Where to go skiing in the French Riviera
Bright white summits, blue skies, and warm sun make the Alpes-Maritimes a favourite ski destination for locals and visitors.
After an exceptionally warm start to winter left many ski instructors scrambling for slope space, our recent rains covered the Maritime Alps in a generous dusting of powder. Now that the midterm holidays are here, we’ve got a round-up of the closest ski resorts - both big and small - and some alternative ideas for those who aren’t gung-ho downhill thrashers.
The top 3 ski destinations for Riverains are Isola 2000, Valberg and Auron. Then there are several smaller towns with less pistes but more charm. These include Casterino-Tende, La Colmiane-Valdebore, Gréolières-les-Neiges, Val-Pelens, and more. But there is no need to stay in France, though! Just over the border into the Italian Alps is the adorable village of Limone in the heart of the Riserva Bianca.
Whether you are seasoned skiers or haven’t yet ventured into our sunny, snow-covered Alps, find tips to make some new discoveries!
The big 3
At the of the list with the highest altitude, Isola 2000 is only 1 hour 30 minutes from Nice, has 44 pistes and 20 lifts. It is a favourite destination for snowboarders, but they also offer guided night walks, snowshoeing and village BBQs. The downhill pros will love their relatively new FIS downhill slope, a 1,600 metre race slope at 380 m altitude. At its steepest point, the grade is 85 per cent and is well suited for the French ski championships in March!
Isola 2000 is chock-full of events, entertainment, concerts, and have a wide selection of ski schools and private instructors. It has an ice driving circuit, snowmobile and dog sled rides, spas and an aquatic park.
Day, multi-day and season ski passes start from only 22€.
Located within Nice’s Mercantour Reserve, Auron and its neighbouring Saint ETIENNE DE TINÉE are the most charming and Alpine looking ski resort in the Tinée valley. Equipped with the most efficient and modern snow-making systems in Europe (440 cannons), the 135 km of ski runs assures constant levels of snow. Great panoramas, authentic village, new crèche for children from 6 months old and luxury residence rentals. The new spa complex, Lüvència, is centrally located on the village square. Massages, packs & peelings, sauna & hammam, open daily from 9 am to 7 pm (reservation: +33 04 93 02 90 05).
Day ski pass from 38€ and family pack specials with 10% discount with minimum 4 Skipasses.
A vibrant ski village for all levels and families with plenty of entertainment for children. with 90 km of slopes ranging from 1500 to 2066 m altitude, there are 56 slopes: 11 green / 11 blue / 28 red / 6 black and a special sectors for beginners throughout the resort. Experienced riders will enjoy the Snow Park with 5 different rail and box types. Plenty of winter sports activities, from snowshoe hikes to sledding, a planetary trail and horseback riding.
Day ski pass from 33€, 'Happy Skier' pass from 3pm for 18€ and a 2-day pass with unlimited pool access for 72€.
The Italian side
Limone - La Riserva Bianca
Looking for a change of scenery? Head to Piemonte and explore the Italian Alps! A little over two hours from Monaco, Limone sits just over the border from Tende and the Roya valley in the Pays de Merveilles.
The town of Limone is a jewel with all the charm of an alpine village, the warmth of Italians, great food and wine (it's right next door to Barolo country!) and plenty of little hotels, chalets and Bed & Breakfasts. Two spas to pamper with massage, sauna, jacuzzi and hammam can help you relax after tearing up the slopes.
The Riserva Bianca offers unlimited winter sports for all levels. Discover 37 slopes covering 80 km of terrain between 1,050 to 2,050 metres up. It offers downhill runs from beginner to advanced, there are free-ride off-piste runs for the highly skilled skiers, slalom competitions for adults and kids, 3km of cross-country runs and so much more. The glorious mountains of the reserve offer snow shoeing, ski mountaineering, snowmobile excursions, ice fall climbing, and even snow kiting (see below).
Ski passes are available online and start from 28€.
Great for families, the Scuola Sci Limone is a top school for kids, taking them to the next level of advanced skiing and competition training. Lessons are open to the public and available in French, Italian and English.
Ski & Snowboard Stations
More than skiing
Fresh snow is also the time for snowshoeing!
Those who like hiking should definitely try the winter variant in the Maritime Alps. Many summer trails are ideal for a snowshoe trek. The RandOxygène guide "Raquette à Neige" gives a nice overview of trails and useful tips.
Snowshoes can be rented in the sports shops and often in the tourist offices of the resorts, but also in the large sports shops along the coast. You can buy them for as little as 50€, better models from 100€.
Sleigh ride with sled dogs
Tours with sled dogs are becoming more and more popular. You can discover this activity in the Alpes-Maritimes by visiting the Roya Valley in the small village of Castérino with its wide plateau.
Auron has also recently added dog sled dog experiences.
Ice waterfalls in Saint-Dalmas-le-Selvage
Since 2013, Saint-Dalmas-le-Selvage has borne the title of "Station village des Alpes du Sud" - as an authentic winter sports village at a snow-assured 1,500-metre altitude. There are no ski lifts here, just unspoilt nature to captivate. Snowshoe hikers (routes totalling 50 km), cross-country skiers or ski tourers will find their paradise around the tranquil little village. And the highlights are the two ice waterfalls in the Gialorgues valley (100 and 150 m). Experienced climbers are allowed to work alone, beginners only with a mountain guide (Guide de Haute Montagne).
La Riserva Bianca, in Limone, has an artificial (read: controlled) waterfall for safer ice climbing.
A fan of Kite Surfing? Why not try it on snow covered mountains? On a high plateau in the Alps of the Riserva Bianca in Limone, Italy, Criminal Kite offers an experience you won't find in other places. Strap on a kite and catch some air while you're skiing or snowboarding to take your experience to the next level. The views are stunning and the adrenalin is sure to start pumping!
Another fun activity for the family that doesn't involve schlepping gear is an excursion into the forest by snowmobile. Not only is it fast and fun, but you get to explore areas otherwise difficult to get to. Mercantour Randonée offers full day excursions for groups, taking you high up the mountains in Tende for views like you're in Canada! Explore the ruins of an old fort and look out over the quaint town of Limone. They also do evening excursions after the slopes close for a truly unique experience.