Skiing on the French Riviera? Well not quite, but very nearly. Skiing with a sea view? Yes! It’s not exactly a secret but it’s certainly one of the lesser-known things about the French Riviera…what am I talking about? The Riviera’s proximity to the mountains.
And by mountains, I mean real mountains, with peaks above 1500m rising to around 3000m. There’s a clue in the name of the département (county): les Alpes-Maritimes…yes this is where the Alps meet the sea in spectacular and dramatic fashion. And the good news is that this means skiing (along with plenty of other adventurous activities of course) nearby. Not just skiing, but skiing with a sea view!
Ski Resort on our Doorstep
I thought I knew a fair bit about the south of France when I moved here in 2007 having spent many holidays in the area since childhood but I had no idea at all about the mountains. I was surprised and delighted to discover just how close we are to the nearest ski resort – under one hour’s drive (usually about 50 minutes). Gréolières les Neiges is only 22 km as the crow flies from the coast which makes it the closest resort to the famous Riviera, (possibly the closest ski resort to a coast in the world), and the closest to the only slightly less famous Lou Messugo! We still pinch ourselves on spring weekends when we ski in the morning and paddle in the sea in the afternoon, barely believing our luck that we live in such an amazing location.
Skiing with a Sea View
Gréolières les Neiges is a small resort, very family-oriented, perfect for day trips with children. It lies at 1400-1800m altitude with 30 kms of mainly red pistes. It also has cross-country tracks, sledging areas and snowshoe (raquettes) trekking trails. You’ll find all the necessary hire shops for equipment, ski school and a handful of cafés and restaurants.
Some years there’s a tiny skating rink and the possibility to take a ride on a dog-pulled sleigh. But what is so unique about skiing at Gréolières is the view from the highest piste (Mount Cheiron) over the sea. There can’t be many places in the world where you can ski and see the sea, particularly a warm sea such as the Mediterranean rather than somewhere icy cold in the north. On a clear day, you can see from Italy, over Monaco, across to the Estérel, over the Alps and even Corsica, 180 kms away! It’s pretty special.
Stunning Mountain Drive
The other thing I love about going to Gréolières les Neiges is the drive. It’s not an exaggeration to say it’s stunning! Unlike many roads to ski resorts there aren’t too many wiggles on hairpin bends, but those that there are, are truly worth it. The road passes the cliff-top village of Gourdon, (photo below), continues along the Gorges du Loup and through the old medieval town of Gréolières with its ruined castle picturesquely placed on the edge of the mountainside (not to be confused with Gréolières les Neiges).
It then comes out on a perilous mountain ridge, going through rock bridges and amazing cliff formations. Having survived this section (where several notorious car chase scenes have been filmed, including in the James bond film Goldeneye) the temperature plunges as you head through a magical snowy forest always several degrees colder than elsewhere. And then you come out on a large snowy plain before turning up to the resort itself. It’s such a varied and beautiful route, especially atmospheric early in the morning as the sun rises. I recommend the drive itself even if you don’t want to ski.
Skiing on the French Riviera, Perfect for Beginners
If you’ve never skied before and not sure you’re going to like it or you want to introduce your children to this fabulous sport but don’t want to spend a whole week in a ski resort, staying at Lou Messugo could be just for you. Gréolières les Neiges isn’t the only local place to ski, it’s just the nearest. For more variety there are another 5 around 90 minutes away (Auron, Valberg, Isola 2000, Roubion and La Colmiane) and even more within 2 hours.
You can combine a spot of skiing with warmer activities on the coast and make the most of the glorious winter weather we have here. Imagine, it’s possible to ski in the morning and take a dip in the sea in the afternoon. There aren’t many places in the world where that’s possible. Don’t forget we have an average of 300 days of sunshine a year and many of these are during the winter months. The Riviera was famous as a winter resort well before it became fashionable to visit in the summer after all!
Did you know there was skiing so close to the coast? I’d love to hear from you.
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No, the first snow doesn’t fall till early December usually I’m afraid
Hi. Great blog. Very helpful.
Am planning to visit Gréolières les Neiges with wife and child around 10th Oct for a days trip to just get in some sightseeing. How would the region be then? Would we be able to catch some snow?
In Japan, we have many ski slopes with sea views and especially Teine’s alpen skiing slopes were used for Winter Olympic games in Sapporo, Hokkaido a half century ago.
Moreover, this city is also very famous of “Sapporo snow festival”.
It kind of IS perfection, you’re right Erin!
Thanks Urska! 🙂
There are so many breath-taking drives like this one around here, it’s really a very special area. You must come more often Jonny.
Yes we do Katy! We are open all year and I’m always banging on about how great Lou Messugo is for a family who want to try skiing for the first time or who have non-skiers in their party or who just don’t want to ski every day for a week, as there’s so much more to do here than just ski.
It’s so beautiful you’ll forget to be nervous (but it is pretty hairy it must be said!)
The drive is amazing, really scenic. How about this Clare, build a “snow castle” in the mountains in the morning and then a “sand man” on the beach in the afternoon! Friends of ours started this tradition.
It’s such a unique and special part of the world. Here’s an idea…come for a vacation at Lou Messugo!!!
