No snow, no skiing, right? But despite reports that many European resorts have been lacking in snowy conditions this winter, there are plenty of other destinations that have been blanketed in powder. You’ve just got to choose the right place – and we say, aim high…
A cluster of villages in the Vanoise National Park, Tignes is Val d’Isère’s laid-back neighbour — the two resorts share many runs. Spread over 300km of pistes at the peak of the season, its highest point, the Grande Motte glacier, is 3,456m. It caters to all ski levels, but is perfect for intermediates who want to be challenged but not terrified.
If you want to chill your ski boots for a while, there are plenty of alternative activities. Moon bikes — electric vehicles to explore uneven terrain — are perfect if your quads and hamstrings have had enough. There is also ice floating in frozen lakes, which might sound brutal but you’re in a dry suit. There are therapeutic benefits but enjoying the mountains in a novel way is the main draw, with many people opting to float at night.
Eat & Drink: For a proper helping of après-ski tradition, look no further than L’Armailly, with a menu of hearty dishes from steak to pizza, or La Pignatta with its juicy burgers. Bazurto, in the new four-star Ynycio Resort, offers Colombian delights for anyone who wants to pause the cheese and munch on grilled prawns and spicy oysters.
Where to stay: The newly-opened four-star Ynycio Resort in Tignes’ Val Claret district is a stone’s throw from the foot of the Bolin chairlift so there’s absolutely no tiresome trudging to do. Breaking from alpine aesthethic tradition found in ski accommodation the world over, Ynycio borrows from the palette of Latin America. There are 33 apartments, all of which overlook the Grand Motte glacier and are kept spic and span thanks to a daily clean.
Nudging the Italian border, Swiss favourite Saas-Fee doesn’t mess around when it comes to snow. Not only are the majority of slopes set between 2,500m and 3,500m; this resort also has one of the largest glacier ski areas in the whole of the Alps, so powder is a given (it’s even possible to ski in summer). The vibe is more low-key than big-name neighbour Zermatt, but you’ll still have a hefty pick of accommodation, après spots and – this being Switzerland – wood-clad restaurants for gooey fondues.
Eat & drink: In the mood for cheese? Compact Dü Saas Fee does all the garlicky moité-moité fondue and raclette with potatoes that you can handle, in a semi-modernised cabin setting. This season will be owner Astrid’s last running the place, so don’t delay a visit. When you’re after a properly buzzy après scene, Black Bull Snowbar delivers fruity cocktails and high-octane fun until the wee hours.
Where to stay: The ski-in, ski-out Ynycio Resort in Val Claret district is a stone’s throw from the foot of the Bollin chairlift. Breaking from alpine aesthetics, Ynycio borrows from the palette of Latin America with chic tan leather, large characterful rugs and understated luxury. There are 33 chic apartments, all overlooking the Grand Motte.
Val Thorens, France
The highest ski resort in Europe, at 2,300m, Val Thorens in the Three Valleys draws the crowds for its energetic après, ski-in/ski-out convenience and – of course – the reliability of its snow. Purpose built half a century ago, it might not have the architectural romance of some more historic hamlets, but it more than makes up for it in striking scenery and top-quality skiing for every level. With 600km of slopes, linked by speedy lifts, plus neighbouring resorts in the wider area to explore, it’s a winner.
Eat & drink: Val Thorens has grown beyond its old student-party rep. You can dig into three-Michelin starred finery at La Bouitte or old-school Savoie specialities (hello, tartiflette) at ski-in Chez Pépé Nicolas. When you want to hit the bar, Rhum Box will serve you up pours of its fruit-infused rums.
Where to stay: Run by the chic Beaumier group, Le Val Thorens channels the 1970s spirit of the resort’s origin story but in a contemporary, cool way. Bask in the rays of the rambling outdoor terrace with a hot whisky toddy in hand or nibble on tacos in the retro 1971 restaurant.
Courmayeur Mont Blanc, Italy
When you want reliable snow-covered runs plus some of the best dining in Europe, Courmayeur Mont Blanc is the place to head. Host to the Peak of Taste culinary event in March, the Italian resort roles out Michelin-starred dinners, wine tasting at altitude and a glut of bangin’ Aosta Valley produce (polenta, cured meats, walnuts and heavenly fontina cheese). Just as well there is plenty of powder on the 42km of intermediate-perfect runs – perfect excuse to burn off those calories.
