The Best European Ski Resorts

Photo courtesy National Geographic

Best European ski Resorts: A guide to skiing with old world charm, challenging slopes set in a back drop of beautiful mountains and medieval villages

European skiing, while not known for it's long ski seasons having peak powder conditions occurring from New Years day to the end of March, offers a quality experience with old world charm, world class skiing, and challenging slopes set in a back drop of beautiful mountains and medieval villages. Here you will come to experience long lunches and a lively night life.

Emphasis is placed on a ski resorts annual snow fall, vertical rise, facilities/amenities, and scenery.

Note: The term piste in French refers to North American equivalent terms for trail, slope, or groomed run.

The Best European Ski Resorts

Chamonix Mont-Blanc, France
Trails: Beginner 23%: Intermediate 31%; Expert 46%,
Mont Blanc ski pass includes the following resorts:Courmayeur, Italy, Megeve, France & Les Contamines, France, Annual snow fall: 110 inches, Vertical drop: 2,808m/9,210ft., Ski able acres: 20,000 acres
Highly regarded as one of the world's best ski resorts, it's a challenging area for intermediate and expert skiers with a vertical drop of 2,808m/9,210ft, and the highest peak in the Alps and the second highest in Europe, and the longest run in Europe at 22km or 14 miles. Chamonix has seven ski areas with the Grands Montets being the most widely known, with two of the areas are interconnected. Some lift lines can be long, especially for the Grand Montet. Chamonix is known for off-piste terrain with chutes, glaciers, and high bowls. The most famous off-piste run in the world is the Aiguille du Midi, a 12-mile thriller that begins at the top 12,606 feet high and ends in the valley some 9,000 feet below. It is a long, steady ride with dramatic terrain that is not too challenging, with the exception of a giant crevasse near the Mer de Glace glacier that your guide will warn you about repeatedly.
Where to Stay:
Grand Hotel des Alpes
Chamonix, France
Situated at the foot of Mont Blanc and at the heart of the Alpine mountains, the hotel offers unique accommodations. Built in 1840, the residence was entirely renovated and modernized in 2004 without disturbing its antique charm and character. The friendly and attentive staff welcome you in an elegant and familial atmosphere. Enjoy its stylish woodwork, comfortable lounge with a view of the Massif de Mont Blanc or relax at the bar next to the fireplace.

Portes du Soleil, France, Switzerland
Trails: Beginner 44%: Intermediate 33%; Expert 23%
Annual snow fall: 788 inches, Vertical drop: 2,165 ft., Ski able acres: 150 acres
The Portes du Soleil is one of largest contiguous ski areas in the world covering two countries and twelve ski resorts with access by a single ski pass. Our choice for the best of the 12 ski areas is Avoriaz. Portes du Soleil is on the Western edge of the Alps and has the best snow fall in Europe, and Avoriaz with north-facing slopes, is the the highest and has the most snow in Portes du Soleil. Avoriaz is a car-less resort with horse drawn sleighs and close proximity of the lifts to the resorts lodges, restaurants, shops and cafes.
Where to Stay:
Helvetia Hotel Residence
Morgins, Switzerland
The stylish Helvetia hotel is located only 500 ft from the ski lift to the Porte de Soleil ski area. It offers a modern spa area and free parking. All rooms and suites at the Hotel Helvetia are furnished in an elegant Alpine style, featuring lots of natural wood. They are equipped with flat-screen cable TVs and offer free Wi-Fi internet access. The spa area including a jacuzzi, a steam bath and an inviting relaxation room is a great place to relax after a day out in the Chablais Alps. Hot-stone massages are available as well. Free parking is available on site or in the garage for an additional fee. A bus stop can be found right in front of the Hotel Helvetia. The center of Morgins is a 2-minute walk from the hotel.

Zermatt, Switzerland
Trails: Beginner 30%: Intermediate 40%; Expert 30%,
Annual snow fall: 300 inches, Vertical drop: 2,200m/7,620/ft., Ski able acres: 394 acres
Few places can match its combination of great intermediate and expert runs, reliable snow, awesome scenery with a backdrop of the Matterhorn, Alpine charm, and mountain restaurants with excellent food. With limited access by a long train ride up the valley that limits the day skiers, Zermatt is a true destination resort. As a destination resort with few day trippers, you are apt to find shorter lift lines and a lively night life. The village has old world charm with horse drawn sleighs no cars or trucks. If you get the opportunity, take the lift to the Plateau Rosa, where you can ski 4,700 vertical feet down into Cervinia, Italy.
Where to stay:
CERVO Zermatt
Zermatt, Switzerland
From the valley station of Zermatt's Sunnegga Cable Car, a lift takes you directly to the front desk of the CERVO Mountain Boutique Resort, located right next to the ski slopes and hiking trails. Zermatt Train Station is a 10 minute walk away. The CERVO consists of 5 chalets with spacious rooms and suites. Every chalet features its own spa area with a sauna, steam bath, terrace, massage room, and relaxation room with an open fireplace. The terrace offers panoramic views of the Matterhorn Mountain. Guests can enjoy lunch and dinner at the elegant restaurant, which serves selected regional specialties and fine wines. Upon arrival and departure, free transportation services are available between the hotel and the train station and village entrance of Zermatt.

Cortina, Italy
Trails: Beginner 33%: Intermediate 62%; Expert 5%
Annual snow fall: 300 inches, Vertical drop:1,882m/6,178/ft. Ski able acres: 2,433 acres
Italy's most famous and stylish resort is a destination ski resort set remotely from major population centers. Spread over three mountains with more than 50 lifts, it has awesome views of the jagged dolomites, and a picturesque town center where the beautiful people come to stroll in the latest ski fashions and furs. The town below is located in a valley at less than 4,000 feet in elevation, but the bulk of the runs are located above 6,000 feet. To reach the upper runs and lift network, skiers take long lifts or gondolas to to top. The best skiing is at Sella Ronda, a series of interconnected mountains that can be skied in one long day. The lift lines before 11am are empty, as many of the skiers are recovering from their late evening activities.
Where to stay:
Concordia Parc Hotel
Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy
The hotel's excellent location is just 220 yards from the ski slopes of Faloria. It's the only hotel along the pedestrian area of Corso Italia that has a large garden complete with lounge and deck chairs. Your room features either a small balcony or terrace and has a view of the park or the mountains. Concordia Parc Hotel also has a TV lounge, which can be used for meetings and can hold up to 40 people. On the grounds you will find a free parking lot and a secure garage. The restaurant serves an interesting mix of regional and international dishes, and is open for both lunch and dinner.

Kitzbühel, Austria
Trails: Beginner 44%: Intermediate 43%; Expert 23%
Annual snow fall: 180 inches, Vertical drop:3,848ft. Ski able acres: 690 acres
Kitzbuhel, referred to as the "Pearl of the Alps" has five main ski areas with runs to accommodate every ability with challenging runs for the advanced skier and is home to the most challenging world cup circuit course, the Hahnenkamm Downhill course. Here you can enjoy world-class skiing, in a scenic backdrop of rugged mountains and a 700-year-old medieval walled village with wrought-iron street lamps, horse-drawn sleighs, and a lively nightlife.
Where to stay:
Hotel Schweizerhof Kitzbuehel, Sport- & Beauty hotel
Kitzbuhel, Austria
Ideally located directly at the Hahnenkamm cable car, ski directly to the hotel, only 2 minutes walk to the charming center of Kitzbühel. Ffamily atmosphere, attractive SPA area with indoor pool, various saunas, good range of beauty and spa treatments, cosy rooms with high comfort.