You had me at skiing with a sea view. Like so many, I’m always torn between the beach and the mountains. Being able to both in the same day is such a treat. May just have to move to the south of France! #farawayfiles
This is seriously fantastisk. That’s Danish for fantastic. Another place I never knew I needed to go to! Seriously beautiful. I’m in. Sounds like perfection. Beach AND mountains. Done and done. Thank you for sharing with #FarawayFiles – cheers from Copenhagen! Erin
I LOVE the idea of skiing in the morning, beach in the afternoon. What a great idea for a family trip. Even the drive there looks stunning. Thanks for sharing this wonderful tip on #FarawayFiles
Wow! This is amazing! The drive looks lovely, but I must admit I am a nervous passenger when it comes to mountain roads. #farawayfiles
Now this is very intriguing Phoebe.. do you take bookings over Christmas? We are thinking of doing a ski trip for Christmas this year but last time I went I had an adult tantrum (classy) because I wasnt very good at it. So if we had a way of trying skiing and an escape clause I would be more inclined to be excited. You are always full of great ideas. Thanks for letting us in on this secret on #farawayfiles
No, I did NOT know that the ski slopes and beaches were so close to each other in the south of France. I really must get down there more often… Although I must admit that I’d probably prefer that drive up to any actual skiing – looks stunning! #FarawayFiles
That’s great! So many ski resorts struggled with lack of snow this Christmas, its crazy. Here in Switzerland, where I live, too. Luckily, it snowed in last few days and some more snow is forecasted during the weekend. Thanks for sharing this hidden ski-gem with us. Your photos are gorgeous and I was really impressed with the views – they are a bit different than the views I’m used of while skiing.
Believe it or not this winter so far we’ve had some of the best snow in the Alps! (In fact according to the local newspaper Gréolières is in the Top 15 resorts in France this year which is crazy!) While friends were posting pictures of slopes without snow in the big famous resorts in the northern Alps over Christmas, we’ve been skiing in almost perfect conditions with absolutely nobody there. However, last year there was very little snow. There’s no doubt climate change is here, but so far it just means we can’t predict what the conditions will be.
Looks like a lovely place to ski. With the climate changes and being located so close to the Mediterranean sea, I wonder what are the snow conditions there?
Wow, those mountains look truly awesome.
I can go there at the end of this year in December, I hope I will find a room.
I’m so pleased you found my blog helpful Anita, thanks for taking the time to let me know.
Dear Phoebe, I am very pleased to have found your site as i am visiting this chrismas with my son and mum for the holidays. You have made me very excited by the pictures of the drive up to the mountains and looking forward to doing so on christmas morning – many thanks and so much information and beautiful photos are really appreciated.
Great, come on over Samantha!!
You must come back Frank, there’s sooo much more to this area than Cannes. Thanks for commenting! 🙂
This is one of the places I want to snowboard in Europe. Looks beautiful! can’t wait 🙂
Been recently to Cannes on a business trip, and I absolutely loved the region. We didn’t have a chance to visit the mountains, but after seeing your photos, I’m putting it on my to do list. Views are really spectacular. And I love this kind of drive. Lovely photos.
It’s so inspiring, high up in the mountains, looking out over the Mediterranean sea and just awesome when it’s clear enough to see Corsica 180 kms away.
Tende is lovely and known for being the gateway to the Vallée des Merveilles, perhaps that’s where you went? It’s also not far from several of the ski resorts around here. Next time do come in winter!
It sure does! Thanks for stopping by Nina.
This is certainly a family-friendly area, you should definitely come and visit. Thanks for commenting.
Just like me Adelina, I never knew how close the skiing was to the beaches till I moved here. It makes another dimension to skiing.
Thanks for popping by Dave 🙂
It is such a great part of the world with mountains and sea so close; I’m very lucky to live here!
It really is an amazing road SJ and less than an hour from where I live. I get you with the kid thing! I can ski pretty well but I’m still amazed by tiny tots who have no fear. Thanks for hosting #SundayTraveler
Great post and amazing photos! This looks like an absolutely amazing experience. Very cool to be so close to the water and yet be in the snow skiing away! Thanks for sharing and safe travels!
Thanks so much for sharing and linking up with us to #SundayTraveler, I am just amazed by that photo of the mountain and the road. WHat a work of art.
I am always so jealous of little kids who ski so much better than me, I am falling down meanwhile those kids like yours are zooming past me. I must go back and try again. Especially here.
Thanks for the great tip and fantastic photos – looks like an amazing place!
I never would have thought of the French Riviera as a place to go skiing. This seems like a good place to go for a first introduction to skiing. Especially with that view! Thanks for linking up to the #SundayTraveler!
I’ve never been skiing, but since Nice is becoming a regular trip for me, maybe I should learn here! I knew about the mountains – my husband and I went to Tende last time we were there – but for some reason I never thought about winter sports. Great excuse to visit in the winter!
That’s why I love the Riviera so much: it has everything!
Great post, love your pictures!
This place is Beautiful! I am a Colorado Girl ~ but currently an expat overseas in Germany and we are always looking for new and fun family fun places to ski and board! I will for sure put this on my list of places of Go! Thank you for sharing! Awesome!
