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12 best ski resorts across Europe

From Andorra to Austria, this is where to get your snow fix this winter

Colin Nicholson
Wednesday 28 February 2024 20:33 GMT
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Where are the best places to ski in Europe? 13 wild destinations that aren’t the Alps

People often ask “which is the best ski resort?” – but there are as many answers to that question as there are types of skier and snowboarder.

Beginners will want to be on different pistes to speed demons, while young families might not like the après haunts favoured by party animals.

There are also trips to the slopes by train for the more sustainably minded, great value and catered chalet breaks (depending on your budget) and winter wonderlands for walking if your partner doesn’t fancy skiing.

Climb every mountain: there are as many ski resort options as there are types of skier (Getty Images)

With so many snow sports destinations to choose from, here’s a selection of resorts chosen with certain types of skiers in mind, to help your 2024/2025 winter holiday go as smoothly as a groomed green run.

Read more on skiing holidays:

The Three Valleys, France

Best: By train

You can reach the Three Valleys by train (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

You can reach many ski resorts in Austria and Switzerland by train (see snowcarbon.co.uk) but none is as convenient as the direct service from St Pancras to the French Alps.

Eurostar cancelled its popular service in 2020, but tour operator Travelski Express stepped in to offer direct trains as part of a package deal that includes ski passes and accommodation in certain resorts.

In 2022 it added more resorts, including two more in the massive Three Valleys ski area: high-altitude Val Thorens and chic Courchevel. You travel out on Friday night so you can ski for seven days in the world’s biggest ski area and return the following Saturday evening.

Borovets, Bulgaria

Best: On a budget

Borovets is one of the best-value European ski resorts for adults (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Borovets in Bulgaria came second in the Post Office’s annual survey of best-value ski resorts. But what’s it like?

The 58km of slopes are spread over three distinct sectors. The highest, Markudjik, has Alpine-like views across snowy peaks. In Sitnyakovo, beginners’ pistes wind through dense fir forest crossing steep red and black runs with views of the modernist village.

And if you take the egg-shaped, fibre-glass gondola (straight out of the 1980s) to Yastrebetz, you have spectacular views across the plain.

The instructors are good, most hotels have pools, and excursions are affordable. So it’s the hands-down choice for those on a budget – or was until Crystal Ski launched even more budget package holidays to Bosnia-Herzegovina. Now that’s a destination for the adventurous.

Jungfrau, Switzerland

Best for: Non-skiing partners

Grindelwald, Switzerland has plenty to do on and off the pistes (Getty Images)

What to do if you ski and your partner doesn’t? Go to Switzerland, where trains double as ski lifts, and a service from Zurich airport cuts the journey time to the Jungfrau region by an hour.

Here you can both visit Mürren’s revolving Piz Gloria restaurant – the setting for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – with its clifftop (but safe) walking routes. And you can recreate Bond’s famous chase, while your partner takes the cable car back down.

It is mostly walkers who take the railway inside the imposing north face of the Eiger to the restaurant overlooking the Aletsch glacier stretching 23km into the distance. Again your partner can race you down – in a train that trundles alongside the piste.

For a more equal contest, try Grindelwald’s slopes, where the pistes criss-cross runs full of tobogganers through quaint villages.

Pays de Gex, France

Best for: A short break

Resorts in the Jura mountains are just 20 minutes from Geneva Airport (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

It may come as a surprise that Geneva, which has a steady stream of low-cost flights, has resorts that are just 20 minutes to an hour’s drive away.

Pays de Gex, in the Jura mountains, has three such downhill ski areas: Lélex-Crozet, Mijoux-La Faucille and Menthières. All are small, traditional communes where lift passes start at €20 a day.

For cross-country skiing, head to La Vattay-Valserine with its 130km of trails.

Söll, Austria

Best for: Après

Get your apres kicks in Soll (Getty/iStock)

Austria is the undisputed home of après-ski and few venues can rival the famous Mooserwirt bar in St Anton. But for somewhere less expensive try Söll.

The party town is popular with younger crowds with its large, club-like venues and is part of the giant SkiWelt area. This in turn has teamed up with another big area, KitzSki, a three-minute bus ride away, to offer a combined pass. So you can earn your beers doing a circuit involving 88km of descent covering an astonishing 17,000 vertical metres in a day.

As long as you don’t overdo it on the schnapps, you can reach the slope where Dave Ryding became the first Briton to win an Alpine skiing World Cup race in Kitzbühel in 2022. Ski hard – celebrate harder!

Ruka, Finland

Best for: Santa

Santa’s slopeside in Ruka (Getty Images)

Finland is a favourite for young families wanting a winter holiday that focuses on visits to Santa, Northern Lights watching, cross-country skiing, dog and even reindeer sledding, as much as downhill skiing.

For a long time, there were just two main options – Levi and Ylläs. But a third resort, Ruka, is catching up fast, with a new gondola and a new village with a more Alpine feel than its rivals.

