Not all ski resorts are created equal, and for snowboarders it's all about off-piste powder, snowparks, and freestyle competitions. Here is OnTheSnow's run down of the best resorts for snowboarders in France.
La Plagne offers an almost unprecedented variety of terrain for boarders. Freestylers flock to the Capella snowpark that measures 900 metres in length and offers a good selection of modules like rails, waves, boxes, and rainbows, as well as a boarder cross, half pipe, and 7cube. Thanks to its length and variety, advanced boarders will be happy here, but there are also several beginner-friendly modules.
Natural obstacles in Avoriaz's Stash park
Avoriaz is proud of its snowboarding history: it was one of France's first resorts to dedicate specific areas to the sport and continues to attract boarders from all over Europe today. Its off-piste areas are accessible to beginners but challenging enough for more experienced riders as well. Its snowcross areas, for example, are controlled but ungroomed and are closed when conditions are too dangerous. Avoriaz also boasts several parks: the Chappelle park, with kicker lines and combinations of jibs, rails, and boxes makes it the most popular; the Trashers park is for beginners has small rails and boxes plus mini kicker lines; and the Stash which is the station's crown jewel and was designed as a freestyle run, with around 20 hits throughout and is reshaped every night for optimal conditions.
La Grave is not for beginners, but once you've got the skill, it is worth the ride. The unpisted terrain includes 2164 metres of vertical drop over which you'll run into chutes, cliffs, couloirs, crevices, drops, gullies, and steeps. Since only a select few have what it takes to descend La Grave, there's no worry about crowds or over-run terrain. Avoid the fresh terrain running through the trees and river beds, though, as 100 metre cliff drop-offs often lie at the end.
Tignes' Winter X-Games
Tignes is another of France's pioneer snowboard resorts. It hosts Europe's only version of the X-Games and actively invites boarders to take to its pistes and backcountry. Trails are wide and offer easy access to prime off-piste areas. To get to some of the more intense chutes and powder fields, you'll have to hike a bit, but the effort is well worth it. Tignes' snowpark can claim the title of largest in the world. It measures 2.5 kilometres in length and covers nearly 500 metres of vertical drop. It includes a half pipe, quarter pipe, and and entire range of modules for boarders' delight.
Serre Chevalier may be one of snowboard's best bets in France. Terrain includes large numbers of drop-offs, hits, banks and gullies, and flat terrain to straight-line it for a dose of speed (and adrenaline). The forests of the resort also give riders some fun places to play, bobbing between trees on their way dow. Head to Le Monetier if the crowds are too much at Chantemerle and Villeneuve.
Les Arcs is home to Regis Rolland of Apocalypse Snow fame and as such, could only be one of France's top snowboard resorts. Since it sprawls over 2750 hectares of skiable land, the resort offers nearly every type of terrain imaginable-from cliffs to powder bowls and to gullies and cat tracks. This makes it a great place for all levels, where beginners can get the hang of the sport and die-hards can push themselves to the limits. After all, it was at Les Arcs that Austrian boarder Darren Powel set the snowboard speed record-196.937 kilometres per hour.
Top of the Valle Blanche off-piste run in Chamonix
Chamonix is legendary and can send tingles down to the toes of even the most seasoned riders. The Combe de la Pendant offers 1000 metres of ungroomed descent and the Vallée Blanche gives you a whopping 20 kilometres. Along the way, boarders will come across loads of glacial runs, steep faces, forests, and couloirs as well as chutes, cliffs, and hits. There are lots of off-piste opportunities at Chamonix, but not much in terms of freestyling. While the resort does have some green and blue runs, it's not really a beginning boarder's best bet. Work your skills up and then come to ride this French legend.