Wheelchair Skiing – Our Top 5 Resorts in France
Wheelchair Skiing – What makes a good resort?
We have been asked a few times which resorts are the best for wheelchair skiing and handiski so we have put together a short post focusing on how a person in a wheelchair can experience the best of wheelchair skiing in the resort in which they have chosen for their holiday or to buy a property.
Never before has wheelchair skiing been so accessible and a large majority of French ski resorts now offer it. As such the ski lifts have been either adapted or can accommodate wheelchair skiing, but it is much more than the provision of an instructor and all the equipment that goes with wheelchair skiing that should make a resort a success for people with accessibility demands. Whether you are buying or renting, there are clearly many practical considerations that come before you decide if you are brave enough to take the plunge in such a liberating experience of trust, trepidation, exhilaration and joy.
This report is designed to target the more practical elements of an accessible ski holiday/property purchase rather than offering recommendations for restaurants, bars etc. For help with booking a holiday with accessibility issues in mind, the local tourist office should always be one of you first ports of call for recommendations on the correct ski school for you, suitable accommodation, lists of accessible restaurants and so forth.
We are pleased to now be able to offer rental accommodation for a disabled access holiday in many of the ski resorts in the French Alps. See details of how to get in touch at the bottom of this page.
First up, and in no particular order, is Alpe d’Huez which is a high altitude and snow sure resort at 1860m above sea level. Alpe d’Huez was voted the “Best resort in Europe” in 2020 and it is a fantastic dual season resort. Not only is Alpe d’Huez snow sure it is also well known for being a really sunny spot with over 300 days of sunshine each year. The resort sits on a plateau, so whilst not being exactly flat, it is possibly as good as you are going to get in a ski resort if you have accessibility issues. There is generally easy access to the slopes due to the propensity of new build residential developments, many of which are slope side or ski in/ski out and which have underground car parking and shared lift access to apartments. Most accommodation in Alpe d’Huez is apartments (chalets here are rare), making it a strong contender for a ski property rental or purchase decision.
The resort of Alpe d’Huez has strived to develop its wheelchair skiing experience with easy access to lifts and wheelchair access to the main Berger shopping centre. The sports and convention centre has also been adapted for wheelchair users, as has the swimming pool. Ski passes are reduced with the production of a medical certificate and anyone accompanying a person wheelchair skiing is able to get a reduced day rate.
Tignes is another high altitude resort which enjoys a longer than average ski season. Tignes sits on a sunny shelf and has been purpose built around a lake which makes it particularly special and also means it can offer water based activities in the summer. Le Lavachet is home to the majority of the ski in/ski out apartments and chalets but there is also accommodation close to the slopes in Tignes le Lac and Val Claret which tend to be more popular with those seeking a busy night life.
Tignes prides itself on being a benchmark resort for providing access for those with accessibility issues and has done since hosting the 1992 Paralympic Games. Wheelchair skiing is particularly popular here as nearly every lift and ski run is accessible to disabled skiers and the glacier is used in summer and autumn as a training ground for paralympic athletes. The resort is continuously striving to provide better access for those with disabilities, including 29 parking spaces at the indoor parking complex in Tignes with pre-bookable spaces that provide easy access to the lifts. The buses are also easily accessible for travel.
In 2013 the resort built the sports and conference centre Tignes Space which has disabled parking, lifts to the main sporting areas and accessible changing areas and toilets. In addition the resort’s aquatic centre Le Lagon has a hydraulic lift system for wheelchairs as well as adapted changing rooms and toilets. Lift passes are also reduced by 50% for those wheelchair skiing with the correct medical exemption, plus a companion.
Les Gets is also a popular dual season resort with a central street and relatively flat terrain. Les Gets is part of the enormous Portes du Soleil ski area which also offers you cross border skiing into Switzerland. Although the resort is at a lower altitude (1172m) than Alpe d’Huez and Tignes, it enjoys a good snow record. Les Gets is a traditional village with a strong family vibe. Les Gets has recently seen a lot of new development with underground parking including lift access up to the apartments, making the resort more accessible for wheelchair skiing.
Les Gets has for many years been a forerunner in increasing accessibility not only for wheelchair skiing but also to mountain bikers and other sport lovers with disabilities. It is a leader in MTB downhill biking and the resort ensures that those with disabilities do not miss out with a variety of adapted all terrain bikes which have access to 3 lifts. There are also 6 ski lifts that have been adapted for wheelchair skiing.
Les Gets also has a central car park as well as 2 car parks with disabled parking and access to the lifts at the Chavannes Gondola and the Perrières Express chairlift. There are several public toilets with disabled access within the village.
Chamonix is another resort that is popular all year round and is considered to be a thrill seekers paradise. Chamonix is a busy and thriving town with a largely flat terrain at the base of Mont Blanc. It is the middle of some superb skiing with Les Houches and Servoz in one direction and Argentière and Vallorcine at the other end of the valley. The river Arve runs through the centre and the town is surrounded by majestic peaks in every direction.
Disabled access in Chamonix is definitely improving. The free shuttle buses are all wheelchair accessible, making it possible to travel around the wider area. Les Houches is the most popular resort for wheelchair skiing as the slopes are quieter and there are good facilities, however adaptive skiing is also available in Chamonix and the Argentière and Vallorcine end of the valley. All the main cable cars can accommodate wheelchair skiing and you will receive a 50% reduction for you and your carer when buying your ski pass on presentation of the correct medical documentation.
Chamonix centre is mainly pedestrianised and while the resort was not originally designed with wheelchair access in mind, it has been working hard to make it more accessible so it is now easy to access many of the shops, bars and restaurants. The tourist office and quite a lot of the town amenities have been adapted including the bowling alley, casino and the sports centre to name a few places. There is a disabled toilet in the town as well as disabled parking in many of the car parks.
Val d’Isère is one of the most well known resorts in the world and is an icon of snow sure skiing. It boasts some of the best facilities and is the envy of many Alpine ski resorts. Val d’Isère is renowned for its après ski and party atmosphere which starts at 2pm each day, and it is also home to one of the most famous après ski spots in Europe, La Folie Douce.
Val d’Isère has a relatively “flat” centre with many hotels and apartments that are close to the slopes, making it a strong contender as a top destination for wheelchair skiing. A large number of the restaurants in the town centre have been specially adapted and there are pre-bookable disabled parking spots available in the main underground car park as well as a number of spaces around the resort. As with many other French resorts, there is a 50% reduction in the ski lift pass for a wheelchair skier and their companion, with the correct medical documentation. Many of the resort lifts are also able to cope with wheelchair skiing and disabled access, making the slopes available for everyone.
Rental accommodation suitable for disabled access holidays in multiple ski resorts in the French Alps.
We are pleased that we can now offer disabled accessible holiday rentals in the French Alps. If you are looking for rental accommodation to suit a person or persons in a wheelchair or with other disabilities, then please do call us and we can make a note of your list of requirements, offer you advice on suitable resorts and would hope to be able to match a property to you within a short time.