Photo: © Sepp Mallaun/LechZuersTourismus
5 of the Best Ski Areas in Europe
Issue 26 / 10 December 2019
5 of the Best Ski Areas in Europe

Our guide to our favourite ski areas in Europe offering some of the finest skiing and snowboarding in the world.

Serena Norton

When it comes to choosing where to go on your annual ski trip, it is important to consider which resort has the best ski area. A good ski area doesn’t just guarantee you miles of skiing all for the cost of one lift pass, it also gives you choice. If it's slushy head for the higher slopes, or if it's icy go for the sunnier side of the mountain. With lifts being constantly updated and ski touring on the rise, ski areas are evolving year on year. With this in mind, here are a few of our favourite ski areas, offering some of the finest skiing and snowboarding around.

Les 3 Vallées

As one of the largest ski areas in the world, this list would not be complete without including Les Trois Vallées. Linking seven resorts and spanning 600 km, this iconic ski area has 166 ski lifts and 328 downhill pistes. Since 1971, the resorts of Courchevel, Meribel, Val Thorens, Les Menuires, Saint Martin de Belleville, Brides les Bains and Orelle have been linked on one ski pass by lifts and slopes.

With the majority of slopes sitting above 1,800m, you can pretty much guarantee good conditions throughout the season. The ski area is great for all levels of skier or boarder. Particularly useful for beginners are the “Easy Rider” zones which are marked as pink on the piste map and designed to offer less experienced skiers wide pistes with gentle slopes.

Each resort within the Three Valleys has its own distinct character so whether you are looking for somewhere family-friendly like Saint Martin de Belleville or more glamorous like Courchevel, this renowned ski area has you covered. The region is also home to an incredible 17 Michelin-star restaurants including L’Ekrin in Meribel and Le Montgomerie at Le K2 Altitude in Courchevel 1850.

Portes du Soleil, France & Switzerland

Named after the mountain pass that connects Morgins and Les Crosets, Portes du Soleil is made up of 12 resorts crossing borders from France to Switzerland. Just an hour’s drive from Geneva, the area is very accessible and with 650 km of terrain, 360 ski slopes and 30 snow parks, it is not surprising that it has become one of the most popular ski regions in the last 50 years.

Receiving on average 7.83 metres of powder between mid-November to April, the snow conditions are usually good. The area has a great range of slopes from easy blues to some of the most challenging pistes in the Alps, including the infamous “Swiss Wall”, a particularly tricky mogul field on the border between France and Switzerland. Avoriaz is great for freestylers and more advanced skiers whilst Morzine and Les Gets are perfect for beginners and families.

Fans of ski safaris can ski uninterrupted on a designated circuit which takes in nearly all the resorts in one day. The itinerary usually takes six to seven hours, so make sure you leave enough time to make it back to your accommodation before the lifts close!

Matterhorn Ski Paradise, Switzerland & Italy

Despite not being the largest ski area in Europe (360 km), Matterhorn Ski Paradise is certainly one of the most beautiful. Straddling the border of Switzerland and Italy at almost 4,000m altitude, the Matterhorn Ski Paradise is the highest winter sports area in the Alps.

From Zermatt in Switzerland to Cervinia in Italy, you can experience spectacular panoramas of the Matterhorn and surrounding peaks. The majority of the 145 pistes are red (61.5%), making this a great ski area for intermediate skiers. A snowpark on the Swiss side and a beginners park on Sunnegga offers plenty of fun for freestylers.

Despite sharing the slopes, the two resorts couldn't be more different. Zermatt is your typical Swiss chocolate box resort where cars are banned in favour of electric taxis or horse and carriages. Designer shops line the streets alongside gourmet restaurants, luxury chalets and five-star hotels. Cervinia, is more affordable, extremely laid back and very Italian. Whatever your style, this is a ski area to be enjoyed by everyone, if only for the views.

Milky Way, Italy & France

Located in the Val di Susa, 79 km west of Turin, the Milky Way ski area (otherwise known as Via Lattea) is a combination of six resorts stretching from Sestriere on the Italian side to Montgenevre just across the border in France. Thanks to the Pattemouche - Anfiteatro cable car, you can now also reach the ski area from Pragelato.

Spanning 400 km of pistes, the resorts range from family-friendly Claviere to party-centric Sauze d'Oulx. There is also a great range in altitude from 1380m in Cesana to 2035m at Sestriere. With high-altitude bowls, larch forest tree skiing and three Olympic pistes, the ski area is a paradise for intermediate skiers. Beginners will find Sestriere and Montgenevre the most friendly and there are Baby Fun Parks located in Sansicario and Sauze d’Oulx.

The Via Lattea resorts are renowned for excellent food. With over 30 high-altitude refuges serving up a range of traditional dishes you won't go hungry!

The Arlberg, Austria

As the largest interconnected ski area in Austria and one of the five largest in the world, the Arlberg certainly deserves a spot in this list. Offering 305 km of spectacular downhill skiing, 88 state-of-the-art cableways and diverse runs on-and off-piste, the Arlberg is definitely worth a visit.

Known as the ‘cradle of alpine skiing’, the ski area stretches from St. Anton to St. Christoph, Stuben. Zurs, Lech, Oberlech, Schocken and Warth. With an average of nine metres of snowfall each winter and 70% of pistes with snowmaking facilities, the Arlberg is one of the most reliable ski areas in terms of snow cover.

The best way to explore the whole region is on the ‘Run of Fame’, an 85 kilometre-long circuit with an 18,000m difference in altitude, from St.Anton/Rendl via Zurs and Lech to Warth and back again.

The Arlberg is known for its lively apres-ski - St. Anton, in particular, is home to some of the ski scene’s most famous bars including the Mooserwirt and Krazy Kanguruh.

"This trailblazing ski area has been receiving international acclaim ever since the first ski race in the Alps at Arlberg in 1904..."
The Telegraph
"This trailblazing ski area has been receiving international acclaim ever since the first ski race in the Alps at Arlberg in 1904..."
The Telegraph
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