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If you’re planning on hitting the slopes this winter, Europe is home to some of the World’s most iconic ski resorts. And while skiing might have originated in Norway and Sweden, it’s the southern ski destinations that have cemented their names as a classic.

“From Ernest Hemingway in the 1920’s and James Bond in the 1980’s to the snowboarders of today, the mighty Alps provide both framework and backdrop for skiing in France, Italy, Austria and Switzerland.” You’ll find reliable snow, vast skiing terrains, legendary night life and family friendly facilities. There are Michelin-starred restaurants, five-star hotels and destination spas with ultra-luxury chalets.

Europe has literally hundreds of ski resorts to choose from, though only a couple of classics. Here are our favorite top 10.

If you’re inspired and want to travel with this information offline, download our free guide from Pearlshare straight to your phone. Click here. Though if you’re sick of ski content, I’ve also published a guide on places to go for alternative winter breaks!

Classic Ski Resorts in Europe

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Zermatt – Switzerland

Located at the foot of the Matterhorn, Zermatt is an iconic resort renowned for skiing, climbing and hiking. There are 360km of high-altitude trails to explore in four huge ski areas—some lying at an altitude of over 10,000 feet, so snow here is good for a very long season.

While an enchanting Alpine village, the town has plenty of modern touches, like its state-of-the-art lift system and swanky après-ski diversions. Its main street, Bahnhofstrasse is lined with boutique shops, 5 star hotels, celebrity chef restaurants, and lively bars. There are public outdoor rinks for ice-skating and curling, and transport varies from electric taxis to horse-drawn sleighs.

You can find the best Zermatt Chalets through Tempston Luxury. Don’t miss the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise cable car; this is Europe’s highest cable car (3,885m up on the Klein Matterhorn) and offers mesmerising views of the Matterhorn itself.

Skiing Photo CC by SkiStar

Gstaad – Switzerland

Gstaad is an upscale resort town with soaring mountains and prestigious international boarding schools that have long made it a holiday destination for royalty and celebrities.

Cable cars connect 12 different ski areas such as Wispile and Rinderberg, and you can access hundreds of kilometers of all-level pistes and cross-country trails on one lift pass.

Despite trails winding through postcard-worthy Swiss scenery, many visitors pay only passing homage to the slopes, preferring to stroll Gstaad’s fairy-light-strewn streets or attend highbrow concerts.

Chamonix-Mont-Blanc – France

Chamonix for short, this is a resort area near the junction of France, Switzerland and Italy. At the base of Mont Blanc, the highest summit in the Alps, it’s renowned for its skiing.

Year-round cable cars take visitors up to several nearby peaks with panoramic views, including Aiguille du Midi above town, and Pointe Helbronner, across vast glacier fields on the Italian border. Get the Chamonix Le Pass ski pass or the Mont Blanc Unlimited ski pass for access to 410 km of slopes in all three countries.

Skiing Photo CC by SkiStar

Val-d’Isère – France

In the Eastern corner of France with access to 300 km of lift served runs, Val-d’Isere offers a huge ski area with high quality slopes for everyone from complete beginner to expert.

Skiing here became popular in the mid 1930s, and “though some bemoan this mega resort for being crowded, pricey, and even a bit gauche, Val d’Isère remains an experienced skiier’s paradise.”

It offers a long ski season stretching from the end of November into the first week of May. An excellent dining scene and hard-partying nightlife makes a stay here a true holiday in every sense of the word. Outside of the season, visitors can enjoy hiking on the various trails and paths over the mountains.

St Anton – Austria

St Anton is an Austrian village in the Tyrolean Alps. It’s known as a gateway to the Arlberg ski region and is often called the “cradle of alpine skiing” for its role in inventing the sport.

The Museum St. Anton am Arlberg chronicles local ski history in a traditional chalet. Lifts and cable cars provide access to the slopes of Valluga and Rendl, and a network of mountain trails with varying terrain branches out from the town.

The historic town has a homely atmosphere, and is reasonable in price. The town is (in)famous for its lively after-ski scene, so if you’re looking for pistes and parties, you’ve come to the right place!

Skiing Photo CC by SkiStar

Courchevel – France

Not one resort village, but four distinctly separate ones, Courchevel is a famous skiing territory particularly popular for its glamour, caviar and excess.

This is one of the world’s largest lift-linked ski areas, and there is terrain to suit everyone from beginner to expert. “The prices are sky-high but it’s hard to fault the well-groomed pistes, efficient lifts and multilingual instructors adept at hand-holding and ego-massaging.”

Of the 50 five-star hotels in France, nine of them are here. Packed with ultra-luxury chalets, Michelin-starred restaurants and swanky clubs, Courchevel is where celebrities go to ski and be seen.

Val Thorens – France

Purpose-built Val Thorens is not only the highest resort in the giant Trois Vallées ski area (which also includes Courchevel and Méribel), but at 7,500 feet, it is the highest in all of Europe.

With access to the Three Valleys, Val Thorens also has one of the largest areas to ski in in the world. There is plenty of snow due to it’s altitude, and a longer-than-average season which runs from November to May.

Skiing Photo CC by SkiStar

Cortina d’Ampezzo – Italy

Commonly referred to as Cortina, this is a chic town encircled by the Dolomites, blessed with one of the world’s most beautiful backdrops.

At the heart of the southern Alps, Cortina has hosted numerous World Cups, Nordic Skiing Championships, and various racing competitions. Because who wouldn’t want to ski among the dramatic peaks of the Dolomites!

This is the most upscale resort in Italy, with great slopes, stunning scenery, designer boutiques, and a great social scene. The town is picturesque and the car-free city centre is full of high-end shops. Just two hours from Venice, the town isn’t too remote—though the towering ring of surrounding Dolomites might make it feel otherwise.

