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Ultimate List of Ski Resorts in the Alps

July 8, 2016 10:16

Ski Weekends Guide - Table of Contents

Preperations Tips

Dos & Don'ts

France

Austria

Switzerland

Italy

Introduction

Planning your next ski holiday with your family or friends? Preparations for such a trip are often equally exciting with the trip itself! But it can result in bitter disappointment if you find out that all this excitement proved to be the best part of the whole thing, because the destination failed your expectations.

Years of experience have shown that picking just the right skiing resort is often the most important factor to a successful skiing holiday. This article is just what you need to pick the right spot, providing information about the best ski resorts in Central Europe and will surely help you narrow down your options and find the resort that suits all your needs and wants.

general characteristics of European ski resorts

Mountains

European mountains are characterized by unusually irregular crests and reach great heights. Most professional skiers describe European skiing terrain as a bit more thrilling for experienced skiers and more intimidating for beginners. This, of course, does not mean that novices can’t find gentler slopes in Europe. Generally, European skiing terrains are situated well above the forest zone, thus featuring a much more skiable area.

Skiing

European runs are wide and open, without any trees to hinder your descent, thus giving you the chance to freely explore an area that seems interesting. Markers inform skiers on how difficult each terrain area is, while barriers keep them away from dangerous spots.

Snow

Unfortunately, European resorts get a less heavy snowfall, which tends to melt a lot sooner than in North America. The Alps, for example, are usually shut by the end of spring, or, occasionally, even sooner.

Pass Prices

In Europe lifts usually cost less than in North America and you can easily find discounts for weekly passes. In addition European lift passes offer access to greater areas.

Package deals

Package deals usually include flight tickets and accommodation and, in most cases, the skiing equipment. Contrary to other continents, European “full package” deals include airport transfers, daily meals and local taxation.  

Facilities

In Europe resort bars and clubs remain open well into the early hours of the morning and skiing resorts usually have a greater variety of facilities on and off the slopes, including coffee shops and restaurants all the way down the piste.

Preparation Tips

Get fitter

To ski well your body demands the use of muscles that are seldom used in everyday life. In addition you'll have to deal with altitude and low temperatures. To prepare properly start your exercise programme at least two months before your holiday to build up your cardio-vascular fitness - this will help you deal with the lack of oxygen at higher altitudes.

Make sure your kit is in good condition

1. Skis

If you have your own skis, make sure they are serviced. Ask a professional technician to do a safety check of the binding and a base grind.

2. Boots

If you don't already own your own equipment, buy boots first, not skis. Make sure your boot shop knows what they are doing. Boot flex is important as well; too stiff and they will prevent you from applying the correct techniques.

3. Clothing

A good ski jacket can make the difference between skiing the whole day in comfort and giving up before lunch. For the body to perform well it needs to be warm, but not hot. Woollen undergarments are better than cotton. With woollen undergarments if you get wet you won't get cold; in cotton you'll freeze.

How to choose a ski resort

Narrow down which resorts may be suitable for you and your family or friends by working out what is most important to you.

  • Do you want a relaxing and charming traditional village?
  • Would you rather the hustle and bustle of a large, world famous ski town?
  • Is guaranteed snow cover more important than ski to the door accessibility?
  • Do you hate long transfers or do you love the journey through another country and the fantastic mountain scenery?

The key to a fulfilling skiing holiday, after all, is to pick the right resort in the first place. Here, we aim to help you do just that. Below you will find information that will help you narrow down your options and find the resort that suits your needs and wants.

Dos and Don'ts

Picking your equipment

Borrow everything you can. New ski gear is expensive. Instead, borrow the essentials (jacket, salopettes, gloves etc) from friends and save. If you can't borrow... hire the equipment at the resort.

Opt for the proper insurance policy

Be aware of the little details Hurtling downhill at 20mph brings certain risks with it. So it’s important to have a travel insurance policy in place, just in case. If you are taking out a policy especially for a skiing holiday, ensure it is designed for such a trip.

Don’t Choose immediately the cheapest deal Getting the cheapest insurance deal doesn’t usually equate to getting the best value for money. The policy might not cover you properly, and in the event you need assistance half way up a mountain, that’s a reality you do not want to come face-to-face with.

