For some people, the onset of winter means warm log fires, mulled wine, frantic shopping sprees and plenty of good food. For others, the cold season is all about winter sports, as Europe's top skiing and snowboarding resorts begin to welcome visitors eager to get out on the slopes.
The French Alps is one of the most popular regions for British winter sports enthusiasts to visit, with easy access from the UK and plenty of well-equipped and affordable resorts to choose from.
People who want to make their snowboarding or skiing holiday in France as easy as possible can arrange their cross channel ferry tickets, accommodation and equipment hire online with AFerry Ski
Before booking anything, however, winter holidaymakers have to decide which Alpine region they want to visit.Les Portes du Soleil
Located between Mont Blanc in France and Lake Geneva in Switzerland, the Portes du Soleil region encompasses 12 different resorts, including Avoriaz, Morzine and Les Gets. The region will be celebrating the reopening of one of its resorts this winter, with Abondance set to begin welcoming visitors again after a two-year interval.
Another highlight of the forthcoming season will be a new learn-to-ski concept being trialled in Avoriaz. Starter courses will be available for adult beginners, featuring on-piste workshops and an introduction to the main phases of learning to ski.
Other resorts to choose from in Les Portes du Soleil include Chapelle d'Abondance, which boasts a new chairlift offering access to the slopes of Mont de Grange, and Montriond.Chamonix-Mont Blanc
Travellers will soon be heading to the Chamonix-Mont Blanc region when one of its most popular ski areas, Grand Montets, partially opens on December 12th. A number of other resorts will begin welcoming guests soon, including Chamonix, Brévent Flégère and Les Houches.
Adventurous skiers and snowboarders might be tempted to try out some of the region's off-piste descents, such as the Rognons glacier, Pas de Chèvre and the famous Vallee Blanche, which is accessed via the Aiguille du Midi cable car.
Families will find plenty of other activities to interest younger visitors in Chamonix-Mont Blanc, such as tobogganing, dog sleigh riding and snowshoeing.Three Valleys
The Three Valleys region is home to arguably some of the most famous ski resorts in France, including Courchevel, La Tania and Val Thorens. It is reportedly the largest ski area in the world, with some 600km of slopes linked together by hundreds of ski runs and lifts.
Travellers who choose to visit Courchevel can select from its 1550, 1650 and 1850 resorts, which feature a variety of different facilities and amenities to suit families, younger visitors and those wanting luxury and glamour.
People looking for a guarantee of good conditions might be interested in Val Thorens, the highest resort in Europe at an altitude of 2,300 metres.Espace Killy
Located in the Savoie region of the French Alps, Espace Killy encompasses the resorts of Val d'Isère and Tignes. It is named after Jean-Claude Killy, the former champion alpine skier who learnt his trade in Val d'Isere.
The area encompasses 300km of slopes, a snowpark, free-ride routes and a high altitude that ensures visitors will always be able to enjoy good conditions. In addition to the skiing and snowboarding, Espace Killy offers the opportunity for adventurous individuals to try other activities such as ice climbing, skating and hiking.
Espace Killy began welcoming guests on November 28th and will remain open until May 2nd 2010.Paradiski
Travellers who choose Paradiski as the destination for their ski holiday in France can enjoy uninterrupted skiing between three areas - Les Arcs, Peisey-Vallandry and La Plagne.
Les Arcs alone is home to some 200km of runs, while the other two areas encompass 134 different descents that cater for people of all abilities. Paradiski also boasts two well-equipped glaciers and three summits above an altitude of 3,000 metres.
There are plenty of après-ski facilities for visitors to make use of in the region, including children's play areas, an ice cave and swimming pools.Getting there
All of France's major ski resorts are located in the south-east, meaning travellers can travel by ferry to the country's northern ports and drive south to get their ski holiday underway.
The shortest crossings depart from Dover, with both P&O Ferries and Seafrance
serving the Calais ferry route. Norfolkline
provides ferries to Dunkerque from Dover, while LD Lines
operates the Dover to Boulogne ferry link.
Other travel options include the Cherbourg ferry services provided by Brittany Ferries
and Condor Ferries
from Portsmouth and by Irish Ferries
and Celtic Link from Rosslare.Brittany Ferries
also provides a Portsmouth to St Malo ferry service, as well as ferries to Roscoff from Plymouth and Cork.Ferries to France timetables
Posted by Mark Robinson