Europe is undoubtedly the most diverse region in the world when it comes to alpine skiing. In Europe, the skiing people will experience all different kind of terrains. From the cold, cold, north on Iceland where skiing happens in Vulcanic surroundings, through the curvy mountains in Scandinavia with their extreme cold and Long nights.
Embedded in the joyful surrounding with family-friendly terrain, the Beginner skier will experience Scandinavia as the right place to start, whereas the more adventurous skier is looking to the south and the Alps where aprés-ski and late-night partying is a must. To the west, the Pyrenees and the Sierra Nevada in Spain combine Tapas and carving whereas, in the eastern part of Europe, the Ural Mountains offer potentially some of the cheapest Heli-Skiing on the globe. In other words, skiing on the old continent is as diverse as it gets!
Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden & Finland)
Starting from the North, skiing resorts in Scandinavia are open for an extended period making it a possibility to ski throughout the year. In Norway, the skiing season can start as early as late October and extend to late summer.
Most approaches in Scandinavia are short, and the maritime climate makes the snow stick to the steep mountainside. The skiing area stretches from Lofoten Islands in the Northwest of Norway to Finland. While the Lyngen Alps in Norway are the hallmark of skiing in Scandinavia, there are wonderful skiing areas in Sweden such as Kebnekaise Massif; however, getting to some of these areas may be challenging due to remoteness and lack of facilities.
The Pyrenees (France, Spain, & Andorra)
For more opportunities and better service, you will need to go directly to the south to the Pyrenees on the border of France and Spain. The Pyrenees are compared to the Alps for offering world-class skiing conditions. While the Alps are famous due to their height and well-known events that took place on those peaks, Pyrenees can match every aspect of Alps.
For instance, the mountain resort of Tourmalet in French Pyrenees is located above 1600m meters and offers a lift that reaches an altitude of 2500 m. These heights are higher than most major resorts in the Alps. Similarly, Mont Blanc also offers altitude much greater than most resorts in the Alps. The height above 1300 m is a beacon to adventure seekers who can’t resist the temptation to enjoy great heights. Other resorts in the area such as Portes de Soleil and Grand Massif are also known for their altitude.
Regarding snow conditions on the Pyrenees, the central High Pyrenees receives more snow than any other area in Europe due to its Atlantic-maritime weather conditions. If you want to be snow-sure, the Pyrenees is the place to go.
Still, the major attractions of Pyrenees are cheaper prices compared to similar areas in Europe. For instance, most resorts in France, Spain, and Andorra charge much less than some of the other major destinations. Once in the main town, the price of snacks, tours, and activities is also one-third that of the Swiss and Italian resorts.
Traveling to the east, just north of the Alps are some of the famous ski resorts of Germany. The plateaus of Germany were made famous by the resort towns of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, which hosted the 1936 Olympics. Germany is more popular with cross-country skiers who relish longer runs and stunning scenery. Garmisch-Partenkirchen is an example of such a resort that offers 7000 feet of cross-country skiing.
Moving south towards the Italian border is the highest resort in Germany, Zugspitze, offering 13 miles of downhill skiing from heights of more than 9000 feet. Due to its height, the winter season starts early compared to other resorts in Germany. Overall, Germany is popular due to its attraction for cross-country runs and snowboarding facilities.
The Alps (Switzerland, Austria & Italy)
To the south of Germany lies it’s crown-jewel, the Alps. Resorts in Austria, Switzerland, and Italy are known for their mind-boggling scenery and ski runs. The largest of the ski resorts in the Alps offer more than 600 km of slopes, while the highest extends to an altitude of greater than 3900 m.
The thirteen resorts of Les Portes du Soliel between France and Lake Geneva in Switzerland allow skiers to ski 580 km using a single pass. Similarly, there are five resorts in the Alps where the mountain height extends beyond 3,500m. Of these, Zermatt is the most well-known among skiers around the world.