Accommodation

Chalets If you’re a newbie to the ski world, staying in a chalet will put you in contact with all the things you need (ski schools, equipment hire etc) and could take care of your meals too. If you book the chalet in a package along with flights and transfer, you can pick up a decent deal as well.

Don’t Try to book everything yourself if you’ve never done it before And if you’re a first-timer who thinks off piste is someone who’s had one too many beers, it’s best to leave the organising to a person who knows what they are doing.

Learning how to ski

Get lessons Before you go, take a few sessions at an indoor ski slope.

Don’t Let a friend “teach” you At first, it might seem like a cheap way to learn to ski. However, at some point your mates will get bored of your snow plough antics, heading off for higher runs and faster slopes. They’ll probably try to coax you with them, which, when you get to the top of that insanely steep mountain, you’ll realise wasn’t the best idea.

List of resorts

Suitability: grading is based on various criteria, including the general characteristics of the skiing area (wideness, slope gradient etc.).

Accommodation: you should expect price variations depending on the month and possible events or holidays. The average price refers to the accommodation of 2 adults in a hotel room for 1 night, without taking into account possible discounts, special offers, travel packages etc. All prices are in British pounds.

France

French Alps

Alpe d’Huez

Located at 1869 metres above sea level at the centre of the Oisans, Alpe d’Huez is the main resort in the Grandes Rousses Massif. Quartier des Jeux is just the place to head for bars, shops and restaurants.  

Suitability

Beginners: ***
Intermediate: ****
Advanced: *

Families: ****

Official Website: www.alpedhueznet.com/alpe-d'huez
Runs: 123
Lifts: 85
Season: Early December to Late April

Argentière

Argentière is a village 8 km north of Chamonix at an altitude of around 1,250 metres. This hamlet is a real hit with visitors, thanks not only to its traditional architecture, baroque church and 19th century chapel but also to its amazing location at the foot of the impressive Argentière Glacier and legendary peaks such as the Aiguille Verte.

Suitability

Beginners: **
Intermediate: ****
Advanced: ****

Families: ***

Official Website: - 
Runs: 79
Lifts: 49
Season: Mid November to Early May

Avoriaz

Avoriaz Ski Resort

Avoriaz is ideally located in the middle of the Portes du Soleil ski area, with access to high-altitude skiing for everyone among the prettiest panoramas in the Alps. Whether you like to take it easy or push yourself to the limits, skiers find a wide range of routes on varied terrain, skiing down into broad, open valleys on pistes running through the trees.

Suitability

Beginners: ***
Intermediate: *****
Advanced: ***

Families: *****

Official Website: www.avoriaz.com/en/skiing/all-about-skiing/our-ski-area
Runs: 51
Lifts: 34
Season: December to April

Chamonix

Ski Resort Chamonix

Cham' is a destination popular the world over. In the streets of this high-mountain town you'll hear languages from every corner of the globe. But the people who come to this 'summit meeting' share the same way of thinking, the same love for mountaineering, its legends and its ethics. When you're out shopping in the town centre, wherever you are look up and you'll see 'it' there… 4,810 metres (15,781 ft) of rock, snow, ice and dreams of things to come.

Suitability

Beginners: **
Intermediate: ***
Advanced: *****

Families: **

Official Website: http://www.chamonix.com/chamonix-mont-blanc,0,en.html
Runs: 69
Lifts: 60
Season: Mid November to Early May

Châtel

Having tried and failed in its initial efforts to promote itself as a thermal spa resort, Châtel took its first steps to becoming a summer tourist destination and welcomed holidaymakers and convalescents looking for tranquility in beautiful surroundings.

Suitability

Beginners: ***
Intermediate: ****
Advanced: ***

Families: ***

Official Website: http://info.chatel.com/english-version.html
Runs: 45
Lifts: 43
Season: December to April

Courchevel

Courchevel

Courchevel offers 150 kilometres of alpine ski runs served by 58 lifts enabling you to make the most of your days on the slopes. If you are a beginner, fun ‘ZEN’ areas have been especially created for you to ski in complete safety while the 19 green and 35 blue runs will help you get to grips with the slope. For more experienced skiers, 34 red and 8 black runs enable you to put your technique and skills to the test. Whatever your level of expertise, choose your itinerary and set off to enjoy some unforgettable days of skiing.

