Though the cold winter rain in Europe can drive us bonkers, secretly and way, way deep down we’re excited. Rain in the fall and winter means it’s snowing in the mountains and we can’t wait to be schussing in the shadow of Mont Blanc, sipping wine at après-ski bars and indulging on five-star fondue. Before you plan your next alpine adventure, take a look at our 7 picks as the best European ski resorts:
Massif des Aravis, France
The French Alps offer more ski and snowboard options than other country in the world. With such a wide variety of terrain and as self-declared Francophiles, it should be no surprise that France tops of our list of favorite countries to ski in. Just about everyone has heard of Courchevel and Chamonix, but we think Massif des Aravais Ski Resorts is where it’s at.
The four connected resorts of La Clusaz, Manigod, Le Grand Bornand and St. Jean de Sixt are all covered under one ski pass and easily accessible from one another by chair lifts or a shuttle that connects La Clusaz and Le Grand Bornard. It’s a shame that these charming, traditional French villages which have been producers of Reblochon for centuries are often overlooked by the skiers passing by on their way to the more famous ski resorts of the Tarentaise, the heart of the French Alps.
Massif des Aravis Ski Resorts offer 220 kilometers of quality pistes, one of France’s best snow parks equipped with plenty of jumps and a half pipe, unique experiences like ski joering and plenty of activities to keep the non-skiers.
Where to Stay
With ski lifts just steps away from your door and a variety of restaurants and après-ski bars in town, Hotel Les Sapins in the village of La Clusaz is a great choice to make your home base for a Massif des Aravis Ski Resorts getaway.
Slopes 960m to 2600m
Pistes 220km, 45% blue, 27% red, 10% black
Six-day lift pass €203
Chamonix Mont Blanc, France
Chamonix Mont Blanc is the stuff that alpine dreams are made of. Mont Blanc is the tallest peak in Europe and its been on adventurers radar since 1760, when the scientist Horace-Benedict de Saussure first gazed upon it.
Saussure declared that he would either climb Mont Blanc himself or be responsible for the first ascent. He offered prize money to whoever successfully ascended it first, but that prize wasn’t claimed until 1786 by Michael-Gabriel Paccard and his porter, Jacques Balmat. Saussure himself ascended Mont Blanc a year later.
Skiing on Mont Blanc wasn’t introduced until the end of the 19th century and Chamonix fittingly hosted the first ever Winter Olympics in 1924. Just as much as scaling Mont Blanc is on just about every mountaineer’s bucket list, skiing Mont Blanc is on just about every skier and snowboarder’s bucket list.
The resort sits starting from 1042 meters and with a top lift at 3842 meters, Aiguille de Midi is the closest you can get to the summit of Mont Blanc without actually climbing to it. Really adventurous and skilled skiers can descend down the 20 kilometer off-piste Vallée Blanche.
But Chamonix isn’t just for the really skilled. There’s runs for all abilities, a ski school and a kids area.
Where to Stay
The town of Chamonix was recognized early on that it would be a drawn for visitors around the world and tourism started here as early as 1740. There’s plenty of charm, as well as plenty of bars and restaurants to keep visitors entertained après-ski. Rent a luxury ski chalet for your week-long stay with The Oxford Ski Company.
Slopes 1035m to 3842m
Pistes 155km, 16% green, 36% blue, 32% red,16% black
Six-day lift pass €306
Haven’t heard of Arosa? We hadn’t either, and that’s perhaps the point. The exclusive ski resort isn’t a mega-resort, yet has played host to celebrities and royals like Prince William and Duchess Kate. The postcard-perfect village is set in a bowl created by the 360-degree Graubünden mountains surrounding it and while actually easily accessible by train from Zurich, Arosa feels like you’re thousands of miles from everything.
The 70 kilometers of well-groomed pistes offer the perfect setting for both beginners and thrill seekers looking for more challenging runs. The Arosa ski area is also connected with Lenzerheide – Valbella, where you’ll have access to another 155 kilometers of pistes. And with several pistes above 2500 meters, you’re guaranteed snow throughout the entire season.
Arosa also offers everything from ice skating on a picturesque lake to paragliding over the slope-side town, perfect for entertaining any non-skier while the skiers hit the slopes.
Where to Stay
The Tschuggen Grand Hotel l is more like a friend you go stay with for a while than a hotel. Most of its’ guests are repeat guests throughout the ski season and the hotel gladly stores their ski gear between trips. With amenities like a private mountain railway, an award-winning spa spanning four floors, on-site restaurants including a Michelin-starred restaurant and even a bowling alley, we see why guests return again and again.
Slopes 1740m to 2650m
Pistes 70km, 50% blue, 28% red, 7% black
Six-day lift pass 284 CHF
Alta Badia, Italy
Alta Badia is part of the world’s largest ski network, the Dolomiti Superski. Not only do you have access to the 130 kilometers of pistes that make up Alta Badia, but with a Dolomiti Superski lift pass you can directly access an additional 500 kilometers of pistes via chairlift and over 1200 kilometers of pistes in total.
If that’s not reason enough to go, we’ve had one of the most unique wine tasting experiences in Alta Badia. Each year the ski resort hosts a Wine Ski Safari with six mountain huts all above 2000 meters hosting wine tastings of over 180 different wines from the Alto Adige, Italy’s smallest wine growing region. Ski from hut to hut with fellow wine-loving skiers and sip with 360° panoramas of saw-toothed mountain ranges.
