The Best Ski Resorts in Europe
Home to over 3500 ski resorts, there is something for everyone in Europe. Whether you are into steep terrain, deep powder, family fun or crazy après, you are bound to find something that takes your fancy. Of the thousands there are to explore, its tough to try and narrow it down to a few of the best, but there are some which stand out from the crowd, and we have listed what we think are the 10 Best Ski Resorts in Europe – not because there are only 10, but because it’s a start, and otherwise we would be here all day!
Chamonix is the premier resort for all kinds of mountain adventurers. The extreme off-piste and challenging climbs attracts the most hardcore mountain lovers, though there is plenty of mellow family friendly stuff dotted around the valley too. As a year-round working town the choice of shops, restaurants and bars is greater than found in a more typical ski resort and there are a number of more exclusive bars, shops and restaurants opening every year.
St Anton, Austria
St Anton, where you ski hard and party hard! With some epic pistes, and what we think is Austria’s best off-piste, every type of skier is taken care of here. Known for its on-piste bars and vibrant nightspots, the après in St Anton is second to none. The Mooserwirt and the Krazy Kanguruh are the main draw for table-thumping, ski-boot-stamping action on the way home at the end of the ski day, and it is easy to dance away the afternoons in these mountain stop-offs. The village itself has its roots in farming, and the centre of town is still picturesque with its pretty church and traditional buildings. Over the years, the resort has slowly become a more luxurious one with more boutique hotels and luxury chalets popping up, but at its heart it will always be the party place for those who also want some of the best skiing in Europe.
Verbier is well known for its adventurous skiing, steep and deep off piste, playful après ski and lively nightlife. However scratch the surface of this alpine playground and Verbier has more to offer: winter walking, snow shoeing, ice climbing and tobogganing or time spent relaxing in one of the resort's spas. Exclusive nightspots offer chic surroundings in which to wind down - or up - after a hard day on the mountain. Situated on a sunny plateau Verbier offers stunning views across to the Grand Combin and Mont Blanc in France. Investment in the lift system have alleviated its past problems of long queues and ensure that if you can get up early after partying the previous night away, then you can catch first gondola up the hill for a full day on the slopes.
Perched high atop the cliffs of Morzine in the Porte du Soleil, Avoriaz is a vision straight out of a sci-fi novel. From afar the angular modernist buildings could be carved into the rock and appear to blend into the surrounding mountains. The car-free streets are actually pistes, and the only mode of transport other than skis are the horse pulled carriages that roam the village. Sitting in the middle of the Porte du Soleil ski area, Avoriaz offers access to over 650km of piste, more off-piste and some of the most famous free-riding in the world.
The St Tropez of the French Alps, Courchevel has been playing host to royalty, celebrities and business tycoons since construction began in the 1940’s. Located in the Three Valleys, the worlds largest ski area, the resort has a distinctly Parisian vibe that you don’t usually find in a purpose-built resort. Internationally renowned for the plush accommodations, Michelin-starred eateries, chic apres venues and exclusive boutiques which line the streets, if star-spotting is your game in between runs then Courchevel is the place for you. If this sounds a bit intimidating, don’t fear! Courchevel is actually split into 5 separate villages, and Courchevel Village (formerly Courchevel 1550) offers value for money and a more quite centre, allowing you to make the most of all Courchevel has to offer without the hefty price tag.
Val d'Isere, France
Part of the Espace Killy ski area, Val d’Isère has long been a firm favourite with British and French visitors alike. The central village retains a lovely alpine feel, with attractive stone and wooden chalets. The centre has a wide array of bars, restaurants and shops and the skiing is extensive, snow sure, and suits skiers of all abilities.
Cortina d’Ampezzo is a stunning resort in the heart of the dramatic Dolomites mountain range. Quite possibly Italy’s most chic skiing destination, the vibe here is distinctly different than that of similar resorts in the Alps. Centred around a huge green and white bell tower, the streets are lined with stunning 19th century mansions – quite a different look from the chocolate box chalet style towns in the Alps. There is a huge array of skiing for all levels from easy pistes to dramatic off-piste routes, but the main attraction in Cortina is the social side of things. The pedestrianised main street is lined with beautiful boutiques and restaurants which comes alive just as the sun begins to go down.
La Clusaz, France
Often overlooked by Brits as they speed past on their way to better known Chamonix or Les Trois Vallees, La Clusaz has retained its authentic French charm. With mostly French and Swiss visitors, when you holiday here you truly feel like you are in France. Excellent for families and extreme skiers alike (Candide Thovex learnt all he knows in the Domaine de Balme sector) it is also a short drive away from Grand Bornand which has some of the most picturesque skiing in the Aravis mountains.
Val Thorens, France
Val Thorens is one of the newbies in the skiing world, purpose built in the 1970’s, it represents all that is good with modern ski resort developments – guaranteed snow, a vast ski easily accessible ski area on your doorstep, a vibrant resort town and maximum convenience with minimum hassle. Sitting at 2300m (the highest resort in Europe!) with 99% of the skiing above 2000m, you are guaranteed to find some decent powder here. Though not as pretty as some villages in the Trois Vallees, the friendly, informal atmosphere and cutting edge facilities (fast chair lifts and free wifi around the mountain) more than make up for it.
Another resort which people usually bypass in favour of the nearby resorts of Chamonix and Megève, Samoëns offers a more relaxed and affordable option without compromising on the skiing. Located within the Grand Massif ski area, the resort is linked to Sixt, Morillon, Les Carroz and Flaine, and offers more than 265km of pistes. If this isn’t enough, the off-piste skiing here is a locals’ secret and the north-facing slopes hold their snow well into spring. First established in the 11th century, it is one of the prettiest alpine villages you could find yourself in, and the market square is still very much a centrepiece of village life.
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