Nothing compares to a holiday spent in the mountains, surrounded by soft white snow and the warming glow of the fire after a day spent on the slopes.
Ski addicts know too well the beauty of a trip into the mountains.
However, with so much choice on the European continent, choosing the best ski resort for your next adventure can be overwhelming, leaving you spoilt for choice.
Europe boasts some of the best ski resorts in the world, catering to the needs of the most discerning travellers. From the Alps of France, Italy and Switzerland, to the Pirin Mountains of Bulgaria, whether you are looking for a family-friendly resort, or looking to test your skiing abilities, there is something for everyone.
If the mountains are on your mind for the next winter season, be sure to take a tip from this guide to the top resorts across the continent.
Val Thorens – France
Best for: Skiing Enthusiasts
Plenty of: Snow Year Round
For a truly exceptional winter wonderland getaway, Val Thorens in the French Alps should definitely be on your bucket list. Having been awarded ‘Best Ski Resort in Europe’ numerous times, Val Thorens will be sure to offer you a unique and unforgettable experience.
Sitting at 7,500 feet in the Trois Vallees region, this resort is the highest in Europe. At this altitude, Val Thorens is guaranteed fantastic snow cover for most of the winter, typically from November to May – a snow sports junkies dream!
Even more exciting are the huge variety of slopes, boasting the largest ski area in the world with over 600 kilometres of runs! Skiers can even explore the trails linking the neighbouring valleys of Meribel and Courchevel, providing endless opportunity to satisfy even the most daring winter traveller.
The resort itself is in a class of its own. With excellent infrastructure and an unmatched atmosphere, Val Thorens is a youthful resort that’s not only for the young. Whether alone, as a couple, with family or friends, this modern resort has what it takes for a truly memorable alpine escape.
Having over 40 bars and 60 restaurants to choose from, food lovers will enter into a truly unique culinary wonderland. Dining on the highest resort in the world is sure to delight travellers of every age and background. From slopeside chalets to full-on gastronomic havens, the varied cuisine satisfies even the most demanding taste-buds! Be sure to book a table at Chalet de la Marine, awarded a Michelin Fork since 2013. Experience good wine and tasty food, but above all – a breath-taking view of the Valley will make it a memory worth savouring.
In addition, Val Thorens offers such a wide range of activities and events; you will scarcely manage to do most of it on just one trip, whatever your age or sports level. From mountain biking on snow (yes on snow!) to ice diving for the thrill seekers, walks and snowshoeing for the nature lovers and sledging for the children, Val Thoren is perfect for all the family.
Looking to relax and enjoy a little pampering? The resort is perfect to de-stress from the day-to-day grind and make the most of the fresh mountain air. A variety of spas and wellness centres throughout the resort provide first-class services to ensure you recharge your batteries after an eventful day on the slopes, from heated pools to Jacuzzis and reviving massages. Being semi-pedestrianised, the resort has a wonderfully calm atmosphere with everything you need is just a stone’s throw away.
If you are planning your next winter getaway, be sure to add Val Thorens to the list, and experience first-hand, this world-class resort with its warm, welcoming atmosphere and breathtaking natural environment. You are sure to be hooked on the “Val Thorens Lifestyle”.
Alpe d’Huez – France
Best for: Families
Plenty of: Sunny Days
The French Alps offer some of the best skiing in the world, and there’s no better place to experience this, than at the sunny resort of Alpe d’Huez. Having been awarded in 2017 “The Best Ski Resort in Europe”, Alpe d’Huez is a guaranteed wonderful mountain holiday of a lifetime for all the family.
The resort is well known for having the most days of sunshine, due to its south facing location, giving the resort its nickname “l’Isle du Soleil”, the Island of the Sun. Sitting at an altitude of 1860m in the Grandes Rousses mountain range, the resort is surrounded by the most majestic peaks. The tallest summit, the Pic Blanc, rises to 3,330 meters and offers an exceptional panorama stretching into the distance, with views of Mont Blanc and Mont Cervin.
Boasting such a prime location, Alpe d’Huez easily attracts winter sports enthusiasts from all over the world for the high-quality skiing experience. Truly there is no place in the world with such opportunity and variety for all levels of skiers.
