23 October 2020 from Gareth in Destinations

So who’s afraid of the Southern Alps? We all know that Brits love to spend their ski holidays in the French Alps. However, British skiers and snowboarders tend to head north to famous ski resorts such as Chamonix – and they have every reason to do so – going to the Northern Alps means great skiing, great snow and good après-ski! However, what they’re missing out on by not venturing to the Southern Alps is, great skiing, great snow and good après-ski! 

The Southern Alps - full of surprises

The Southern Alps represent a surprising 13% of the total French ski area and is home to 3,000 metre-high mountains such as Mount Boron and Mount Alban. There are actually 68 ski resorts in the Southern Alps and many of them are not as small or as low as you might think. Of course, they cannot compete with the huge ski resorts and ski areas in the Northern Alps but together, they cover the same surface area as the Pyrenees, the Massif Central and Vosges regions together! What is particularly interesting about the ski resorts in the Southern Alps is the great variety of size and touristic importance. Most of the 68 ski resorts in the Southern Alps are visited mainly by local people on their ski holidays during the half-term and Easter school holidays. This is the case of the smaller ski resorts in Queyras such as Saint-Veran, Abriès Ristolas, Arvieux Molines en Queyras or Ceillac with their beautifully preserved landscapes or those in Dévoluy - Superdevoluy and La Joue du Loup which offer 100 kilometers of slopes! Other ski resorts in the Southern Alps are more modest, such as Montclar, Chabanon or the tiny ski resorts around the Serre-Ponçon dam. However, these small and medium-sized ski resorts play a particularly important role in the economic life of these mountain areas where life can be tough and they offer a great option for cheap, first-time ski holidays.

Vars La Foret Blanche
Photo: © OT Vars

World-famous ski resorts in the Southern Alps

Some world-famous ski resorts are tucked away in the Southern French Alps - it’s not just the Northern Alps that are home to the more luxury ski resorts. Internationally renowned ski resorts such as Serre Chevalier, a chain of small mountain villages all very different in terms of location, charm, atmosphere and history, all giving access to the largest non-connected ski area in France with around 250 kilometers of ski slopes can easily compete with many of the popular ski resorts in the Northern French Alps! Vars and Risoul, two very French ski resorts in the Southern Alps, have joined their ski areas to create La Foret Blanche ski area, which has become a must for freestylers from around the world in the heart of a splendid larch forest.

How to get to the Southern Alps

Another hesitation from British skiers is the transfer time to ski resorts in the Southern Alps. However, Nice Airport is the gateway to most of the popular French and Italian ski resorts, and is ideal for airport transfers to the ski resorts in the Southern Alps with most transfer times under 2 hours. To give you an idea, the transfer time to Isola 2000, a popular French ski resort located at 2000 meters above sea level with around 120 kilometres of wonderfully sunny ski slopes, is only one hour. Within a two hour transfer you can be in the charming French ski resorts of La Foux d’Allos and Val d’Allos. Nice Airport (Nice Côte d’Azur International Airport – NCE) is in the heart of French Riviera, very close to the Southern Alps, has two terminals and is served by over 50 airlines. So, why not go south this winter and spend your ski holidays in one of the fantastic, varied French ski resorts in the Southern Alps?

Skiing was something that was sort of forced on me as a child. When my parents signed me up for the school ski trip when I was 11, I think I sulked for a whole month! However, I have no idea how to thank them as I haven’t looked back since!