The Southern French Alps is perfectly adapted to cross country skiing with its large gentle valleys meandering under a majestic backdrop of high mountans. There is an extensive network of cross-country routes passing through some of the most stunning parts of the Southern Alps valleys and high alpine plateaux, including a circuit at 2300m.
Have a look at the Ancelle, Col Bayard, Haut Champsaur and Valgaudemar maps for an idea of the pistes networks in the area.
When to Come Cross Country Skiing in the Alps:
As most cross-country skiing is lower down the valleys than the actual downhill ski resorts, it is best to come in the months of January, February or March when the snow cover is good at lower altitudes. Have a look at our cross country ski weekend trips or tailor make your own cross country skiing holiday with other activities.
Types of Cross Country Skiing:
The term "cross-country skiing" can actually mean different things for different people. There is skating, ski touring, Nordic skiing, back country skiing and biathlon!
To find out what these all mean, have a read of our blog article, Nordic Skiing and Cross Country Skiing - what's the difference?
For the purposes of what cross country skiing means in the Alps, we are talking about skiing on groomed, managed pistes in undulating terrain rather than steep mountains using either the skating technique or the classic technique where you slide one foot in front of the other keeping the skis parallel. This is accessible to all levels and abilities and no experience of any form of skiing is required to get started.
If you are interested in going away from the groomed pistes, but are not confident about going into the high mountains, then you might be interested in light touring or off piste nordic skiing. Previous cross country skiing experience and a reasonable level of fitness is recommended for this but you don't need to be a downhill skier.
Competent downhill skiers looking for a skiing adventure in the mountains may also be interested in ski touring, which is like downhill skiing but using a binding that releases your heel and special skins to ski uphill instead of using ski lifts. A high level of fitness and downhill skiing ability is necessary to go ski touring in the Alps.
You may have seen the sport of Biathlon during the winter olympics. It's a unique winter sport combining rifle shooting and cross country skiing and is performed as a race with contestants skiing through a cross-country trail whose distance is divided into shooting rounds. The shooting rounds are not timed but missed shots result in extra distance or time being added to the contestant's total.
We are very lucky in the Southern French Alps to have two experienced high level athletes (ex-members of the French national team) and coach for the women's national biathlon team for the 2022 winter olympics, who have set up a biathlon school offering lessons, group workshops and fun taster sessions for all levels of cross country skiers, from beginners to experienced to try out.
You can try Biathlon on a winter multi activity holiday or as part of our cross country skiing weekend trips.