The 11 Best Winter Sports Destinations in Europe
Thu 5 October 2023
Make the Most of Nearby Winter Sports DestinationsThe best part? Many of these European winter sports destinations are easily reachable from the UK's major airports, offering a seamless journey from your doorstep to the heart of the snowy wonderland. Whether you're an adrenaline junkie, a fan of traditional winter activities, or simply seeking the magic of a snow-covered wonderland, Europe offers a treasure trove of options to satiate your winter cravings, all just a short flight away.
How to Prepare for Your European Winter Sports TripBefore your European winter sports adventure, follow these essentials:
- Destination Research: Understand the location, terrain, and available activities.
- Accommodation and Transport: Book in advance and arrange local transportation.
- Travel Documents: Ensure your passport validity and check visa requirements.
- Clothing and Gear: Pack warm, waterproof clothing, gloves, hats, and suitable footwear and organise renting winter sports equipment if needed.
- Winter Sports Travel Insurance: Get comprehensive coverage for winter sports, emergencies, and cancellations.
- Ski Passes and Lessons: Purchase passes early and book lessons if required.
- Weather Awareness: Stay updated on weather forecasts and prepare for changing conditions.
- Fitness: Stay physically fit and consider a health checkup.
- Altitude: Gradually acclimatise to high altitudes to prevent sickness.
- Safety Protocols: Familiarise yourself with slope safety and follow local guidelines.
- Essentials: Pack sunscreen, lip balm, sunglasses or goggles, and a basic first-aid kit, it's insanely sunny on the slopes.
- Language Basics: Learn a few local phrases so you can make friends with the locals.
The 11 Best Winter Sports Destinations in Europe
1. AustriaAustria, nestled in the heart of the Alps, is a mecca for ski enthusiasts and winter sports aficionados. Renowned for its picturesque Alpine landscapes, charming villages, and world-class ski resorts, Austria offers an unforgettable ski holiday experience. From the iconic slopes of St. Anton and Kitzbühel to the family-friendly resorts of Zell am See and Saalbach-Hinterglemm, there's something for everyone. Immerse yourself in Austrian hospitality as you carve through pristine powder, unwind in cozy mountain lodges, and savor delectable après-ski cuisine. The country's rich skiing heritage, coupled with its stunning natural beauty, makes Austria a top choice for those seeking exhilarating downhill adventures in a storybook alpine setting.
Why Is Austria So Popular for British Winter Sports Lovers?Austria's enduring popularity with Brits as a ski holiday destination can be attributed to its accessible location, offering numerous direct flights to nearby airports. The country's diverse ski terrain caters to all skill levels, while its traditional Alpine villages and efficient ski infrastructure create an authentic and hassle-free experience. Austria's vibrant après-ski culture, excellent cuisine, family-friendly resorts, and breathtaking Alpine scenery further enhance its appeal. With reliable snowfall and top-notch ski schools, Austria continues to captivate Brits seeking an unforgettable alpine adventure, making it a perennial favorite.
- Gerlos: Gerlos is located in Austria's most famous ski area, Zillertal Arena. This is also called the centre of the Zillertal. In Gerlos, you will find many cosy guesthouses and hotels. The atmosphere in the village is very friendly, and for that reason, it is probably also popular among Brits. In the elongated main street, you will find numerous cafés and discos, with DJs regularly perform for the bustling crowd. And many English-speaking ski instructors can be found in ski schools. So if you like skiing, but certainly also like après-ski, then Gerlos is the perfect holiday destination. You can use the Zillertal Superskipass in Gerlos, Königsleiten and Zell am Ziller. The ski pass gives access to 139 kilometers of slopes in the Zillertal Arena and is also valid in Mayrhofen, Kaltenbach, Fügen, and Hintertux.
