Skiing in France or Austria? Which is Better For a Ski Trip?

by Laura Penrose | Updated On: September 5th, 2022
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France and Austria have been long known to be fantastic ski destinations. Are you torn between these two destinations in planning your next winter getaway? Let’s discuss France vs Austria Skiing and determine which one is better. 

In short, both locations are fantastic options for skiing and offer excellent environments for skiers of all levels. Austria tends to be more affordable for a ski holiday with superb skiing, including tree runs. However, more experienced skiers might enjoy the high altitudes of the French alps and the fantastic après-ski culture. 

You can have a wonderful time skiing in France and Austria. However, depending on what you are looking for, one might have the edge over the other. 

Going on a ski trip is not just about the mountain but also other factors that go into choosing a destination. It’s a good idea to consider where you will stay? What is the après-ski culture like? How will you get there? And what is the overall cost of a vacation? 

Skiing

France

skiing france

Skiing in France is legendary. It is a wildly popular skiing location in Europe, for a good reason. Most skiing in France is located in the high French Alps, where some resorts offer year-round skiing. However, there is also skiing in the Southern Alps or the Pyrenees bordering Spain. 

These resorts are at high altitudes making for excellent snow quality. The highest is Val Thorens at 2,300 m, and some of these high-altitude ski resorts also have glaciers you can ski on even into the summer months.

France is also home to some of the largest areas to ski in the world, that are all linked together. Les Portes du Soleil, for example, has over 650 km of skiing, with seven ski resorts in France and 4 in Switzerland. You can even ski between France and Switzerland.

Resorts in France offer high-quality skiing for beginners to advanced skiers and excellent ski schools.

Austria

St Anton Austria
Photo by Johannes Gruber licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0)

Austrian skiing is also fantastic and can be a great place to explore. The altitude tends to be lower than in France, but the areas are typically slightly more sheltered and have more tree runs to explore. 

Although the areas aren’t as interlinked as France’s, there are still a few impressive ski areas to choose from, such as Ski Arlberg (350 km of piste) or SkiWelt (280 km). The Arlberg area is famous in Austria and is one of the snowiest resorts in the Alps. 

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Some of the most popular ski resorts in Austria include KitzbühelMayrhofen, and St Anton, to name a few. And, if you are looking for areas with a large amount of snow in Austria, this tends to be in the west of the country.

Accommodation 

France

skiing france resort

France has purpose-built lodging at the resorts that you can ski in and ski out of, making for an easy transition to riding the lifts. Many resorts also offer a great range of accommodations from budget to luxury.

There are a lot of globally run chains of hotels, and chalets that operate at ski resorts in France. Many of the complexes also include restaurants, spas, pools, and other amenities to make for a relaxing stay. 

Austria

Lech Austria

Traditional and authentic are two great words to describe accommodation in Austria. Hospitality has been long seen as an important priority in Austria. 

You’ll often find that most accommodations in Austria want to look after you as best they can when you come off the slopes. Spas and saunas are very common here and are a great way to unwind and relax. Just note that going naked is common, but there are some locations where you can keep your bathing suit on. 

Compared to France, hotels and chalets are generally cheaper in Austria. Some of the accommodations have been run for generations from the same family, and you can enjoy a unique and traditional stay at some locations. 

Like France, you can find anything from budget to luxury accommodation depending on the price you are willing to pay.

Food

France

french toast food

There is a rich tradition of food in the French Alps that originated from mountain villages isolated for extended periods due to snow. Still existing today, this traditional alpine food can still be found in local restaurants and homes. 

Many of these traditional dishes are made from locally sourced ingredients such as cheeses, meats, and local vegetables.

Fondue and Raclette are some of the most famous French cuisines that can be found in alpine food culture. Another French classic is Tartiflette, combining potatoes, bacon, and Reblochon cheese, making a very hearty dish perfect for lunch or dinner on a cold day. 

Additionally, resorts in France offer a variety of fine dining experiences from Michelin star chefs. 

Austria 

Austria food

Like France, Austria also has some traditional dishes that have been part of the culture for generations. Austria offers some fantastic options for food with many hearty dishes that are made from locally sourced ingredients. 

