Family tradition dictates that at this time of year Mr R starts to panic that we’ve left booking next year’s half term ski trip too late, albeit that we are completely undecided on where to actually go. “We” consists of Mr R (expert ski level – up and ready to go at the crack of dawn, even though his off-piste skiing allowance has been somewhat curtailed by his mean wife when he became a Father). The 13 Year old (a fearless danger mouse like her Dad. Not so up and ready to go at the crack of dawn, but can be blackmailed into surfacing with food typically, and is usually fully awake by the time she jumps off the first lift), the 11-year-old (a skier of reasonable skill, not quite as fearless as his Father and older sister, but can chuck himself down most mountains without mishap (touch wood!). Doesn’t need blackmailing to get out of bed of a (ski holiday) morning, but will need feeding periodically throughout the day). And last, but not least, next year they will be joined by the one who scares me the most if I am honest, the now three-year old. The child is tank-like in so many ways, and I am sure will be as fearless as ever when he has a pair of skis attached to his feet. And me? I can actually ski, but as I have said countless times, I just don’t love it. I do however love the mountains, and am happy to wander (often with snow shoes), enjoying the scenery (and taking a billion photographs), the après skis, and if I am honest, the peace and quiet whilst everyone else is piste happy. That’s why I agree to go nearly every year…
As I am somewhat of a novice compared to my other half, I think my ski trip tally (where we’ve actually stayed somewhere, not including when we lived with mountains on our doorstep and could just visit!) amounts to around 5 trips compared to his countless ski jaunts.
As he’s a bit of an oracle when it comes to European slopes – especially those in France, Austria and Germany, I thought I would do a mini interview/pester him to come up with a list of where he has actually stayed and skied in Europe, in the hope that it might inspire a few people/help us to decide where to go, and/or whether or not to venture further afield.
This can also serve as a record for the future when he’s old and forgetful… We don’t have much time left to book for half term, or before he’s too old if we are honest (I am joking!)…
At 2100 metres, you are pretty much guaranteed decent snow in Tignes. It also has the Grand Mott Glacier on its doorstep which reaches the heady heights of 3,400 metres. It’s not the prettiest of resorts as it’s so very high up (it’s perfect if you love a bit of concrete architecture however), but it’s great fun, and has a brilliant lift system. If you want to head further down the mountain to find prettier scenery (no trees grow above 2000 metres!), you can ski down to Tigne Les Bois/Brevier, where you can find great restaurants too (just don’t stay too long or you may miss the last lifts up again and have to get a taxi all the way back – speaking from experience!!). Tignes Les Bois is also a really beautiful place for snow shoe walking.
This has to be THE destination for the expert/more experienced skiers. It’s definitely not somewhere to book for a week if you are a beginner, as there are just two slopes to speak of, and the rest of it is all off piste. It’s probably not great for a family ski holiday (unless you don’t like them very much) as it’s famous for something like 1,500 vertical metres of un-pisted incredibly challenging skiing. Easily reachable from nearby Alpe D’Huez if you fancy visiting for the day but not staying in the area. A guide is recommended here, as are Avalanche alarm systems.
One of the most iconic French resorts close to the Italian border. It really does have something for everyone at every level although more advanced skiers will get the most out of it. Val D’Isere has Great pistes, brilliant night life, more of a “refined crowd” (apart from when we visited!), and just the most incredible back country off piste options. Tignes is also in easy reach. Also a much prettier, more traditional looking resort than many of the higher up French Resorts. A really lovely fun place to stay with great night life and some truly lovely ski chalet options. Would come high in my list of favourites*.
Les Deux Alpes:
Guaranteed snow all year around thanks to the Glacier at 3570 metres. It’s also home to one of the best snow parks in France. Les Deux Alpes is North facing so the snow is usually very good, but because of this it can feel super cold. You can also get to La Grave via the lift system here by the way if you are feeling brave enough ((lift passes from Deux Alpes cover La Grave too – see above).
A lively snow sure resort that has a glacier at 3300 metres. It’s also one of the world’s largest, with some 80 ski lifts and 150 odd miles of piste. More charming than Les Deux Alpes, but it is quite modern in style so for a more rustic location, stay in nearby Vaujany. Alpe D’Huez also boasts the world’s longest black run – the Sarenne which is ten miles long.
Val Thorens is the highest ski resort in Europe at 2,300 metres, the highest point in the Three Valleys ski-region. The skiing is fantastic, and it also boasts brilliant nightlife. It’s another resort at a really high level so it’s snow sure, and you can ski from the door onto typically perfect snow which is a big plus. This also makes it a good option for skiing with kids. A resort that offers great options for many other winter sports/activities too. Another favourite.
