Skiers who have taken French ski breaks before will know that Geneva airport is one of the main air hubs for French ski resorts in the Haute Savoie region even though it is across the border in Switzerland.
Those who have previously travelled via Lyon or Grenoble airports may well be very pleasantly surprised at how close a number of good French ski resorts are to Geneva itself.
With that in mind, here is a quick rundown of the nearest French ski resorts to the Swiss city. Bear in mind that the distances given are the usual way that people will drive in the winter months – Google Maps or other navigation services may give you shorter routes in kilometres which are on minor roads:
Praz de Lys
Yes, certain skiers may well be saying “Where?”. But Praz de Lys-Sommand, as the ski area is properly known, is actually the closest decent French skiing to Geneva at only 52km away. Praz de Lys is a hamlet above the main town of Taninges, reached by taking the A40 out of Geneva to the Cluses exit.
Cluses down in the valley is also the location of the nearest train station – the trip up to Praz de Lys from Cluses is just over 10 kilometres. There is a ski bus service between Cluses and Praz de Lys.
Praz de Lys Skiing
The skiing at Praz de Lys-Sommand is not going to win any awards for ski area size or difficulty. Skiers looking for the range of the Trois Vallées or the tough runs of Val d’Isère are going to be disappointed.
The area is also not particularly high, although the skiing at the villages of Praz de Lys and Sommand does start with a decent altitude. The top elevation, however, is only 1980 metres when you get off the chairlift at Haut-Fleury.
But anyone looking to jump on a flight for a few days’ skiing when the snow is good could do a lot worse than Praz de Lys-Sommand. Simple mainly intermediate-level skiing on a high plateau surrounded by fabulous scenery with one of the shortest journeys from Geneva airport.
Praz de Lys Ski Video
Praz de Lys Ski Facts
Total Ski Lifts: 6 chairlifts; 15 draglifts, 2 magic carpets
Total Ski Runs: 7 green runs; 28 blue runs; 11 red runs; 6 black runs
Resort Height: Praz de Lys – 1450 metres
Highest Point in Ski Area: 1980 metres
I’ve been impressed by Le Praz de Lys/Sommand on the couple of occasions I’ve skied there, plenty of skiing for a week, huge “in-bounds” off-piste on a powder day, some nice motorway skiing and very quiet outside of school hols. Not that high though, but the PdL side (at least) holds the snow well into April.Shep, France
Ski Resort Website: prazdelys-sommand.com
Les Gets is an attractive chalet-style village on the western edge of the massive Portes du Soleil ski region, which spans 13 resorts between France and Switzerland.
Les Gets is actually a little further on the same road and in the same direction as Praz de Lys above. The most convenient route is to head to Cluses on the motorway or by train and then take the road up past Taninges towards Morzine. Local bus services are available from Cluses. Driving time from Geneva is around one hour and from Cluses around 20 minutes.
Les Gets Skiing
It is possible to buy a lift pass for the local Les Gets area or for the whole of the Portes du Soleil ski region. The skiing above the village itself is split between two mountains. Mont-Chéry, where the skiing first began in this area, boasts most of the tougher runs, with a selection of blacks and reds. Chavannes, on the other side of the village, is the more popular as it offers a wider selection of lifts and easier runs and the links over to Morzine and the rest of the Portes du Soleil area.
Once again, the skiing in this area is not tremendously high. The mountains around Les Gets with skiing are all under 2000 metres in altitude and it is not until skiers head towards Super-Morzine and Avoriaz that the skiing starts to get above this level.
Les Gets would be fine for a short ski break in the local area or as a base for a week or longer to explore the Portes du Soleil (although using Les Gets as a base means that it would be harder to access some of the skiing on the Swiss side of the region).
Les Gets Ski Video
Les Gets Ski Facts (Les Gets-Morzine Ski Area)
Total Ski Lifts: 1 cable car; 3 gondolas; 25 chairlifts; 14 draglifts, 4 magic carpets
Total Ski Runs: 5 green runs; 26 blue runs; 28 red runs; 9 black runs
Resort Height: Les Gets – 1170 metres
Highest Point in Local Ski Area: 2019 metres (Pointe de Nyon above Morzine)
Lovely Savoyard resort on a human scale, friendly and very affordable village. Beautiful ski area, moderate prices. One to remember…Valéry, France
Ski Resort Website: www.lesgets.com
La Clusaz is a small town in the Haute Savoie region of the Alps with an underrated ski area popular with French skiers.
It is set on a plateau to the east of Lac d’Annecy and, in the winter months, it is usually better to choose the longer 68km route from Geneva: the motorway south to Annecy and then up onto the plateau. The shorter alternative route would take the mountain roads from the A40 junction at Bonneville through the villages around Le Petit Bornand.
The closest train station to La Clusaz is down at Annecy with regular reasonably-priced bus services up to the ski resort.
La Clusaz Skiing
The skiing at La Clusaz is a varied mixture of different types of run and terrain. The main area above the town is on the Massif de l’Aiguille with wide intermediate runs heading back down to the town.
