France and Switzerland are two of the most popular skiing and snowboarding locations in Europe, but which is the best? In this article I’ll be comparing all the main things you need to consider when planning a ski trip so you can decide if you should head to France or Switzerland.
Skiing in France vs Switzerland
Both France and Switzerland are great places to ski for beginners, intermediates and experts. There are more ski resorts in Switzerland but they tend to be smaller compared to the French resorts. Skiing in Switzerland is usually more expensive and most resorts are further away from an International airport.
Resorts and Slopes
In France there are 416 ski resorts and in Switzerland there are 354 resorts.
Both countries have good options for all ability levels. Different resorts will have a mix of easy and expert slopes so there really is something for everyone no matter whether you go to the French or the Swiss alps.
Most Popular Ski Resorts in France:
- Val d’Isere
- Val Thorens
Most Popular Ski Resorts in Switzerland:
- St. Moritz
- Davos Klosters
Here’s a breakdown of the slope stats for the most popular ski resorts in France and Switzerland. In France, beginner slopes are classified as green whereas in Switzerland there are no green runs so less experienced skiers will need to start on the blue runs.
Check out this article to learn more about the slope grading systems in different countries.
|Location||Skiable Area||Ski Lifts||Green Runs||Blue Runs||Red Runs||Black Runs|
|Grindelwald, Switzerland||102 km||30||N/A||16||24||15|
|Morzine, France||120 km||49||3||29||28||9|
|Crans-Montana, Switzerland||140 km||19||N/A||17||29||4|
|Courchevel, France||150 km||58||19||35||34||8|
|Val Thorens, France||150 km||30||11||29||30||8|
|Meribel, France||150 km||45||8||25||24||7|
|St. Moritz, Switzerland||155 km||24||N/A||18||16||9|
|Chamonix, France||170 km||17||6||30||31||10|
|Verbier, Switzerland||202 km||22||N/A||35||39||14|
|Davos-Klosters, Switzerland||270 km||55||N/A||20||37||20|
|Val d’Isere, France||300 km||43||20||67||40||26|
|Zermatt, Switzerland||360 km||53||N/A||75||220||63|
Weather and Snow Quality
The ski season in both Switzerland and France typically lasts for 5 months. Usually the ski season in Switzerland starts slightly earlier and runs from mid-November to mid-April whereas in France it typically runs from late-November/ early-December to late April.
You will get great quality snow in both the Swiss and French alps, there are variations are between resorts though. Resorts at a higher altitude and with more slopes facing away from the sun are likely to have longer ski seasons and better quality snow (particularly at the end of the season) compared to other resorts.
Here’s a guide to the weather at some of the major ski locations in Switzerland and France.
|Average Temperature||Val d’Irere, |
|Val Thorens, France||Zermatt, Switzerland||St. Moritz, Switzerland|
|Nov||-6°C (21°F)||-4°C (24.5°F)||-8°C (18°F)||-5.5°C (22°F)|
|Dec||-10°C (14°F)||-8°C (17.5°F)||-12.5°C (9.5°F)||-11°C (12°F)|
|Jan||-11°C (12°F)||-9°C (15.5°F)||-13.5°C (7°F)||-12°C (10°F)|
|Feb||-10.5°C (13°F)||-8°C (17°F)||-13°C (9°F)||-11°C (12°F)|
|Mar||-7°C (19°F)||-4.5°C (24°F)||-9°C (15.5°F)||-6.5°C (20°F)|
|Apr||-3.5°C (26°F)||-1°C (30°F)||-5.3°C (22.5°F)||-2.5°C (27°F)|
Food and Dining Experience
The types of food on offer in Switzerland and France aren’t worlds apart and you’ll often find cheese, potatoes, bread and pastries are staples on most menus. Here are some common dishes you’ll find in each country:
- France: tartiflette, crepes, bourguignon, raclette
- Switzerland: cheese fondue, rosti, pastries, Älplermagronen (Alpine Macaroni)
Although the food is similar, it is significantly more expensive in Switzerland compared to France.
|Food/ Drink||Average Cost France||Average Cost Switzerland|
|3 Course Meal for One||30 €||50 €|
|McDonald’s Meal||9 €||15 €|
|Coca Cola/ Pepsi||2.60 €||4.20 €|
|Bottle of Water||1.75 €||3.90 €|
|Coffee||2.90 €||4.80 €|
The accommodation options vary from resort to resort but there are plenty of options in France and Switzerland. The main difference is that accommodation tends to be a bit more expensive in Switzerland when comparing equivalents which means you might have to choose a more budget-friendly option to keep the cost the same.
France probably comes out on top in terms of the nightlife with most resorts having plenty of night clubs, bars and restaurants available. Val d’Isere, Tignes and Val Thorens are all very well known for their après-ski scenes.
There aren’t quite as many resorts with an exceptional reputation for après-ski, however you’ll still have plenty of options available in Switzerland. If nightlife is a priority then I’d suggest going to Verbier, Zermatt, St. Moritz, Klosters or Davos.
Travelling and Location
Most French ski resorts are nearest to Geneva international airport. The best way to travel between the airport and the resorts is via a shuttle bus as there are no direct trains available to most resorts.
The closest airports to most Swiss resorts are either Geneva, Zurich or Milan. Shuttle buses are available for most resorts but typically take quite a long time. Another option is to travel by train as most Swiss resorts are pretty well connected.
|Ski Resort||Nearest Major Airport||Drive Time||Train Time|
|Portes du Soleil, France||Geneva||1 hour 30 minutes||No direct train|
|Val Thorens, France||Geneva||2 hours 30 minutes||No direct train|
|Val d’Isere, France||Geneva||3 hours||No direct train|
|St. Moritz, Switzerland||Zurich/ Milan||3 hours 30 minutes/ 4 hours||4 hours from Zurich|
|Zermatt, Switzerland||Geneva/ Milan||2 hours 45 minutes/ 3 hours||4 hours/ 3 hours 45 minutes|
As you’d probably expect considering the cost of food and accommodation in Switzerland is more than France, so are the ticket prices. On average you can expect to pay around 20€ more for an adult day lift ticket in Switzerland compared to France.
The table below provides the most recent (at the time of writing) ski season day lift ticket prices in popular French and Swiss resorts. Keep in mind that these prices are subject to change. Please check the resorts individually to confirm current prices. The rates below are for online bookings, prices are much higher if tickets are purchased at the desk.
|Resort||Day Lift Ticket Price (Adult)|
|Val Thorens, France||59€|
|Portes du Soleil, France||59€|
|Val d’Isere and Tignes, France||63€|
|St. Moritz, Switzerland||77€|