Come winter and ski lovers from all over the world flock to Europe to enjoy the thrill of winter sports and generally frolic in the snow. Europe is a first grade skiing destination. It has some of the highest mountain ranges in the world with spectacular scenery and a reliable snow cover. Top quality resorts with immaculately groomed pistes, top class lift systems, fantastic trails and a whole range of non-skiing fun activities make it the most sought after winter playground of the world.
If you are planning to pack your bags and hit the snowy trail, we have a pick the best ski destinations of Europe. Discover the best each place has to offer.
Courchevel is in the world-renowned Three Valleys in Savoie, France, the largest interlinked ski area in the world. Courchevel is a top class ski resorts area with 600 km ski slopes and 200 ski lifts, 800 instructors, a terrific lift system and immaculately maintained pistes. It is spread over four altitudes and villages including Courchevel 1850, the haunt of the rich and the famous. Apart from skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling, it has a wide range of non-skiing activities and great après ski (including two Michelin starred restaurants). Snow is guaranteed throughout the season from December to April.
Difficulty level: Suitable areas for all expertise levels.
Getting there: Two hours from the Geneva Cointrin and Lyon St Exupery International Airports.
Accommodation: Grandes Alpes Private Hotel (luxury); Hotel Courchevel Olympic (good value).
Snippet: Courchevel is based on four levels, named after their altitudes: Courchevel 1350, 1550, 1650 and 1850.
The charming little town of Chamonix is situated at the foot of Mont Blanc, France. There are five main skiing areas spread over 10 miles along the valley and linked by ski bus service. The resort offers access to 394 pistes and has around 49 lifts. Long slopes, lift access to steep cliffs, skiing opportunities through tree areas, off-piste and a host of après-ski (post skiing) activities make this a hot favourite of ski lovers. Last but not the least; you can sample the best of French wines here. Lifts are open from December to May and June to September.
Difficulty Level: Ski areas for all expertise levels;
Getting there: 80 km from Geneva and 220 km from Lyon airports.
Accommodation: Hameau de Albert Premier (luxury); Le Vert Hotel (perfect for skiing vacationers).
Tip: If snow conditions are poor, you can head to Courmayeur in Italy which is just half an hour away.
St. Moritz, Switzerland
Glamour, glitz, sunshine and world class skiing come to mind at the mention of this famous ski destination located in the lovely Engadine valley. With 350 km piste area and an altitude of 1800 to 3303 km above sea level, snow and great skiing trails are assured. The efficient 22 lifts, free ride slopes, wide nursery slopes, a glacier slope trail, ski huts, snow bars, a frozen lake and a variety of après-ski activities are the main attractions of this top class resort. Most of the lifts are open from November to April.
Difficulty level: Various slopes suitable for all experience levels.
Getting there: 210 km from Zurich; 300 km from Munich airports.
Accommodation: Badrutt’s Palace and Kempinski Grand Hotel (luxury); hostels, apartments and cheaper hotels are available in plenty.
Trivia: St. Moritz hosted the 1928 and 1948 Winter Olympics.
This ski destination against the stunning Matterhorn backdrop is a no cars, electric transport run, picture-perfect town. One can ski all year round on the 350 km marked trails or on the 20 km Zermatt Theodul Glacier. Amazing 57 lifts, 40 gondolas and trains provide efficient connectivity. You can grab a bite at any of the numerous restaurants on the mountain slopes or drop in at the renowned Chez Vrony. Free-ride slopes, hell-skiing, Gravity Park and après-ski activities as well as great snow conditions keep the tourists pouring in here. Snow conditions are excellent with the season generally extending from November to May.
Difficulty level: Mainly for intermediate and advanced skiers, though there are some broad slopes for beginners too.
Getting there: 250 km from Zurich; 230 km from Geneva
Accommodation: Mont Cervin (luxury); Ski Total chalets (value); Hotel Alfa (backpackers).
Trivia: The longest run is from Klein Matterhorn into town and the Klein Matterhorn lift is the highest cable car in the world at 3820 m.
This charming Alpine ski destination hosts the famous Men’s Downhill Race. The skiing area has 170 km of fantastic pistes, 60 marked trails and 52 lifts. The downhill trail on the Streif is considered as one of the most difficult ones in the world and is a challenge even for the most advanced skiers. The popular Ski Safari covers most of the famous trails. Tourists flock here not only for the great skiing but also to the bustling après spots, shopping and nightlife. The skiing season is open from December to March.
Getting there: 160 km from Munich; 80 km from Salzburg
Accommodation: Kempinski Hotel Das Tirol (luxury); Hotel Schweizerhof – Sport & Beauty (value); Alpenrider Hostel (backpacker).
Tip: Get the Kitzbuhel Guest Card. It gives great discounts on a lot of activities.
St. Anton, Austria
This beautiful ski hot spot in the Arlberg area is as famous for its celebrity visitors and rocking nightlife as it is for its world class skiing. There is 260 km of piste area and 85 lifts. For daring skiers there is a breath-taking downhill slope from the Valluga summit (2800 m) right to the valley below. Beginners can head to St Christoph or Rendl and advance skiers can ski in Lech or Zurs which also have some fantastic off-piste skiing. Snowboarding is also very popular here. The fun-park, terrific restaurants and après skiing activities make this a hotspot skiing destination. The season normally extends from December to April.
Getting there: 250 km from Munich; 200 km from Zurich; Innsbruck is 100 km.
Accommodation: Chalet Mooserwirt (luxury); Bergheil Apartment (value); Haus Schoepf (backpackers).
Tip: Visit the Skiing and Local Museum and discover the story of skiing in Arlberg.
Cradled in the lap of the spectacular Dolomite Mountains, this area has gorgeous scenery and sunny weather. Guaranteed snow from November to April, 140 km of skiing slopes and a modern lift system (37 lifts) make it a skiing haven. It is connected with the Dolomiti Superski pass which gives access to 1225 km of interconnected trails. That is not all; there are Free Dolomites for the adventurous, off-piste skiing, snow-kiting, heli-skiing, excursions to Ampezzo Dolomites Nature Park and Slow-Ski. Après-ski fun begins early in the afternoon and restaurants serve delicious food at reasonable prices. The Alpine Ski World Cup and Cortina World Polo are some of the international events held here.
Getting there: 162 km from Venice; 140 km from Bolzano (Italy).
Accommodation: Cristallo Hotel Spa & Golf (luxury); Hotel Montana (value); Hotel Olimpia (B&B).
Tip: Cortina is famous for its superb Italian restaurants.
It is hard to beat the rush of adrenaline you get while whizzing down a snowy slope. Breathless after descent while you wait for a few seconds, you can drink in the sunshine and the glorious spectacle of mountain and snow all around you. Then cheerily head back to the hotel for a drink, great food and nightlife fun; or simply curl up in bed after the day’s exertions to wake up to another fantastic day of fun in the snow.
We have handpicked a few of the best names; there are also others you can explore. Pas De La Casa and Soldeu in Andorra, Bansko in Bulgaria and Narvik in Scandinavia also have great skiing hot spots. So sharpen your skills, skiing season is here.
For those who may have wondered what these terms mean:
Après-ski: After ski activities,
Black diamond: Expert trails marked on maps with black diamonds,
Free-riding: A form of snowboarding with no fixed rules or set course,
Gondola: A gondola is an enclosed carriage (like a cable car) to transport skiers up the mountain,
Grooming: Maintaining snow trails by smoothing them,
Off-piste: Areas not marked on a trail map,
Piste: Trail (French),
Snowboard: A small surfboard-like contraption used for going down ice slopes.