There is also a link from here over to the runs at La Balme, which head up to the highest point in the La Clusaz ski area (the Col de Balme at 2477m) and some excellent red and black runs. Return to the town is via long and relatively flat blue runs involving some poling in poor conditions.
The other option is to head off on a tour around the Manigod area. The most common way to do this is to take the lift from La Clusaz up to the Massif de Beauregard and head off on the circuit. This tour is suitable for intermediate skiers as most of the pistes are graded as blue runs.
A nearby smaller resort – Le Grand Bornand – is part of a combined ski region. Ski passes are available which either cover La Clusaz alone or the ‘Domaine Aravis’ which includes Le Grand Bornand.
La Clusaz Ski Video
La Clusaz Ski Facts
Total Ski Lifts: 5 gondolas; 16 chairlifts; 28 draglifts
Total Ski Runs: 16 green runs; 31 blue runs; 30 red runs; 8 black runs
Resort Height: La Clusaz – 1100 metres
Highest Point in Local Ski Area: 2477 metres (Col de Balme)
A fantastic setting & a beautiful atmosphere. Varied slopes of good level with modern lifts. But a dubious evolution towards a less sporty hipster aesthetic & traffic still dreadful.Jean-Baptiste, France
Ski Resort Website: www.laclusaz.com
Megève is an upmarket French ski resort with a rich history located just off the A40 motorway from Geneva. The total distance from Geneva is around 70 kilometres but only the last 13 kilometres of that is non-motorway driving from the Sallanches junction.
As well as being easily accessible, Megève is close to other well-known ski resorts, such as Les Contamines and the ski areas of the Chamonix valley.
Skiing in Megève started back in the 1930s and it has always been a magnet for the rich and famous in France. As well as the attractive town centre and the luxury boutiques, the slopes are also flattering to those who are perhaps not particularly expert skiers.
There are three main ski areas, with the quietest being on the Le Jaillet side of town. All of them are connected by an efficient ski bus service and all offer a good array of intermediate runs. Those looking for a little bit of a challenge would probably be best served by heading towards the slopes on Mont Joly and the runs down towards St Nicolas de Veroce.
Skiers can choose between three lift passes: the Portes de Mont Blanc, which just covers the Le Jaillet/Combloux side; the Evasion pass, which covers all of the Megève area, the link to Saint-Gervais and the separate nearby resort of Les Contamines; and the Mont Blanc Unlimited, which adds the Chamonix valley ski resorts plus Courmayeur in Italy and Verbier in Switzerland.
Megève Ski Video
Megève Ski Facts
Total Ski Lifts: 2 cable cars; 7 gondolas; 28 chairlifts; 39 draglifts; 6 magic carpets
Total Ski Runs: 18 green runs; 29 blue runs; 26 red runs; 11 black runs
Resort Height: Megève – 1100 metres
Highest Point in Local Ski Area: 2353 metres (Mont Joly)
The facilities and slopes are excellent but lack difficulty. The resort is beautiful and very large. It has everything you could want on holiday. It is ideal for families, jetsetters, après-skiers, beginners, but not for off-piste adventurers.Dan, France
Ski Resort Website: megeve.com
Flaine is arguably the French winter destination best-known internationally in this collection of ski resorts close to Geneva. Its original combination of brutalist architecture and doorstep skiing both attracted and horrified visitors from other European countries.
Flaine’s easy access from the A40 motorway and some of the more attractive newer construction have helped maintain a steady regular clientele, many of them making their way on the journey of just over 70 kilometres from Geneva.
Drivers will leave the A40 at Cluses and then start the climb through Les Carroz (also connected to the ski area) to Flaine. The nearest train station is also down in Cluses and there are several ski buses daily from there to Flaine (reservation recommended).
The Grand Massif ski area covers Flaine, as well as the nearby connected ski resorts of Les Carroz, Morillon and Samoens. A more limited ski pass for the immediate area around Flaine is also available.
The big bowl above the main Flaine hamlets is above the treeline and offers a wide range of open runs with different grades of difficulty. The links to the other resorts, on the other hand, are mostly ski runs heading down from the plateau through the trees to the more attractive and more traditional villages.
Of the five resorts listed here, the Flaine ski area is arguably the one that covers the needs of all levels of skier most comprehensively with its 256 kilometres of runs. Apparently, the ski runs were originally designed by a former French champion skier to follow the mountain contours.
Flaine Ski Video
Flaine Ski Facts
Total Ski Lifts: 1 funicular; 7 gondolas; 22 chairlifts; 25 draglifts; 8 magic carpets
Total Ski Runs: 8 green runs; 26 blue runs; 25 red runs; 5 black runs (Flaine area only)
Resort Height: Flaine – 1600 metres
Highest Point in Local Ski Area: 2500 metres (Lindars)
It is a beautiful car-free resort. The slopes are magnificent and the snow cover is often better than in other resorts. It is just a pity that the buildings are a little old.Frank, Switzerland
Ski Resort Website: www.flaine.com