The only thing better than going on a ski vacation in France is getting stuck while on a skiing vacation in France. Who wouldn’t want to prolong beautiful powder, fresh croissants, cozy Alpine huts, fondue, and lots of French wine? Frankly, I can’t think of anywhere in France I wouldn’t want to be snowed in for an extended ski vacation, but there are a few places that I would go great lengths to get stuck in. The first time I visited the Queyras, I had the uncanny feeling that I’d just stepped onto the set for a photo shoot of the French Alps. With miles of perfect powder, pure blue skies, steely grey mountains, and charming wooden huts, I was in heaven.
After a week of settling easily into a routine of spectacular skiing and overindulgent eating, my friends had to drag me kicking and screaming from our rented chalet. I prayed for a freak snowstorm, a broken down car, or some other godsend that would provide me with an excuse to prolong my vacation for a few days or, you know, forever. There are dozens upon dozens of places I would absolutely love to be stranded in while skiing in France, but here are my favorites.
Located in the French Hautes-Alpes, the Queyras is one of the purest and untainted mountain ranges in the Alps. Opened for public tourism toward the end of the 20th century, it’s seen less impact and fewer of the major infrastructure developments that define many of the more popular European ski destinations. It’s sweet, simple, and spectacularly beautiful. Rent a chalet in Molines or Saint-Veran and combine a week of backcountry skiing and resort skiing. Park the car and leave it for the week. With great skiing from your back door, you won’t need to do anything but open the door and put your skis on. If you get tired of skiing, you can try your hand at dog sledding by signing up for lessons or renting a team.
What Alpe d’Huez lacks in romance and quaint atmosphere, it makes up for with the grandiose nature of the resort and the massive mountain sentinels rising up in every direction. If you’re looking to combine skiing with an array of other luxuries like swimming, dining out, having access to a gym, and options for a limited, but still existent, nightlife, then Alpe d’Huez is your best bet. The resort itself is massive and though the overnight and thoughtless development has left a little bit to be desired on the aesthetic side of things (i.e. it’s not Chamonix), the mountains and the skiing make up for it. There are definitely more options for intermediate to advanced skiers, but there are enough bunny runs and cozy bars to keep the beginners and non-skiers in your group occupied.
Located on a plateau at the foot of the forest in Courchevel, Le Praz is a good place to get stuck if you’re looking for a small village with easy access to culture, nightclubs, and good food. The village itself dates back to the 17th century and its narrow streets and old farm buildings are rustic and charming though far less fashionable than its higher altitude neighbors, Courchevel 1850 or 1650. However, it does feature the ski jumping hill Tremplin du Praz, built for the 1992 Winter Olympics so if you get tired of taking the gondola up to the more fashionable (and expensive) Courchevel 1850, you can practice your ski jumping.
60 minutes from Geneva, La Clusaz is an ideal weekend getaway and so picturesquely situated around the main town square and 19th-century church that it would be a pleasure to turn a weekend stay into a week-long vacation. Sporting numerous boutiques, bars, and restaurants there’s enough to keep you busy while you’re not skiing on one of the resort’s five mountains, and with such a wide variety of pistes, there are plenty of options for all skill levels. Stay in the Hotel Beauregard. Located in the upper part of the village next to the slopes, that’s the place to be if you’re going to get snowed-in. And even if you’re not … it’s still a good place to be.
Vallouise is a commune in the Hautes-Alpes region of southeastern France. After staying at the French Alpine Club hut there while spending a weekend skiing in and around the resort, I was ready to stay for another few weeks. What can I say? I’m a sucker for simple lodging, hearty food, and phenomenal skiing. Always happy to get out of the larger and more popular resorts, I can’t think of anywhere better to be stranded than in the middle of the French Alps in an isolated village snuggly situated at the base of magnificent peaks. The Pelvoux-Vallouise ski resort is perfectly suited for beginners and those looking to venture into backcountry skiing. It’s charmingly picturesque and far enough out of the way that you won’t need to worry about crowds or long lines.