These areas are also famous with travelers who just want to enjoy some of the greatest scenes on the planet earth. For instance, the resort of Engelberg-Titlis offers the world’s first rotating cable car allowing everyone to view almost 80 percent of Switzerland on a clear day. The Jungfrau and Interlaken can trace back their heritage to 19th century, and is also famous for its cog railway and cable cars.
In Austria, the small ski resorts of Innsbruck offer limitless opportunities for skiers, families, adventure-seekers, and travelers. Irrespective of the size of the resort in the area, nearly all of these offer more than 1000m of skiable verticals. Families can enjoy some of the best ski schools and snow parks in the world, while there are numerous adventure-runs for snowboarders.
Any mention of skiing in Europe will be incomplete without mentioning Italy. The country offers 5,861 kilometers of slopes and more than 1,804 ski lifts to keep everyone interested. Resorts such as Via Lattea offer more than 400 km of slopes, while the grand-jewel of Italy, Zermatt is surrounded by 38 summits of greater than 4000m.
Our Pick: Best Ski Resorts in Europe
The possibilities to find the best ski resort is so extensive that it’s difficult to opt for one or the other option. Despite endless options, the decision will depend on a large extent on three variables: budget, time and experience level.
Based on these three options, here are some of the best ski resorts in Europe that have something for everyone. Their charm is a combination of history, mountain terrain, and attractions, which continues to draw ski enthusiasts, families, snowboarders, and celebrities from around the world. Here are some of the timeless classics:
Jaca is a region located in the Pyrenees near the Spanish-French border inside Spain. It consists of two world-class resorts, Candanchu and Astun. It’s also a place of great traditions, which boasts beautiful and enviable locations looking across the French border. The rich heritage is conveyed by the alleys of the old city, bars, the citadel, cathedral and other historical buildings of interest.
Candanchú is one of the oldest resorts that have been providing commercial-scale activities since 1928. It also has the unique distinction of the first station to implement fully-certified ski courses, which have kept their quality and fame intact throughout these years. With 40 skiable kilometers, 51 pistes of varying difficulty and 870 meters of variance in elevation, the resort offers numerous tracks suited to all levels.
Despite its age, there is a culture of promoting and introducing new concepts. For instance, the management has created a unique snow park in the area of Tobazo Bajo. Recently, the installation of seven snow cannons and the restructuring of children’s park have attracted families from all over Europe.
For sports enthusiasts, it also houses the only biathlon stadium in Spain – a sport that combines cross-country skiing with target shooting. In fact, Candanchú is a classic resort that has withstood the test of time to be classified as one of the greatest ski resorts in Europe.
A few kilometers away is yet another masterpiece, Astún. If the former was the oldest and most coveted in Aragon, this one, its neighbor, is the most modern. Its privileged location in a valley protects the station from rugged winds and blizzards. The beautiful architecture connects every major ski route to a large central platform, which makes navigation easier than almost any other mega resort in Europe.
The descents are long offering 48 pistes of different difficulties. It’s also valued by snowboarders and athletes who enjoy Snow Park and a half pipe.
To the east lies Granvalira, the most famous ski resort in Andorra. Andorra is often said to be the next big thing in skiing due to its relatively easy access from France and Spain. Besides, ski tickets are much cheaper and the quality of skiing is on par with the best in the world.
Located in the northeast of the Principality, Granvalira is the largest skiable domain of the Iberian Peninsula. There are 110 tracks of different levels of difficulty forming a total surface of more than 200 km. In addition, you will find 3 freestyle areas, 128 slopes, 67 ski lifts, 40 restoration points, which are included in a single pass to enjoy all the skiable territory.
The village of El Tarter is also famous among families. There are lots of pubs and discos to enjoy nightlife. For nature-lovers, they can visit virgin untouched places such as Grau Roig.
When you’re not skiing, try the helicopter flights, hire a snowmobile, test the timed track, build an igloo, or dive under the ice. Some of the tracks are illuminated at night, while 65% of the area can be covered with artificial snow when required.
