With such fantastic conditions in Europe this winter, it’s hard to resist nipping away for a weekend of skiing.
If you’re pushed for time and want to cram in as much skiing as possible, these resorts are a short drive from either Geneva or Innsbruck airports.
Seefeld: 30 minutes from Innsbruck airport
This traditional Tyrolean village and Olympic ski resort has a lovely pedestrianised centre chock full of restaurants, bars, smart hotels and even a casino. And the skiing’s not bad either – swap between the range of easy and intermediate slopes in the Rosshütte and Gschwandtkopf downhill areas, parts of which reach 2,065m. And if you can’t get enough skiing during the day, squeeze in a few more runs on the floodlit slopes at night. It’s one of Austria’s biggest centres for cross-country skiing too, with 256km of trails.
Les Carroz/Samoëns: an hour from Geneva airport
In spite of its huge size and variety, the Grand Massif is still quite an underrated ski area. Purpose-built Flaine – home to rather too much brutalist architecture – is probably the best known of its resorts, but if you want something more French, try the villages of Les Carroz or Samoëns. The latter is the only French ski resort that’s been classified as a national monument, which gives a clue to its attractiveness. Les Carroz is just as cute, and has the bonus of tree-lined pistes that come in handy on stormy days. Don’t miss out on the 14km Cascades run that starts above Samoëns and ends at Sixt, a short bus ride away.
Le Grand Bornand/La Clusaz: an hour from Geneva airport
These two neighbours are the main resorts in the Aravis mountain range, which has its own snowy microclimate despite its relatively low altitude. “Grand Bo”, as Le Grand Bornand is usually called, has all the charm you want from a typical Savoyard mountain village – plus a covered market, 19th-century church and an ice-skating rink. Slightly larger La Clusaz is just as pretty, and between the two of them they cover 215km of pistes. You can get a lift pass that includes both as well as the smaller resorts of Manigod (where there’s night skiing) and St-Jean-de-Sixt, and all are connected by shuttle buses.
St-Gervais: an hour from Geneva airport
Sharing the Evasion Mont Blanc ski domain with its chic neighbour Megève, St-Gervais has the relaxed air of a 19th-century spa town with a life beyond the ski resort. (And prices are generally lower here than in Megève.) Once you’ve checked out the town’s thermal baths and Olympic ice rink, hit the 325km of slopes that cover the area and enjoy heavenly views of Mont Blanc. Join the party at La Folie Douce at the top of Mont d’Arbois before taking the sheltered wooded runs back into town.
Mayrhofen: 65 minutes from Innsbruck airport
If you want some classic Austrian après-ski combined with high-altitude and snow-sure slopes, head to the lively resort of Mayrhofen. Confident intermediates and fans of terrain parks flock here (Vans Penken Park is one of the best), joined by advanced skiers ready to take on one of Austria’s steepest slopes, the Harakiri black run. Then there’s the chance to do some glacier skiing on Hintertux, which is linked to Mayrhofen. Keep up the icy theme with igloo parties at the White Lounge Igloo Village, and if you can come in early April, you’ll be in time for Snowbombing, one of the biggest festivals in the Alps.
St Anton, Austria: 70 minutes from Innsbruck airport
In St Anton, the slopes are as hardcore as the après-ski bars and clubs – the place for some of Austria’s most raucous nightlife and some fabulous freeriding. The skiing isn’t ideal for beginners, but if you’re in a mixed group, you can make use of the cableway that links St Anton to other resorts in the Arlberg region – notably the exquisite village of Lech. If you want a break from the party, indulge yourself in the indoor and outdoor heated pools at the eccentrically named but very relaxing ARLBERG-well.com spa complex.
Chamonix: 70 minutes from Geneva airport
The extreme-skiing capital of the world has some of the best off-piste skiing you’ll find anywhere on the planet – all in the shadow of Mont Blanc. Then there’s the cable car that takes you up to the 3,840m Aiguille du Midi and the infamous 24km off-piste run of Vallée Blanche. For a thrill of a different sort, head up to the glass-floor viewing platform Aiguille du Midi Skywalk, where you’ll hover over a drop of 1,000m and feel more than a little freaked out.
Sölden: 71 minutes from Innsbruck airport
Get a taste of the high life in Sölden, where you can ski on not one but two glaciers – Tiefenbach and Rettenbach. The après-ski scene is as exciting as the skiing, with clubs and bars that go on till 3am. If you want a change of scenery, check out the new 007 Elements museum, which celebrates the world of James Bond in a setting that would make a Bond villain feel at home.
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