Risoul ski resort
Established as recently as 1970, Risoul is one of the newest resorts in France and, indeed, the whole world. By the time work began on this 'third generation' resort, designers had learned from decades of errors that saw swathes of unsightly concrete block buildings emerge in the Alps, and instead created visually pleasing, wood-clad, chalet-style apartment complexes lining the surrounding snowy bowl.
This village in the southern French Alps has followed a simple business plan of comfortable, affordable accommodation within a well-designed and compact resort base. This allows guests in the majority of these self-catering units easy access to the resort's high, extensive slopes, which along with its longer-established neighbour Vars, make up La Forêt Blanche (The White Forest) ski area.
Virtually all of the accommodation in Risoul is a short walk to the selection of mostly reasonably priced, yet fairly limited, shopping and dining options. The skiing here is also good value; Risoul's lift tickets are among the most affordable in the world for a ski centre of its size – typically costing 20% to 25% less than the big-name resorts in the northern French Alps.
Risoul is located in the Hautes-Alpes region of France, somewhat separate to most of the country's other famous resorts, about 150km (93 miles) from the Mediterranean coast.
RisoulResort Elevation: 1850m
Top Elevation: 2750m
Base Elevation: 1850m
On the slopes
Despite its southerly location Risoul has a good snowfall record, and around a third of the key slopes have snowmaking facilities to help build up the base during dry periods. The resort itself is also at a very snowsure altitude of 1,850m (6,069ft), which normally ensures season-long snow cover at village level as well as on the mountain.
Beginners are well catered for with nursery slopes just a few steps from most of the accommodation in the resort. Equipment rental shops are also convenient and there's a good choice of ski schools too.
For intermediates, Risoul and the surrounding La Forêt Blanche region is something of a paradise with wonderful wide, sunny, 'motorway' pistes up to 8km (5 miles) in length that connect to Vars. Additionally, the powder bowl above Risoul is itself open for multiple routes down red and blue pistes.
For experts, the ten black runs include the testing 1.3km-long (0.8-mile) Les Vautours piste, while off-piste skiing is well organised here, with the terrain divided into areas of little or no avalanche danger, areas of medium risk (with gated entry points), and areas of high danger.
Freestylers will not be disappointed as Risoul was a pioneer of terrain park design, with one of France's best parks featuring lines for different ability levels and a popular pipe.
There is also provision for cross-country skiers, who will find 30km (19 miles) of trails in the area for all ability levels.