this by going hiking, eating alfresco, and taking your après ski party outside.
The February crowds are a distant memory in March, where you’ll find yourself queuing far less for ski lifts. This starts to build up again towards the Easter holidays, but will still be far quieter than other peak times.
Snow conditions can vary as the weather gets warmer, so it’s worth checking properly before your trip. South facing runs can occasionally get quite difficult due to lack of snow, and slopes can get quite icy in the mornings. In general though, the snow is usually great through March and towards the end of April, and most ski parks have top of the range snow cannons that ensure there’s always plenty of snow.