If you are looking for a sporty all-inclusive holiday, it doesn’t get any better than UCPA in France. The name UCPA stands for “Union nationale des centres sportifs de plein air” which is such a mouthful nobody calls it anything other than UCPA.
Unlike other holiday packages, UCPA is a non-profit association that has been around in France since 1965. Originally aimed at providing sporting activities for the young adult 18-40 year-old age group, UCPA has since expanded to include everyone 3 years old and up.
With prices including food, ski lessons, ski equipment, lodging and more, UCPA is positioning itself as an affordable and enjoyable way to hit the slopes, without worrying about all details. I’ve been on many a UCPA trip, it is one of those holidays that is almost a right-of-passage for those living in France and Europe.
UCPA has become synonymous with being a one-stop-shop for winter sports in France (they do a variety of summer sports as well), all while staying reasonably priced. So let’s see what exactly is included during a UCPA ski holiday, shall we? Allons-y!
Adults, kids, teens and more
UCPA first started out as for the 18-40 year old crowd, that were past school age “vacation colonies”, but still interested in sports. The 18-40 year old group has been expanded to 18-55 years old, but actually they are not that picky as long as you are young at heart.
There are now a variety of offerings from 6-11 year olds, teens, and adults. Depending on the holiday offered, they also offer special groups, splitting younger teens from older ones.
In addition, some holidays are aimed at the 18-30 year-old age group who are looking for more of a partying atmosphere, although I can assure you they don’t check the age on your passport if you are 31 and wish to party.
Usually adult rooms are for 4 people, with large bunk beds and a private bathroom. It is surprisingly optimized with large closets to keep all the ski gear and winter clothing.
At some resorts, couples can book private rooms for 2 people for a minimal fee. There are a limited number of “couple rooms” however, so be sure to book early.
UCPA now even offers packages aimed at families with adjoining rooms, so you can ski with your 6-year-old child as well as grandma, all at one fixed price.
Because it is a non-profit, guests are asked to contribute by making their own beds at the start of the trip, and to do some basic cleaning at the end of the holiday.
UCPA for solo travelers or groups
One great thing about UCPA is that there is no solo supplement. Solo travelers are paired up with other travelers so that no one has to pay a room supplement. It makes it an ideal choice for those who want to meet new people and enjoy a social holiday.
Groups of people can also note at the time of reservation that they are traveling together, so that UCPA can book rooms together. (The earlier you reserve, the better.)
Classes for all skill levels
One of the biggest advantages of going on a UCPA holiday, is that they offer classes to everyone. Beginners and experienced skiers/snowboarders can get lessons during the assigned period, and then meet up in the late afternoons and evenings.
The ski/snowboard lessons are included in the packages, and the instructors are all qualified professionals. The ability levels are based on the number of people at the UCPA resort, and can be adjusted as people progress during the holiday.
Lesson groups are usually around 8-10 people, and basic levels include:
- Debutant (Beginner)
- Initié (Initiated)
- Confirmé (Confirmed)
- Maitrisé (Mastered)
- Expert avec hors piste (expert with off-piste)
Packages are all-inclusive
Along with ski/snowboard lessons, UCPA packages typically include all ski equipment as well as ski passes across the different ski domaines. It also includes accommodation and meals. (If traveling with small children with UCPA family, the packages even include babysitting.)
Range of activities
In addition to skiing and snowboarding, UCPA offers a range of activities such as cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, etc. The additional activities are not included in the price, and a small contribution is usually required.
There are also evening activities at UCPA such as late-night music, quiz nights, game nights, and film screenings.
Canteen food and drinks
Breakfast, lunches and dinners are offered buffet-style in the UCPA canteen at designated hours. (Unlike a cruise ship, there are not all-day meals, the buffet is only open for 1-1h30 at mealtimes.)
The food is typically French with a salad bar, handful of main dishes, and cheeses and desserts to finish off. The variety is not plentiful, but there is more than enough to enjoy that it is not you the one who has to do the cooking!
Alcoholic drinks are not included in the price, but UCPA usually has bar facilities. Because UCPA is a non-profit, prices are heavily subsidised, so you will find that the UCPA bar is often better value than the pubs nearby.
UCPA at various French ski resorts
UCPA operates in across numerous ski resorts across France, so there is quite a bit of choice. Some of the most popular UCPA resorts are at Val Thorens in the 3 Vallées and Les Arcs in Paradiski for young adults.
The resorts of Flaine and La Plagne are dedicated to families, while other resorts like Chamonix, Serre Chevalier, Tignes, Val d’Isere, etc have a mixed crowd.
Each resort offers unique features, such as different ski slopes, different age groups, extra-curricular activities, etc. There is a bit of something for everyone, so if you are debating booking your UCPA holiday, don’t hesitate!
It does get quite busy during the February school ski holidays, so book early if you want your pick of rooms
If you enjoyed this article, you may like to read more facts about the Alps here. A bientôt!