The 50 Best ski resorts in Europe

It’s not too late to hit the slopes. Whether you’re looking for beginner’s tuition, black-run thrills or après partying, Sophie Morris has the essential guide to the top short-haul resorts for last-minute powder

The experts:

Hugh Monney is director of BASS elite snowsports schools, britishskischool.com

Vicky Norman works at the Ski Club of Great Britain, skiclub.co.uk

Patrick Thorne is editor of ‘In The Snow’ magazine, inthesnow.com

Duncan Worrell is the director of Snowboard Club UK, snowboardclub.co.uk

 

France

Le Grand Bornand

“The ‘real France’, 50 minutes from Geneva, Grand Bornand has family-friendly skiing and great Reblochon cheese,” says Patrick. “The Lake Annecy Ski Resorts pass also covers ~ La Clusaz.”

Ski Weekender (0845 5575983) offers midweek or weekend breaks from £280pp including lift pass and transfer

 

Val Louron

“Fly to Lourdes for a weekend in the Hautes-Pyrénées, reporting their snowiest winter for 10 years,” says Patrick. “Val Louron is very family-friendly, plus the Mediterranean atmosphere offers a different kind of French ambience and better value than the Alps.”

Pyrenees Holiday (+33 (0)562 567004) offer packages from £230pp for a family weekend

 

Tignes

“Tignes (also recommended by Duncan and Hugh) is open for snow sports for nine months each year, three months longer than other French resorts, so it’s a fairly safe bet if you want snow certainty,” says Patrick.

Inghams (01483 345 825) offers flights and chalets from £450 per person

 

Alpe d’Huez

“Alpe d’Huez goes big on sunshine, scenery and ski area,” says Vicky. “Despite an alleged 360 days of sunshine a year, the Grandes Rousses Massif ski area maintains good snow conditions because of the high altitude. The lift pass also includes extra perks, from access to indoor climbing and swimming to night skiing.”

Inghams (01483 345 825) offers flights and chalets from £420 per person

 

Avoriaz

“Avoriaz’s quirky architecture is certainly striking, as far as ‘purpose-built’ goes, and convenient,” says Vicky. “The appearance of the resort is offset by horse-drawn sledges in the motor-free centre. Skiers and snowboarders will love the easy access, great value and amenities on offer, including new waterpark, Aquarius.”

Inghams (01483 345 825) offers flights and accommodation from £524 per person

 

Val Thorens

“At an altitude of 2300m, resorts don’t get much higher than this,” says Vicky. “In fact, the resort is the highest in Europe and consistently popular for late season skiing. Those that like to party should stop by the Folie Douce after 3pm for tunes, toffee vodka and ski boot dancing on tables.”

Inghams (01483 345 825) offers flights and accommodation from £463 per person

 

Les Deux Alpes

“This lively, good value resort used to be two separate sheep grazing villages, but a buzzy strip of bars, hotels and shops now link the two,” says Vicky. “Après ski kicks off at Smokey Joe’s by the Jandri.”

Inghams (01483 345 825) offers flights and acommodation from £430 per person

 

Chamonix

“Easily accessible from Geneva airport, and a proper town, it’s always possible to find last-minute hotel accommodation in the free-ride capital of the world,” says Duncan. “Transfer, train or hire car from the airport, Chamonix is also a great short trip destination. A car is very handy for getting between the various resorts.”

Inghams (01483 345 825) offers flights and chalets from £518 per person

 

Morzine/Avoriaz/Les Gets

“The Portes du Soleil region straddles the French-Swiss border and with a disproportionate number of English-owned chalets in the area, you won’t find it too tricky to find a place to stay at short-notice,” says Duncan. “With something for everybody, the area boasts numerous English ski and snowboard schools.”

Inghams (01483 345 825) offers flights and chalets from £564 per person

 

Samoens

“A small French resort and quiet because of it, Samoens has a lot to offer and you’ll easily find vast swathes of fresh untracked areas you can power through,” says Duncan. “Close to Geneva airport and within easy reach from the UK via ferry or tunnel.”

Iglu Ski A studio sleeping two in Les Fermes des Samoens, a residence with an indoor pool and gym, is £235 for seven nights from April 13 with Iglu Ski ()

 

Morzine

“Morzine has the advantage of being one of the closest resorts for drivers from the Chunnel and is also quick and easy to reach from Geneva,” says Patrick. “It’s a classic resort with lots to do and 640km of skiing on the pass.”