Suitability

Beginners: ****
Intermediate: *****
Advanced: ****

Families: **

Official Website: http://www.courchevel.com/winter/en
Runs: 119
Lifts: 62
Season: December to April

Flaine

Flaine

Flaine is located in the Haute-Savoie region, between Geneva and Chamonix Mont-Blanc, nestling at the heart of a large snowy bowl at an altitude of 1,600 metres. Both accessible and remote at the same time, Flaine enjoys an exceptional natural setting which is conducive to relaxation and concentration.

Suitability

Beginners: ****
Intermediate: *****
Advances: ****

Families: *****

Official Website: http://www.flaine.com/en/summer/index.htm
Runs: 23
Lifts: 26
Season: December to April

Le Grand Bornand

In the heart of the Aravis Mountains, in the Haute-Savoie ideally located between Mont-Blanc, Lake Annecy, and Switzerland, Le Grande-Bornand provides the best the Alps have to offer.

Suitability

Beginners: ***
Intermediate: ***
Advanced: ***

Families: **

Official Website: http://www.legrandbornand.com/
Runs: 44
Lifts: 30
Season: December to Late March

Les Deux Alpes

LES DEUX ALPES

This vibrant, sporty and fashionable international ski resort is among the biggest and most famous in the world. Les 2 Alpes was built in 1946 on the former high pastures of Venosc and Mont de Lans, two parish villages in the Isère where the northern and southern Alps meet.

Suitability

Beginners: ***
Intermediate: ****
Advanced: ***

Families: ****

Official Website: www.les2alpes.com/en/presentation.html
Runs: 96
Lifts: 51
Season: Late November to March

Les Gets

Les Gets

Located between Geneva Lake and Mont-Blanc, in the heart of the Portes du Soleil ski area, the resort of Les Gets (1,172 to 2,002 metres) is a veritable paradise on earth where the respect of traditions, a warm welcome, top- quality services are important ...

Suitability

Beginners: ****
Intermediate: ****
Advanced: ***

Families: ****

Official Website: http://en.lesgets.com/
Runs: 300
Lifts: 201
Season: Late November to March

Les Houches

Nestled in the heart of the Mont-Blanc Massif, this family resort, with its string of hamlets, is faithful to the traditional image of mountain holidays. Intense, sporty and comtemplative moments will forge your memories as you follow your fancy... Situated at 1000 metres of altitude and lying at the foot of Mont-Blanc (4810m), Les Houches offers an exceptional panorama of the peaks surrounding Chamonix.

Suitability

Beginners: ****
Intermediate: ****
Advanced: ****

Families: *****

Official Website: http://www.leshouches.com/les-houches,201,en.html
Runs: 28
Lifts: 16
Season: December to April

Megève

Megève is a traditional Haute-Savoie village that will not leave you feeling indifferent. Enriched by an out of the ordinary history and heritage, the village has a soul that goes well beyond the image that we may already have of this unique venue.

Suitability

Beginners: ****
Intermediate: ****
Advanced: ***

Families: **

Official Website: http://megeve.com/
Runs: 183
Lifts: 88
Season: December to March

Meribel

Meribel Skiing

The geographical heart of resort, the centre of entertainment and the spine of Valley services, Méribel Centre has everything to hand: tourist office, cinema, swimming pool, spa, shops, bars, restaurants and nightclubs. Ranging from 1500m to 1600 m altitude, Méribel Centre is composed of several charming hamlets: le Plateau, La Renarde, Altitude 1600, Mussillon.

Suitability

Beginners: **
Intermediate: ***
Advanced: **

Families: ***

Official Website: http://mountain-resort.meribel.net/
Runs: 76
Lifts: 53
Season: December to mid-April

Morzine

Morzine

From the summit of Chamossière you can make out Lake Geneva to the north, Mont Blanc to the south, and the Swiss border just a short distance away - a quick glance around and straight away you can situate Morzine, a little town tucked away in the Alps, nestling between the mountains and forests. Here you will find the pleasant leisurely lifestyle and authentic charm of a village which has retained all its typical Savoyard character.

