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Set between Grenoble and the Italian border, this sunny corner of the Alps has a wealth of friendly villages, some spectacularly high peaks and fantastic winter sports. Yet the Hautes-Alpes are delightfully unspoilt and offer less crowded ski holidays than better known ski areas of France.

There are two conservation areas in this region - the Écrins National Park, with enchanting rivers and lakes, and the Queyras Regional Nature Park, with panoramic views of peaks and glaciers. Main towns are Gap and Briancon, a picturesque delight of steep, narrow streets, tall church spires and a dramatic river bridge.

Serre Chevalier Vallée ski domain offers a huge variety of skiing ideal for mixed-ability families and groups, while expert skiers in search of challenging pistes will love La Grave-La Meije, which offers some of the most thrilling in the whole of the Alps.

Other winter sports activities just waiting to be experienced here are country skiing, ice climbing, snowshoeing and the exhilarating sport of ski jöring, which involves being pulled on skis by a horse. Those who like their Alpine holidays less strenuous can enjoy a sleigh ride or bask in the warmth of thermal springs.

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