Compared with the Northern Alps, the Southern Alps have retained much of their mountain charm and the ski resorts tend to be less crowded in high season. The snowfall is often steady through the night and clears away leaving a blue sky during the day, a weather phenomenon greatly appreciated by most.
The Southern Alps has 2,500 kilometers of Alpine skiing pistes, 1,200 kilometers of cross-country pistes and 65 ski resorts. The resorts are divided into three departments: Hautes-Alpes, Alpes-de-Haute-Provance, and the Alpes-Maritime. Much of the area is protected by the National Parks of Ecrins, Mercantour and Queyras.
The Hautes-Alpes is well known for its high-altitude ski resorts such as La Grave-La Meije located at an altitude of 2,150 meters, and Montgenèvre with 1,860 meters of vertical altitude on offer as well as a beautiful village that has managed to combine the charm of an authentic resort with the modern facilities of an international ski resort. Serre Chevalier has 250 kilometers of slopes and is one of the largest resorts in Europe, and the largest resort in the Southern Alps.
The Alpes-de-Haute-Provance is home to smaller, lesser known ski resorts with a traditional French feel. The largest ski area of the Haute-Provance is Pra Loup which is divided into two villages, Pra Loup 1500 and Pra Loup 1600, within which there are 165 kilometers of pistes linked by 53 lifts. Among some of the other well-known resorts in this area are: Sauze Super Sauze, St. John Montclar with its great village feel, and Val d’Allos.
Alpes Maritimes is home to the Mercantour ski area with 135 kilometers of slopes shared by Isola 2000 and Auron. Situated at 2,000 meters, Isola is one of the highest resorts in the Alps and has reliable snowfall. The neighbouring resorts of Beuil-Les Launes and Valberg make up the Grand Valberg ski area with 90 kilometers of slopes. Other ski resorts in Alpes Maritimes include Greoliers les Neiges, La Colmaine and Val Pelens.