Suitability

Beginners: *****
Intermediate: *****
Advanced: ****

Families: ****

Official Website: http://en.morzine-avoriaz.com/
Runs: 64
Lifts: 67
Season: November to April

Samoens

Situated on the banks of the Giffre River within a wide glacial valley, the village huddles round a large lime tree that is a reminder of its history. Planted in 1438 and still a very healthy tree, the “Great Lime Tree” now has a trunk measuring 9.50 metres in circumference!

Suitability

Beginners: **
Intermediate: *****
Advanced: ****

Families: **

Official Website: http://www.samoens.com/fr/ete.html
Runs: 21
Lifts: 16
Season: December to March

Tignes

 

Off-beat, up-beat, cosmopolitan, sporty and innovative, Tignes gives you the unique opportunity to experience the mountains in a different way. Whether you are a big fan of skiing, you prefer holidays with your family, you are fond of authenticity, or you are a party animal, Tignes shows you all it's got to help you choose the area of the resort where you belong!

Suitability

Beginners: ****
Intermediate: *****
Advanced: *****

Families: ****

Official Website: http://www.tignes.net/
Runs: 156
Lifts: 90
Season: October to May

Val d'Isere

300 kms of ski runs, 1900m of vertical and the legendary Face de Bellevarde at your feet ! At first, it can seem a little bit overwhelming but the attraction is so strong and so natural that you won’t be able to resist it for long. The mountain is calling, vast and fascinating. Your feet are getting itchy. You stamp them. OK, take a big breath and go for it ! You are in Val d’Isère.

Suitability

Beginners: ***
Intermediate: *****
Advanced: *****

Families: ****

Official Website: http://www.valdisere.com/en/
Runs: 69
Lifts: 60
Season: December to April

Val Louron

A ski resort in the French Pyrenees, in the department of Hautes-Pyrénées, and the region Midi-Pyrénées.

Suitability

Beginners: ***
Intermediate: ***
Advanced: ***

Families: **

Official Website: http://www.val-louron-ski.com/index.php
Runs: 19
Lifts: 11
Season: December to April

Val Thorens

Val Thorens (France) is the highest altitude resort in Europe and the highest point in the 3 Vallées ski area, the largest ski area in the world with over 600 kilometres of runs.

Suitability

Beginners: ****
Intermediate: *****
Advanced: ****

Families: ***

Official Website: http://www.valthorens.com/en
Runs: 81
Lifts: 31
Season: December to March

Austria

Austrian Alps

St Anton

St. Anton, in the Austrian Tirol, is one of the world’s best known resorts. Its serious terrain attracts the hard-core skiers, putting it up there alongside Chamonix and Jackson Hole, and it has hosted the Alpine Skiing World Championships on several occasions, most recently in 2001. St. Anton’s reputation also extends to its famous après ski scene too with the Krazy Kanguruh a strong contender for the title of ‘the Alps most legendary ski bar’ for nearly 50 years.

Suitability

Beginners: *
Intermediate: ***
Advanced: ****

Families: **

Official Website: http://www.stantonamarlberg.com/en
Runs:80
Lifts: 97
Season: Late November to April

Obergurgl

With a chilled out vibe and a long season stretching from the beginning of November to the end of May, Obergurgl ticks all the boxes for a certain kind of skier. What kind of skier you ask? Well let’s see. Perhaps one with children, definitely not a raver but someone who enjoys a good knees up, probably not an expert, but an intermediate skier would find plenty of challenging terrain. Oh and definitely someone who is fond of Austrian things. You see, for despite lying at the end of the Otztal Valley right next to the Italian border, the resort has all of the elements you would expect of a traditional Austrian mountain village. In fact, it wouldn’t be entirely unheard of to spot a fellow skier in lederhosen at the breakfast bar tucking into some wholesome homemade muesli - such are Obergurgl’s indisputable Tyrolean qualities.