The ski facilities link up to more than six resort villages, from Auris-en-Oisans to Le Freney. The vast ski area is a snow lovers’ paradise, engulfing a landscape perfect for skiing, both for the novice and the advanced skier. Gentle slopes at the bottom of the ski runs offer a great opportunity to progress onto the green runs gradually, and there are even two areas reserved entirely for novice skiers.
Whether you plan on learning how to ski there, or already have a deep love for the slopes, Alpe d’Huez will not let you down: 250 kilometres of ski runs, over 2210m of vertical drop and 800 skiable hectares – what more could you ask for?
Well, perhaps one more thing: Alpe d’Huez offers four unique descents, uninterrupted by ski lifts. Each one ranges between 12 and 16 km long, allowing skiers to ski down, with a 2,000m altitude drop, through the exceptional setting of the most awe-inspiring mountains on earth. It is no wonder Alpe d’Huez was also awarded the ‘Famille Plus’ label by the French Tourism organisation.
Designed to prove equally appealing to young and old, the resort caters for families. Whatever the season, the resort offers a wide variety of activities, and in the summer months, the resort transforms into a haven for cyclists, hikers, and mountain bikers. In fact, year-round, Alpe d’Huez is a heavenly playground for lovers of all things outdoors, offering an awe-inspiring selection of activities – from dog sledging to aerial sports, and even motorsport.
Indeed, you will find it hard to trace a gap in the offering of this special place. For members of the family looking to take it a little easier, be sure to spend time getting pampered at one of the many luxury spas. Why not make an appointment at Spa Nuxe-au Chamois D’Or and indulge in a little ‘you time’ while enjoying a gourmet bath – let your imagination wander!
As for food lovers, Alpe d’Huez gratifies all tastes, from traditional mountain fondues to Lounge 21, offering a more exclusive feel, your nights can be just as packed as your days.
With such a wide selection on offer, in the most enchanting location amongst the French Alps, this resort is bound to impress and makes an excellent choice for the next family vacation, full of fun, laughter, relaxation and beautiful snowy or summer days.
Gstaad – Switzerland
Best for: Couples
Plenty of: Health and Wellness Facilities
Travelling over the French Alps and across into Switzerland will bring you to a romantic mountain village tucked away within the Swiss Alps.
A Swiss resort of fairy tales, Gstaad, is the perfect place to spend a little time with your significant other and enjoy a charming, picturesque getaway providing a holiday experience never to be forgotten. The traditional village, despite its style and class, has remained genuinely Alpine and must definitely be up there with the most traditional winter destinations ever. The incredible Swiss-German architecture is a statement to the multicultural nation that is Switzerland.
Location & Skiing
Located near the dividing line between the French and German-speaking parts of Switzerland, Gstaad gives anyone spending time at the resort the opportunity to experience a touch of two cultures in a genuinely dreamlike atmosphere.
Located at an altitude of 1,050 meters, Gstaad is the ideal starting point into a world of unmatched skiing potential. With just one pass, skiers and snowboarders can explore the entire Gstaad ‘super ski region’ with access to 250 kilometres of trails, 70 lifts and more than enough opportunity for novice and expert skiers alike; and if the hours of the day are not enough, ski and snowboard enthusiasts can enjoy more fun on the floodlight slopes late into the night – undeniably something not to be missed.
As if this was not enough, Gstaad provides skiers access to summer skiing on the gentle Diablerets glacier.
Adding to the charm of this winter marvel, the traffic free town centre bestows holidaymakers with a picturesque promenade, lined with luxury boutique shops lining the streets. Gstaad has made a name for itself in the world of luxury travel, offering excellent service and attracting international stars, coming to enjoy the ultimate in pampering, dining and luxury accommodation that is Gstaad.
The wellness facilities have been for many years Gstaad’s unmatched feature. Encompassing six specialist spa and wellness hotels, indoor swimming pools and a sports centre, Gstaad is the perfect place to relax, unwind and take care of your body and soul in the most natural way possible.
Accommodation is often described as exquisite in the area, combining Swiss tradition and thoughtful luxury to create a modern Alpine chic experience. Spend the day at one of the several Spas within the Gstaad and spoil yourselves in this unique human-made oasis, offering world-renowned treatments, and outdoor heated pools surrounded by snow and the beguilingly majestic mountains.
