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
Friday 15 February 2013
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
“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; skiweekender.com) offers midweek or weekend breaks from £280pp including lift pass and transfer
“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; pyrenees-holiday.com) offer packages from £230pp for a family weekend
“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.
Mark Warner offers flights and chalets from £612 per person
“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.”
Stay in Neilson’s (0844 879 8155; neilson.co.uk) catered Chalet Le Lac Blanc for seven nights from March 16, from £542pp with Manchester flights
“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 offers flights and accommodation from £524 per person
“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 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.”
Mark Warner offers flights and chalets from £643 per person
“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 offers flights and chalets from £518 per person
“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 offers flights and chalets from £564 per person
“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.”
“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 offers flights and chalets from £564 per person
“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 offers flights and chalets from £309 per person
“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.”
The Ski Club’s (skiclub.co.uk) Freshtracks Touring Skills Weekend (three nights in a hotel, one in mountain hut) costs £499
“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)
“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.”
Mark Warner offers flights and chalets from £757 per person
“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 (puremountainholidays.com) has catered chalets, starting from £395pp for seven nights
“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
“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
“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 has seven nights half board at Hotel Regina (absolutelysnow.co.uk/hotel-regina) from £445 in February, £395 in March and £295 in April
“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.”
Mark Warner offers flights and chalets from £617 per person
“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.”
Mark Warner offers flights and chalets from £450 per person
“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.”
Ski Club Freshtracks (020 8410 2022; skiclub.co.uk) offer an Italian powder and piste holiday, departing March 2. £795, including seven nights half board, three-star hotel, Ski Club leader, three days with instructor and coach transfers
“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
“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.
Club Med (0345 025 9323, clubmed.co.uk) introduced three or four-night short breaks for the first time this season. Flights, transfers, tuition, lift pass included from £1,155pp
“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.
Ski Solutions (020 7471 7700; skisolutions.com) has four nights B&B at the three-star Panda Hotel for £995pp, with Heathrow flights and transfer
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 for £785 including flights from Gatwick, transfers, Solos tour leader, torchlit walk & snowshoe walk, departing March 2
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 (enchantedholidays.co.uk) is offering free six-day ski passes for all guests travelling on weeks beginning March 16 and 30
“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.
Mark Warner offers flights and chalets from £579 per person
“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 offers flights and accommodation from £704 per person
“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 offers flights and accommodation from £349 per person
“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 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.
Mark Warner offers flights and accommodation from £579 per person
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.
The nearest airport is Salzburg. Neilson (neilson.co.uk) has seven nights half board at Berger’s Sporthotel from £669pp based on two sharing, including flights and transfers, from March 23
Combine a ski holiday with a healthy spa break at the Grand Park Ski & Spa programme.
Health and Fitness Travel (0845 5441936, healthandfitnesstravel.com) offers seven nights on the Grand Park Ski & Spa programme from £1,490 per person, including six-day ski pass, return flights and transfers
“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 offers flights and accommodation from £1,014 per person
“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
“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 offers flights and accommodation from £404 per person
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.
From £575 including flights, transfers, three nights B&B, race entry, two lunches & dinner. (020 8410 2022; skiclub.co.uk/events)
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.
Design hotel The Nevaï (hotelnevai.com) has four nights for the price of three from Mondays to Thursdays in April, including buffet breakfast, one-hour massage and taxes. From 166 CHF per person per night
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 (ownersdirect.co.uk) 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
“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
“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
“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’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)
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
“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
“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)
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 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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