Europe's winter resorts are legendary not only for their superb skiing, but for the postcard Alpine villages and celebrity-studded resort towns at their bases. The mountains in Europe, especially the Alps, are impressively huge, and the ski scenes are rich in history. Many of the ski resorts in Europe are right next to towns and villages, which makes for a fun après ski scene with plenty of social activities after a day on the slopes.
If you’re looking to “go big or go home,” head to Zermatt. Zermatt has the highest ski resort in Europe that spans two countries with lifts that travel to the highest heights and amazing views of the Matterhorn. However, there are also pistes suitable for every skill level. The Matterhorn has been one of the most famously photographed mountains, and people travel from all over the world to see it. The slopes here are typically open from late-November through late-April, but early season and late season skiing are popular options. Spring is a great time to try heli-skiing and ski touring here. You’ll also find lots of shops in town, as well as the Matterhorn Museum, live music performances, art galleries, and films at the Vernissage Cinema.
For skiers, Chamonix is the motherland. The 10-mile long valley boasts one bustling town, five ski areas, and lift access to some of the hairiest steeps on the planet. The Aiguille du Midi cable car rises 9,187 feet from Cham Sud to the needle-nose of Aiguille, delivering you to the front door of Mont Blanc, the Vallée Blanche, and technical lines like the Couloir des Cosmiques, a roughly 45-degree, 2,600-foot couloir that usually requires a rappel in. Ski all the way down to the valley floor and rack up 10,000 vertical feet. For something a little less exhilarating, try the Vallée Blanche—a 13-mile-long rolling schuss down a glacial valley surrounded by the jagged peaks of the Alps. At day’s end, grab a hot, mulled wine and kick back to the house band at Chambre Neuf. Then stumble home to the Vagabond, ground zero for Cham’s nomadic ski bums.
St. Anton am Arlberg is a village in the Tyrolean Alps of Austria and known as a birthplace of alpine skiing. St Anton skiing is revered around the world. The steep terrain is famous whilst the location on the southern side of the Arlberg ski region ensures that it gets phenomenal snow accumulations throughout the winter. This is a particularly popular place among expert skiers but also welcomes families and those with an intermediate skill level. A charming slope-side town steeped in alpine tradition, St. Anton offers almost 200 miles of runs, roughly 440 miles of back- and side-country terrain, and a fantastic après scene. Off the snow St Anton boasts a vibrant resort center, with some of the best après ski in the world on offer and a seriously international audience. There is a large public spa, event facilities and endless bars and restaurants. Hire a guide so you can bypass the Valluga tram lines and tap the chutes off Valluga peak. Or, ski over to Lech, a glitzier village in a neighboring valley, via Zürs and an extensive network of lifts.
This ski area is often voted the best ski area in the world as this ski area has 120 miles of perfect slopes and 54 cable cars and lifts. Just two hours from Munich, Austria’s most popular holiday resort has it all: posh hotels; a lively après-ski scene along quaint, cobblestone streets; and unsurpassed skiing that includes eight renowned ski schools and some of the most demanding courses on the World Cup circuit. The historic Tirolean town of Kitzbühel has two claims to fame which combine to make it a major attraction for skiers and non-skiers worldwide. One is the stunningly picturesque town itself dating back to the thirteenth century; the other is the greatest World Cup downhill ski race in the world: the feared Streif descent on the celebrated Hahnenkamm. Kitzbühel has plenty of gentler terrain for recreational skiers and boarders, a wide choice of accommodation to suit all budgets.
The oldest winter holiday resort in the world is as elegant and exclusive as it gets. If it wasn’t already blessed enough, the sun shines 322 days a year, pairing with the dry air for what’s known as a “champagne climate.” But it’s the world-class hotels and restaurants, chic shopping, and excellent skiing off-piste that draw celebrities and royalty alike. From royal polo matches on the frozen lake to abundant five-star hotels and the moneyed elite flying directly into the local airstrip, the Swiss resort of St. Moritz credentials are impeccable. Few resorts can top St. Moritz’s glamorous reputation. It’s high elevation between 5,906−10,837 ft. makes St. Moritz one of the most snow-sure resorts in Europe. From Zurich airport to St Moritz takes about two hours by car or as long as 3 hours 45 minutes by train.