Suitability

Beginners: *****
Intermediate: ***
Advanced: **

Families: *****

Official Website: https://www.obergurgl.com/en
Runs: 35
Lifts: 24
Season: December to April

Mayhofen

With its exceptional variety and outstanding new features, Mayrhofen is excellently prepared to start the winter season. Once again, this extensive skiing area with its 136 piste kilometers and 57 lifts leaves nothing to be desired. Two fascinating extremes are situated right on the doorstep – Action Mountain Penken and Leisure Mountain Ahorn.

Suitability

Beginners: **
Intermediate: ***
Advanced: **

Families: ***

Official Website: http://www.mayrhofen.at/en/winter/ski-resort/
Runs: 54
Lifts: 57
Season: December to Late March

Ischgl

The Silvretta - Arena in Tyrol lies in between the two mountain ranges Silvretta and the Verwall Alps. Their peaks reach up to over 3000 m altitude. Situated around the lifestyle hot spot Ischgl, the ski area Silvretta – Arena is renowned throughout Europe. If you prefer snowboarding to skiing you can use one of the numerous fun parks or runs. The ski area Ischgl does not only posses slopes ranging from easy to difficult but also modern ski-lifts and skyrides as well as modern snow cannons to guarantee reliable snow conditions throughout the season.

Suitability

Beginners: ***
Intermediate: *****

Official Website: http://www.ischgl.com/de
Runs: 83
Lifts: 45
Season: December to early April

Zell am See

The ski area Zell am See – Schmittenhöhe is well - known for its snow reliability and valley runs that span an altitude of 1000 m. The pistes range from easy to difficult and can be prepared with artificial snow.

Suitability

Beginners: ***
Intermediate: ****
Advanced: ***

Families: **

Official Website: http://www.zellamsee-kaprun.com/en/activities/ski-board
Runs: 28
Lifts: 26
Season: November to April

Saalbach

The ski area “Skicircus Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang” offers nearly endless slopes for all levels of skill and physical strength. Featuring modern lifts and skyrides, Saalbach is also capable of preparing all its pistes with state-of-the-art snow-making equipment. Away from the pistes, visitors can indulge in numerous indoor activities.

Suitability

Beginners: **
Intermediate: ****
Advanced: ***

Families: **

Official Website: http://www.saalbach.com/en/
Runs: 101
Lifts: 70
Season: Late November to March

Bad Gastein

Ski, Mountains and Spa makes Gastein an ideal spot for relaxation. Two Thermal springs of world class await you in Gastein - set in a unique mountain panorama - and in addition to this, the assurance of snow until the beginning of May, Bad Gastein is described as the “Eldorado” for variation skiers.

Suitability

Beginners: *
Intermediate: ****
Advanced: ***

Families: **

Official Website: http://www.gastein.com/en/ski-resort-gastein-austria
Runs: 5
Lifts: 3
Season: December to May

Switzerland

Swiss Alps

Crans Montana

Situated at 1,500 to 3,000 metres Crans Montana offers a great range of slopes for all types of skiers. Another interesting feature is the cross - country ski runs surrounding the region.

Suitability

Beginners: ****
Intermediate: ***
Advanced: **

Families: *

Official Website: http://www.crans-montana.ch/
Runs: 41
Lifts: 27
Season: November to April

Engelberg

Formerly a quiet monastery village, Engelberg became a modern winter sports centre boasting a variety of different slopes. This traditional mountain village is considered by far the largest family winter sports resort in Central Switzerland.

Suitability

Beginners: ***
Intermediate: ***

Official Website: http://www.engelberg.ch/en
Runs: 19
Lifts: 22
Season: December to March

Saas Fee

The ski resort Saas - Fee is set among the highest mountains in the Swiss Alps. Excellent snow conditions, a skiing area of more than 3.600 meters and impeccable accommodation.

Suitability

Beginners: ****
Intermediate: ***
Advanced: **

Families: **

Official Website: http://www.saas-fee.ch/en/
Runs: 48
Lifts: 22
Season: December to April

St Moritz

St Moritz is a synonym to glamour and luxury and is also famous for its several winter sport options, its excellent snow conditions and sunny days.

