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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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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