Les Menuires is good value, and a great base for the Three Valleys. Not the prettiest resort, but you can head to Val Thorens in one direction which at 2,300 metres is guaranteed snow, and on another day you could head in the other direction and spend the day skiing in the more expensive prettier resorts of Meribel and Corchivel.
Definitely not as well-known as many of the above resorts, Pra Loup is in the Southern French Alps, and not typically on the British skier’s radar. A brilliant place to begin your off piste explorations, and a great place for many other snow adventures…
A Very extensive ski area just south of Salzberg. Not all that high, so you must check snow levels before you go. If the snow isn’t brilliant, hop on a bus and head to the glacier at Kaprun. Because it’s not always snow sure, Saalbach is a good option for other winter sports such as winter mountain biking, and snow shoeing.
Kaprun/Zell am See:
An hour and a half from Salzburg, Kaprun is home to the Kitzenstein Glacier, so you are guaranteed snow even when there’s not much in the surrounding mountains. The new lift system makes it great for all levels of skiers. Lower down, the same pass covers Zell am See which is full of traditional alpine scenery. Beautiful in the summer months too…
Just east of Innsbruck, this iconic Tyrolean resort is home to the famous Hahnenkamm downhill race – viewed by many of us on Ski Sunday. Extensive lift system that stretches all the way down the valley over two provinces and 7 municipalities. Good for all abilities. We loved Mittersill in particular, with a lift directly on the doorstep.
Brilliant for families, nothing too challenging, modern/fast lifts mean no queues with one or two hidden gem restaurants with live bands etc. More challenging skiing can be found in the black runs above Söll and Ellmau nearby. Scheffau was home to the school ski club, and holds many fond memories for the Small People as the very first place they skied.
Söll is included in SkiWelt, the largest linked skiing region in the world. It has 280 km of pistes, and some 90 odd high speed lifts. Ski Welt includes Brixen im Thale, Ellmau, Hopfgarten, Going, Kelchsau, Scheffau, and Westendor. Soll is particular popular with a British crowd, and has some great night life to boot. Plenty of North facing slopes so the snow tends to be good.
Known as the cradle of alpine skiing, St Anton is probably my favourite resort, with legendary Apres Ski that starts at the top of the slopes. Full of charming Alpine scenery, this resort has amazing off piste options, but also plenty of skiing for all other levels. A good family holiday choice option.
Reit Im Winkel:
Reit Im Winkel literally translates as “right in a wrinkle” and because of this, it often gets great snow when other German resorts don’t have much. Known as the Tyrol of Germany, Reit Im Winkel is great for families, as there’s nothing too challenging (the Steinplatte is your best bet for something a little more difficult!). A great cross country skiing resort too.
Garmisch is home to Germany’s highest mountain The Zugspitze, and makes for a snow sure break. The glacier at the top of is shaped like a huge bowl so is good for basic off piste skiing. A downside used to be the lift system, although the new lift should solve some of that. Also great for all levels, and will be forever remembered by us as the place we spent the night at the top of a mountain in an iglu.
Definitely the smallest mountain/resort on the list, but it’s a brilliant beginners option just 3 hours from Copenhagen. If you are based there or in Southern Sweden, and a snow trip elsewhere isn’t on the cards, Isaberg is a great place to take children to learn, or for you to keep your skills up.
Meri – Teijo:
Close to Salo in the South of Finland, a good option for a day trip. Mostly red and blue runs so great for beginners or Intermediates with some good cross country loops. Or you can head North to Finland’s much larger mountains.
Andermatt is legendary for its off piste and free riding adventures, and is fantastic value for Switzerland. Incredibly pretty resort with traditional streets filled with chocolate box wooden buildings and fondue restaurants a plenty. Best for intermediate and advanced skiers, although there are good ski school options available – you must book well in advance for these though. In my top four favourite resorts.
Crans and Montana are two towns that share a ski area. Extensive Skiing, probably best suited for beginners and intermediates. Really pretty slopes, with great views, catered by a good modern lift system. Another place where you can ski to the door.
Nb. This is a list of the resorts Mr R has stayed/skied in in Europe – with a couple of extras thrown in if you happen to be staying in Denmark/Southern Finland. If you have any European resort you would like to recommend, please do add them in the comments section below!
*this is a collaborative post, all words and opinions are my own (and that of Mr R!)…