For most of us, the cold weather has set in, and for many, the snow is an everyday inconvenience. But there is a way to enjoy the snow and fight the cold – it’s time to go skiing!
While America has some great slopes, it’s impossible to beat the skiing in Europe. Whether it’s a family trip, an excuse to get out of the office for a good vacation or a winter honeymoon, you’ll find amazing skiing – and so much more – on Europe’s slopes.
Zell am See and Kaprun
These small mountain towns are neighbors in the province of Salzburg. They both boast beautiful and unique sights, tons of skiing options, and great local culture. Kaprun sits right next to the glacier on Mount Kitzsteinhorn, an awesome destination for skiers. Here, there is almost always snow and ice for the adventurers, and even an ice camp with a frozen bar to cap off a tiring day. Zell am See is a short bus ride away and sits between a beautiful lake and a horseshoe-shaped mountain. Bonus: this region is a climactic health resort or spa, which means that the air and water are especially pure.
Ischgl, in Tyrol, is the perfect place to go if you’re up for some fun after a day on the slopes. There are miles of high quality slopes, and Ischgl shares the mountain with a resort on the other side of the border in Switzerland. Loads of big names have taken to the mountaintop stage during parties held to open and close the season – Bon Jovi, The Killers, and Mariah Carey amongst them. Plus, there are bars, lunges, and restaurants aplenty on the mountain and in the town to keep you busy for a few weeks.
Zermatt is a tried and true Swiss winter (and summer!) destination, mostly because of the beautiful mountain looming over it, the Matterhorn. More than just an awesome ride at Disney World, the Matterhorn and surrounding mountains of Zermatt have over 153 miles of runs. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the first ascent of the Matterhorn, a feat that was also accomplished by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1881. Check out the 60-plus food and drink options on the slopes alone; from rustic Champagne bars to local, farm fresh restaurants, your palate will never be bored. Zermatt is a truly classic European winter experience – ritzy and picturesque with great food and drinks once the skiing is done.
Mürren, a car-free mountain village in the Swiss Alps, is relatively undiscovered compared to its counterparts. It has the quaint, wood buildings that you typically imagine in a mountain town, along with some really interesting extras. Most notably, the rotating restaurant shown in the 1969 James Bond movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, is still up and running at the top of the mountain. Mürren doesn’t have the mileage of slopes in comparison to some other destinations, but has plenty of back country to explore – with gorgeous sites to match. You won’t use a car to get around, but can access all of the surrounding attractions with the Schilthorn cable car.
For the family of skiers, Les Gets has some great options. Its slopes are manageable and accessible, with a lower altitude and lots of nursery slopes to choose from. There’s even a fun park called Grand Cry for the youngest. And when the kids are ready to learn to ski, there are three British snowsport schools to pick from. The town itself, which sits at the base of the mountain, is charming and easy to navigate. It mixes old and new styles of architecture – but both are inherently French.
If all of this talk of restaurants and sight-seeing has bored you, then looking into Chamonix is probably your best bet. A busy, vibrant town caters to five ski areas and even has lift access to some of the steepest peaks around. Skiing from the top of the highest peak of Aiguille all the way down to the valley will take you a staggering 10,000 vertical feet. If height isn’t really your thing, you could take an extended trip (13 miles!) down the glacial valley of Vallee Blanche. This trip is not for the light of heart – you need a lot of experience and know-how (or a great guide) to make it through these runs. It’s truly a winter athlete’s heaven.