No luxury ski resort is truly alive without a lively Apres-ski scene – and Gstaad outdoes itself once again. Locals and travellers alike find themselves enjoying the evening atmosphere, with several sophisticated night spots opening even until 4 or 5 am. Gstaad never sleeps, no matter the season.
Note also that there are over a thousand cultural and sporting events available to visitors each year, including art displays, waterslide contests and concerts. Despite its style and class, Gstaad has remained genuinely Alpine and down-to-earth.
if you are searching for your next romantic getaway, do treat yourself to the exuberantly luxury resort of Gstaad and, as they say, “Come up, Slow down”.
Crans Montana – Switzerland
Best for: Adventure Seekers
Plenty of: Outdoor Activities
Travelling south through the Sion Valley, you find yourselves in the small town of Sierre.
Getting off at the station, you will catch the funicular up the mountain through the vineyards and fields. The journey on the 100-year-old line is considered the longest in Europe and takes just 12 minutes.
At an altitude of 927m, you will arrive at the last station, Montana Gare at what makes up half of the world renowned ski resort of Crans Montana. Stretching from the Rhone valley (altitude: 500m) to the Plaine Glacier (altitude 3000m), Crans-Montana is a sunny region with breath-taking views of a string of mountain peaks. A rare blend of lakes, forests and glaciers, the region breathes a truly superb physical charm.
Skiing & Activities
Attracting visitors from all over the world throughout the year, Crans-Montana is most definitely a skiing destination that should rank among the top destinations for your next trip into the Alps.
If skiing stands as the main reason behind your trip, Crans-Montana will no doubt win your approval. Besides the many sunny days and postcard views of the Rhone Valley and surrounding Alps, skiers have over 140km of high-quality pistes and a high altitude snow park of over 100,000m2. In fact, the snow park was voted the best of its kind in western Switzerland, as well as the finest in the Alps. With such quality, countless serious riders will be seen preparing for their competitions.
If, on the other hand, you are just starting out, there is a second zone, the Easy Snowpark, great for getting into the flow of things.
If you are interested in any other outdoor sport, you will undoubtedly find it in Crans-Montana. The pleasant weather combined with pristine forested slopes have given rise to an incredible selection of outdoor activities. Rent a mountain bike for the day and enjoy some of the heart pumping tracks, or paraglide from the mountain peaks. Or perhaps, for the less adventurous, a hike to lake D’Icogne – a paradise for walkers and a choice place to enjoy a picnic.
Whatever your tastes for adventure, Crans-Montana will deliver.
The resort poses a pleasant combination of tradition and modernity, appealing to all ages and tastes, and combines all the benefits of the urban lifestyle within an award-winning mountain setting.
As soon as you start planning your trip to Crans-Montana, you will discover a wide variety of equally fine accommodation option – depending on your budget and needs of course – from camping and youth hostels to Chalets with luxury 5-star hotel service.
The resort is always buzzing with activity and comes alive as soon as the sun sets with character and charm. The local vineyards have inspired growth in wine tourism with enjoyable wine tasting events and tours of the local vineyards.
After a busy day enjoying the variety of activities, be sure to experience the gastronomic delights Crans-Montana has on offer. Or stop by one of the famous cheese shops and discover the age-long tradition of cheese making. For the younger travellers, there are musical events throughout the year and a great Apres-Ski scene for all tastes and preference.
No doubt, Crans-Montana will steal your heart after the first visit. One visit will not do this place justice, and a return trip is guaranteed to make the most of the wide choice of activities on offer, or just to soak up the healthy mountain lifestyle one more time.
St Moritz – Switzerland
Best for: A Romantic Weekend/Week Away
Plenty of: Winter Sports
Some places on earth are simply unique, offering everything a traveller could need and desire. Set in a location surrounded by stunning imagery, St. Moritz is just one such place. An iconic resort born out of the first pioneers of winter sports and snowy winter holidays, St Moritz is the birthplace of winter holidays and the two-time host of the Winter Olympic Games.
If you are searching for your next holiday to the Alps, this resort is the number one alpine holiday destination – sure to impress on every level. Developing a prestigious worldwide reputation over the years, St Moritz now stands for style, elegance and class in everything.
