Monday, 8 November 2010

The Best Ski Resorts in Europe

Choosing the right ski resort for a family skiing holiday can make the world of difference, and if you love to ski than what better place than in Europe. Home to the Alps; stretching from Slovenia across the heart of Europe and ending in France, famed as the birth place of Alpine skiing and the host of the winter Olympics on more than several occasions. 

With more than just snow on offer, it’s hard to decide upon the style of resort to visit, which spectacular scenic backdrop to choose or which cultural and culinary adventure you wish to experience, not forgetting the opportunity to hobnob with some internationally renowned characters along the way.

Best Super Resort

Although not the biggest resort in Europe, the seamless connection of Val d’Isere and Tignes make it hard to find another super resort that is well manicured and offers so much variety.  Although neither resort stands out on its own, the area of Espace Killy in France; named after the champion skier Jean-Claude Killy is famed as a master piece in function and is all about the skiing, making it the crop of Europe’s super resorts. 

With 186 miles of piste and an integrated network of 90 lifts, what would normally take you a day or more in other resorts can be done in an afternoon. 

Beginners and Intermediates can choose from huge open bowls, gentle winding trails and altitude “motorways” to cruise, whilst experts have a vast playground littered with steeps, shoots, gullies, cliffs and trees to explore.

Val D’Isere is the bigger of the two resorts and offers a glossier, richer and more traditional ski destination, however Tignes offers more inexpensive accommodation, has quicker access to the slopes and offers bars and restaurants for the modest budget, making it ideal for families. 

Best for Powder

For expert skiers, La Grave, France is the closest thing you will get to heaven, with its combination of ski lift access and unpisted, unpatrolled terrain, there is no other resort in Europe like it.

Starting from the small unassuming village at the foot of the valley, the single 1970’s styled pods will lift you up to 3,200m with the summit of Dome de la Lauze at 3,550m. Although not all routes are death defying, the conditions in the resort are not suitable for beginners or intermediates and it is recommended that you are accompanied by a professional guide as the typical decent offers spectacular open bowls, small chutes, glacier morains and endless steeps and deeps.

Those seeking a cruise on a piste should head down the other side of la Meije into the ski area of Les  Deux Alps. 

The small traditional village resort is basic, and it is all about the skiing here, accommodation is cheap and cheerful and there is no nightlife with the entertainment focused on people discussing their breath-taking descents of the day. 

Best Off the Beaten Track

With empty, sheltered north facing slopes that hold powder for days, Galtur, Austria offers skiing of a bygone age. With just 10 lifts this resort is ideal for families and groups of all levels. Whilst larger resorts can be a nightmare, Glatur offers just one compact ski area with one restaurant in the centre, allowing everyone to ski at their own pace and still meet up. 

The quiet slopes allow for beginners to build their confidence, whilst more experienced skiers can enjoy the laid back vibe and the feeling they are in the mountains, not suburbia.  Whilst the village is traditional and unassuming, if a little on the quiet side, it is great for young families and with a free ski bus linking it to Ischgl you are not to far from the liveliest après-ski action to be found anywhere in the alps.

Best for Real Skiers

For a resort that combines great food, service and charm with some of the most extensive and extreme skiing and après-ski drinking St Anton in Austria is a must. 

With a train that runs right into the centre of the town, this resort is easily reached from airports such as Zurich.  However it has retained much of its character, with skiers still able to ski from village to village stopping in traditional mountain restaurants along the way for food and drink.

Although challenging for beginners, they will soon find their skis, whilst intermediates and expert skiers will enjoy the altitude, steep shoots, cliffs and bowls. 
With two of the most famous bars in the Alps; The Mooserwirt and The Krazy Kangaroo perched on the piste about 500m above the town the après-ski is just as extreme as the skiing. Filling up by late afternoon skiers will delight in dancing on the tables and downing schnapps as they party the night away.