Eat & drink: The Michelin-starred must is Pierre Alexis 1877, set in a historic building, but it’s far from the only delicious game in town. Baita Ermitage comes with magnificent views of Mont Blanc to match its hearty Italian mountain fare, while Café Quinson gives real throw-back atmosphere alongside its super by-the-glass wine list.
Where to stay: At Grand Hotel Courmayeur Mont Blanc (from £319) rooms come with balconies overlooking the mountain and curl-up armchairs. If you need a break from eating, retreat to its Elysium spa for a muscle-unclenching hot stone massage.
Family-friendly Obergurgl has all you need to get the kiddos skiing – from an excellent ski school (taking children as young as three) to gentle nursery slopes and resorts with pools for après fun. And, thanks to the resort’s setting at 1,930m, it also has reputation for reliable snow up until the end of April. If you want to get seriously high, some of the 112km of piste reach up to a lofty 3,080m.
Eat & drink: Panoramic drinking hole and restaurant Top Mountain Star gets its name from the impressive location: near Wurmkogel peak, 3,080m above sea level. This steel and glass dome provides 360-degree views of the surrounding Ötztal Alps and Italian Dolomites. Restaurant Grüner Stuben will give you the white-tablecloth experience with decadent Tyrolean cuisine, in the heart of Obergurgl village. And Hohe Mut Alm is the traditional chalet-on-high vibe with wood interiors galore and antler-style chandeliers.
Where to stay: Between the roaring fires, wood-beamed ceilings and views over drift-smothered peaks, Hotel Edelweiss & Gurgl (from £218) is unmistakably a mountain hotel; and yet it also feels current, with steely hued velvety furnishings and black-and-white murals. The Edelweiss 1889 Panorama Suite comes with its own infrared sauna, set in what looks like a retro gondola.
Norway isn’t always the first place to come to mind for a ski holiday, but the Sunnmøre Alps have altitude – peaks scrape 1,700m – plus, especially this year, bucketfuls of snow thanks to their northerly latitude. The landscape is unlike anything you’ll find in the central European alpine resorts; rather than land-locked mountains, you’ll descend past luminous blue ribbons of fjord. It’ll take every inch of self-control you’ve got not to snowplough to a halt just to take it all in.
Eat & drink: Little Stranda doesn’t have as many dining options as some resorts, but cosy up in Hygge and dive into a steaming hot coffee and a freshly baked cinnamon bun, and you’ll have all the energy you need to power you through a morning on the slopes. Come dinner, Havsiden does an array of mains – from burgers to mussels in white wine sauce – to satisfy hunger pains.
Where to stay: The Scandi penchant for design comes forth at Juvet Landscape Hotel (from £379), fitted with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the snow-covered forest and minimalist furnishings. It’s an hour from central Stranda though, so if you want more central try the modern Stranda Hotel.
With its 1,620m elevation there may be higher resort villages in the Alps, but Zermatt’s brag is its access to the highest slopes in Europe – all the way up to an eye-watering 3,883m. There is plenty of piste too, with 360km of paradisical runs ideal for intermediate and advanced skiers. Throw in views of the iconic Matterhorn, glacier skiing and brilliant restaurants in a charming town centre and you don’t have to guess why this is considered by many to be Europe’s finest resort.
Eat & drink: Curing its own meats and brimming with cosy atmosphere, family-run Chez Vrony serves up rib-sticking meals 2,100m at altitude. Gourmets love Zermatt for its glut of Michelin-starred restaurants too; try After Seven for fine-dining from chef Florian Neubauer that wouldn’t be out of place in Europe’s culinary capital cities. And don’t forget you can always pop over to neighbouring Cervinia in Italy to sample more fabulous cookery; the two resorts are connected.
Where to stay: If Zermatt feels like the ultimate cushy ski resort, Hotel Schweizerhof (from £334) fits the brief with its modern alpine interiors, rambling spa – techy anti-aging facials are a specialty – and fondue restaurant, the aptly named Cheese Factory. After polishing off a fondue infused with back truffle or champagne, digest over a game of pool in library-meets-games-room Le Fumoir.
