The best places for a ski getaway, from Swiss glitz to America’s ‘Greatest Snow on Earth’
Europe, according to the best estimates, has 3,962 ski resorts with 24,000 miles of slopes and no fewer than 16,743 ski lifts.
Add in some 523 American resorts and 297 in Canada and that’s an awful lot of resorts to choose from – and plenty of pistes, too.
With all this on offer, choosing where to go can be bewildering – so here’s our guide to help decide on the best resort for you, focusing on ten of the best.
AN ITALIAN FEAST IN AOSTA
Head to Italy’s Aosta Valley for excellent skiing – Courmayeur, pictured, is one of the six main resorts in the region
The Aosta Valley is known to offer skiers top-notch food. Above is a dish at Le Massif hotel in Courmayeur
Italy’s Aosta Valley is a delight for foodies and also has excellent skiing, plus well-preserved Roman ruins on the valley floor.
Most skiers don’t spend much time down there though, as they’ve come for the six main resorts: La Thuile, Courmayeur, Pila, Cervinia (with links to Zermatt in Switzerland), Champoluc and Gressoney.
Courmayeur is perhaps the best pick for intermediate skiers, with red-graded runs aplenty. A highlight is its revolving Skyway cable car that whisks you to 11,300ft and sublime views of Mont Blanc.
Many enjoy these from the brilliant little Bistrot Panoramic, the highest cafe in Italy. Here, an array of local cheeses and hams is served alongside dishes of polenta, spicy sausages, tartiflette (a concoction of potatoes, cheese and onions) and lasagna – all washed down with Cave de Mont Blanc bubbly, if you feel like living it up.
The Aosta Valley has a secretive feel, being the smallest and least populated of Italy’s 20 autonomous regions, with just 127,000 inhabitants, and the compact area allows visitors to sample the different resorts. Close to Courmayeur, La Thuile suits both beginners and intermediates – although there are a few expert runs.
There’s also a link to the French resort of La Rosiere.
Close to Courmayeur, La Thuile (pictured) suits both beginners and intermediates – although there are a few expert runs
The Aosta Valley resort of Pila (pictured) has fine Matterhorn views and intermediate pistes
At Le Petit Skieur restaurant in La Thuile expect gorgonzola and walnuts with heaps of penne. It’s good value at about £10 a head.
The resort of Pila has fine Matterhorn views and yet more intermediate pistes. After a hard day’s skiing, head to Trattoria Praetoria in Aosta town for spaghetti with chamois (mountain goat) ragu. Here, burning calories then putting them back on again is what it’s all about.
Details: Return London to Turin flights from £100 (ba.com). B&B doubles at Montana Lodge & Spa in La Thuile from £229 per night (montanalodge.it), from £385 at Le Massif in Courmayeur (lemassifcourmayeur.com) and from £145 at Hotel La Chance in Pila (hotellachancepila.it). Information at lovevda.it/en.
Those who like their ski breaks with a pinch of luxury ought to head straight to the Swiss resort of St Moritz (above)
St Moritz, with its Gucci and Louis Vuitton boutiques and handful of grande dame hotels that have had swanky makeovers in recent years, is a perfect choice for those who like to ski with a little luxury.
The Kulm Hotel, which is bang in the centre and boasts a top-class spa and elegant rooms, is a good choice.
Details: Doubles for the rest of the season cost from £1,000 a night (kulm.com).
If you stay in a chalet in Ardent, France, you can take a gondola ride to the slopes of nearby Avoriaz (above)
Ardent is a small, peaceful hamlet connected to the slopes of Avoriaz via a gondola.
There are a few chalets with outdoor hot-tubs run by the tour operator Family Ski and childcare is available.
Details: Seven nights for a family of four with two children aged 7-13 at Chalet Les Grolets from £3,356 with all meals, flights not included (familyski.co.uk).
High life: Apres-ski at the resort of Zell am See, which is part of one of the largest ski areas in Austria
Just before the pandemic the charming resort of Zell am See was connected to several neighbouring resorts via a new lift, forming one of the largest ski areas in Austria. This connection allows visitors to enjoy the ‘Skicircus’ comprising Saalbach, Hinterglemm, Leogang and Fieberbrunn – a huge circular route covering 40 miles.
Though many skiers don’t get round to doing the entire route, the possibilities for the average skier staying at Zell am See have expanded considerably.
Quiet Zell, as locals call it, also benefits from being one step removed from the hurly burly. Situated by Lake Zell, with jagged peaks rising all around, it is little surprise the town was early to attract a railway – the Salzburg-Tyrol line in 1875 – resulting in its popularity with summer walkers.
The ancient centre is carless and characterful, with a fine stone church boasting a parapet from 1514. But its focal point is the distinguished Grand Hotel Zell am See, opened by the lake in 1894.