Suitability

Beginners: ***
Intermediate: *****
Advanced: ***

Families: **

Official Website: http://www.engadin.stmoritz.ch/winter/en/activities/sports/skiing-snowboarding/
Runs: 88
Lifts: 24
Season: December to April

Verbier

At the centre of the Four Valleys, Verbier, one of the largest ski areas in Europe, has everything a top - class winter - sports resort should have. The chalet - style village dominates the charming plateau and offers some spectacular views of the surrounding mountain peaks.

Suitability

Beginners: *
Intermediate: ***
Advanced: ***

Families: **

Official Website: http://en.verbier.ch/
Runs: 37
Lifts: 39
Season: December to April

Veysonnaz

Veysonnaz offers you the Alps at their best: hundreds of kilometres of runs with gentle slopes for cautious new comers with relatively intermediate experience and skill as well as adrenaline boosting "black" pistes for hardened veterans.

Suitability

Beginners: **
Intermediate: ****
Advanced: ****

Families: **

Official Website: http://www.veysonnaz.ch/
Runs: 125
Lifts: 88
Season: December to April

Italy

Italian Alps

Cervinia

Breuil - Cervinia’s ski area is considered an excellent option for inexperienced and intermediate skiers and offers an excellent range of activities that are just ideal for family holidays. The resort, which is more commonly known as Cervinia lies on the southern side of the Matterhorn.

Suitability

Beginners: ****
Intermediate: ****
Advanced: **

Families: *****

Official Website: http://www.cervinia.it/pages/Home_e_en/212
Runs: 38
Lifts: 15
Season: December to April

Cortina d'Ampezzo

Cortina d'Ampezzo is considered a skiing Mecca since the 1930's and has hosted the first Italian Winter Olympic Games. Often called “The Queen of the Dolomites” Cortina d'Ampezzo dominates the surrounding Belluno mountain region, offering visitors stunning views in every direction.

Suitability

Beginners: ****
Intermediate: ***
Advanced: **

Families: ***

Official Website: http://www.comunecortinadampezzo.it/web/cortinaampezzo
Runs: 99
Lifts: 42
Season: December to April

La Thuile

La Thuile, together with La Rosière in France, is part of the international ski resort known as Espace San Bernardo, offering access to 160 km of slopes and 37 ski lifts, along with some wonderful cross - country trails.

Suitability

Beginners: **
Intermediate: ***
Advanced: ****

Families: ***

Official Website: http://www.lathuile.it/datapage.asp?id=224&l=3&s=E
Runs: 80
Lifts: 37
Season: December to April

Livigno

Livigno is a charming and, above all, and well - equipped ski resorts in the Italian Alps, known also by as the “Little Tibet”. Situated just between Stelvio National Park and the Swiss National Park, Livigno is easily accessible from northern Europe.

Suitability

Beginners: *****
Intermediate: ***
Advanced: ***

Families: ***

Official Website: https://www.livigno.eu/en
Runs: 78
Lifts: 31
Season: December to April

Madonna di Campiglio

Madonna di Campiglio is an elegant ski resort located at 1550 m. of altitude, nestled between the Brenta Dolomites mountain range and the Adamello and Presanella glaciers. Nowadays is considered one of the most significant and famous Italian Alpine ski resorts.

Suitability

Beginners: **
Intermediate: *****
Advanced: ***

Families: **

Offcial Website: http://www.campiglio.it/
Runs: 39
Lifts: 20
Season: December to April

Some final remarks ... 

It is fairly obvious that you’ve got here numerous options – and these are just the “crème de la crème” of only 4 European countries. In another article we will present even more skiing resorts from northern Europe, including Sandinavia, and few but memorable options from the Balkans. So, it’s understandable if you feel a little bit confused. But there is no need to panic.

The best thing to do is evaluate your skiing skills and experience – along with the experience of your friends and companions. Use the “suitability” chart to narrow down your options and, then, take other factors into account, such as average accommodation cost, your budget, the distance, the general character of each resort – and you will soon realize that finding the right ski resort for your next holiday is not that difficult.


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