Isola 2000, France
To the West of Spain in the heart of the Southern Alps is Mercantour Massif, in France. Just 75 km from Nice, Isola 2000 offers more than 120 km of ski area surrounded by immense beauty. The dramatic landscapes of Aúpa and Southern Alps are a beacon for tourists, who flock to the paradise in numbers. The greater number of hours of sunshine makes the trip more enjoyable.
As for the technical aspects, there are 42 different tracks that vary from 1,800 to 2,610 meters in height. Among other options is a huge snow park, Tony Snowland, where you can perfect your bag of tricks or enjoy snowboarding lessons. In the main resort town, there are a lot of tour agencies that offer bus, accommodation and ski passes at affordable prices.
Isola 2000 is also a good example of how ski domains have evolved in recent times. Classic activities such as snow kart, skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing – are joined by skating and horse-drawn carriage rides through the snow. The resort also offers you a chance to relax in a thermal spa center or you can join thrill-seekers for paragliding or speed flying.
Bardonecchia & Via Lattea, Italy
Piedmont is synonymous with breathtaking landscapes and fine dining palates. Any time of year is good reason to visit this Italian region.
Bardonecchia and Via Lattea makes up a spectrum of possibilities. The first of these is a classic resort, which is more than 100 old. It’s a fine destination for those seeking quality facilities and first-class snow.
In contrast, Via Lattea is a very extensive complex that offers more than 400 km spread and 200 tracks. Still, the crown jewel among its five stations is Sestriere.
Sestriere is famous for glamour and luxury; however, its fame is justified by its long descents of extreme beauty. Due to the versatility, some of the best ski competitions in the world are held at Sestriere. You can also enjoy skiing at night, and experts can launch themselves from almost 3,000 meters high. The place is also well-known for one of the finest snow parks in Europe. Located in the town of Alpette, the park is divided into two areas: beginners and experts. Accordingly, you can enjoy a myriad of activities that includes box, funbox, rail, ride, kickers, wall, quarter pipe, spina, half-pipe, among others.
Innsbruck is perhaps one of the greatest ski resorts in the world. From walks around the city to enjoying ski at the highest slopes, the city has everything in one place. There are also a lot of family slopes in the region, which keeps kids busy.
With a single ski pass, Olympia Skiworld, you can access 9 ski resorts, 90 funiculars and lifts, and more than 300 kilometers of slopes. It’s a paradise for skiers, snowboarders, and lovers of virgin snow. All this comes with the convenience of free buses that depart from Innsbruck. For a panoramic ride, there are various kinds of transport including funiculars and cable cars.
For those looking for a peaceful environment away from the maddening crowd, Patscherkofel is the place to go. It’s visible from miles away due to its prominent radio mast on the peak. A favorite of locals, the area is easily accessible by ski bus. There is a huge snow park located 1900 meters above sea level offering panoramic snowshoe routes and sign-posted piste tracks. Night skiing and cable-car trips also attract fun-seekers.
Skiing in Europe seems incomplete without mentioning Zermatt. Located at the foot of the mythical Matterhorn, it is considered the heart of the Alps. The place is best suited to experienced skiers and those who can afford its high prices.
Zermatt is divided into three areas -Sunnegga-Rothorn, Gornergrat-Stockhorn and Schwarzsee-Matterhorn. All of these areas are interconnected, but they’re accessed from three different points. Overall, there are almost 350 skiable kilometers of high altitude and endless descents enjoying first-class snow. All of these tracks present some difficulty as the percentage of blues does not reach 10%.
There are 23 lifts with a capacity to transport more than 30,000 people per hour. You can enjoy 100 km of intense tracks. Skating rings, snow tubing, cross-country skiing, and a number of snowboard schools complement these activities.
Dating back to 1898, a spectacular and meandering cogwheel train will take you to some of the highest altitudes in Europe. It is possible to climb above 3000m to the top of a viewpoint at Gornergrat peak and enjoy breathtaking panoramas. For a memorable night, you can stay on top at the Kulmhotel.
You can also take a cable car and reach the highest point in Europe: the Matterhorn glacier paradise station. Apart from the views, the place has a renovated restaurant and a truly unique attraction: the Glaciar Palace.