Top ski resorts in Europe

Rachel Greene-Taylor
Written by: Rachel Greene-Taylor
Posted on: 3 December 2015

Whether you’re a seasoned pro, or you’re hitting the slopes for the first time, there’s a mountain out there for everyone.

Family-friendly resorts, Austrian après ski, or snow parks for the daredevil freestylers – Europe has it all.

Read on to find out the right resort for you.

Beginner skiers

Children beginner skiers

Children beginner skiers

The first time you look at a mountain can be terrifying. Chair lifts and cable cars are hard to get on, and even harder to get off. The key is to find a resort with enough runs to allow you to slowly build confidence.

Ski runs are classified by:

Green
Gentle for beginners
Blue
Easy for novices and intermediates
Red
Medium for advanced intermediates
Black
Hard for the more advanced and experts

If you’re a beginner then you want to stick to green and blue slopes. They aren’t very steep, and it’s much easier on the knees when snowploughing.

It’s also a good idea to find resorts with the best ski schools. Get a good instructor, and you’ll be flying down blue slopes in no time.

The best resorts for beginners

  • Alpe D’Huez – France
    With 42 green runs and 37 blue runs this is a beginner’s heaven.
  • Pamporovo – Bulgaria
    Eleven easy slopes to learn on, English language ski lessons and great value for money.
  • Val di Fassa – Italy
    Long, wide runs make this a great place to find your ski feet.

Advanced skiers

Advanced skier on a steep slope

Advanced skier on a steep slope

If you can link your parallel turns and sudden moguls don’t bring you out in a cold sweat, then roll on the red runs. Black runs are a little more taxing, and don’t attempt going off-piste unless you’re a very experienced skier.

The best resorts for advanced skiers

  • St. Anton – Austria
    With many steep Double Diamond black runs, and tons of winding reds, St. Anton is fantastic for the more experienced skier.
  • Chamonix – France
    Ski the 12-mile Vallée Blanche, and make the most of the 190 red runs and 21 black runs.
  • Verbier - Switzerland
    Tortin and Gentianes are famously steep runs, often covered in moguls. Although many mistake them for black runs, they’re not groomed or avalanche controlled.

Family-friendly

Family on ski lift

Family on ski lift

Cheaper, family-friendly resorts for mixed abilities and with good ski schools aren’t hard to find in Europe. Try to get accommodation as close to the slopes as possible; otherwise you’ll be the one carrying your kids’ heavy equipment, as well as your own.

The best resorts for families

  • La Plagne, France
    Made up of 10 villages, La Plagne has a lot to offer all types of families - from a children’s playground for the little ones, to terrain parks for the more adventurous teens.
  • Laax, Switzerland
    Modern apartments and easy access to the slopes make this a must for families. Time it right to watch one of the big international freestyle competitions the resort hosts.
  • Obergurgl, Austria
    Great if you’ve got teenagers that are pushing their skiing boundaries. As well as English speaking instructors, the village is quite small and friendly with typical Austrian charm.

Après ski

Après ski men sharing a pitcher of beer

Après ski men sharing a pitcher of beer

Eat. Ski. Party. Repeat.

If you don’t want to crash to bed after a long day on the slopes, then you need to check out resorts with good après ski.

Whether you want to chink your bottles of Pilsner, or down Jägerbombs into the early hours, there are resorts aplenty in Europe.

The best resorts for après ski

  • Val Thorens – France
    With the Folie Douce bar on the slopes, and Malaysia – the biggest nightclub in the Alps – on the strip, Val Thorens is a party hotspot. Don’t forget to check out the highest pub in Europe, The Frog and Roastbeef, and the Saloon bar.
  • Ischgl - Austria
    Although St. Anton is the ‘go-to’ for Austrian après ski, we think Ischgl is worth highlighting. A bit more expensive than other Austrian resorts, but still cheaper than most in France and Switzerland, it’s a party paradise. We recommend the Trofana Alm, the Schatzi Bar and the Kuhstall.
  • Livigno – Italy
    Livigno has around 150 bars, more than any other in the world. In 1960 it was granted tax-free status to attract skiers, so although it’s not the prettiest resort, it’s good value for money. Head to the Stalet Bar at the foot of the Carosello lifts, Tea del Vidal at the base of the Mottolino gondola and Daphne’s Pub for a good Irish knees-up.

Freestyle

Freestyle skier sliding down a railing

Freestyle skier sliding down a railing

Terrain parks are home to half pipes, jumps, rails and much more. Jumps are often graded so you can build up slowly. No point in launching yourself through the air if you can’t land the jump…

  • Cervinia – Italy
    Cervinia is easily the best resort for freestyle riding in Italy; the Indian is a 400-metre long terrain park with lines for beginners, intermediates and experts. There’s also a fast chair lift that swiftly takes you to the jumps, rails and boxes.
  • Laax - Switzerland
    With four terrain parks, from beginner to expert, and Europe’s largest half pipe, Laax attracts freestylers from all over the world. And now there’s even more to explore with the resort’s Freestyle Academy – an indoor centre for practice sessions on icy days.
  • Avoriaz – France
    Avoriaz was the first French ski resort to build a terrain park back in 1993, and freestylers now flock to the superpipe and the Stash – a natural obstacle run scattered with tree trunks.

What else to consider

  • Wear a helmet
    Sure, it’s difficult to look cool, but helmets are becoming more and more common on the slopes. Safety first.
  • Lift passes
    If you’re a beginner, you probably won’t need an all-area pass to explore the entire resort. Many resorts have free lifts for nursery slopes, but chances are you’ll be too advanced for these within a few days. Your ski school will advise you on what’s best.
  • Get lessons
    Beginners should always have lessons. No matter what people say, skiing is not like riding a bike – you don’t just ‘get it’, and you can’t live your life in snowplough.
    If you’re an advanced skier, lessons are still good to perfect your technique, tackle moguls or for going off-piste. Otherwise, think about getting a guide to make the most of the mountain’s nooks and crannies.
  • Ski-in, ski-out
    Chalets and hotels right near the lifts can be a little pricier, but it can be worth the extra money, especially if you have kids. After a long day on the slopes, there’s nothing worse than trekking back to your accommodation carrying skis and poles, in uncomfortable ski boots.

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