The 10 Best Ski Resorts in Europe

The 10 Best Ski Resorts in Europe – UPDATED 2020/21
Tim Lambourn
Written by Tim Lambourn / Photos by Greg Burke
Last updated May 15, 2020
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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. 

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Known for

Part of the largest lift-linked ski area in the world. Consisting of 3 Vallées, and another four unique luxury villages

Highlights

  • Access to sheer number of runs in 3 Vallées provides endless skiing
  • Efficient lift system even during holiday periods
  • Tobagganing and heli ski available
  • Courchevel 1850 is quite expensive

Closest airports

Chambéry Airport - 70 mi (1.5 hour drive)
Geneva Airport - 88 mi (2.5 hour drive)
Skiing Courchevel French Alps
Ski the largest lift-linked ski area in the world!

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.

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Known for

The iconic Matterhorn scenery as a backdrop to the massive ski area

Highlights

  • Perfect for all, from newbie kids to freeriders
  • Epic mountain scenery is unmissable
  • Luxurious selection of food and accomodation
  • Be prepared to pay a premium here

Closest airports

Geneva Airport - 142 mi (2.5 hour drive)
Zurich Airport - 160 mi (3.5 hour drive)
Zermatt ski resort Switzerland
Taking first place on our list, it's Zermatt!

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.

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Known for

World class slopes for intermediates and experts, almost universally at high altitude

Highlights

  • Lively town center and great nightlife
  • Deserved reputation for reliable snow all season long
  • Fast lift system and modern facilities
  • Poor weather conditions means lifts are shut more frequently than other resorts

Closest airports

Chambéry Airport - 90 mi (2 hour drive)
Geneva Airport - 110 mi (3 hour drive)
Val disere cable car
Enjoy great snow all season long at Val d’Isère

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.

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Known for

Famous mountain town with a lively apres scene and legendary off-piste

Highlights

  • Amidst the most dramatic scenery in the French Alps
  • Easy and inexpensive transfers from Geneva airport
  • Spectacular, jagged mountain terrain with genuinely testing black runs
  • Several ski areas, linked by bus and not by lifts, and very few easy runs

Closest airports

Geneva Airport - 63 mi (1.5 hour drive)
chamonix cable car French Alps
Advanced and expert skiers you don't want to miss on Chamonix

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.

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Known for

Sunny slopes and dramatic scenery to blow your mind

Highlights

  • Incredible scenery of the Dolomites
  • World-renowned snowmaking
  • Abundance of lively apres ski
  • Limited steep and challenging runs

Closest airports

Innsbruck Airport - 72 mi (1.5 hour drive)
Bolzano Airport - 27 mi (50 minute drive)
skiing Dolomites Val Gardena
Explore the incredible Dolomites from Val Gardena

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.

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Known for

Powder and partying in the snowiest corner of the Alps in Ski Arlberg

Highlights

  • Some of the liveliest après-ski and nightlife
  • Masses of steep stuff, particularly off-piste
  • Modern lift infrastructure
  • Few intermediate slopes and accomodation can be expensive

Closest airports

Zurich Airport - 123 mi (2.5 hour drive)
St. Gallen-Altenrhein Airport - 64 mi (1.5 hour drive)
ski arlberg austria
Ski Arlberg is Austria's biggest lift-linked ski area

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.

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Known for

Its status as a freeride mecca thanks to its intense terrain

Highlights

  • Stacks of off-piste to challenge the expert skiers
  • Attractive village and stunning views of the Mont Blanc massifs
  • Great apres ski and nightlife
  • Expensive food and lodging and can get crowded

Closest airports

Geneva Airport - 100 mi (2 hour drive)
Views from top of Mont Fort Verbier
Enjoy the incredible views from the top of Mont Fort or ride down if you dare

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.

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Known for

High altitiude village and interconnected with La Plagne to form an enormous ski area

Highlights

  • Tobogganing and waterslide available
  • Quicker lift system than La Plagne
  • Excellent blacks and off-piste routes for intermediates and advanced
  • May experience high season queues and crowded pistes and few green trails

Closest airports

Chambéry Airport - 85 mi (2 hour drive)
Geneva Airport - 105 mi (2.5 hour drive)
Skiing Les Arcs Paradiski France
Skiing throughout Les Arcs is easy with a few key lifts to take you from one end to the other

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.

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Known for

Attractive village with Europe’s flashiest lift system

Highlights

  • Lots of long, intermediate runs
  • Non-stop party town
  • Plenty of on-mountain dining and drinking options
  • Few black runs for good skiers

Closest airports

Salzburg Airport - 55 mi (1.5 hour drive)
Saalbach Hinterglemm
Explore the Skicircus from Saalbach Hinterglemm

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.

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Known for

Being one of France's snowiest resorts, great for families and friends

Highlights

  • Plenty of runs for beginners and intermediates
  • Wide range of ski-in/ ski-out accomodation
  • Endless winter activities from sledging, diving to overnight in an igloo
  • Low altitude resort base means it may rain instead of snow at times

Closest airports

Geneva Airport - 60 mi (1.5 hour drive)
Avoriaz Portes Du Soleil Alps
Good lift links to the rest of Portes du Soleil makes Avoriaz an ideal choice

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.

The 10 Best Ski Resorts in Europe – UPDATED 2020/21
Courchevel
Zermatt
Val d'Isère
Chamonix Mont-Blanc
Val Gardena
St Anton
Verbier
Les Arcs
Saalbach Hinterglemm
Avoriaz
Courchevel