Val d’Isere has to be one of the most beautiful French ski resorts, nestled in a valley at the foot of the mountains with its chocolate box chalets and hotels, spread between the central town and its outlying villages. Though some bemoan this mega resort for being crowded, pricey, and even a bit gauche, Val d’Isère remains an experienced skier’s paradise. Val d’Isere’s record of snowfall is exceptional. Whilst benefiting from the same Atlantic depressions as other French resorts, it often receives heavy falls of snow from the Mediterranean low pressures which dump their snow on the Italian Alps. The snow coverage tends to be one of the best in Europe and conditions normally facilitate good skiing right to the end of the season at the beginning of May. An excellent dining scene and hard-partying nightlife makes a stay here unforgettable in every sense of the word.
With infinite terrain and the most sophisticated interconnected lift system in Europe, you could spend a lifetime exploring the limitless peaks and valleys, sampling all the delicious food at the fine French restaurants, and cruising through tiny villages without ever having to take off your skis. Heated pavement connects four villages tucked within this glittering, multi-level resort, where A-list celebs and well-to-do merrymakers come to ski, unwind, and shop at more than 100 upscale boutiques. Courchevel 1850 is so high there’s still loads of snow in March and you can ski in the sunshine. Expect to find off piste open treeless powder bowls, steep chutes, cliff drops, mogul runs and many long wide intermediate groomed cruising trails and gentle beginner slopes all serviced by an efficient lift system. With 372 miles of slopes, 7 connected resorts, 327 pistes, 186 lifts…this is an exceptional domain in every way.
The town of Cortinad’Ampezzo in Italy is a renowned destination that attracts thousands of visitors annually from around the world thanks to its amazing ski slopes in a scenic landscape. One of the best things skiers will appreciate is the fact that the ski slopes here are not as crowded as many others across Europe thereby allowing them to fully enjoy their skiing experience. This 1,000-year-old town, carved into the valley of the Boîte river, really grew into a must-visit ski destination following the 1956 Winter Olympics. Just two hours from Venice, the town isn’t too remote—though the towering ring of surrounding Dolomites might make it feel otherwise—and its low-key, upscale vibe continues to attract the likes of George Clooney and Naomi Campbell.
A ski paradise for beginners and World Cup stars. Dolomites Val Gardena is a holiday destination for skiers who love diversity and would like to get to know a skiing area that is perfect for families with children as well as offering beautiful slopes for World Cup stars looking for more of an athletic challenge. The Dolomites Val Gardena ski area is part of the Dolomiti Superski, a world-famous network of 12 ski areas in the Dolomites which you can access using just one ski pass. The Alpe di Siusi in the Dolomites Val Gardena skiing area and is a beloved starting point for beginners and families whose children are taking their first ‘steps’ on skis, from green to blue slopes. From Selva Val Gardena, a picturesque village in Dolomites Val Gardena, you can also directly reach the Sellaronda skiing carousel which will provide you with an unforgettable skiing circuit on skis on the Sella massif.
At 7,500 ft., purpose-built Val Thorens is not only the highest resort in the giant Trois Vallées ski area that also includes Courchevel, Méribel and Les Menuires, but the highest in Europe. Its lofty altitude means that its doorstep slopes have guaranteed snow cover from November to May. The resort’s position at the head of the Belleville Valley, surrounded by a horseshoe of dramatic peaks, is truly spectacular. On a fine day this offers a world class winter panorama. The terrain here suits everyone from beginners to experts. VT is not only linked into the vast network of trails across the across the well-known Méribel and Courchevel valleys, but also into the neighboring fourth valley, the Maurienne. A journey from Val Thorens to the far corners of the ski area, say to Courchevel, is a full day out, however it does mean more time spent on lifts and paths than on the pistes. It makes sense to spend some time concentrating on and enjoying the myriad slopes closer to home.