Inside, crystal chandeliers and a sweeping staircase dominate the entrance, while a glittery gold bar overlooks the placid water and evocative adverts from the 1920s and 1930s decorate the walls. All is refined sophistication, as though time has stood still for a century.
Zell am See’s skiing is diverse and interesting, even if you do not cross to the Skicircus. Enjoy challenging runs or stick to the many intermediate slopes. The joy of skiing here is seeing Lake Zell spreading out through the mist below: awe-inspiring.
Details: Return Gatwick-Salzburg flights from £86 (easyjet.com). Transfers take 1h15m from £26pp each way (ski-lifts.com). The Sporthotel Alpenblick has rooms from £120 per night (alpenblick.at). Information at zellamsee-kaprun.com.
OFF THE BEATEN PISTE
Hit the 130 miles of slopes in the Grandvalira area of Andorra (above)
Tucked away between France and Spain in the Pyrenees, the tiny principality of Andorra enjoys excellent skiing as well as duty-free shopping. So first hit the 130 miles of slopes in the Grandvalira area and then hit the shops.
Details: Seven nights from £799pp half-board at Neilson Hotel del Clos, with Gatwick flights (neilson.co.uk).
Venture to the beautiful Rondane National Park out in the wilds of central Norway to perfect your cross-country skiing
Cross-country skiing has taken off among those after a fitness break and who enjoy the peace and quiet out on the trails. A spectacular option for this is the beautiful Rondane National Park out in the wilds of central Norway.
Details: Seven nights from £1,275pp, including flights, at Spidsbergseter Hotel (inntravel.co.uk).
WINTER IN THE WILD WEST
On a ski break in Park City, Utah (above), you can enjoy the charming buildings and historic tours of the Old Town when you’re not on the slopes
Park City in Utah, one of the venues for the 2002 Winter Olympics, is renowned for its excellent snow conditions – the local tourist board’s motto is ‘The Greatest Snow on Earth’.
The Old Town has also retained its history from the American Wild West, with charming buildings, a museum and historic tours, in case you want a break from the slopes.
Details: Seven nights staying at the Best Western Landmark Inn, flights not included, costs from £801pp, (igluski.com).
ENDLESS FUN IN CANADA
Discover endless runs for all levels at Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia
Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia is one of the biggest ski resorts in North America. There are endless runs for all levels, including plenty of options in the 8,100-acre area for anyone seeking off-piste adventures.
There is also a lively village with 200 restaurants.
Details: Seven nights from £1,271pp staying at Listel Hotel Whistler with Heathrow flights (crystalski.co.uk).
Piste of the action: Borovets in Bulgaria (pictured) was declared the best spot for adult skiers in the Post Office’s annual Ski Report
In its annual Ski Report, the Post Office declared the resort of Bansko in Bulgaria as the best value resort in Europe for families – and Borovets as the best for adult skiers.
Skiing may be limited compared to the Alps but prices for packages and for eating out while there are rock bottom.
Details: Seven nights at Malina Village in Borovets from £401pp self-catering with Gatwick flights (balkanholidays.co.uk).
You’ll find first-class accommodation to match anywhere in the Alps at the French resort of Meribel (above)
Meribel is in Les Trois Vallees – Europe’s largest connected ski area with 380 miles of runs.
For years its slopes have been associated with British skiers and visitors have traditionally stayed in simple chalets.
But lately more nationalities have been coming and there’s been a five-star spillover from glitzy neighbouring Courchevel 1850.
The result is first-class accommodation to match anywhere in the Alps.
Antares is a case in point. A luxurious new apartment-hotel with 64 sumptuous rooms, a first-rate clinic/spa and ski-in, ski-out access, plus its own boot room.
Time to unwind: Above is the luxurious pool at the new Antares apartment-hotel in Meribel
Antares offers 64 sumptuous rooms, a first-rate spa and ski-in, ski-out access, plus its own boot room
There are two sleek little bars, but no restaurant.
Instead, guests order from a restaurant-style room service menu to have delicious food whisked up to their apartment. It’s a far cry from ski accommodations of old.
Antares is next door to Hotel Le Coucou, a stylish enclave opened in 2019 and created by the renowned French designer Pierre Yovanovitch.
Above is the pool at the stylish Hotel Le Coucou in Meribel, which opened in 2019
Hotel Le Coucou was created by the renowned French designer Pierre Yovanovitch
Above is one of the ‘extra comfy and cosy’ rooms at Hotel Le Coucou
Rooms are not as lavish as at Antares and are designed to be extra comfy and cosy.
Details: Seven nights at Antares, with flights, from £3,134pp in an apartment sleeping eight (oxfordski.com). Information at antares-meribel.com and meribel.net.