Inghams (01483 345 825) offers flights and chalets from £564 per person

 

Flaine

“Bringing past and present together, Flaine offers more than 250km of skiing,” says Vicky. “Most slopes are either marked as blue or red, there is a green that runs from the Grandes Platières, enabling beginners to learn amid the inspiring views of both the bowl and Mont Blanc.”

Inghams (01483 345 825) offers flights and chalets from £309 per person

 

Argentière

“A favourite with the British Alpine Ski & Snowboard School thanks to the mountain’s north facing slopes that preserve the quality of the snow throughout the season,” says Hugh. “There is a vast expanse of off piste terrain and Les Grands Montets is one of the most famous skiing mountains in France.”

Ski Club offer flights and accomodation from £499

 

Châtel

“This classic Swiss/French alpine village is also a favourite with the BASS school,” says Hugh. “Châtel is part of the Portes du Soleil, one of the biggest ski areas in the world, yet very close to Geneva airport. A Jewel of the Alps.”

Luxury catered chalet Les Trois Canards has five bedrooms, a jacuzzi and four-course evening meals. From £570pp for seven nights in March with Absolute Alps (absolutealps.com)

 

Meribel

“The multitude of slopes that meander through the Three Valleys make it the world’s largest ski area,” says Hugh. “Friendly restaurants and lively bars line many of the ski runs.”

Inghams (01483 345 825) offers flights and accomodation from £560

 

Les Gets

“Les Gets has an outstanding learner area for first timers as well as challenging black runs,” says Hugh. “Stunning views of Mont Blanc from Ranfoilly. Very close to Geneva airport.”

Pure Mountain Holidays has catered chalets, starting from £395pp for seven nights

 

Les Houches

“A hidden treasure within the Chamonix Valley. All levels of terrain with a beginners’ area at the top. Tree-lined runs and magnificent view of Mont Blanc on one side and Mont Joly on the other.”

Luxury catered chalet Maison Jaune (maison-jaune.com) offers seven nights from €1,047pp in March including transfers

 

Megève

“A well-linked collection of resorts; St Gervais, Jaillet, Combloux, Cote 2000, Rochebrune, Mont D’Arbois, and Mont Joly,” says Hugh.

Chalet Gingerbread (chaletgingerbread.co.uk) costs £7,500 in March for seven nights, sleeps up to eight adults, two children

 

St Gervais

“This newly-refurbished town is ideal for the keen skier who prefers skiing rather than long hours of après ski,” says Hugh. “St Gervais links into the massive Evasion Mt Blanc. With a great snow record and quiet slopes, it is a great resort.”

Absolutely Snow offers accomodation from £300 

 

Courchevel

“Great terrain for beginners and snowplough improvers, and a fantastic variety of intermediate and advanced skiing,” says Hugh. “The local runs will keep you busy, or ski to Courcheval 1550, La Tania, 1650, or Meribel.”

Inghams (01483 345 825) offers flights and chalets from £430 per person

 

Val d’Isère

“Its breathtaking mountains host some of the world’s top alpine events,” says Hugh. “Outstanding restaurants and an excellent snow record have made this a popular resort with British skiers.”

Inghams (01483 345 825) offers flights and chalets from £450 per person

 

Italy:

La Thuile

“With a resort altitude of 1440m and an option of heliskiing, La Thuile is a popular choice with many UK skiers,” says Vicky. “Starting out as a mining town, it’s now a purpose-built ski resort with a modern lift system. There are over 150km of pistes and some superb backcountry to explore.”

Inghams (01483 345 825) offers flights and chalets from £280 per person

 

Livigno

“This Italian Alpine resort is a three hours from Milan and, as it is a duty-free zone, any additional expense for last-minute flights is somewhat offset by low in-resort prices,” says Duncan. “The resort caters well for those that love park and piste.”

Snowtrex (snowtrex.co.uk) has self-catering apartments for six people from £336 for seven nights in March

 

Cervinia

“Snowsure Cervinia not only offers a huge ski area linked over the Swiss border to Zermatt, but provides a great Italian food and shopping fix too,” says Patrick.

Inghams (01483 345 825) offers flights and chalets from £490 per person

 

Cortina d’Ampezzo

“Live la dolce vita ski lifestyle, for a long weekend at least, and perhaps add on a day in Venice, location of the nearest major airport, 160km/two hours away,” says Patrick.

