Guest Blog: Ski, sightsee or sit back and relax… why not have it all?

Sophie Gackowski from reports on what do in France’s biggest ski resorts – away from the slopes.

Les Trois Vallées and Les Portes du Soleil – we all know two of the biggest names (and biggest ski areas) in the world; we’ve been frequenting their snow-laden landscapes for decades. From Courchevel to Les Gets, Val Thorens to Avoriaz, there’s something about their peaks and pistes that draw us back time and again.

Perhaps it’s the extensive, state-of-the-art lift networks, integrated perfectly with old-world towns; maybe it’s the mileage we can clock up on their slopes, or the mean fondue to be found on their mountaintops. But what happens when your legs burn that bit too much; when the biting cold and zipping wind makes you want to retreat to your chalet? Well, that’s the thing – they’re great because they’re packed with attractions, too.

Les Trois Vallées

Courchevel by night.

Courchevel by night

Need to kick back? There’s no better place to do so than Courchevel. There are (take a deep breath) no less than seven Michelin-starred restaurants here, in which you can book cookery classes, too – that’s when you’re not browsing its 100 shops and art galleries, of course, of which Galerie de l’Alpage II is one of the most prestigious. And did you think infinity pools were restricted to the Mediterranean, or hammams found only in Turkey? Think again: Goji Spa Le K2 is one of 32 wellbeing centres across the area, and your one-stop shop for all things relaxation. If that’s all a little too horizontal, hop on the Chenus Cablecar, offering spellbinding views of the Allues Valley, 2305m above sea level. With all this, who needs to actually ski?

In Méribel, you can spend a morning at Scierie et Moulin, a renovated watermill and sawmill in Le Raffort, before taking a guided walk of the area’s myriad chapels, many dating back to the 17th century. There’s also the Nature Reserve of Lac de Tuéda, its eco-museum filled with exhibitions detailing local flora and fauna.

Val Thorens, meanwhile, boasts hot tubs and saunas at its Centre Sportif, but if you’d like to learn a bit more about the area’s history – from Baroque art to vaulted stables – guided tours are available daily. Would you rather get active? A quad bike or buggy outing should do the trick.

Les Portes du Soleil

In Les Gets, you’ll find a whole host of activities for families – great if little legs are tired. The lovely Musée de la Musique Mécanique is dedicated – if your French isn’t too good! – to the history of music played by, well, everything! Boxes, carousels, clocks, street organs – the list goes on. And at Sapaba à la Neige, kids can paint pieces of pottery made by local artists, while Mum and Dad can take a tour of the artwork. Outside the town, goat farms offer milking lessons, guided tours and a range of tasty treats to take home (goat’s cheese fondue, anyone?), while the Spa Sereni-Cimes will appeal for some aprés ski – a spectacular, wood-laden wellbeing centre, it offers a wide range of massages and treatments. Bliss.

Aquariaz water park

Aquariaz water park

Now to Avoriaz, home to the similarly named Aquariaz; an enormous aqua park that takes you away from the chill outside, it’s a good bet for the whole family. A veritable tropical paradise in the heart of powdery ski country, it incorporates lush greenery, large boulders, and a gentle river into its expanse. Kids will love the Water Playhouse, where they can tip buckets over one another and splash to their hearts’ content. If you’d rather something more adrenalin-inducing, of course, activities like caving, snow-karting and even scuba diving under the ice are available! Need to relax? Remember Évian-les-Bain is just an hour’s drive away. more information on where to go, and what to do and see around France’s premier peaks, why not check out HomeAway’s new interactive guide to skiing in France? With three expert guides filled with everything you need to know about our neighbouring country’s slopes, it’s sure to whet your appetite for planning your next winter break away.


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