Europe provides a multitude of places to ski, and you’re sure to find a ski resort to suit your needs. From families with small kids to glacier skiing, Europe has a lot to offer.
Although the European ski season typically begins in December, it’s possible to ski in Europe all year round thanks to some super-high peaks. Zermatt in Switzerland and Hintertux in Austria are two resorts that offer skiing 365 days a year. Summer skiing is also available in France, Italy and Scandinavian countries.
The snowiest months in Europe are January to March. Late-season skiing in April and May is often cheap, with the added bonuses of quiet slopes and sunshine. Lower resorts will lose their snow depth faster than higher resorts outside of the peak months, but many resorts close with an excess of a metre’s snow depth on the higher slopes.
The best ski resorts are often not the most popular! Families with small kids are best off picking small resorts as they tend to be uncrowded and difficult to get lost in. Try the car-free Obergurgl in Austria, Melchsee-Frutte in Switzerland or Ylläs in Finland for a different family experience.
Those looking for large areas to explore can try the Portes du Soleil in France/Switzerland, Monterosa in Italy or Zermatt-Cervinia in Switzerland/Italy. For challenging, steep terrain, try Chamonix in France, Verbier in Switzerland and St Anton in Austria. Anyone looking for off-piste only should head to La Grave in France — the mecca for many celebrated skiers.
To mingle with the rich and famous, visit Klosters or St Moritz, both in Switzerland, or Courchevel in France. Aprés ski kicks off every night in the part resort of St Anton in Austria, Méribel in France and Hemsedal in Norway.
If you’re on a budget, consider skiing in the Czech Republic, Bulgaria or Poland. Make sure you pick a resort that has modernised its lift system, and you’re sure to enjoy all the benefits offered by the more popular European ski resorts. You can compare your shortlist of resorts via websites such as On The Snow.
European culture varies from country to country. In general, ski resorts tend to be laid back and friendly to tourists. If you’re worried about not speaking the local language, try a larger resort where they’re used to tourists from all over the world, or book your accommodation with a British tour operator who will help take care of everything on your behalf. Tour operators often sell catered stays, where breakfasts and dinners are cooked for you, and airport transfers either either included or can be arranged.
The cost and type of food will also vary with each country. Most restaurants in ski resorts offer the local cuisine, which is often potato-based to keep energy levels high during the colder months of the year. Prices and quality are likely to vary, and don’t be afraid to check the menu before agreeing to eat somewhere.
Travelling to most European ski resorts involves little risk. Always check the government’s travel advice before departing. Make sure your ski insurance covers your destination. Also make sure you book your accommodation through a reputable company, and if you decide to book directly with an independent owner, make sure you verify their contact details with the local tourist office. If you have new skis or a new snowboard, bring your own lock and use it. With many airlines charging for sports equipment, it's often better to hire once you're in the resort. You can also match the equipment to the conditions to maximise the fun.
Make sure you know the local laws. If you’re hiring a car at the airport, make sure snow tyres are included, and check if you need to carry snow chains. In many countries, if you cause an avalanche off-piste, you’re legally required to notify the local ski patrol.
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