The French Alps are the portion of the Alps that stand in France. Some of the mountains lie entirely within the country, while others act as a border between France and either Switzerland or Italy. Usually the highest point of the mountain range with one side being located in one country and one in another.
Mont Blanc is the highest point in France and Western Europe. The peak is at 4,800 metres and on one side lies the Aosta Valley in Italy, and on the other is the Montjoie and Arve Valleys in France. There are seven other countries apart from France that has the Alps within their borders.
The Alps were formed as a result of the African and Eurasian tectonic plates crashing into each other. This resulted in the land being uplifted and now sedimentary rocks, that are found on some of the highest areas, were once found at the bottom of the seas. There are over 20 resorts found in the French Alps. Getting to them can be a little awkward as they are quite remote. The favoured airports are Grenoble and Geneva in Switzerland, but the area is well served by road and rail links.
Grenoble was the venue for the 1968 Winter Olympic Games. The city is situated at the foot of the Alps and has a population of 160,000 which makes it by far the largest settlement in the Alps. Although the event was centred at Grenoble, it was the first the Games events took place at a variety of venues in the area. The downhill events took place at Chamrousse a town 30 km to the west of Grenoble. The hosting of the Olympic event resulted in the town building 6 new chair lifts plus removing vast areas of rocks in order to prepare a course for the skiers.
The biggest ski area in France is Les Trois Vallees (The Three Valleys) which now that the three valleys are inter connected by one ski pass, makes it the biggest ski area in the world. The three valleys are Saint Bon, Allies and Belleville and within the area there are over 370 miles of ski runs. The 183 ski lifts are able to transport 260,000 skiers per hour.
The area has a number of resorts that include Meribel, Courchevel and Val Thorens. These resorts are reliant on the skiing season with 1500 ski instructors being employed and many other jobs being produced from within the supporting industries. With hotels, restaurants and bars being full in the ski season the local community is reliant on the skiing industry. Local farmers will spend the winters employed as “piste bashers” and instructors, as their animals are kept indoors, unable to feed off the mountains snow covered pastures.
Chamonix hosted the 1924 Olympic Games and is one of the oldest ski resorts in the Alps with it being located on the slopes Mont Blanc. The village has a population of nearly 9,000 people and is served by both road and rail services. Many people travelling to other resorts will often travel through the village.
One of the country’s resorts for being home to the rich and famous is Val-d’Isere. Located in the Tarentaise Valley, the resort hosted the men’s downhill events at the Albertville 1992 Olympic Games. It is a regular venue foe World Cup events and hosted the World Championships in 2009.
The town attracts many tourists as it has a wide range of accommodation as well as spectacular architecture, with the skiing in the area being regarded as some of the most beautiful in the world. The nearby Pissaillas Glaciers offers skiers all year round and the area is well served by lifts and gondolas that results in the region being very popular with visitors.
The skiing in France offers a variety of slopes that cater for skiers of all abilities. The slopes have proved just as popular to snowboarders and the ski season provides great economic benefit to the mountain areas.