Hi, thanks so much for replying, the Facebook page is really helpful and it looks like the snow has arrived at last which is great 😀 I just hope it stays around for another 3 weeks, fingers crossed! Hope you manage to get up their this season now it’s all open. If the snow sticks around and we manage some skiing I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes.
Thanks again, Jessica
I’m afraid you’re right, it’s a hopeless season so far, but anything could happen by February. There are some slopes open but not the whole resort. Gréloières has a good Facebook page which they update regularly which you might want to take a look at. It’s the best and most reliable info for the place. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Gréolières-les-Neiges/245910965477476
I hope it gets better by the time you’re out here. Keep in touch and let me know how you go.
Hi phoebe, thanks so much for replying. Sorry for my delayed response (I’m blaming house moving and a loss of Internet for a month what with the festive part of the year!) I heard about the resort from my brother in law who has a house in Seillans which is where we will be staying so we will be day tripping to the ski resorts too! We almost drive past L’Audibergue on the way to Greolieres, hence my interest in those slopes. I’ve started keeping an eye on the snow reports for these resorts and it doesn’t look good atm. Do you know if im getting good info and if so is this just a bad January/season or does it tend to get more snow at other times in the season? I’m so hoping for more snow in Feb so we get a chance to see those views in your pictures whilst we ski! Hope you had a good Christmas and new year. Jessica
good advice Jeff 🙂
Thanks for commenting, yes I know Gréolières well as we ski there every year, but living so close I only ever go for the day. I can’t tell you anything about what it’s like after the slopes close. I should imagine it’s pretty quiet and family oriented at night. The slopes do get busy, but nothing like as crowded as in the bigger resorts in the northern Alps. The morning is always calmer than the afternoon and a good time to ski is during lunch when all the locals are eating. Zone C is Paris and its surrounds so it’s actually a huge area but few of them woud ski at Gréolières. I’m sure you’ll find it reasonable Mon, Tues, Thurs & Friday. Wednesdays and weekends are full of daytrippers like me! L’Audibergue is smaller than Gréolières with less shops, cafés etc but the slopes are good. I don’t know it as well as Gréolières but have enjoyed the couple of times I’ve skied there.
I hope you enjoy your holiday. Where are you based? How did you hear about Gréloères? I’d be interested to know.
Hi, as others have said – beautiful photos. I’m planning my first ever ski trip to greolieres les nieges next February and took that drive just yesterday to check things out. Cannot agree more with the enthusiastic despcription of the drive. It was stunning in the sunshine, I cannot wait to see it snow covered 🙂 Do you know the resort well? Was wondering how busy it is? As a novice I’m worried about lots of skiers and busy slopes! Happen to have booked over a French half term (zone c though which seems quite small). Do you know of l’audibergue another ski resort nearby? Reported as quieter – any advice would be really helpful. Great blog though. Jessica
Great pictures, but no matter how “simple” is the resort, turn up early to get the slopes for yourself.
Hi Cilla, thanks for reading. The road with the dramatic rocks over it is the D2 just after the village of Gréolières heading towards Thorenc (and Gréolières les Nieges). You might be interested to read about this day trip which you can easily do from Nice when you come as it takes in this spectacular road. https://loumessugo.com/day-trip-plateaux-passes-and-picnics I hope you have a great time in this part of the world! 😀
I’m particulary interested in where to find tha rock with holes through. Can you describe where we can find it? We are going to Nice this summer and it would be nice to go that way!
Thanks for reading Sue, it is a lovely way to spend a day with your family as long as they like the cold! This has been the first year that our little one has really enjoyed it which makes it so much more fun. Last year he whined a lot and didn’t have as much stamina but now he’s the first to suggest we go skiing!
Love all your beautiful pictures! I haven’t gone downhill skiing in years! What a great outdoor family activity!
I love the Dolomites, the red rock is so beautiful. If you combined your ski trip with a visit to Venice (which I love too) then you must have had a fabulous holiday. Thanks for commenting, I really appreciate it.
Thanks for your compliments about my photos Delia. As I said to Bev, it’s not hard to take great photos when the subject is so beautiful! Thanks for taking the time to comment, I do appreciate it.
Thanks for stopping by Bev. It’s easy to take good photos when the scenery is stunning! You’re right, it is a gentle little ski resort, perfect for families and day-trippers from the coast. Very advanced skiers would find it a little dull , but the drive alone makes it worth it.
Never skied either, Phoebe, but I am amazed at these photos and wonderful post that goes with them. Simply beautiful, thanks for sharing!
I’ve just come back from a winter holiday in the Dolomites in Italy. There you have the contrast of Venice and the mountains! (a much longer drive though)
I haven’t ever skied! These photos are absolutely stunning and I loved looking at each and every one of them … I like the way the slopes look quite gentle for a non-skier!!!
Let’s make that a date Rin! Bring your family and ski at Lou Messugo! 😀
Haven’t skied since Bulgaria days some 20 years ago. This blog and these lovely photos make me want to go again so much, perhaps next year whilst staying at Lou Messugo