- Saalbach-Hinterglemm Saalbach and Hinterglemm are two winter sports destinations that can be mentioned in the same breath. This area offers the complete picture for everyone. The extensive ski area has 270 kilometres of slopes, beautiful authentic villages, cosiness, and good food. Saalbach is a bit chicer, while Hinterglemm exudes more geniality. Hinterglemm is especially popular because of the après-ski, which is always very pleasant and continues until the late hours. The Saalbach-Hinterglemm ski area has about 270 kilometres of slopes, including Leogang. This varied ski area is snow-sure from December to April. With the ALPIN CARD, a joint ski pass of the Ski circus with the Schmittenhöhe in Zell am See and the Kitzsteinhorn Kaprun, you get access to a sporty winter paradise with no less than 408 (!) kilometres of slopes, 121 lifts in three premium ski areas with one ski pass. For some extra peace and quiet, stay at the Elements Resort in Sell am See and enjoy what Austria has to offer.
2. Ski Holidays in FranceThe perfection of ski holidays in France has solidified its reputation as one of the best winter sports destinations. With its diverse ski terrain and world-renowned resorts like Chamonix, Val d'Isère, and Courchevel, it's no wonder why it's a top choice. Easy access through direct flights and vast ski areas such as the Three Valleys and Paradiski further elevate France's status as a premier ski holiday destination for Brits. The French Alps provide a stunning backdrop, and the après-ski culture adds to the charm. Moreover, the culinary scene, from classic fondue to Michelin-starred dining, enhances the overall experience. Whether you're a novice or an expert, France's dependable snowfall, top-notch ski schools, and family-friendly resorts make it an exceptional choice for those seeking an unforgettable ski holiday.
- Les Trois Vallées: The famous '3 Vallées' consist of the Belleville valley, the Courcheveld valley, and the Méribel valley. Together they form the largest connected ski area in the world with an altitude of 3230 meters, which gives absolute snow security. The view of the high Alps, extraordinarily long and varying descents, and a very extensive range of fun parks make this area unique.
- Courchevel: is the westernmost valley and is especially popular with families. The area has 150 kilometres of slopes, a large part of which is green or blue. This means that it is very good for beginners and children to stay here. There are of course also plenty of options for the advanced winter sports enthusiast.
- Méribel: is known for its central location in the middle of the Trois Vallées. From here, the other ski areas of the largest interconnected ski area in the world are perfectly accessible. The characteristic of Méribel is the typical chalets built in the traditional Alpine style and impress with their charm.
- Val Thorens: is located at an altitude of 2300 meters and is therefore the highest winter sports resort in Europe. The place is virtually on the slopes, so you can ski through it. This area is best known for its après-ski, which is considered the best in France. For example, you can start in the afternoon on the terrace of 'La Folie Douce', where DJs play great music, which often creates a big party. In Val Thorens, you will find 40 après-ski venues, including various bars, cocktail bars, and discotheques. Stay at the luxurious Ecrin Blanc Courchevel resort for the ultimate winter sports feeling.
3. ItalyAs a winter sports country, Italy is often snowed under by countries such as Austria and France. While Italy has incredibly beautiful ski areas with well-prepared slopes, refined Italian food, and beautiful views. It is no coincidence that the Dolomiti Superski ski area is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. There are two very popular places for skiing, namely Val Gardena and Livigno.
- Val Gardena: In the Dolomites you will find perhaps the most famous ski area in Italy: Val Gardena. This is one of the areas that you can use as a base to ski the famous Sella Ronda. Dolomites Val Gardena is centrally located in the Dolomites, and is connected to the immense Dolomiti Superski ski area. Due to its location on the south side of the Alps, the weather is often good. The lift pass for Dolomiti Superski offers access to a huge number of kilometres of slopes in the Italian Dolomites. The ski pass is valid for 10 ski regions and 1200 kilometres of slopes can be skied there. All participating ski areas still have their own ski pass, making the Dolomiti Superski pass optional. If you want to enjoy a combination of beautiful ski slopes and delicious food, then Val Garneda is the place to be! Do you want to stay in a luxury hotel in historic style? Then book your holiday at the Grand Hotel Wolkenstein.