Val D’Isère , France
Set in France’s renowned Espace Killy, next to neighbouring resort Tignes, Val D’Isère is usually skiable from late-November up until early May. It’s not quite as high as Tignes, which pips it by 250m, but the snow is just as reliable and the historic centre (it’s been a hunting ground since the 11th century) comes with an elevated atmosphere compared to its 1960s purpose-built neighbour.
Eat & drink: If you’re a meat-eater La Peau de Vache delivers a slap up feast – marrow bones with bread, entrecote, andouillette (though there’s also truffle omelette and snails drenched in garlic butter). For Michelin finery, book into L’Atelier D’Edmond where Savoie produce (say, trout with grilled leeks) is plated with care by star chef Benoît Vidal. And of course, for après – of which Val D’Isère does with enthusiasm – try the legendary La Folie Douce.
Where to stay: The resort arguably reaches peak glamour at Airelles Val D’Isère (from £1,061), home to a Guerlain spa, a branch of Matsuhisa restaurant and the irresistible sun-soaked terrace Le Relais. Rooms expertly trot the line between alpine nostalgia and modern comfort.
Sophisticated Lech isn’t really all that high – the resort itself sits at just 1,450m – but it is one of Europe’s top snowfall spots and its renowned for its powder. Given it’s connected by gondola to the rest of Austria’s largest ski area, Arlberg, there are also plenty of opportunities to take things geographically up a notch across the zone’s 306km of surrounding slopes. It’s got style (Princess Diana used to ski here) and while that means higher prices than many resorts, the quality you get in turn also tends to impress.
Eat & drink: It says everything about Lech’s upmarket nature that you can ride a panoramic Moët & Chandon Champgne Gondola while nibbling gold selection caviar. But if that feels a bit much, enjoy the 360-degree views from Balmalp, a ski hut serving pizzas alongside spare ribs. In the resort centre, Griggeler Stuba has the fine-dining thing covered with dishes that look pretty enough to feature in an art gallery.
Where to stay: Pull out all the stops with a stay at boutiquey Severin*s Lech (from £613). With just nine suites – boasting balconies and open fires – it’s intimate enough to make you feel like you’ve got your own chalet. Despite the compact nature, there’s a restaurant, wine cellar and spa too.
Just a hop across the border from Zermatt – so close you can in fact pop over for lunch – Cervinia sits at an airy 2,050m, allowing for plenty of dependable snowfall. It’s a paradise for beginners and intermediates, who will appreciate the abundance of gentle slopes, or for anyone who wants convenience (being purpose-built, you’re never far from a lift). The food scene is pretty good, too – not that you’d expect anything less in Italy.
Eat & drink: Blending Swedish and Italian traditions, Wood is the place to go to get wow’d – expect elk with morels or celeriac with vegetable jus and gremolada. La Chandelle, meanwhile, gives you proper special occasion atmosphere (wood panelled room, candlelit table) alongside a roll call of Aosta Valley produce.
Where to stay Stylish Valtur Cervinia Cristallo Ski Resort (from £215) is split into three different sections – one of which is a five-star wing – so you can pick a room that best suits your budget. A fireplace-studded lobby with comfy couches is the perfect unwind space.
It takes commitment to get there, but North America’s highest ski resort is worth the journey for adventurous skiers. As reward for your effort you’ll get Colorado charm (it’s a historic mining town), bright blue skies and a varied terrain suitable for all levels. American hospitality, too, which translates to a diverse dining scene and on-it service. The highest lift, Imperial Empress, hits 3,515m, dwarfing many European resorts.
Eat & drink: Despite the name Cabin Juice does more than drinks; it’s a popular après spot and dinner joint, dishing up an eclectic mix of elk quesadillas, fried chicken sandwiches with apple cider slaw, and honey chipotle shrimp. Breckenridge Distillery is all about steaks and bourbon butter-poached lobster tail. For you brekkie fix, hit Daylight Donuts – baking cakey blueberry rings fresh daily.
Where to stay: The location steps from the BreckConnect Gondola makes One Ski Hill Place a solid base. There’s a heated swimming pool for warming up after a day on the slopes, and a dry cleaning service so you can pack light.