Inghams (01483 345 825) offers flights ands accomodation from £700 per person

 

Dimaro, Val di Sole

The small village of Dimaro is linked to the vast Val di Sole ski area via a 10-minute bus ride. The 53km of pistes will suit a group of varying abilities. The Dolomites views are stunning.

Singles specialists Solos Holidays (solosholidays.co.uk) have seven nights half board from £800 including flights from Gatwick, transfers, Solos tour leader, torchlit walk & snowshoe walk

 

Madonna di Campiglio

Madonna di Campiglio in the Dolomites is the most stylish of the country’s resorts, linking in to more than 150km of ski runs.

Enchanted Holidays offers packages 

 

Austria:

St Anton

“One of the world’s most iconic resorts is 70 minutes from Innsbruck or two hours from Friedrichshafen (new Monarch routes from Gatwick and Manchester – monarch. co.uk/ski),” says Patrick.

Inghams (01483 345 825) offers flights and chalets from £500 per person

 

Obergurgl

“At 1930m, Obergurgl stays firmly wrapped in a blanket of snow well into late April,” says Vicky. “The traditional Tirolean resort remains queue-free through the season.”

Inghams (01483 345 825) offers flights and accommodation from £700 per person

 

Mayrhofen

“We could not believe how cheap Mayrhofen was compared to the majority of French resorts,” says Duncan. “Food, drink and lift prices were all very reasonable, making a last-minute trip to Austria very attractive.”

Inghams (01483 345 825) offers flights and accommodation from £349 per person

 

Ischgl

“This is one of the most snowsure resorts in the Alps and highlights the fact with big free concerts at the each end of the season (late November to end April/early May), which have featured Elton, Rihanna, Pink and more,” says Patrick.

Inghams (01483 345 825) offers flights and accommodation from £674 per person

 

Zell am See

The Zell am See-Kaprun ski area is almost an evergreen proposition – the Kitzsteinhorn glacier means the season starts in early autumn and goes on until summer.

Inghams (01483 345 825) offers flights and accommodation from £600 per person

 

Saalbach

Well known for its loud, but not louty, après ski, Saalbach is linked with the villages of Hinterglemm and Leogang, which are quieter choices. All connected with a good lift system and shuttle buses.

Inghams (01483 345 825) offers flights and accommodation from £740 per person

 

Gastein

Combine a ski holiday with a healthy spa break at the Grand Park Ski & Spa programme.

Health and Fitness Travel offers seven nights on the Grand Park Ski & Spa programme from £1,490 per person, including six-day ski pass, return flights and transfers

 

Switzerland:

St Moritz

“Unless you have a private jet to fly to the nearby Samedan airfield, St Moritz isn’t the easiest resort to get to,” says Patrick. “But you can travel seamlessly by rail from Zurich airport to reach one of the world’s best resorts.”

Inghams (01483 345 825) offers flights and accommodation from £1,014 per person

 

Engelberg

“This resort lays on an 11pm shuttle from Zurich airport every Thursday and Friday (engelberg.ch/airport_shuttle), connecting with BA and Swiss flights from Birmingham, London and Manchester airports,” says Patrick. “You can work until 6pm and be in resort at half-past midnight.”

Lowcostholidays offers flights and accommodation

 

Saas Fee

“Arguably one of the most beautiful villages in the Alps, Saas Fee’s traditional Swiss chalets and cowsheds are dominated by 4000m peaks and a glacier that hangs above it,” says Vicky. “This lovely little resort also boasts a vibrant party scene.”

Inghams (01483 345 825) offers flights and accommodation from £404 per person

 

Crans Montana

This beautiful Swiss resort will host the Momentum Ski Festival from March 14 to 17, which incorporates the world renowned City Ski Championships. It’s a brilliant weekend of skiing and live entertainment.

Inghams offers flights and accomodation from £550 per person

 

Verbier

Verbier is not cheap, but a mixed group of people flock to its shops, bars and restaurants, including a piste-side eatery joint owned by James Blunt and Laurence Dallaglio.

Inghams (01483 345 825) offers flights and accomodation from £600 per person

 

Veysonnaz

If you’re not a fan of big and busy ski resorts, try the charming French-speaking village of Veysonnaz in Valais, two hours from Geneva and linked to the ‘Four Valleys’ area with 400km of ski routes.