- Livigno: Nestled in the heart of the Italian Alps, Livigno beckons as a true winter wonderland, and here's why it's undeniably one of the best winter sports destinations in Europe. With its high-altitude location, this snowy paradise boasts an impressive ski season, running from November right through to May, ensuring plenty of snow for your enjoyment. Livigno's slopes cater to all skill levels, from gentle beginner runs to challenging black diamonds, ensuring that every winter sports enthusiast finds their perfect match. But it's not just about skiing and snowboarding; there's a host of other activities to dive into. Imagine yourself gliding through the serene landscapes on cross-country skiing trails or testing your skills at the snow parks. And when the sun sets on the slopes, the village comes alive with its lively après-ski scene, offering cosy taverns and vibrant bars for those unforgettable post-ski moments. Plus, with Livigno's duty-free status, you can indulge in tax-free shopping, adding a touch of retail therapy to your winter adventure. Whether you're a thrill-seeker or simply seeking Alpine charm, Livigno has it all, making it the ultimate destination for your next winter escapade.
4.SwitzerlandSwitzerland is a winter sports paradise, offering a wide variety of ski resorts and winter sports locations throughout the country. Here are some notable ones:
- Zermatt: Zermatt is famous for the iconic Matterhorn mountain and offers incredible skiing and snowboarding. It's a car-free resort town, and you can access the slopes using cable cars and funiculars. Zermatt is a top destination for off-piste skiing and boasts a lively après-ski scene.
- Verbier: Located in the Four Valleys ski area, Verbier is renowned for its extensive terrain, challenging runs, and vibrant nightlife. It's a favorite among advanced skiers and snowboarders. Verbier also hosts various winter events and festivals.
- St. Moritz: St. Moritz is a luxury ski resort with a long history of winter tourism. It's known for its glamorous atmosphere, upscale shopping, and gourmet dining. The ski slopes are suitable for all levels, and the resort often hosts international winter sports competitions.
- Engelberg: Engelberg is famous for its stunning alpine scenery and offers a mix of slopes for different skill levels. It's also a gateway to off-piste and backcountry skiing adventures in the surrounding mountains.
- Davos-Klosters: This resort is one of the largest ski areas in Switzerland and is known for hosting the annual World Economic Forum. It offers a wide range of slopes, cross-country skiing trails, and winter activities. The two towns, Davos and Klosters, provide a variety of entertainment options.
- Jungfrau Region (Grindelwald, Wengen, Mürren): The Jungfrau Region offers breathtaking views of the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau mountains. Grindelwald, Wengen, and Mürren are charming villages that provide access to the ski slopes. The area is ideal for families and intermediate skiers.
- Andermatt: Andermatt is an up-and-coming ski destination with impressive terrain and a growing reputation. It's known for its deep powder and backcountry skiing opportunities. Andermatt offers a quieter, more authentic Swiss alpine experience.
- Laax: Laax is a trendy resort with a strong focus on freestyle skiing and snowboarding. It features a world-class terrain park and halfpipe. The resort hosts events like the European Freeski Open and offers a vibrant après-ski scene.
- Saas-Fee: Saas-Fee is a car-free glacier resort known for its reliable snow conditions. It's suitable for skiers and snowboarders of all levels. The charming village has a relaxed atmosphere and is surrounded by 4,000-meter peaks.
5. GermanyGermany offers several ski resorts and winter sports destinations, perfect for those looking for a winter adventure closer to home:
- Winterberg: Located in the Sauerland region, Winterberg is a popular winter sports destination in Germany. It offers a range of ski slopes, snowboarding parks, and cross-country trails. Thanks to snow cannons, Winterberg ensures snow for around three months each year, making it a reliable option.
- Garmisch-Partenkirchen: Situated in the Bavarian Alps near the Zugspitze, Germany's highest mountain, Garmisch-Partenkirchen is a picturesque destination for winter sports. It has diverse slopes for skiing and snowboarding, and it often hosts international ski events.
- Oberstdorf: This town in Bavaria offers skiing in the Allgäu Alps. It's particularly known for its Nordic skiing facilities and hosts the annual Four Hills Tournament, one of the most prestigious ski jumping competitions in the world.
- Feldberg: Located in the Black Forest, Feldberg is another popular ski area in Germany. It's known for its scenic beauty and offers skiing and snowboarding opportunities suitable for various skill levels.
- Bavarian Forest: The Bavarian Forest offers a serene winter sports experience with cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and winter hiking. The landscape is characterised by snow-covered forests and tranquil surroundings.
