Fluffy powder fields, adrenaline-inducing black runs and kilometres of smooth slopes set against snow-capped mountains – just a few of the things that make the Alps a skiing adventure playground. But when planning your Alpine break, with 26,000 kilometres of pistes and more than a thousand resorts to choose from, you may be unsure where to start. We’re here to help, with a quick round-up of the best spots in the French, Austrian, Swiss and Italian Alps.
You can ski straight from your doorstep when staying in the French Alps
The French Alps are home to some of the largest ski resorts in the world, which means you can spend days exploring runs without hitting the same piste twice. In Les Trois Vallées, one lift pass gets you access to eight interlinked resorts, while Les Portes du Soleil connects 13 resorts across France and Switzerland. For experienced skiers, there’s also the Sarenne in Alpe d’Huez, known as the longest black run in the Alps and offering 16km of smooth skiing accompanied by sweeping snowscape vistas. Many French chalets and resorts offer ‘ski-in ski-out’ accommodation with long pistes that lead you right back to your doorstep. Including Hôtel Grandes Rousses in Alpe d’Huez, which also has a luxurious spa and wellness centre perfect for relaxing after attempting the challenging Sarenne black run. After a long day on the slopes, you can refuel with traditional Alpine dishes like raclette or tartiflette, a Savoyarde (the local region) speciality of potato gratin, crispy bacon lardons and heaps of melted Reblochon cheese. When it comes to getting to the resort of your choice, there are various options and combinations of train, taxi and bus routes but hiring a car and getting there under your own steam is generally the most convenient.
Adrenaline-fuelled skiing in the Austrian mountains
In the Austrian Alps, you’ll find vast powder fields to make all your ski dreams come true. Popular resorts like Mayrhofen, Kitzbühel and Sölden also boast some of Europe’s best snow parks. What's more, you can swap your skis for a pair of snow boots to explore the lively après-ski scene that many Austrian resorts are known for. If you prefer a winter holiday on the quieter, extra relaxing side, pick one of Austria's many small mountain villages, lined with cosy chalets where you can sample local delicacies like Kaiserschmarrn – a fluffy, chopped-up pancake doused in fruit compote and a generous sprinkle of icing sugar. Check into Mayrhofen's charming Hotel Garni Glockenstuhl and enjoy the on-site spa and winter garden.
Sunshine, snow and incredible Swiss views
Switzerland may be small, but it packs in some of the world's mightiest mountains. And many of Europe's highest altitude ski resorts, including The Matterhorn, 4 Vallées and Saas-Fee (Saas-Fee's highly rated Hotel Alpenperle has some splendid Swiss mountain views). A nation stretching across the Alps, it boasts peaks towering over 4,000 metres and endless imposing glaciers. But don’t let the terrain daunt you – even the biggest mountains have picturesque runs for both beginners and intermediates. Many Swiss resorts offer luxury accommodation as well as budget options, ranging from traditional Alpine chalets to indulgent spa stays. For a break from the pistes, there are a lot of winter activities available like tobogganing and dog-sledding, or you can spend the day wandering the cobbled streets of your mountain village.
Italy’s Dolomites have got ski runs for a range of abilities
If you want a family-friendly Alpine getaway, head for the Italian Alps. Resorts like Livigno and Alta Badia impress with scenic slopes for all abilities and a distinctively laid-back approach. Another draw is the rustic cuisine. Think nutty Fontina cheese, dry-cured Prosciutto di San Daniele and bowls of hearty zuppa valdostana soup (really more of a hearty beef and cheese casserole). Compared to Austria, France or Switzerland, ski resorts in Italy tend to be less busy, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less impressive. If you’re up for a challenge, you can attempt the Sella Ronda; this round-tour circuit wraps around the Sella massif in the Dolomites mountain range. Expect idyllic Italian mountain views from your self-catering apartment at Bellavista, should you choose to stay in Livigno.