Europe is famous for its winter ski resorts, especially in the snowy Alps. However, with so much choice available, it can be difficult to pick the best places to ski in Europe. Most popular ski resorts are located in Switzerland, France, Austria, Italy, and Germany.
The European Alps soar to over 4,000 meters above sea level and stretch across 1,200 kilometres across eight countries. This high altitude means that you also get long seasons of reliable snow, with perfect condition for skiing. Filled with picture perfect Alpine villages, acres of perfect slopes, and spectacular scenery, here are some of the best places to ski in Europe.
1. Zermatt, Switzerland
Surrounded by the tallest peaks in the Alps, including the iconic Matterhorn, this charming village has over 223 miles of ski runs across four separate ski areas. Zermatt is the highest winter sports area in the Alps and is known for its excellent lift system and the fact that no cars are permitted in the village. Horse-drawn sleighs are the transportation of choice here!
2. Chamonix-Mont Blanc, France
The site of the very first Winter Olympic Games in 1924, Chamonix is located at the intersection of France, Italy, and Switzerland. It is famous for its rugged and challenging terrain and its setting on Mont Blanc, Europe’s tallest peak. The glaciers around Chamonix ensure that it has some of the best and longest snow in the Alps. There are six different ski areas for all skiing levels.
3. Lech Zürs am Arlberg, Austria
Once a riverside farming village, Lech, and nearby Zürs are now the most fashionable ski resorts in Austria. Sitting amongst gentle peaks on the banks of the Lech River in the Arlberg region, Lech was once patronised by Diana, Princess of Wales. Here there are great opportunities for both piste and off-piste skiing.
4. Cortina D’Ampezzo, Italy
Surrounded by the Dolomites and the five ragged peaks of the Cinque Torri is the 1,000-year-old town Cortina D’Ampezzo. Located in the valley of the Boîte River, it became a popular ski destination after the 1956 Winter Olympics were held here. It is just two hours away from Venice and features 140 ski runs and its 50-plus miles of trails. Cortina D’Ampezzo was also the setting for the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only.
5. St Moritz, Switzerland
St Moritz is the oldest winter holiday resort in the world and is filled with an air of elegance and luxury. It has been the site of many ski competitions over the years, including the Winter Olympics in 1928 and 1948. It is best known for its intermediate runs, though there are slopes and pistes for every skill level. There are also lots of things to do besides skiing: ice skating, shopping, and excellent hotels, restaurants, and nightlife. Also, don’t miss the nearby town of Corviglia and its magnificent Alpine views.
6. Val d’Isère, France
Located in a high valley, Val d’Isère is one of the most crowded ski resorts in France. However, it is also home to exciting, high-quality, and varied snow-sure slopes that are well linked. These include the vast Espace Killy, which is named for Olympic gold medal winner Jean-Claude Killy, a Val d’Isère native. The town is also car-free and known for its excellent food and après-ski party scene.
7. Kitzbühel, Austria
The walled village of Kitzbühel is one of Austria prettiest and most popular resorts. Located near Innsbruck and Salzburg in the Austrian Tyrol, its quaint colourful, frescoed buildings and cobblestoned streets are home to deluxe hotels and pricey shops. The Wilder Kaiser Mountains also have hundreds of miles of skiable pistes. Kitzbühel also hosts the annual Hahnenkamm Race for downhill skiing.
8. Livigno, Italy
Located in the Italian Alps near the Swiss border in the region of Lombardy, Livigno is known for its snow parks, with slopes and trails. Skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing, and Nordic skiing are just some of the things you can do here. Livigno is also a part of the Stelvio National Park and enjoys a special duty-free status. However, it is quite difficult to reach during the winter.
9. Gstaad, Switzerland
This upscale ski resort in Bernese Oberland region of the Swiss Alps is known for its soaring mountains and prestigious international boarding schools. Gstaad is also made up of five villages filled with fairy tale Swiss-German chalets. There are over 150 miles of all-level pistes and cross-country trails, all connected by trains and cable cars.
10. Courchevel, France
The glitzy Courchevel is made up of four connected villages, and glittering ski slopes. A hotspot of the rich and famous, it is full of luxury lodges, upscale boutiques, and Michelin-starred restaurants. However, there are also almost 100 miles of ski slopes with a mix of beginner, intermediate, and advanced runs. Courchevel is also connected to the ski resorts at Les Trois Vallées.
11. Alpbach, Austria
Filled with traditional wooden farmhouses, the picturesque village of Alpbach has been called “Austria’s most beautiful village.” While the skiing here is usually gentle and low, there is also a wonderful ski area in the neighbouring Wildschonau valley.
12. Courmayeur, Italy
Sitting on the Italian side of Mont Blanc (or Monte Bianco), the quaint old town of Courmayeur is known for its challenging terrain, and glamorous hotels and restaurants. While most of the pistes are meant of experts, the nearby Dolonne has slopes suitable for beginners.
13. Wengen, Switzerland
The high Alpine mountain town of Wengen is home to some amazing snow, slopes, and long ski runs. Located in the Lauterbrunnen Valley, it is surrounded by the massive peaks the Eiger, the Monch and the Jungfrau. Filled with grand old chalets and traditional restaurants, it also hosts the famous Lauberhorn downhill race. You can also visit the nearby postcard-worthy Alpine villages of Lauterbrunnen or Grindelwald.
14. Val Thorens, France
Part of the Les Trois Vallées region, Val Thorens is the highest resort in all of Europe. Located in the Tarentaise Valley of the French Alps, its proximity to the Glacier de Péclet and the high altitude means that it is usually open from mid-November until early May. The resort’s trails are linked to the other famous resorts of the Trois Vallées, Méribel and Courchevel, as well as the nearby Maurienne valley.
15. St Anton am Arlberg, Austria
Like Lech, St Anton is part of the famous Arlberg region of Austria. It has hosted numerous skiing world championships and features intermediate and expert skiing. The historic town also offers breathtaking winter hiking trails, plush spas, and picturesque sleigh rides.
16. Breuil-Cervinia and Valtournenche, Italy
On the southern Italian face of the Matterhorn lies the Italian ski resort of Breuil-Cervinia in the Val d’Aosta region. While it may not be as glitzy as Zermatt to the northern Swiss side, it offers the same level of excellent skiing. The nearby Valtournenche also offers trails for less experienced skiers. You can also get a single pass for the pistes of all three areas.
17. Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
The beautiful Bavarian town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen lies at the foot of Germany’s highest mountain, Zugspitze. Cable cars connect the town to the summit, which offers trails for all levels of skiers. The Garmisch-Classic ski area also links three mountains – Hausberg, Kreuzeck, and Alpspitze. It is also home to the Kandahar Downhill and other courses used in the 1936 Winter Olympics.