Expert ski journalist Mary Novakovich brings us her experience-based, tried and tested round up and hand-picked selection of the best ski resorts in Europe.
“The mountains are calling, and I must go.” So said American naturalist John Muir back in 1873, and it’s been echoed by every skier and snowboarder ever since. The call of the Alps is the loudest and most compelling, what with all those French, Swiss, Austrian and Italian mountains clamouring for attention.
But there are a few that stand taller than the rest, and they offer the best ski-ing in Europe, if not the world. When it comes to finding the right ski destination for you this winter, check out these top ski spots.
The Matterhorn is pure magic. You can see its distinctive jagged ridge from many parts of the attractive village down below, but take the cable car to Trockener Steg and ski in the shadow of this magnificent peak. Head underground to the Matterhorn Museum to find out what possessed countless climbers to try to conquer this majestic mountain – as if it ever could be truly mastered.
If you’re travelling by private jet charter, the closest airport is Sion, from where a helicopter transfer can be arranged. Commercial flights go to Zurich, which is a very scenic three-hour train journey.
Don’t let the bling of this glitzy Trois Vallées resort blind you to the fact that there’s some sublime skiing to be had in this corner of the world’s largest ski domain. Daunting couloirs keeps the experts happy, while intermediates and beginners have endless wide pistes to meander along before dipping in and out of the woods. In early 2016, a massive new aquatic centre opened, with waterslides, whirlpools and even an indoor surf pool.
There’s a high-altitude altiport for privately owned jets, but commercially chartered private jets will need to land at Chambéry.
Austria usually wins hands down in Alpine village prettiness, and Lech is among the most exquisite. Although this Arlberg resort attracts a well-heeled crowd and its fair share of celebrities, there’s a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere – and its après-ski makes it almost as lively as its noisier neighbour St Anton. The Arlberg region is the cradle of Austrian Alpine skiing, which you can explore in the 16th-century Lechmuseum Huber-Hus.
Innsbruck airport, at 120km away, is the most convenient and has good rail connections to Lech as well as private and commercial flights.
We have a particular breed of well-born Victorian Englishman to thank for the rapid growth of Switzerland’s most fashionable resort. They were pioneers in bringing winter sports to this lakeside town in the Upper Engadin Valley, especially the heart-in-mouth Cresta Run. The swish town is as big a winter playground as ever, with the Snow Polo World Cup and a gourmet food festival taking place on the frozen lake. A whole mountain, Muottas Muragl, is used solely for non-skiing activities including snowshoeing and hiking. And the skiing itself is superb, especially on Corviglia and its 3,057m peak of Piz Nair.
Private jets can land at Engadin airport, a 10-minute drive away. There’s also a heliport at St Moritz.
Lunch is a serious business in Italy’s chicest resort. It brings out immaculately dressed Italian women in their droves to the mountain restaurants in this breathtaking part of the Dolomites. Afterwards, they descend on the stylish boutiques, leaving the glorious pistes nearly empty for serious skiers. History buffs can explore the Great War Museum, an open-air museum covering 80km of trenches and tunnels in which the Italians fought during the First World War.
Venice Marco Polo airport is your best bet for either commercial or privately charted flights. It’s then a 3.5-hour bus or train/bus transfer.
Mention Verbier and off-piste powder hounds go weak at what’s left of their knees. It’s no exaggeration to say it has some of the best off-piste skiing in the world – and some of the most beautiful, particularly the aptly named Stairway to Heaven and the Vallon d’Arby. There’s a younger, more cosmopolitan crowd here, which makes it one of the buzziest spots in the Alps. And the scenery is jaw dropping, with views of both the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc.
Sion airport is the closest, at 55km away.
This article was independently written by expert ski writer Mary Novakovich.
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