Deciding where to ski in Europe is no easy task – the skiing, scenery, snow, and culture vary hugely by region and resort! The best skiing is often within the somewhat confusingly large ski areas with multiple resorts and miles of lift-linked slopes. To help you out, we’ve teamed up with our local experts including Leo and Heather to pick out the best ski resort to base at.
If you’re up for some exploring, there’s no better place to experience it all than at Courchevel. Courchevel consists of four villages and offers the most balanced selection of greens, blues, reds, and blacks in the 3 Valles ski area. If you’re willing to splurge, the village of Courchevel 1850 makes good sense. It is the largest of the four villages, complete with luxury accommodation, impressive fine dining and a wealth of other activities. Being part of the largest lift-linked ski area is another major drawcard here and there is certainly more than enough for weeks of fun.
Zermatt is an iconic ski destination with slopes that serve something for everyone from beginners to freeriders; but that’s not the only reason why we love Zermatt. Sitting beneath the unmistakable Matterhorn, the scenery here is unmissable. Like many of the recommended resorts on this list, Zermatt's a special place with a bustling, historic centre and a thriving tourist economy year-round with no shortage of luxury stores and delicious dining options on and off the mountain. Everything here is expensive, from lift tickets and lodgings to dinner and drinks, but you definitely get what you pay for.
With high altitude slopes and almost guaranteed snow, it’s no wonder why Val-d'isere in the Espace Killy ski area is so popular. The resort has some great terrain for confident intermediates although some trails are more difficult than their color grading suggests. Overall, we prefer Val-d'isere for its thriving valley town with a friendly, bustling vibe, at least by French standards, and huge numbers of chalets, hotels, and apartments. In our opinion, this is more of an atmospheric place to stay than neighboring Tignes, and you have the advantage of a few local tree runs.
Chamonix is a classic ski town, home to expert skiers. It's dark location in a gorge is a superb spot for deeps and steeps however it lacks relaxing intermediate runs, and even fewer beginner slopes. If you’re seeking long greens or gentle cruises, you might want to consider elsewhere, such as Zermatt. Furthermore, Chamonix is spread across several separate ski areas, linked only by buses and not by lifts so you’ll need to hop on a bus (or bring a car) to reach the other areas on the lift pass. Argentire, Le Tour and several other hamlets are quieter alternatives, but aren’t really any more convenient for getting around the different ski areas.
Val Gardena is one of the most popular resorts in Italy and for good reason especially when the resort has arguably the most beautiful mountain range in Europe. While there may be a lack of advanced terrain, it's easy access to the Dolomiti Superski area and the iconic Sella Ronda circuit opens up a vast amount of terrain to explore! Decent lifts generally keep crowds and queues at bay, though there are a few pinch points on the main circuit. Of the three towns here, Selva is our pick for the best place to stay as it gives most convenient access in Val Gardena.
The town of St Anton has some of the best apres ski and nightlife in Ski Arlberg whilst retaining plenty of genuine charm. All it took was a couple of gondolas to link the slopes of St Anton, Lech, Zürs, Warth and Schröcken, to propel Ski Arlberg to the top in terms of size. St Anton has an excellent lift system, reliable snow and its slopes are generally tougher than those in Lech so you can see why this resort is so popular. Keep in mind that accommodation can get expensive, especially if you head into Zürs.
Being part of Switzerland's largest ski area, the 4 Valles, Verbier offers impressive mountain scenery and stacks of off-piste skiing for experts! Advanced and adventurous intermediate skiers will love Verbier for its insane terrain, however there isn't a great deal of easy terrain for beginners. Several resort bases vie for attention, but only Verbier is well-known to the English-speaking market. For that reason, crowds can be an issue and worse here than anywhere else in the 4 Valles. The town has a bustling feel with plenty of high-end accommodation and places to eat and drink. Being in Switzerland, you don’t have to have bottomless pockets, but it certainly helps.
Of the two ski resorts which make up France’s third biggest domain, Paradiski, Les Arcs has a distinct advantage over La Plagne. It has a better designed and quicker lift system which allows you to spend more time on the slopes. While there are blues and reds to be found across the Paradiski ski area, steep runs and off-piste routes are quite the drawcard at Les Arcs. Meanwhile, there are hardly any green runs, so near-beginners might do better in La Plagne. Generally speaking, the lowest villages are prettier and quieter places to stay, while the higher outposts have some brutal architecture but quicker access to the slopes.
With over 168 mi to explore in the Skicircus, there’s no better place to base yourself than at Saalbach or Hinterglemm. Both offer tons of long intermediate runs and occupy central positions in the impressive ski area: sizeable, real valley towns a couple of miles apart. Of these, Saalbach probably edges it for charm and nightlife. If you’re not the type to hit the après ski early, Hinterglemm is home to night skiing and a night park. Regardless, expect to party all afternoon and well into the night at the slopeside bars and in town at Saalbach-Hinterglemm.
Sitting on the French side, Avoriaz offers easy access to Portes du Soleil, one of the world's largest ski areas and provides relaxed, cross-border cruising. The local slopes are linked directly into the main skiing circuit and often have the best conditions in the area. Avoriaz has one of the best snow records in the Alps, but also relatively low altitude elsewhere in the ski area which increases the risk of rain low down. Avoriaz offers varied, scenic skiing of all difficulty levels and its convenient location means access to several towns and villages such as Chatel and Morzine within Portes du Soleil.