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You may have heard of Wiener Schnitzel, an iconic Austrian dish that can be found at most resorts in Austria. Other dishes you should try include Tyrolean Dumpling soup, Brettljause (cold meats, cheeses, bread, etc.), and Tiroler Grostl (bacon, onion, and potato fry-up dish). 

After a great meal for lunch or dinner, a traditional sweet dessert such as Kaiserschmarrn (fluffy pancakes) can be a great way to end your meal. 

Après-ski 

France 

apres ski france
Photo by Richard Allaway licensed under CC BY 2.0

The word après comes from the French language meaning “after”, so it is not surprising that France has a fantastic après-ski culture. Some of the most well-known après-ski resorts include Val d’Isere, Chamonix, and Méribel.  

After a day on the slopes, France offers plenty of activities for après-ski, from hanging out in a pub with a pint of beer to ice skating or bobsleighing. France certainly has a variety of ways to have fun after a day on the slopes. 

If you are in the Val Thorens area, you can enjoy a drink at the highest pub in Europe, The Frog and Roastbeef. 

Austria 

Austria apres ski
Photo by Special Olympics licensed under CC0 1.0

Austria has variations in the après-ski culture depending on where you are in the country. The après scene tends to start early in Austria but is known to go late, with some of the fun continuing until 6 am at some locations. 

You will find oompah bands, people dancing on the tables, and group sing-a-longs at 3 am.

There is also a more low-key side of the après culture with chalet-style pubs with cozy corners if you are looking for a chilled-out vibe after a day on the slopes. One of the benefits of Austria is that the price of drinks tends to be cheaper than in France. 

Transportation 

France

france ski slope

Getting to ski resorts in France will depend on where you are coming from. If you are flying to France, you will likely end up flying into a gateway airport such as Paris (CDG). The closest airports to most ski resorts in France are Lyon Saint Exupery (LYS) and Geneva (GVA) which sits on the French & Swiss border (you can exit either side).

If you are looking to ski in the Southern Alps or Maurienne areas, then the Milan Malpensa (MXP) airport or Turin (TRN; only Europe-origin flights) will be your closest airport. And for skiing in the Pyrenees, Toulouse (TLS) or Barcelona (BCN) will be the closest options. 

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From there, you can either take a bus or train to the resorts or hire a rental car and drive. There are many options for transport within France to get to ski resorts.

Austria

Austria salzburg ski

Depending on where you are traveling from, you will either fly or take the train to Austria. If you fly to Austria, you’ll probably fly into Innsbruck or Salzburg (Europe only) airports. Both of these airports are within a few hours’ drive of many of the major ski resorts in Austria. 

If you are flying internationally to go skiing in Austria, you’ll need to fly into a gateway airport such as Munich International Airport (MUC) or Zurich International Airport (ZRH) and then either transfer to fly to Innsbruck or take an alternative form of transport. 

Austria has a great train network to transfer to your nearest ski resort, as many of the major ski resorts can be reached via the train system. If taking the train isn’t your thing, you can certainly take a bus or hire a rental car and drive in Austria. 

Cost

Overall, the cost of a ski trip will probably be cheaper in Austria. When planning a ski holiday, there are many costs that you need to consider. Flights, trains, lift passes, accommodation, and drinks (après-ski) all go into the cost of a ski trip

Even though Austria will be a cheaper location to plan a ski trip, it still offers a fantastic experience. However, as most of the ski resorts are located at a lower altitude, if you are looking to ski outside of peak season, there may be fewer options than in France.

France is well-known as a fantastic skiing location and is home to a large number of giant ski areas at high altitudes in the alps as well as other skiing locations in the Southern Alps or Pyrenees. 

planai austria ski

France or Austria?

Both locations offer a great selection of accommodation from budget to luxury and traditional alpine food rooted in the generations that came before. France is well-known for its après-ski culture, but that doesn’t mean that Austria doesn’t know how to party. 

There are plenty of options for transportation in both countries, but you will need to plan ahead to get the best deals and secure your spot.

Austria is the way to go if you are looking for a cheaper skiing holiday. But, for some, it can be hard to beat some of the ski resorts in the French Alps. 

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