• The experts-only Vallée Blanche in Chamonix.

    © Jonathan Tellier

    The experts-only Vallée Blanche in Chamonix.

    © Jonathan Tellier

6 Iconic Ski Runs in the French Alps to Experience in Your Lifetime

Published on February 14, 2017
6 Iconic Ski Runs in the French Alps to Experience in Your Lifetime

France is home to some of the most iconic ski runs in the world – here are 6 not to miss! 

Let's all agree that there is no adrenaline rush like charging down a memorable ski slope. We all remember those special runs, and France is home to some of the most iconic in the world.

They are the types of slopes that validate you as a skier, and you will likely refer to them as the ultimate benchmark of your entire lifetime experience on skis or a snowboard.

Here are six of France's not-to-miss ski runs! 

1. Vallée Blanche

Vallee Blanchée in Chamonix is one of the most famous off-piste routes in the world.

The glacial valley of Vallée Blanche in Chamonix falls into the expert category. Not only is it the most famous off-piste ski route in the world, but at nearly 20 kilometers, it's also the longest.

Accessed at the top of the Aiguille du Midi cable car, the first ridge to descend is typically done via rope and/or crampons and regardless of your level, a guide is highly recommended and avalanche gear is essential.

There are several routes down the valley walls, but if you ski all the way back to town in Chamonix, you're dropping a whopping 2,700 meters—nearly 9,000 vertical feet 

 

2. Combe de Caron

The Combe de Caron starts at one of the highest skiable points in Europe.

Combe de Caron begins at 3,145 meters, one of the highest skiable points in Europe, from where you have a sweeping view of the entire Rhone-Alpes region.

Although the Combe is in-bounds, it feels a little like falling off the grid when you drop over a steep precipice that will instantly sweep your guts into your mouth.

You continue down a long run that alternates between powdery and bumpy, through rocky, winding corridors for nearly 2,000 vertical feet until you find yourself back in civilization under a chairlift, headed toward the Maurienne Valley. 

3. La Sarenne

The not-too-steep La Sarenne in Alpe d'Huez is officially Europe's longest black run (16 km), and it's all in-bounds. Skiers who like silky terrain will be pleased to know that it's almost always groomed.

The top half is the steep section and sweeps you into a narrow bottleneck before you settle into a smooth, relaxing glide at the bottom in the Gorges de Sarenne. 

4. Le Pas de Chavanette

Expect to find huge moguls on Le Pas de Chavanette, which is on the border between France and Switzerland.

 

Le Pas de Chavanette (also known as the Swiss Wall) is an orange-rated (as in; "beyond expert") steep mogul field featuring a slope angle of 40 degrees. It's part of the Portes du Soleil resort system on the French/Swiss border, and it can be accessed from Avoriaz.

After the initial 75 feet, skiers can choose from a couple of different routes down, one much wider and less steep than the other. 

5. La Face

La Face, the most notorious black run in Val d'Isere, was made famous when numerous Olympic ski racers complained about its steepness during the 1992 Albertville Games.

Accessed easily at the top of the Olympique gondola, the first half of La Face is relatively flat and relaxing, featuring a sweeping panorama of jagged white peaks. Then the slope takes a left turn over what in certain snow conditions can be a small cornice, and suddenly you can see the entire village of Val d'Isere between the tips of your skis.

The best time to catch it is in the morning after a big snowfall, or when the sun is shining to soften it up in the afternoon. 

6. La Saulire

Though a red run, there is something distinctly regal about La Saulire, which begins at 2,700 meters at the Meribel-Courchevel meeting point.

This run is best hit first thing in the morning when the groomed snow feels like velvet corduroy. The slope takes you 1,300 meters—that's nearly a jaw-dropping 4,000 vertical feet—to the end point in Meribel. The length of it feels like a cross-country ski, but gravity is on your side the whole way. 

 

Originally written by RootsRated for Atout France.

 

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