The skiing couldn’t be more different to the Alps, though. At this latitude the sunrise/sunset bathes the rime-covered fences in a pink light for just a few hours each day, after which the slopes are floodlit. The pistes are fairly short, though you might be grateful for the excuse for hot chocolate breaks when it’s cold, and most of the cabins and apartments have saunas to warm up in.

You can ski in Ruka any time until early May, however British tour operators only offer packages and direct flights until early February.

Geilo and Voss, Norway

Best for: Late-season family skiing

Geilo is still snowy late in the season (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

If you’re looking for an Easter break, any of the higher resorts (as well as lower Austrian ones, which have invested heavily in efficient snow-making) will guarantee snow-covered pistes. But for those looking for a winter wonderland, Norway keeps its snowy garb for longer.

The “green line” light rail service from Bergen airport means you can reach resorts such as Geilo, with its 34km of pistes spread over two sides of the valley, with just one change of train.

And it’s worth stopping at Voss, with a 3S gondola that takes you direct from the platform to the slopes. The connections from here are so good that you can leave the slopes after 3pm and be in the airport at 5.30pm for your evening flight back home.

Innsbruck, Austria

Best for: A city ski break

Innsbruck city is backdropped by 13 ski resorts (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

A city ski break is ideal for skiers who like the bright lights too, and this season 23 of Innsbruck’s cultural attractions are covered by its Ski Plus City Pass, includingLumagica – an outdoor light show at the Hofgarten palace.

All 13 of Innsbruck’s resorts are 15 to 75 minutes from the city centre by tram, bus or train, and they include the Stubai glacier, with its 42km of runs, and Kühtai, one of the highest resorts in the Alps.

For the most spectacular views over the city, try the Nordkette, which you can reach from a new terminal in the city centre. And don’t feel self-conscious; you’ll see plenty of other people in ski gear in the heart of this buzzing university city.

Grandvalira, Andorra

Best for: English-speaking instructors

Andorra’s a dream for ski tuition (Getty Images)

Tiny Andorra still manages to be one of the biggest destinations for British skiers. One of its greatest attractions, apart from the sunshine, is the number of native English-speaking instructors.

A further attraction this winter is that its three ski areas have banded together to offer countrywide ski passes. So skiers on the lofty 210km of Grandvalira pistes that stretch from Pas de la Casa to Canillo via Soldeu can now buy passes giving access to the more tree-lined 63km of slopes of Pal-Arinsal or the 30km at freeride mecca Ordino-Arcalís and vice versa.

Getting between the areas still involves buses (though tour operators hope to lay on coaches for day trips, if there is demand), but you can take the opportunity to go duty-free shopping en route in the capital, Andorra la Vella, which also has the giant Caldea thermal spa.

Dolomiti Superski, Italy

Best for: Scenery (and history)

Tour the trenches on two skis in the Dolomites (Getty Images)

Every resort boasts spectacular scenery, but the rose-tinted rocks of the Dolomites are especially eye-catching. And in the Dolomiti Superski area, you get prime views as you do clockwise and anti-clockwise circuits of the magnificent Sella Gruppo massif, which is in the centre of an area that has a mass of pistes to explore, coming off it like the spokes of a wheel.

The area is known for its restaurants, but history buffs will also jump at the chance to do the Grande Guerra circuit – a tour on skis of the trenches and fortifications of the First World War, when this area was fought over between the Austrians and Italians. The tour finishes with a ski lift with a difference – a horse-drawn sled that tows you to Armenterola.

Bad Kleinkirchheim, Austria

Best for: Spas

Bad Kleinkirchheim combines on-piste fun with decadent off-piste spas (Getty Images)

For spa-lovers, there can only be one country of choice – Austria. Its hotels are replete with a mass of steam rooms, saunas, indoor and outdoor pools and relaxation rooms in which to soothe aching muscles and reacquaint yourself with numb digits after a day on the slopes.

So how to choose between them? Well, for those who like southerly, sunny skiing and affordable prices, Ryanair this winter is flying direct to Klagenfurt from Stansted and Manchester. From here, the spa town of Bad Kleinkirchheim is just 50 minutes away.

The picturesque ski-in/ski-out resort has 103km of pistes, including the challenging Franz Klammer run, as it is home to Olympic downhill legend Franz Klammer. Perhaps you’ll even bump into him in the steam room...

Tignes-Val d’Isère, France

Best for: Chalet lovers

The catered chalet is the height of luxury (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

A combination of tighter labour laws, Brexit regulations, Covid fears and staff shortages meant that what was one of the most popular ways of going on a ski holiday – the catered chalet – all but disappeared in 2020.

However, after making a comeback post-pandemicin the form of the “contactless chalet”, where you find all your meals pre-prepared in the fridge and have breakfast delivered every day, keen skiers are slowly shifting back to the wined and dined lifestyle of chalet board luxury.

In Val d’Isère, one of France’s most famous resorts and an off-piste mecca, the chalets don’t come cheap, but for those lusting for the most convivial of holidays and fireside evenings, it might be just the ticket.

Heading for the pistes with the whole family? Here’s why Abruzzo in Italy should be your next ski holiday

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