Winter is just about hear and that means ski season is upon us. It’s time to wax your skis and start planning a trip. Here are some great places you should consider.
For winter sport enthusiasts, skiing is usually high on their list of favourite pastimes. It’s an excellent way to get out and enjoy the weather while getting some great exercise and afterwards indulging in some après ski activities. It can be fun week for friends, lovers, or the whole family. The world has many great ski resorts. We’ve already looked at some of North America’s top picks, so this time we’ll look at what Europe has to offer.
Chamonix has some of the most challenging slopes the world has to offer. Located in the French Alps, this valley was the site of the first winter Olympics in modern times. People have been coming here to enjoy winter sports since the 18th century. It is home to Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps and Western Europe in general. There are also several glaciers, the Mer de Glace (sea of ice), and an ice grotto for those looking for scenic adventures. There is everything from steep slope skiing that is meant for experts to slopes for beginners. A ski school can lend beginners a hand as well. There are lots of scenic areas for cross country skiers as well. For those who want to try their hand at other mountain sports, popular ones in the area include snowboarding, ski-taxing (for those who are physically unable to ski), and speed riding.
Courchevel is an ideal choice if your group includes a number of beginner skiers. They have special areas designed just for beginners and lots of easy runs to choose from all located within the largest interconnected ski area in the world. The Verdon runs and Family Park offer night skiing on select evenings. Billed as an all-around resort, Courcheval also has lots to offer off the slopes including a cooking school with a Michelin starred chef, hang gliding, helicopter and plane rides, ice skating, ice climbing, hot air ballooning, paragliding, snow cat driving, and sky diving.
Alagna is a small place with a population of less than 400 permanent residents. It’s located in northern Italy on the south side of Monte Rosa Massif. Although it’s in Italy it was once German and there is evidence of this in the architecture of the town. For the less adventurous it has a wide variety of ski pistes for skiers of all levels but the real reason you go to Alagna is for the off-piste skiing. You have access to some of the best backcountry skiing in the world. Ski around small hamlets and glaciers. You can also heli-ski. Lots of powder and lots of beautiful scenery – is there anything more a skier could ask for? There are a number of great guides in the area as well as a ski school.
La Grave is not about fancy resorts. Instead this is a place with a reputation as being a mecca for adrenalin junkies. You’ll need a guide for this 7,000 feet vertical drop composed of cliffs, glaciers, couloirs and no fall zones. There is only one rickety lift and no ski patrols or marked runs. It’s all up to you. Ideal for serious skiers and snow boarders, this is not for beginners. Like Alagna, this is a small village. In this case, it’s a 12th century village located in the French Alps.
Location of the Matterhorn and probably one of the prettiest ski resorts in Europe, Zermatt has something for everyone including year round skiing. That’s right, 365 days a year of skiing. There’s something for everyone on the slopes and even more to do off the slopes. There are more than 60 different on slope eateries and après ski chalets. You can take excursions to learn about cheese making or go and see the glacier lake or ride the Glacier Express. There are ski safaris and tons of beautifully groomed runs. There are lots of sports available too from snowboarding and tobogganing to paragliding, heli-skiing, ice climbing and curling. Make sure you visit the Cave – a structure made of glass and steel that floats on the water in a man-made cave.
Savognin is an ideal resort for families. There are lots of family-oriented activities and slopes. It’s generally pretty affordable and the scenery is spectacular. It’s not far from St. Moritz. For the members of the family that don’t ski there are lots of other activities including ice skating on a 3 km trail, curling, hockey, and toboganning. The latter is particularly cool. There are lots of slopes just for riding down plus the Schlittada Run – a 7.5 km trail that includes lots of curves, forested areas, and even a tunnel. At Park Tigignas you can give some avant-garde equipment (like the skifox, the skiscooter, and the skibike) and tricks a try in a safe environment.
Located in the Tyrol region of Austria, Kitzbuhel has been linked with skiing excellence for over a hundred years. For race fans, this is the place to go although you need to book far in advance if you intend to come and see a race or two. It is here that the famed Ganslern Slalom (World Cup Circuit) is run and the downhill Hahnenkamm races. You can ski the Ganslerm slalom or the Streif outside of race times and test your own skills on some of the toughest courses out there. There is also an easier Family Streif for those less skilled. The town itself is a beautiful medieval village. This is a place with an incredible history that will please and impress anyone who loves the sport of skiing.
Heather is an avid traveller, lover of dogs, and baker supreme. She lives in a small town in Ontario, Canada where she raises German Shorthaired Pointers with her family. An explorer at heart, she travels whenever she can, wherever she can.
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