A selection of some of Europe’s top ski resorts including famous names like Verbier and Chamonix alongside lesser known options such as Les Contamines-Montjoie.
If you’re taking to the slopes then you’re spoilt for choice in Europe
Many seasoned skiers have their favourite resort they return to again and again, but if you fancy trying somewhere else or you’re planning your first ski break, then Europe offers a welter of great places to hit the slopes.
Many resorts are a short flight from the UK, and don’t forget to plan ahead and travel light by asking a specialist to send your skis to the resort of your choice so you can travel light, enjoy the trip and look forward to getting on those slopes. The following should give you some ideas as to where to head for:
A small village in south-west Switzerland has been put firmly on the map by high net worth celebrities such as George Clooney and Madonna, but despite its ‘playground for the rich and famous’ reputation, it offers a down to earth minimalist setting.
While skiing in Gstaad is not exactly cheap, some establishments are realistically within reach of those not quite in the jet set bracket and the resort isn’t all show; it offers top class skiing on its smooth and sheer slopes.
Les Arcs/La Plagne, France
Offering a variety of ski experiences to suit beginners and the more experienced and adventurous skier, these two resorts sit cheek by jowl with one another. The La Plagne area offers no less than ten villages offering most options from the laid back, quite chalet option or the more livelier location depending on taste.
Courchevel, French Alps
Used in the 1992 Winter Olympics, Courchevel is a collection of resort villages connected by lifts, a road, pistes and is located at one end of Trois Vallées – the world’s largest ski areas linked by lifts.
Courchevel has many north facing slopes, and its snow is considered some of the best in this whole ski area with skiing to suit all standards from beginners to the more experienced.
Offering something a little different to the purpose built ski resorts of Courchevel and Les Arcs/La Plagne, this traditional Alpine town is very well preserved with an attractive Medieval centre boasting a pretty church and cobbled streets.
The challenging slopes are set on three different mostly wooded mountains.
The site of the very first Winter Olympics in 1924, Chamonix Mont Blanc – to give it the lesser used longer title – is very accessible being only an hour by road from Geneva.
It’s suitable for skiers of intermediate ability and above, although there are some interesting nursery slopes to try if you’re a novice. You may not cover all or even many of the ski areas as most aren’t connected by ski lift, so a bit of patience and willingness to queue here and there will be required.
Les Contamines-Montjoie, French Alps
Nowhere near as well known as Chamonix above, but Les Contamines-Montjoie is also only an hour’s drive from Geneva so likewise is very handily placed; you’ll soon be whizzing down one of its spectacular slopes not long after leaving the UK.
Dominated by the peaks of Mont Blanc, Les Contamines-Montjoie offers a compact and unspoilt village along with plenty of snow on its north-east facing slopes. It’s hardly known at present as it isn’t especially ‘pushed’ by ski holiday operators – perhaps because there isn’t much in the way of larger hotels – so queues are very rare.
Another of the ‘famous name’ ski resorts, Verbier – in western Switzerland – offers over 250 miles of slopes and off-piste areas in providing its characteristically steep skiing experience that some seasoned skiers say is the best to be found anywhere.
When it’s time to relax, the hotels and nightlife are amongst the best and are certainly on a par with the also-famous Gstaad and St. Moritz. If you have deep pockets you could stay in Sir Richard Branson’s nine-bedroom chalet which can be hired for rates well into five figures per week.
Many more top class resorts
The above is a taster of what Europe can offer in top class ski resorts. There are many more to choose from including such ‘famous names’ as the glamorous St. Moritz in Switzerland with its 300 odd days of sun per year and, also in Switzerland, Klosters which is popular with the Royals.
Away from Switzerland there’s the highly respected St Anton in Austria, full of superb skiing and luxury spas. In France there’s the charming Châtel near the Swiss border, and the relatively undiscovered La Clusaz in the south east which is just beginning to come to the attention of British skiers.
Don’t forget Italy boasts some terrific ski resorts with Courmayeur, sitting at the foot of Mont Blanc, offering plenty of challenging skiing and wonderful restaurants.
If you like skiing, there’s certainly no shortage of options.