For many Brits, ski holidays already have a piste of their heart thanks to their ability to keep the January blues at bay. And, if you’ve never been before, we promise it’ll be love at frost sight, so check out our top European ski destinations for 2020.
Whether you’re a skier or a boarder, or a snowshoe / toboggan junkie, the amount of fun there is to be had on the slopes is snow joke (I’m not even sorry…). With top European ski destinations having reliable snow for most of the season thanks to the high altitudes of the Alps and Dolomites, and amazing ski lifts meaning more than one mountain is often possible within the same day, we’re spoilt for choice with the ski options which are practically on the UK’s doorstep! And, with most of these resorts able to cater for snow students and off-piste mogul masters alike, there really is something for everyone at our top European ski destinations for 2020.
The largest and most famous of several interlinked ski resorts known as Les Trois Vallées (the Three Valleys), Courchevel boasts 150-kilometers of Alpine runs which are serviced by 60 lifts, and that’s not counting the other 450-kilometers of runs (and 4 glaciers) found in the nearby areas. With 5 villages all catering for beginners and intermediates, Courchevel is also a favourite destination for experts thanks to its superb off-piste terrain and mogul-studded steeps. It also boasts an average of 4-metres of annual snowfall, and state-of-the-art grooming to keep their runs unbelievably smooth. If this hasn’t sold it to you, then just add the luxury accommodation, glamorous après-ski scenes, and Michelin-starred restaurants for a ski holiday that’s truly unforgettable.
A firm favourite for families thanks to its exceptional facilities for beginners and children, there’s? great natural snowfall and a variety of terrain to attract even expert skiers to Méribel, another of Les Trois Vallées – including a challenging 1,000-metre descent from Mont Vallon through unparalleled Alpine scenery. There are also more than 20 trails for intermediate skiers, some of which are broad cruisers at high altitudes which will allow you to take in even more of the incredible views around Les Trois Vallées.
Formerly known as Espace Killy, this area links the iconic resorts of Tignes and Val D’Isere for the Winter ski season. With 300-kilometers of skiable terrain and 150 lifts, the high altitude of these resorts means they can stay open until mid-May, with skiing on the Glacier du Pisaillas usually guaranteed until June or even July.
The layout of the lifts here is very skier-focused, with skiers connected to different areas without long, level catwalk trails. There are also lots of good options for beginners at these resorts thanks to multiple covered magic-carpet lifts going up to gentle downhill slopes, and a new travelator which allows beginners to go up an enclosed magic-carpet lift from the top of one of the gondolas to a gentle high-altitude slope, so even newbies can experience the incredible scenery of skiing at the top of a mountain. On top of all of this, the town is known for being picturesque, car-free, and for its great restaurants and lively après-ski scene.
With the Matterhorn rising up as a backdrop to this Swiss resort, Switzerland’s greatest vertical drop, and skiable terrain at altitudes as high as 3,900m, the highest winter sports area of the Alps gives a lot of reasons to visit. The distinctive profile of the Matterhorn is visible from a lot of the 350-kilometer trail system, and Zermatt is known for its long runs which sometimes end right in the village allowing for true ski-in-ski-out accommodation.
The peaks of the Jungfrau group of mountains can depend on reliably deep snow, and the steep slopes and high-altitude valleys offer skiers and boarders a total of 206-kilometers of ski runs, with idyllic Alpine chalets and villages to come home to after a day on the slopes. It’s not all just white-knuckle, high-octane steeps though; slopes close to the town of Wengen are good for beginners and intermediates, while freestylers will find their thrills at the Grindelwald-First superpipe and off-piste terrain.
High in the Italian Dolomites, the town of Cortina d’Ampezzo is in a beautiful setting amongst the five peaks of the Cinque Torri, and surrounded by superb ski terrain. For many years after it hosted the Winter Olympics, this was the preferred winter resort of the jet-setters. Although it now has a much broader clientele, it still has the chic shops and stylish entertainment venues you’d expect of a smart European ski resort.
Neighbouring Cortina d’Ampezzo but without the glitz or prices, the villages of Val Gardena offer a more casual, low-key experience. 160-kilometers of trails and lifts in Val Gardena link to nearly 400-kilometers of interconnected skiing in the area, with a high percentage of intermediate and expert slopes as well as a good amount for beginners. Val Gardena boasts ample natural snowfall and state-of-the-art slope grooming, as well as top-of-the-line infrastructure which includes Italy’s first eight-seater chairlift with heated seats.
St. Anton am Arlberg
For serious skiers and no-nonsense, high-challenge skiing, St. Anton am Arlberg boasts more than a dozen super-expert runs, but even the red-marked slopes here are more challenging than at other Alpine resorts. St. Anton is especially known for its circa 200 off-piste options for advanced skiers and its mega-moguls, so it’s not a destination for the faint-hearted.
For the less experienced amongst us, Austria still has something to offer from Kitzbühel – an extremely pretty walled ski-town. With pricey shops and deluxe hotels similar to Cortina or St. Moritz, Kitzbühel also has family-run inns to welcome families or budget-conscious travellers. There’s also something for all abilities here thanks to the 170-kilometers of skiable piste.?
Other European ski destinations to consider
Val Thorens, France
- Another famous destination within Les Trois Vallées, Val Thorens is the highest ski town in Europe at 2,300m altitude. That means its slopes have guaranteed snow cover from November to May, and the resort’s position at the head of the Belleville Valley mean on a fine day this resort has a world-class winter panorama.
Les Arcs and La Plagne, France
- Part of the Paradiski area, La Plagne and neighbouring Les Arcs offer 425-kilometers of high-altitude runs. The gentle slopes of La Plagne are best for beginner and intermediate skiers and families, while Les Arcs attracts experienced intermediate skiers.
St. Moritz, Switzerland
- With world-class skiing at a resort twice selected to host the Winter Olympics, St. Moritz is also known for long intermediate runs and outstanding intermediate terrain. Some claim St. Moritz was the first winter resort in Europe, so it’s definitely a go-to for keen snow-sports enthusiasts, and still has a smart clientele and distinct air of luxury.
With more choice than we know what to do with, there is so much on offer at all the European ski destinations. Don’t forget to check out Klook for your rundown of other ski-related fun within Europe and beyond!