Best Ski Resorts in Europe
If you're heading to a ski resort in Europe, you're probably going to spend time in the Swiss, French, and Italian Alps. Among the soaring pinnacles of the world's most famous mountain range comes the best ski destinations in the world, homes to towering glaciers, Winter Olympic games, and James Bond snow-chases. Unlike in America, most European ski locales aren't grouped by isolated resorts as much as ski destinations where you can obtain passes for a variety of ski areas to get the most out of your Winter vacation.
Best Ski Resorts in Europe - Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, France
Site of the first Winter Olympic Games in 1924, Chamonix-Mont-Blanc is the nonpareil of French ski areas. Famed for its gargantuan 9200-ft. vertical drop, it's a favorite for extreme skiers of every shade, though there are plenty of lower valley areas to suit novices. Chamonix-Mont-Blanc is also know for its high number of off-piste (off-trail) runs, including the world-renown Vallée Blanche, which runs a whopping 13.7 miles from top to bottom.
Best Ski Resorts in Europe - Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy
Amid the rough-hewn Dolomites of the Italian Alps lies Cortina d'Ampezzo, a small town of 7,000 that's big on skiing and ski-culture. Cortina still has a relaxed, rustic atmosphere, despite its popularity as a travel destination, and is known for its gently thriving shops, bars, and restaurants downtown. In addition to hosting the Winter Olympics in 1956, Cortina's slopes were also the shooting location of the ski chase in Roger Moore's James Bond flick, For Your Eyes Only.
Depending on your length of stay and adventurousness, you have a choice of two types of ski passes, the "valley" skipass for the immediate area or the Dolomiti Superski, good for all 12 connected valleys in the region.
Best Ski Resorts in Europe - Zermatt, Switzerland
Even without the distinctive profile of the Matterhorn imposing itself on Zermatt, the spectacular scenery of the surrounding Alps would still be the toast of the Swiss countryside. Zermatt boasts 71 lifts to carry skiers to 156 miles of trails on its 10,000+ foot peaks. In addition to the groomed paths, off-piste and heli-skiing are popular pastimes here. As such, it's not surprising that though Zermatt's resorts do have some beginner runs, the area caters more to the intermediate and advanced skier. From ski passes to accommodations to food, Zermatt is also one of the most expensive skiing destinations in the world, but if your skills are up to snuff it's an absolute can't-miss.
Best Ski Resorts in Europe - Kitzbuhel, Austria
A 700-year old village, Austria's Kitzbuhel is anchored by its town center, home to ancient medieval architecture, inexpensive accommodations, and a rich nightlife. The slopes aren't too shabby, either. Both the Hahnenkamm and Kitzbuhler Horn, though not as stratospheric as some of their alpine counterparts, still boast 105 miles of combined trails. The area is known especially for its downhill racing, with Hahnenkamm's Streif run generally considered the most difficult in the world.
Photo by Ines Saraiva via Flickr