It's that time of year when it's cold and grey (in England anyway) but don’t let a drop of snow stop you from travelling. For those who love the thrill of racing down mountains with white powdery snow under your feet, skiing is the perfect getaway and a great excuse to travel to pastures new. Ski resorts are great to meet others and it’s easy to become part of a community in the bars at night. You don’t have to be a pro either as there are nursery slopes around the globe for those of us who are beginners.
In Europe, the Alps are an ideal choice for skiing. With a breath-taking view of mountains and picturesque valleys, this extensive mountain range located in south central Europe stretches over 1000 km and spreads across eight European countries.
Providing mesmerising views from parts of Yugoslavia, Slovenia, Switzerland, and Austria, the Alps are dotted with beautiful hill towns, observatories and ski resorts making it one of the most visited places around the globe. From the best places to ski in Austria such as Obergurgl, to the best places to ski in France, this article covers the best ski resorts in Europe.
You’re spoilt for choice in the French Alps and one of the most underrated resorts here is St Gervais with less tourists than you’ll find in other ski regions. Although Meribel attracts families, it also has a good party scene to meet others. There’s skiing here for every level plus a swimming pool and ice rink for those who fancy a break from the piste.
With many repeat customers year on year, Val d’Isere is one of the most popular resorts for a ski holiday in France and although it’s not for the budget solo, it does have an excellent ski school and is only 5 km from the Italian border. I once worked in this resort as a chalet girl and absolutely loved it.
If you do hop across the border, Cortina d’Ampezzo in Italy is a popular choice. At the end of a long day of skiing (and après-ski) you can relax in a luxurious chalet and put your feet up as the chalet staff wait on you.
The Alps are the highest mountain range in Europe and one of the best places is Chamonix Mont Blanc. Also known as the ‘white mountain,’ Mont Blanc is the highest peak in Europe at a height of 4,810 meters. Situated on the border of France and Italy, the summit of Mont Blanc is in France, and the lower mountain is in Italy, both the countries claim it to be in their territory
While close to a good 20,000 trekkers scale Mont Blanc every year, some choose to take a 20-minute cable car exploration to the Aiguille Di Midi to get an astounding view of the Mont Blanc.
Chamonix, a small mountain town in the heart of the Alps, is a heaven for all the ski lovers. With slopes that challenge the experts and give beginners a taste of some real skiing, this place witnesses a healthy inflow of tourists and skiers and is an ideal location to have on your travel planner.
When the temperatures get colder that’s when the ski resorts come alive. Whether you’re an absolute beginner or ready for the black runs, there are a number of snowy resorts to choose from. With more than 50 years of the history of winter sports, skiing in La Plagne is one of the most popular destinations, or choose to bobsleigh here instead. If you prefer to just admire snowy views rather than skiing down them, take a cable car ride to the Observatoire Midi-Pyrenees for panoramic mountain views.
The birthplace of Alpine skiing, Austria has excellent skiing with Kuhtai offering some of the best ski touring in the country. At more than 2,000 metres high Kuhtai is the country’s highest ski resort. Although the ski area is relatively small, its position near Innsbruck Airport makes it really accessible.
Obergurgl has beautiful views being one of Europe’s highest ski villages and is pretty much guaranteed snow between mid-November until May. Suitable for any level of skier, Austria may not have the height of the French ski resorts but it does have its Austrian charm, and you get to experience a Finnish sauna afterwards.
You can’t get much more stunning than Zermatt with the Matterhorn on display at virtually every angle of the ski resort. Plus once you’ve finished skiing for the day you simply have to enjoy a drink at the Cavern bar in the most unusual setting inside a man-made cave.
Switzerland has piste that seems to go on forever, and Verbier is one of these, known as a premier off-piste resort with snow nearly all year round. For something a little bit different choose Savognin for snow tubing or even snow biking at an affordable resort in the Swiss Alps. Davos is the largest ski resort in the country with cross-country and downhill skiing. The resort is perfectly situated for jumping aboard the Glacier Express afterwards for a scenic ride to the Matterhorn.
Travelling in the Alps
You don’t have to limit your skiing to just one resort either. Travelling through the Alps by train can be a truly memorable experience and give you the chance to see more than one ski resort. You can experience the finest in dining and world-class wines while leaving the transportation to someone else. Train travel is great for those that want a peaceful and contemplative way to see the small towns of the Alps.
Skiing Outside of Europe
If you decide to venture further afield, Whistler in Canada is a world-famous ski resort. This trendy ski resort has renowned restaurants and you can also dog-sledge here too. A UNESCO heritage site, Banff is a year-round skiing destination with thermal pools to the west of Banff to soak the muscles on a well-deserved day off. Sun Peaks is the third-largest in Canada and as well as Nordic and alpine skiing has many winter activities to choose from such as snowmobiling and tubing.
The south island of New Zealand is a great choice for skiing with uncrowded slopes, alpine peaks and of course the friendly New Zealand hospitality. There are 500 km of mountain ranges in the country and the best ski resort if you’re a beginner is Cardrona, an old gold rush town. Queenstown, on the shore of Lake Wakatipu, is the most popular and is the perfect place to meet others après ski with endless evening activities. There are even more resorts just 30 minute drive away at Coronet Peak and The Remarkables.
Just because it’s cold doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t travel. Visiting countries in the winter can be a different experience to seeing the sights in the summer and give a new dimension to your trip. Whether you choose to visit for a weekend or longer, hopping across to the Alps is the perfect winter rendezvous and there’s plenty to keep you entertained. Just make sure you keep wrapped up warm.
Have you been skiing in Europe before?