Location & Skiing
Sitting at an elevation of 1856m, the resort boasts plenty of sunny days and a whole world of endless adventure and exploration.
As the home of Alpine winter sports, St. Moritz does not hold back on winter sports opportunities. With over 350 kilometres of pistes, skiers and snow sports lovers are truly spoilt when visiting St. Moritz. The choices are varied and exciting, with some of the best alpine infrastructure offering an uninterrupted day on the fresh powder snow with minimal waiting times and maximum fun throughout the day. It is simply a snow sports heaven, with freeride slopes, wide beginners pistes and even the world’s first yoga piste.
Thanks to its ideal altitude, snow cover is guaranteed, and the stunning Alpine panorama is awaiting you at the top is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Spend even more hours immersed in the natural wonderland by taking part in various activities such as winter hikes, walking trails, toboggan rides or spend an enchanted evening at the Glatschin Ice Rink. Featuring an ice path meandering along market stands, visitors can soak up the nocturnal festive atmosphere with all the family long into the night.
When it comes to your palate, St. Moritz manages to go above and beyond, satisfying the gourmet demands of guests from all over the world. With over 15 mountain restaurants, you can recharge your batteries by the side of the slopes and take in the magnificent Alpine vista. If you are looking for something a little more special, there are first-class gourmet dining options, some of which have often won praises in world-famous magazines and newspapers.
If it is genuine rest your body seeks, no doubt you will find the local spa resort, with a bathing tradition going back over 3,000 years, most delightful! Having earned repute for its rich in minerals springs, the town is a pampering and wellness sanctum and was Awarded the “Wellness Destination” quality seal by the Swiss Tourist Association. Have a taste of the famous medicinal water at a drinking fountain, or while away the day at one of the luxury spas and hot pools.
Setting the worldwide standard in every category, it is clear St. Moritz is up there with some of the most iconic ski resorts in the world, offering an unforgettable experience for all the family – and a must see for your next holiday. The rich history combined with modern facilities, and first-class skiing, guarantee your holiday is rejuvenating and will provide Alpine memories to cherish for a lifetime.
St. Moritz– the ultimate example of how winter and wellness tourism should be done.
Courchevel – France
Best for: Intermediate Skiers
Plenty of: Boutique Shops
Anyone who has ever searched for a ski holiday destination will tell you there are a few key ingredients to the perfect winter getaway – of whom the absolute essentials are a wide variety of slopes coupled with reliable snow coverage.
Well, probably the best combination of these two lies nicely nestled in the slopes of the Trois Vallees, the largest lift-linked ski area in the world. A well-organised system of lifts and gondolas brings together the beauty and thrill of 4 resorts and hundreds of kilometres of skiing pleasure.
Being the most upmarket of the three resorts that make up the Trois Vallees, Courchevel has made a name for itself amongst footballers, movie stars and ski enthusiasts.
Located at one end, lies the glittering ski resort of Courchevel. North facing slopes, terrain suitable for any level of skier, and some of the best après ski scene anywhere – Courchevel ticks all the boxes for your next ski winter getaway!
As the winter season gets underway, Courchevel starts coming to life with charm and splendour. Situated in the south of France, travellers reach this wintery wonderland without much hassle. Two or three hours by train from 4 major European airports will find you teleported into a ski lover’s paradise.
The local resort is actually made up of a collection of villages built at different levels. Spread amongst pretty woodlands and spacious gentle slopes, the resort’s altitude ranges from 1300m to 1850m.
Rising up to Courchevel 1850, you are stunned by an undisturbed view of the magnificent Mont Blanc and miles of skiing potential. Combined with the neighbouring resorts, there are over 600km of pistes to explore in the Trois Vallees area. An excellent system of fast gondolas and chairlifts ensures a convenient trip up the mountain and hours of fun down one of the many pistes.
Since around 75% of the pistes are ranked as blue and red, intermediate skiers will find it hard to find a better skiing destination to sharpen their skills. Still, skiers of all levels of experience enjoy a significant variation in altitude and some of the most breath-taking views of the magnificent Alps.
Travellers who are new to skiing, need not be overwhelmed. There are nine free lifts for beginners, and plenty of lovely long easy green runs as well as good nursery slopes.