And for the ultimate thrill seekers, Alta Badia is home to Val Scura, or the Dark Valley, where only the most expert of skiers can test their ability. It’s like a badge of honor to declare you’ve climbed up the backside of the mountain and skied down (survived?) the 4.3 kilometer run with a vertical descent of 997 meters.
Where to Stay
Hotel Antines in La Villa is a great base for your Alta Badia ski holiday with lifts easily accessible on foot from the hotel.
Slopes 1300m to 2778m
Pistes 130km, 54% blue, 40% red, 6% black
Six-day lift pass €205
Stubai Glacier, Austria
Stubai Glacier is the largest and snow-surest ski resort in Austria with guaranteed snow from October until June, stretching the ski season to nearly eight months. With state-of-the-art lifts that can transport some 37,000 people per hour, there’s rarely a wait for a lift to access the 62 kilometers of pistes.
And at 3000 meters, the Ice Grotto wows the young and old alike with its cave that cuts through the glacier for 200 meters. The non-skiers can also grab a toboggan or go for a winter hike for their own fun in the snow.
Just one hour from Innsbruck Airport (in good weather, Stubai Glacier is an excellent choice for a weekend ski getaway from many European destinations.
Where to Stay
The Hotel Jagdhof not only looks like it came off a postcard, but it also houses one of the largest wine cellars in Austria with over 20,000 bottles including some rarities and most prestigious wines like Châteaux Mouton-Rothschild. The hotel’s spa also has 20 saunas and steam rooms, which are sure to ease tired muscles after a day on the slopes.
Slopes 1720m to 3200m
Pistes 62km, 39% blue, 23% red, 8% black
Six-day lift pass €173
Gstaad has long been a favorite of the jet set crowd. Celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton and Julie Andrews have all called the Swiss town home at one time or another. The town is chic and a foodie haven with its more than 100 restaurants constantly earning the highest number of points by the renowned Gault Millau, more than any other Swiss region.
When it comes to skiing, Gstaad boasts 250 kilometers of well groomed pistes for every level and with 61 lifts servicing them, we never had to wait for a lift even while visiting on a weekend with perfect ski weather.
Gstaad also has something for everyone with an adrenaline-pumping five kilometer toboggan run to the village of Grund, sleigh rides and an international hot air balloon festival each January in the neighboring village of Château-d’Oex.
Where to Stay
Situated at 1150 meters in the village of Saanen, just minutes from Gstaad, Hotel Solsana has stunning views to the surrounding mountains and the village of Gstaad below.
Slopes 950m to 3000m
Pistes 250km, 50% blue, 32% red, 18% black
Six-day lift pass 327 CHF
Founded by British skier Peter Lindsay in 1938, France’s Méribel Trois Vallées ski area is not only the largest linked ski area in Europe, but also the world. Méribel, along with the six other six areas of Courchevel, Brides-les-Bains, St Martin de Belleville, les Menuires, Val Thorens and Orelle comprise over 600 kilometers of pistes in Les 3 Vallées.
The ski area of Méribel itself sits right in the heart of the Trois Vallées. And thanks to the high altitude with peaks over 2000 meters linking Les 3 Vallées resorts, there’s guaranteed snow all winter long.
Méribel, as part of the Les 3 Vallées, is also a part of Epic Pass. So if you have one, in addition to the network of top ski resorts across the US and Canada, Epic Pass holders ski Méribel and all Les 3 Vallées resorts for free for seven consecutive days.
Méribel, with its Savoyarde chalets, is a true ski holiday scene straight off a postcard. Non-skiers will love the other snow sports, too, like cross country skiing and the 3.4 kilometer toboggan run with its 28 turns.
Where to Stay
When it comes to accommodation in Méribel, the luxury ski chalets are where its at. While the spread out layout tends to mean that most chalets aren’t right in the center of town, Purple Ski offers several ski-in, ski-out chalets such as Bartavelles and Lapin Blanc.
Slopes 1100m to 1750m
Pistes 150km, 37% blue, 40% red, 11% black
Six-day lift pass €260
Val d’Isère, France
France is home to the three largest ski resorts in the world, and Val d’Isère is France’s third largest combining Val d’Isère and Tignes. At five times the size of Whistler/Blackcomb, North America’s largest ski resort, Val d’Isere is enormous. Combining Val d’Isère’s staggering amount of skiing across 300 kilometers of pistes with guaranteed snow through April to May, and arguably one of Europe’s most user-friendly ski areas, this beloved ski resort in the French Alps is hard to beat.
While Val d’Isère and Tignes are technically two connected independent mountains, there is only one ski pass option that covers both areas. It’s incredibly easy to get around the mega ski resort with a system of gondolas, trams and moving sidewalks in tunnels that operate in almost all weather conditions.
Val d’Isère has a reputation for reliable snow cover thanks to its higher position, and regularly holds early season World Cup ski races there. It’s also self-titled as the Most Beautiful Ski Area in the World, making the French Alps ski destination a favorite among both British and Europeans. In fact, Val d’Isère is such a top spot for British skiers that the entire resort is geared up for English speakers and visitors often comment that there is no language barrier.
Where to Stay
With the town right at the base of the slopes, nearly all lodging in Val d’Isère is ski-in/ski-out or just a very short stroll away from the lifts. Hôtel Les Barmes de l’Ours is arguably one of Val d’Isère’s best hotels. It sits at the foot of La Face, Val d’Isère’s flagship black run and World Cup racetrack. There’s a world-class spa, and guests love the bear theme throughour the property with mechanical bears that even roll over or move a paw.
Slopes 1550m to 3456m
Pistes 300km, 57% blue, 25% red, 18% black
Six-day lift pass €378