Owners Direct has an apartment sleeping 6-8, reduced from £1,200 to £650 per week from February 23 throughout March

 

Off the beaten track:

SnowWorld Landgraaf, The Netherlands

“Why risk bad weather? Ski indoors in the Netherlands (snowworld.nl) until midnight on the world’s largest indoor slopes, with over a kilometre of runs, terrain park, and an indoor six-seater chairlift, plus a four-star hotel and activities all on site,” says Patrick.

Maastricht airport 25km away, hotel from €62.95pp per night

 

Jasna, Slovakia

“With flights remaining cheap and a first class train ticket from Bratislava airport to this Slovakian resort a steal, Jasna is a great destination for those looking for a late cheapy,” says Duncan. “The large local clientele keeps prices down in resort too – a pint is less than a euro.”

Zenith Holidays (zenithholidays.co.uk) offer packages to four-star hotels in Jasna

 

Geilo, Norway

“Built in 1920, Geilo is Norway’s oldest alpine resort,” says Vicky. “Perched 800m above sea level on the edge of the Hardangervidda, Geilo is the perfect resort for families and beginners. It boasts an impeccable snow record and minimal lift queues. Plus, with friendly locals, superb après ski and lively huskies, you’ll definitely be charmed.”

Ski Norway (skinorway.co.uk) offers 4-6 person self-catering Vestlia Hotel Cabins from £659pp throughout March, including flights

 

Åre, Sweden

“This is Sweden’s leading ski resort, close to the Norwegian border and now renowned having hosted the Skiing World Cup in 2007,” says Vicky. “With over 46 ski lifts and an average snowfall of 11ft, as well as frozen lake activities, it’s a safe bet for sure conditions. And you might even get to see the Northern Lights!”

Check Ski Star (skistar.com) for deals to Åre and other resorts

 

Soldeu, Andorra

Soldeu’s many north-facing slopes mean its snow record is better than you might think, and access to the huge Grandvalira ski area will keep all levels of skier entertained. We’ve heard many good reports on the ski instruction there.

Direct Ski (directski.com) has self-catering apartments for four people, from £405 per week in March, including breakfast & flights (150m walk from end of coach transfer to apartment)

 

Bansko

Bulgaria is known as a cheap ski option, but there are gourmet accommodation choices, especially if you choose a foodie chalet. Bansko itself, 160km from Sofia, is the country’s most popular resort.

Piste & Peaks (pisteandpeaks.com) offer Chalets Diana and Evalina, from £260pp throughout March, based on two sharing, including breakfast, afternoon tea, four-course dinner with wine and airport transfers

 

UK:

Indoor slopes

“Last minute? You can probably go now if you want and the majority of us are within 90 minutes of real snow on any day in the UK,” says Duncan. “Keep your snow legs and skills up to speed in the UK and definitely learn before you go.”

Sno!Zone (snozoneuk.com) has indoor slopes in Milton Keynes and Castleford and is offering 50 per cent off private lessons throughout February. Use code PRIVATE50 when booking

 

Cairngorm

“Watch the weather at ski.visitscotland.com, and avoid weekends when, if it’s good, they’re swamped. But Scottish skiing is world beating (when weather’s good),” says Patrick. “Short break warning – I did that 27 years ago and I’m still here!”

East Coast trains run to Aviemore from King’s Cross (get the Highland Chieftan at noon) or Scotrail sleepers from Euston overnight (thetrainline.com)

 

Halifax

We kid you not! Another World Snowboarding & Ski Centre is England’s most southerly ski option, and sits outside Halifax. Prepare yourself for a visit when there’s another snow dump, to try out its two miles of cross-country tracks and runs with two lifts and floodlights.

Mountainboarding (mountainboarding.co.uk) has snow reports. Ski passes £12 per day

 

Raise

Raise is a summit along the Helvellyn ridge, where there’s a rope tow lift at 800m. You’ll need to walk for an hour to reach the ski area, but when there’s good snow the bowl offers great skiing and mindblowing views.

The Lake District Ski Club (ldscsnowski.co.uk) has day passes for around £30

 

Best for... Short breaks

Chamonix - This French resort is ideal for last-minute trips with great links to Geneva airport and plenty of accommodation to be had on all budgets

Best for... Star spotting

Verbier - If you can afford the prices Verbier is a perfect place to spot celebrities hitting the slopes. Its après-ski is among the best in Europe too

Best for... The journey

St Moritz - Private jet is the easiest way in for the 1 per cent but for the rest of us the rail journey from Zurich is an equally wonderful way to travel

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