An internationally renowned resort situated at the gateway to the Vanoise national park, Courchevel offers more than just a skiers dream. Book a journey in a hot air balloon and discover this peaceful landscape from the air; or, if you are planning to visit during the summer, let yourself be swept up in the atmosphere during a themed evening, full of escapism and relaxation, guaranteeing some unforgettable moments.
For those craving a little shopping therapy, Courchevel offers more than 100 upscale boutique shops for your perusal. Attracting A-list celebs and well-to-do merrymakers, this bustling resort is proud to host 9 of the 50 five star hotels in all of France.
Be it a holiday full of skiing, shopping, or just complete and utter relaxation, Courchevel is the place to be. Spend your days breathing in the fresh mountain air at one of the most enchanting ski resorts in Europe, and experience what it feels like to visit the ultimate skiing destination.
Zermatt – Switzerland
Best for: Mountaineers
Plenty of: Iconic Mountain Peaks
There is something very dramatic about the Alps. The way the rocky peaks float amongst crisp mountain air, set against a backdrop of clear blue skies. Towering summits kneel unchangeable, stirring wonderment amongst any traveller. Or, in one word, “Zermatt.”
At an altitude of 1620m, Zermatt is the highest ski resort in Europe. Situated on the border with Italy, travellers have a chance to discover the charms of both countries and cultures. Surrounded by some 38 summits above 4000m, Zermatt continuously attracts skiers and modern-day explorers looking for a taste of the Alps.
Boasting such a unique location, Zermatt prides itself at some of the best skiing conditions found in the world, year round. Varied terrain and a well-organised system of chairlifts, cable cars and Gondolas provides travellers with the opportunity to explore the vast expanse of slopes and glaciers at altitudes of over 4000m. One even crosses over onto the Italian side, with even more slopes and sceneries to be enjoyed.
Comprised of over 250km of pistes, there is plenty of mileage for both the novice and expert skiers. However, seasoned adrenaline addicts will find the prospects most satisfying. About 20% of Zermatt’s runs are classified black, and there are countless off-piste routes reaching far into the rugged terrain of the Alps.
For Intermediate skiers, there are particularly long scenic runs; for example, red piste 69 to Furgg, allows skiers a close up of the iconic Matterhorn. Beginners can enjoy the nursery slopes or find a little near-flat practice on the glaciers! Located at high altitudes, they have reliable snow and fantastic views. Ideally close to restaurants, families and friends will find it convenient to indulge in a little vin d’haut or a warming cheese fondue.
While Zermatt popularity constantly grows, it treasures its family friendly ‘small town’ character. The most beautiful part, the city, is entirely combustion-engine car-free, thus ensuring perfectly clean air and priceless, unblemished views of the Matterhorn. Battery driven vehicles will be seen transporting visitors back and forth, completely silent, along with the occasional slower, yet more luxurious, horse-drawn carriages.
There are some wonderful choices of accommodation in Zermatt. Most of the hotels are located along the main shopping street, Bahnhofstrasse, running parallel to the River Vispa. However, if you would rather opt for something
“unforgettable,” a night at one of the higher altitude hotels may do the trick. Located at a height of more than 3,000m, most hotels offer sensational views of the surrounding 4000-metre high peaks and an utterly memorable mountain holiday.
As the sun sets, the town of Zermatt comes to life, and both locals and visitors join in to enjoy the fantastic selection of the dining options and nightlife, including more than 100 restaurants and 60 bars. Asian restaurants or stylish grills are typical in the town. For families or groups of friends having fun on a budget, there are excellent value self-service options, or pizza and pasta outlets.
Perhaps a hike up to one of Zermatt’s 56 mountain restaurants will stir up an appetite. Fuel a full afternoon of skiing by indulging in a rosti, a unique kind of potato pancake. At night – the reputation of Zermatt’s nightlife is legendary. Tourists will find the opportunity to mingle with charming locals, which adds to the unique flavour of Zermatt as a destination.
No matter the month, there is always something to do in Zermatt. Adventure and culture surround this little town, giving travellers plenty of opportunities to discover and learn. Absorb the impressive landscapes by taking a helicopter tour over and through the four-thousand peaks. Or perhaps, for something a little tamer, discover the art of brewing beer during a visit to the Zermatt Matterhorn Brewery.
