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Skiing in the French Alps

That's it. You did it. Yes, you've just reserved a week in a French ski resort, in the French Alps. And of course, all of your friends and family just told you:

“Oh that's great! That’s so good you speak French! It’s going to be so easy for you there!”

Well, it's true. You do have quite a good level in French. You’ve been learning the language for a while now, or maybe you practiced lately after you put French on the side for almost a decade (or more). Or you learned from scratch (good for you!) and just got to this specific level, which is enough to manage a stay in France, you know, ordering food, buying stuff, asking for some basic information.

But the thing is, you’ve never been to a French ski resort, and although you are pretty sure most people speak English there - there are so many tourists! - you still feel you’re missing something, you still apprehend your stay.

I’ll tell you what you need. Not much actually. Really. You just need some specific vocabulary we use in a ski resort. Some vocabulary that will make your life much easier during your stay. So here it is:

My non-exhaustive list of useful vocabulary about ski and ski resort in French

First of all, of course:

La neige - the snow (and if you are a confirmed skier, you might need the word “la poudreuse” to talk about the snow powder, and free-skiing)

Une station de ski - ski-resort

Des remontées mécaniques - general word to talk about all kinds of ski lifts

Let’s see the different kinds:

un tapis - magic carpet

un téléski (ou tire-fesses) - a drag lift (or a T-bar lift)

un télésiège - a chairlift

une télécabine - a gondola

un téléphérique - a cable car

un funiculaire - a funicular lift

(I didn’t realize there were so many kinds of ski lifts!)

Then, in order to start skiing, you’ll probably need:

Louer du matériel de ski - to hire ski equipment

Des skis - skis (this one was tough, I know ;-)

Des bâtons de ski - ski poles

Un snowboard - this one is even harder, I know - LOL

Des chaussures - ski boots

Un casque - a helmet

Un masque - goggles

Des gants - gloves

Une veste de ski - a ski jacket

Des après-ski - apres-ski shoes

Then, you'll need to get:

Un forfait - a ski pass

Le plan des pistes - slope map or trail map

Maybe you also need to refresh your ski skills, not only your French. In this case, you'll need to know to say:

Une école de ski - a ski school

Un moniteur de ski - a ski instructor

Faire du chasse-neige - snow-plow skiing

Faire du hors-piste - to ski off-piste

Some general useful vocabulary:

Le chasse-neige (le véhicule) - a snow plow (the vehicle)

Une navette (gratuite) - a (free) shuttle

Une consigne à skis - ski lockers

La luge - sledging

La patinoire - ice rink

Le ski de fond - cross-country skiing

I wish you won't need the following words, but still, you need to be prepared:

La météo - the weather

Le mauvais temps - the bad weather

Un risque d’avalanche - an avalanche risk

Un point info / météo - weather and information point

Un poste de secours - a first aid post

Un téléphone de secours - an emergency phone


And of course, I definitely couldn’t write an article about ski and French ski resort without adding some food-related vocabulary:

La raclette - a Swiss and Savoyard dish, with melted cheese on potatoes, eaten with charcuterie (hams) and pickled cucumbers.

Le vin chaud - hot beverage made of red wine, spices like cloves, cinnamon, anise star.... (mulled wine)

La fondue savoyarde - cheese fondue, made of melted cheese with white wine and garlic, eaten with bread.

La tartiflette - another dish from Savoy, made with potatoes, cheese, onions and bacon.


And if you feel your French is still too rusty and you wish to refresh before your next vacation in a French ski resort, why not follow my advice in the post about combining French learning and joy, and watch some ski tutorials in French or French cooking program on YouTube?

Or listen to episode #37 of the French To Go podcast about Céline's week in the French ski resort Tignes?

Don't worry if you are more into classic exercises. I also have something for you: check those listening and reading comprehensions:

All that remains is for me to wish you a wonderful stay, and if you are already there, would you mind adding some pictures or anecdotes in the comments?

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