France - A skiing nation with plenty of superlatives! The Mont Blanc is the highest mountain in the Alps, the Vanoise Express the biggest and fastest double floored cable car in the world, and Les Trois Vallées claims to be the largest ski area in the world. Ski France!
In the southeast of France, the Département Alpes-de-Haute-Provence is located. The region is above all known for its diverse landscape. The mix of imposing ravines, mighty mountain massifs and extraordinary mountain ridges makes it an ideal goal for people who want an active holiday. In the winter season, tourists are greeted by small and charming ski villages with many sun hours and pistes at over 3,000 m of altitude. One of the largest ski areas in the southern Alps is "Espace Lumière" with over 200 km of piste and two family-friendly ski stations.
Département Haute-Savoie in eastern France boarders the Swiss canton of Wallis and Genf, and also the Italian valley of Aosta. Haute Savoie is a region of superlatives, and blessed with an extraordinary natural heritage. "The roof of Europe", the Mont Blanc (4,810 m), lies here, as well as Lake Annecy, the river Rhone, the Chamonix valley and partly Lake Geneva. Fans of winter sport have a wide selection of top ski areas. These of course include Chamonix, but also Portes du Soleil and La Clusaz are world famous areas.
Here, the name says it all: The highest mountains of France - with exception for the Mont Blanc massif - are situated in Département Hautes-Alpes. With the Barre des Écrins (4,102 m), the Alps' southernmost four-thousander, rises up. So do numerous other high peaks, including the La Meije (3,983 m) and the Mont Pelvoux (3,946 m). In other words, the best conditions for a varied winter sports terrain are provided here. The ski areas of Hautes Alpes attract their visitors with both quality and quantity. At the Dévoluy massif, there is a total of around 100 km of piste to choose from, in Forêt Blanche 185 km, and in Serre Chevalier another 250 km. A lot of space for a lot of fun - for beginners as well as for more experienced skiers!
A winter sports region can hardly be more varying. This one reaches from the marginal mountain ranges of the French Pre-Alps to the Écrins Massif, the majestic high mountain scenery of the Dauphiné.
The Pyrenees mountain range stretches over a total length of approx. 430 km. It forms the natural border border between the Iberian peninsula to the south, and the rest of Europe to the north. The still relatively unknown ski areas offer a perfect alternative to the more frequently visited areas of the Alps. Numerous ski areas are spread out over the French side of the mountain range - from the small, family-friendly area of Font-Romeu to Cauterets, the spa town with piste connection, to the freeride hotspot of Pic du Midi - one of the most famous peaks of the Pyrenees.
The large ski areas of La Plagne, Val Thorens, Tignes and Valmeinier are located in a semi-circle around the Vanoise Massif in the southern Savoie Alps. Although there are still some gaps between the ski areas, they will one day be joined to become the largest winter sports territory in the world.
The Maritime Alps mean sea and high mountains in one breath. It is the distinctive contrast between deep blue sky and snowy winter landscape that creates the special attractiveness of the most southern winter sports area in the French Alps.
Family-friendly and above all - not overcrowded - those are fitting descriptions of the ski areas of Vosges. The highlands of eastern France cover most of Alsace and is the largest coherent forest area in France. In other words, not only pistes attract winter sport enthusiasts to the area. With snowshoes, beautiful hiking routes are waiting to be explored. The snow safe, high-altitude location of the southern Vosges provide good conditions for skiers and snowboarders to enjoy themselves. The arguably most beautiful area, and the area with the longest pistes (with lengths of up to 3,9 km), is the Gerardmer. The largest interconnected ski area of Vosges is the La Bresse.
France attracts many tourists each year, not only due to its cultural and scenic diversity, but also due to its culinary specialities and great wines. Furthermore, the French mountain chains score with their many great trip destinations and sights. The city Grenoble, for example, lies in the middle of the picturesque French Alp landscape. Not only the numerous museums of the city have made it a centre of attraction for tourists. The lift ride to the Bastille, from where you have a wonderful view of Grenoble and the surrounding mountain range, is definitely worth your while.
Many sights in the French Alps have been shaped by nature itself. You will experience unforgettable moments during a ride with the "Télécabine Panoramic" lift at the Mont Blanc. The lift stops several times between the Pointe Helbronner and the Aiguille du Midi during the 30 minute long ride - the best scenery for taking photos of the highest mountain of the Alps (4,810 m). When it comes to the Verdon Gorge, instead of going high up, you will be going down. This canyon is 700 m deep. On the other hand, the Lac de Serre-Ponçon is man-made and it is the largest artificially installed lake in Europe. When the river Durance was ponded, many inhabitants had to yield to the lake and move away. The only remnant of the former community is the Chapel St. Michel, which was once located on a mountain that has now transformed into an island in the lake.
One particular little village in the Pyrénées attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors yearly: pilgrims gravitate towards the churches and the famous grotto of Massabielle, because Lourdes is considered the location of the Marian apparition. The local springs are said to have healing powers. Next to Rome, it is the second biggest pilgrimage site in the world.
Some beautiful towns in the Pyrénées are, for example, Carcassonne with its medieval fortification and Colmar, the capital of the Alsatian wine and birthplace of Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, the creator of the Statue of Liberty. Because of the many channels that wind through Colmar, one district of the town is called "Little Venice".
A mysterious underground parallel existence distends throughout the Midi-Pyrénées. Fascinating caves have formed - an example is the Grotto de Niaux which sports very interesting cave paintings.