The one question those of us who work in the ski and snowboard business are always being asked is: ‘Where is the best place to ski and snowboard?’
This, of course, depends on what experiences you are looking for from your winter sports holiday and with such a vast array of resorts around the world, each with their own unique atmosphere and attractions on and off the piste, there is something for everyone.
The best-known resorts in Europe are popular and world-famous for a good reason and here we take a brief look at what they have to offer during the 23/24 season.
Zermatt, Switzerland: Nestled in the Swiss Alps, Zermatt remains a firm favourite for skiers and snowboarders seeking a perfect blend of tradition and luxury.
This season skiers and snowboarders can take a ride on the Matterhorn Glacier Ride 11 which links Zermatt with the Italian village of Cervinia. Passengers ride in luxury cabins on what is now the highest cable car border crossing in the Alps.
Visitors can also join in the festivities surrounding the Gornergrat Railway which is celebrating its 125th anniversary. Opened in 1898, it is one of the highest cog railways in Europe and carries passengers from the centre of Zermatt to the top of Mount Gornergrat, site of a former observatory, at 3,089m.
The resort, located in the shadow of the iconic Matterhorn Mountain, offers an extensive network of on-and-off-piste runs for all levels of expertise. The attractive car-free village is renowned for its upmarket hotels, gourmet restaurants, and luxury stores.
Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, France: The first Winter Olympics was held in Chamonix in 1924, and to mark the 100th anniversary there will be celebrations on and off the slopes, starting on 3 February 2024, with a Flag Tour through the town.
Although this famous resort has become a magnet for adrenaline ski and snowboard junkies, the five different areas that make up Chamonix – Grands Montets, Les Houches, Le Tour/Balme, La Flegere and Le Brevent – ensures that there is something for everyone.
With a backdrop of Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest peak, the historic town is steeped in tradition and offers a vibrant nightlife and après ski scene. The Aiguille du Midi cable car provides access to high-altitude skiing and fantastic views.
St Anton, Austria
St. Anton am Arlberg, Austria: An extensive terrain that links with Lech, Zürs, and St. Christoph, means there are plenty of options for skiers and snowboarders of all levels. This, coupled with a legendary and lively après-ski atmosphere, has enabled St. Anton to consistently rank among Europe’s top ski destinations.
Foodies are also well catered for, and the gastronomic range is as diverse as the skiing and snowboarding. There are more than 90 different restaurants to suit all budgets and tastes, plus cosy mountain huts offering traditional Austrian menus. This season there are new restaurants in the Galzig Mountain Station.
St Anton village exudes Tyrolean charm, and the resort is a favourite among those seeking both challenging slopes and a vibrant nightlife.
Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy: A combination of Italian style and impressive skiing and snowboarding opportunities, make Cortina d’Ampezzo in the Dolomites a top pick. The town itself is a fashionable destination with boutiques, gourmet restaurants, and a lively social scene.
Many resorts are taking steps to be more ‘eco-friendly’, and Cortina is doing its bit with the opening of the Cortina Skyline gondola lift.
The new gondola starts at Son dei Prade and connects the Tofana area with the 5 Torri allowing access to the entire ski area Falzarego and Lagazuoi. This reduces the need for bus and car transport and this in turn lessens any environmental impact. Using this gondola enables skiers and snowboarders to connect with the Dolomiti Superski area, which claims to be the world’s largest ski circuit.
Verbier, Switzerland: Situated in the Four Valleys, Verbier has been voted ‘Switzerland’s Best Ski Resort’ for the fifth time in six years in the World Ski Awards 2023. Its lively après-ski scene, luxury chalets, and a reputation for hosting high-profile events, makes Verbier a magnet for the international jet set. The stunning views of the surrounding peaks and the Mont Fort glacier add to the allure of this premier Swiss ski and snowboard destination.
This season skiers and snowboarders can test their skills on the Verbier Race Experience, a brand-new dedicated area at the top of the La Tzoumaz – Savoleyres sector. With a state-of-the-art timing system and an exhilarating giant slalom course featuring around 15 gates, it’s open to everyone.
Val d’Isere, France
Val d’Isère, France: The worldwide fame of Val d’Isère has been built on its reputation for reliable snowfall and the length of its season during which skiers and snowboarders can take advantage of the extensive mix of challenging slopes and pistes you can cruise down while taking in the views. It links with Tignes to form the large Espace Killy ski area. The Savoyard architecture in the village adds to the overall appeal of Val d’Isère.
This season a slope on the Bellevarde will be known as Gypaète. This is the name of the bearded vulture which is one of the symbols of the Val d’Isère area. Special features have been added to the slope including a vulture-themed ski-through tunnel, an arch to mark the start, a giant feather that plays like a xylophone, a slalom, and more.
Val Thorens, France
Val Thorens, the highest ski resort in Europe at 2,300m, has been named ‘Best Ski Resort in the World’ at the annual World Ski Awards 2023. It is part of Les 3 Vallées which claims to be the largest interconnected ski area in the world with 600 km of pistes and 162 lifts.
Val Thorens celebrated its 50th anniversary last season and this coincided with the opening of the €40 million Le Board sports, wellness and business centre right in the heart of the Savoyard village.
Other recent major investments include two new state-of-the art lifts linking Val Thorens with Orelle which are now in operation in both winter and summer.
Top Ski Areas 2023/2024: A Summary
This is by no means an exhaustive list of top ski resorts in Europe, but it provides a flavour of the diverse range of options available to skiers and snowboarders this winter.
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