6. Bansko, BulgariaNestled in the picturesque Pirin Mountains, Bansko is a hidden gem for winter sports enthusiasts seeking an affordable yet thrilling experience. This Bulgarian resort town offers a combination of well-groomed slopes, modern ski lifts, and a charming historic centre. With a range of ski and snowboard trails suitable for all levels, Bansko is an ideal destination for both beginners and advanced skiers. After a day on the slopes, unwind in traditional Bulgarian taverns and relish the local cuisine. Bansko's affordability, stunning mountain views, and vibrant après-ski scene make it a rising star among European winter sports destinations.
7. Sierra Nevada, SpainIf you're looking to combine winter sports with a touch of Spanish culture and sunshine, Sierra Nevada in southern Spain is an excellent choice. This ski resort boasts one of Europe's longest ski seasons, running from late November to early May. With a variety of slopes catering to different skill levels and an array of snow activities, Sierra Nevada offers a unique blend of Mediterranean flair and winter sports excitement. After a day on the slopes, soak in the vibrant ambiance of the nearby city of Granada and explore the historic Alhambra Palace. Skiing or snowboarding in Sierra Nevada allows you to experience the best of both winter sports and Spanish hospitality.
8. AndorraTucked away in the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain, Andorra is a small principality with big offerings for winter sports enthusiasts. Grandvalira and Vallnord are the two major ski resorts in Andorra, offering a wide variety of slopes suitable for skiers and snowboarders of all levels. Andorra is known for its affordable ski holidays, making it an attractive destination for budget-conscious travelers. After a day on the slopes, explore the charming capital city, Andorra la Vella, and indulge in duty-free shopping.
9. NorwayNorway, with its stunning fjords and snow-covered landscapes, is a top destination for cross-country skiing and snow enthusiasts. The country offers an extensive network of cross-country ski trails that wind through breathtaking natural scenery.
- Trysil: Trysil is Norway's largest ski resort and offers a wide range of slopes, making it suitable for families and advanced skiers alike. It boasts a modern lift system and a family-friendly atmosphere. Trysil also has a vibrant après-ski scene and various winter activities like dog sledding and snowmobiling.
- Hemsedal: Hemsedal is often referred to as the "Scandinavian Alps" and is known for its challenging terrain and extensive off-piste skiing opportunities. It's a favorite destination for advanced skiers and snowboarders. The resort town offers a cozy alpine ambiance and a variety of dining options.
- Geilo: Geilo is a classic Norwegian ski resort that caters to families and those seeking a relaxed winter holiday. It features well-groomed slopes, cross-country trails, and an excellent ski school. Geilo is a picturesque village with traditional Norwegian charm.
10. SloveniaSlovenia, a hidden gem in the heart of Europe, offers a blend of stunning Alpine scenery and affordable winter sports options. The Julian Alps, including Kranjska Gora and Vogel, provide excellent skiing and snowboarding opportunities. Slovenia is known for its warm hospitality and charming towns like Bled and Ljubljana. You can also explore the unique experience of night skiing in some Slovenian resorts.
- Kranjska Gora: Kranjska Gora is Slovenia's premier ski resort and is known for hosting World Cup Alpine Skiing events. It offers a mix of slopes suitable for beginners and intermediate skiers. The resort is situated near the picturesque Lake Bled, making it a great base for exploring the region.
- Vogel: Vogel is a hidden gem located within Triglav National Park. It's renowned for its breathtaking alpine scenery and off-piste opportunities. Vogel is favored by those who enjoy a quieter, more natural skiing experience. It also offers snowshoeing and hiking options for non-skiers.
11. SwedenLast on our list of the best winter sports destinations in Europe is beautiful Sweden. Sweden offers a superb mix of winter sports and cultural experiences. The Swedish Lapland, in the far north, is a paradise for those seeking the thrill of dog sledding, snowmobiling, and even ice fishing. For skiing and snowboarding, head to Åre, one of Sweden's top ski resorts, with a range of slopes and excellent facilities. Stockholm, Sweden's capital, is also worth a visit for its historic sites and vibrant atmosphere.
- Åre: Åre is Sweden's most famous ski resort and one of Scandinavia's largest. It offers an extensive range of slopes, including both challenging runs and family-friendly terrain. Åre is known for its vibrant après-ski scene, with numerous bars and restaurants. The resort town of Åre itself has a cozy and charming atmosphere.