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Pocket Guide: Alpes du Nord

Alpes Du Nord, the northern section of the French Alps is renowned for some of the best skiing and winter sports available in the whole of Europe. It stretches from the Swiss border in the north down to Grenoble and the Alpe d’Huez in the south. The soaring, snow-capped mountains are festooned with snow in the winter, while the summer months are ideal for hiking, mountain climbing and river rafting. With plenty of activities available all year round, and plenty of hearty mountain fare to keep you warm, there’s lots to keep you coming back to its hotels for more.

Where to Stay in the Alpes Du Nord

Les Portes du Soleil — The Gates of the Sun is a ski area that covers a dozen villages in the mountains north of Mont Blanc, all linked by ski lifts and cable cars. It spans the French and Swiss border and has more than 200 lifts in winter, with 24 operating in summer. Avoriaz is a car-free destination; with modern facilities and comfy hotels, it’s a snowboarder’s paradise.

Morzine — The traditional market town of Morzine, part of Les Portes du Soleil, has kept its alpine character in spite of being a ski destination for more than 80 years. It’s not all ski schools, raclette restaurants and après-ski bars here – you’ll also find cheese makers and slate workshops churning out their livelihoods.

Annecy — “The Pearl of the French Alps” is the biggest city in the Alpes Du Nord and its canals and lakeside aspect give it a different character from the mountain resorts. With two castles and a picturesque waterfront, there’s plenty to see, and the restaurants, bars and hotels here make it a lively yet classy venue for an evening’s entertainment.

Les Trois Vallees — The Three Valleys ski resort encompasses the famous resorts of Courchevel, Meribel and Val Thorens, and the 183 lifts are kept busy in the winter months. With connections to Les Arcs and La Plagne, as well as the Espace Killy covering Val d’Isere, there endless pistes and runs to encounter.

How to Make the Most of Your Hotel in the Alpes Du Nord

The unique character of each of the alpine peaks is enough to hypnotise any visitor to the Alpes Du Nord. It’s possible to sit with a glass of gluhwein or a hot chocolate and watch the weather around the peaks as it changes from minute to minute without ever getting bored. Mont Blanc is merely the most famous, along with the Aguille du Midi, but each valley and village has its own looming guardians to watch, explore and climb. If you fancy a more active break, spend some time at Lake Annecy and visit the Chateau d’Annecy or the Palais de l’Isle for a touch of the history of the Savoyards. Evian-les-Bains, the origin of the famous bottled water brand, is equally picturesque.

If you like skiing, you’ve come to the right place. Or snowboarding for that matter. Come to think of it you can add to those sledging, ice skating, bobsledding, telemark, off-piste powder hunting or just exploring with your boots and vehicle of choice. The thousands of ski lifts, cable cars and pistes have turned the Alpes Du Nord into a winter sports paradise that has hosted the Winter Olympics so often it feels like a home event for locals. Snow is only here for half the year of course – during summer you can try long hikes along forest trails and discover the glorious pine woods of the Alps. Mountain biking, train rides, horse-riding and whitewater rafting are all great options, followed by a fondue or raclette with a great local wine.