Fluffy powder fields, adrenaline-inducing black runs and kilometres of smooth slopes set against snow-capped mountains – when it comes to skiing, the Alps are an adventure playground. But with 26,000 kilometres of pistes and more than a thousand resorts to choose from, planning your Alpine ski break is no easy feat. We’re here to help, with a quick round-up of the best spots in France, Austria, Switzerland and Italy.
In the French Alps, you can ski out of the door and back again at the end of the day
The French Alps are home to some of the largest ski resorts in the world – which means you can spend days exploring new runs without having to hit the same pistes over and over again. 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, it offers 16km of smooth skiing accompanied by sweeping vistas.
Many French resorts offer ‘ski-in ski-out’ accommodation with long pistes that lead you right back to your chalet’s doorstep. After a long day on the slopes, you can refuel by indulging in traditional Alpine dishes like raclette or tartiflette – a savoyarde specialty of potato gratin, crispy bacon lardons and heaps of melted Reblochon cheese.
Adrenaline-fuelled skiing in the Austrian mountains
In the Austrian Alps, you’ll find sweeping powder fields to make all your off-piste dreams come true. If backcountry skiing isn’t on the cards, popular resorts like Mayrhofen, Kitzbühel and Sölden also boast some of Europe’s best snow parks. Still have energy left at the end of the day? Swap your skis for a pair of snow boots and explore the lively apres-ski scene many Austrian resorts are known for.
If you prefer a relaxing winter holiday, you won’t be disappointed either. Austrian mountain villages are 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.
Sunshine, snow and incredible Swiss views
For a nation so small in size, Switzerland packs in some of the highest altitude resorts in Europe, including Matterhorn, 4 Vallées and Saas-Fee. Stretching across the Alps, it boasts peaks towering over 4,000 metres and endless glaciers offering fresh snow all season long. But don’t let the alpine terrain daunt you – even the biggest mountains have picturesque runs for both beginners and intermediates.
Many Swiss resorts offer luxury accommodation, from traditional alpine chalets to indulgent spa stays. For a break from the pistes, you can try out winter activities like tobogganing and dog-sledding, or just spend the day wandering the cobbled streets of your pretty mountain village. Wherever you stay, you’ll get a taste of Switzerland’s unique culture – and hopefully, its famous fondue.
Italy’s Dolomites have got ski runs for the whole family
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.
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.