Last Updated on April 17, 2019 by Fiona Maclean
My Top Five Places to Ski in Europe:
The nights are drawing in, winter is on the horizon, and it’s time to book a ski holiday if you haven’t already done so! Skiing is one of my passions and I absolutely adore being in the mountains. Stunning scenery, white snow, hearty meals and fresh air – what more could you want? I’ve been fortunate to be able to indulge my passion for skiing most of my adult life and have spent the last two winters working as a ski rep in the Alps, a job I thoroughly enjoy. So here’s the insider story – my personal top five ski resorts in Europe.
Given the choice of what sort of resort to visit, I will usually opt for one with a lot of skiing, preferably with a good mix of different types of runs and the opportunity to explore. That means it’s possible to spend a week in the resort and still find there are runs you haven’t got around to skiing, a good reason to return another year! There’s a huge variety of ski resorts in Europe – my own personal favourites range from well known top ski resorts to others you may never have heard of.
Table of Contents
Stunning setting for top-class skiing – Zermatt, Switzerland:
If there’s one unique resort which has everything I look for in a holiday, it has to be Zermatt in Switzerland. The iconic Matterhorn mountain, rising up into the sky makes a dramatic backdrop to the town. When you emerge at the top of the Klein Matterhorn lift, at 3883m, you feel like you are on top of the world and can see for miles. Zermatt has a huge ski area with lots of beautiful runs through the trees, cosy mountain restaurants to stop for a drink or to eat and the possibility to ski over the top from the Klein Matterhorn and down into Cervinia in Italy (where food, and drink, is far cheaper). In the 2018/2019 season the new 3S gondola, which has been three years in construction, is opening and will make the link to Italy much faster, it has been prone to long queues. Apart from the skiing, Zermatt itself is a pretty, car-free, town with old wooden buildings and electric taxis. The central street has restaurants, bars, shops and the Matterhorn Museum. I was lucky to work a season in Zermatt and I never tired of the scenery, though it must be said it is expensive to ski in Switzerland and the transfer time to resort it one of the longest.
Something for everyone – Les Trois Vallées, France:
Another ski area at the top of my list has to be the Les Trois Vallées in France. It’s the largest ski resort in Europe and indeed, in the world and you’ll find something for everyone here, from excellent skiing to luxurious spa facilities. Each village has their own speciality – for instance, St Martin de Belleville is famous for Gastronomy. I’ve stayed in both Courchevel and Meribel and love them both. Meribel, the central valley, is probably the best base for exploring the ski area which claims to be the largest in the world with over 500 kilometres of ski slopes. There are runs to suit every ability, with a staggering number of intermediate runs, some of my favourites being Creux and Combe de Saulire, in Courchevel, and the two long red runs coming down from Mont Vallon in Meribel. Les Trois Vallées benefits from having Val Thorens as part of the area, the high altitude of this resort at 2300m means that it is snow sure and ideal for early or late season skiing. Although the most expensive place to stay in Les Trois Vallées, Courchevel 1850 is arguably the prettiest.
Austrian Party Spirit and Great Skiing at St Anton:
In Austria my top choice would be St Anton, the best-known resort in the ski Arlberg area, which has 305 kilometres of pistes, recently improved with the new link, the Flexenbahn, which makes it much easier to get to Lech and Zürs. St Anton has great skiing on challenging runs and you can travel a long way on skis giving a sense of adventure to the day. It’s also renowned for après ski with the famous Mooserwirt and Krazy Kanguruh, firm favourites to stop at on the run back to resort. The resort buzzes long into the night if you like to party.
A Charming Town with Mixed Skiing – Val D’Isère, France:
One of the first ski resorts I went to was Val d’Isère and it’s still a resort I love to visit. The town has grown immensely over the years and has a vibrant feel around Christmas time with pretty markets in the centre of the town. Val d’Isere is part of L’Espace Killy, together with Tignes, with over 300 kilometres of pistes, and has a good mix of ski runs for all abilities. One of the most challenging is the infamous, black, La Face piste, a steep (often mogul covered) slope which sweeps down into the village and is illuminated by night, a beautiful sight.
Picturesque Saalbach in Austria:
Last but not least is Saalbach in Austria, a resort I’d never been to until last year when I worked there as a rep. Part of the larger Saalbach/Hinterglemm ski area the town of Saalbach is a typical, picturesque, Austrian one. There are numerous mountain restaurants, après ski is lively with lots of bars, the people are friendly and it’s much cheaper than resorts like St Anton and Lech. Whilst the skiing is not as challenging as the Ski Arlberg area, the Ski Circus (Saalbach, Hinterglemm, Leogang and Fieberbrunn) is one of the largest ski areas in Austria, with 270 kilometres of pistes, with some lovely long blue runs sweeping down to the valley through the trees. It’s soon to be increased even further when the connecting link from Viehhofen to Zell am See has been constructed. Currently, you can catch a bus from Saalbach to Zell am See and buy the Super Ski pass which covers 23 skiing regions in Austria, for a nominal charge over and above the Ski Circus lift pass.
Over the years I have stayed in every type of accommodation for skiing holidays, from self-catering to hotels. I prefer to stay in either a catered chalet or a chalet hotel. If you stay in a catered chalet you can relax and take out the whole chalet for a group of friends making it a more cosy choice. A chalet hotel has the benefits of a hotel, being similar to a chalet but on a larger scale, there are choices of menu and more facilities such as a creche or a sauna. If you stay at a chalet hotel there’s always the opportunity to make friends with like-minded people. I’ve stayed with Mark Warner in chalet hotels in both Courchevel and Val d’Isère.
I would recommend Mark Warner as a travel agent if you are looking for a quality ski holiday. They are ideal for groups or families and have superb childcare facilities. Their ski holiday destinations for the coming season include Val d’ Isere, Tignes, and Meribel in France, St Anton or Zell am See in Austria. Another great company offering luxury catered chalets in all European ski resorts (and more) is Tempston Luxury.
For more information on current ski offers from Mark Warner.
For more details on my own top ski resorts in Europe:
And, if you want to know more, please leave me a comment
Finally, if you are thinking of booking a ski holiday in Europe, why not pin this post for later
Disclosure: I have been paid a small fee to write this post. All content is editorially given.