Few places on earth can match Zermatt’s Alpine experience. The combination of excellent advanced and intermediates slopes combined with reliable snow make for an exciting ski holiday. The magnificent scenery at every turn, mountain restaurants with superb food, make for no better place to experience the beauty and grandeur of the Alps. Another resort for your ski holiday bucket list.
Bansko – Bulgaria
Best for: Lower Budget Holidays
Plenty of: Food funs and adventure for a fraction of the cost
Obviously, upon hearing about ski holidays in Europe, the Alps in France or Switzerland come to mind. However, you can get the same Alpine experience for a fraction of the price in Eastern Europe.
Tucked away in the shadows of the “eastern Alps” of Bulgaria, Bansko has become an international centre for both winter and summer tourism in recent years. Offering a high-quality skiing experience, an incredible selection of accommodation, in combination with awe-inspiring beauty and rich culture, it is no wonder Bansko is now on so many travellers wish lists.
Location & Skiing
At an altitude of 925m, Bansko lies on both sides of the Glazne river with the dramatic 2914m peak of Vihren towering in the distance. Only 160km from Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, there is no difficulty in reaching this ski and mountain resort year-round.
Surrounded by the Pirin National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site, Bansko offers nature lovers a truly beautiful experience whatever the time of the year.
Over recent years, Bansko has gained popularity amongst discerning travellers, especially those looking for a ski experience similar to that found in the Alps, nut at a lower cost. With some of the best snow records in the country and the most extended ski season, skiers and snowboarders can enjoy the slopes for a good portion of the year.
Skiers have the chance to explore over 70 km of ski slopes, with the majority being suitable for beginners and intermediate skiers. A fantastic piste, nicknamed the ‘ski road’, offers 14km of scenic skiing direct from the summit to the town. It is a tremendous opportunity to take in the breath-taking views of the surrounding alpine landscapes. There is also a black run for the slightly more adventurous and five km of cross-country skiing.
The first snow park in the Balkans provides snowboarders with hours of fun to try out tricks and jumps all day long. The ski facilities in Bansko are some of the most advanced in Europe, with a well-organised system of 14 ski lifts working throughout the day. Snow Peaks is a professional ski and snowboard school, for those looking to improve their skills, as an individual or with family or friends.
The combination of the old and new blends beautifully in Bansko, and there are fine accommodation options for budgets of all scales.
The old town, a few kilometres from the lifts, provides an authentic local experience. There is even a traditional house converted tastefully into a small hotel for those more inquisitive travellers.
If you are looking for something a little more modern, move to the new part of the resort, where 4- and 5-star hotels, most with their own spa facilities with indoor and outdoor pools. Bansko’s modern-day face lies a short distance from the ski lifts, making it ideal for families with younger skiers looking to hit the slopes with minimal effort.
Once you get tired on the slopes, you can check Bansko’s varied and thrilling après ski scene. The characteristic combination of the old and new inevitably takes an unusual yet fascinating look at eastern Europe. There are more than 200 traditional Bansko taverns, called Mehanas, serving delicious local dishes. Lining the cobbled streets of the old town, these local taverns pride themselves on serving the best wine from the region and entertaining live folk music.
For the younger travellers, a beautiful array of inexpensive eating and drinking options are on offer, along with bars and nightclubs open into the early hours of the morning. In spite of its predominant traditional character, the town continues to bustle with life during the summer months as the International Jazz festival gets underway – the most prominent musical event in Bulgaria. Attracting musicians and fans from across the world, an entire week of jazz is yours to enjoy – absolutely free of charge. Join the crowds at the open-air stage on Nikola Vaptsarov Square in downtown Bankso, or enjoy smaller performances in the resort bars and restaurants.
Exploring the streets of the old town will reveal a magical combination of old architecture, preserved traditions and unique cuisine. Combined with the modern luxuries of spa hotels or natural mineral springs, travellers are spoilt for choice.
Certainly, Bansko has attracted the attention of the world over recent years. Offering a first-class skiing experience at very reasonable prices, this charming town continues to attract winter sports enthusiasts. Yet despite the dramatic rise in tourism, Bansko has managed to retain its traditions and culture.
With such a unique character and continuously evolving culture, Bansko will continue to be a top destination for a holiday every day of the year!