St. Moritz – Switzerland

St. Moritz is a luxury alpine resort town in Switzerland’s Engadin valley. A truly classic resort, it has hosted the Winter Olympics twice, has the Cresta Run, a world-championship bobsled run made of natural ice, and an outdoor Olympic ice rink.

Its frozen lake hosts polo, cricket and even horse racing on ice. Ski and snowboard areas include Corviglia, Diavolezza and Corvatsch, and there are well-groomed cross-country ski trails.

The sun shines here 300 days a year, and there are 350 km of pistes! It claims that Winter Tourism was born here in 1864.

Skiing Photo CC by SkiStar

Kitzbühel – Austria

Kitzbühel is a small medieval town situated along the river Kitzbuhler Ache, often credited with being the most beautiful ski town in Europe. Just two hours from Munich, the resort offers the most scenic and extensive skiing in the Alps.

A classic medieval village with a posh personality; you’ll find fancy hotels and a lively après-ski sceneare scattered among its quaint, cobblestone streets, and unsurpassed skiing that includes eight renowned ski schools and some of the most demanding courses on the World Cup circuit.

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Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; a website dedicated to opening your eyes to the wild & natural world.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

Follow their journey on Facebook, TwitterYouTube, Pinterest and Instagram.

Photo credits: All photos CC by SkiStar photographer Ola Matsson. – http://www.skistar.com/ – 

    28 Comments

  1. I can’t remember the last time I went skiing! This is slowly convincing me to go for a winter getaway! Austria and France are quite appealing!

    • Sounds like you’re overdue for another ski vacation then :D Always a blast creating new memories when you can’t recall the last time you went :)

      France and Austria are great choices. Happy travels!

  2. I’ve been to a number of these but my favourite has to be Zermatt. It’s so cute that there’s no traffic. My friend raves about St Anton though that might be my next destination.

    • Zermatt is always a fabulous choice … can’t go wrong with Switzerland in general I think! Hope you have the chance to take in St Anton too … let us know what you think!

  3. I went to Zermatt many years ago during the summer and absolutely loved it. I’m really eager to go back there now that we’re living in England and can get there easier. I can only imagine how amazing the skiing is there!

    • Cheap flights from London to almost all of Europe … London is such a fabulous base – good choice re moving there!!

  4. Very helpful informative post. I have never skied in my life before but the post is definitely worthy for ski lovers.

    • Never a bad time to start! And Europe is an ideal place to head as a beginner ;) Happy travels!

  5. Super stoked to see 5 of my old home town resorts on this list – I have fond memories of St Anton and Chamonix – and agree with all your other destinations too! God I miss the snow – I’ve only skiied once since we moved to Aus!

    • Sounds like you have a pretty decent background of skiing and snow sports then! How fabulous to have called 5 of these home :)

      We’re located in Canberra at the moment, but we do try to make it down to Perisher for the Aus snow when we can :)

  6. You spent my imagination soaring with this post and I was revelling in the snow in Switzerland. All of these are really white wonderlands with a promise of heady adventure. I am happy to have visited one of them Zermatt, and would love to visit all the others.

    • So glad we could paint a vivid picture for you Sandy & Vyjay & bring back memories from your time in Zermatt.

      Hope you have the chance to explore more of Europe’s amazing ski resorts on future trips :)

  7. I don’t ski but it is always nice to look some nice snowy pictures. Good to see that France is well represented on your list!

    • France is one of the best countries for it! Definitely consider one of these resort towns if you decide you would like to learn at some stage :)

  8. All of these places look truly beautiful. I’ve seen a lot of Switzerland and France but I’d love to visit Austria this year. Especially for skiing! Great post, thanks for sharing :)

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Carmen! Switzerland and France are beautiful indeed :) Hope you have the chance to ski in Austria later in the year too!

  9. I am due for a ski vacation since so long that I am cringing for one now! We made a plan for Auli in India this year but it nevertheless never got finalized. But with our Swiz vacation lined up in August this year, we are definitely planning for a short ski break at St. Moritz or Gstaad. You have excited me to no ends! :)

    • Exciting Harsh!! Hope you have a wonderful time at St. Moritz and Gstaad – either way you go, both are excellent choices :)

      Happy skiing!

  10. Great job! I think you have covered all the best ski resorts. By the way liking your new layout/theme.

  11. These places look incredible. I used to ski so much but only in Canada. I’ve always wanted to ski in the Swiss alps and after reading about these ski resorts makes me wanna change this Canadian snow and head over to there snow but I’m torn between Italy, France & Switzerland.

    • Some of the best in the world! I haven’t had the opportunity to visit Canada ski resorts, though I’ve heard wonderful things. You’ll have to let me know how they compare to Europe once you have the chance to visit. Honestly, between Italy, France & Switzerland they’re all equally as good, so you could base your decision off flight deals that might be happening at the time you want to fly :)

      Happy travels!

  12. Amazing Destinations to go and enjoy skiing :)
    Thanks a lot for that great article

    • Glad you enjoyed the post! Happy winter travels!

  13. So happy to see that Zermatt made it to the top of your list – we visited recently and it is stunning! I’m not a big skier but I love being in the mountains at any time of year, it’s so peaceful and the air is so clean.

    • Agree that there’s much more to enjoy in these destinations over and above snow sports – while the skiing is great, it’s also fantastic just soaking up the atmosphere, and as you said, the clean air!

      So glad you had a fabulous time in Zermatt!

  14. I’m not a skier, but there are like Krvavec in Slovenia. ❄️😊

    • I haven’t heard of that one before, I’ll have to check it out :) Thanks for the heads up!

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