Last Updated on September 30, 2020 by Michael J. Branco
Are you planning your next ski holiday? From fairy-lit cobbled streets to super-swish resorts and the highest pistes to the softest powder, when you’re planning a skiing holiday, there are lots of factors to consider. There are world-class Chamonix and glamorous Zermatt for snowy pursuits mixed with designer shops. Then there are medieval villages such as Austria’s Kitzbuhel where fairy-tale cobbled streets meet chocolate box chalets. Ready to find out the absolute best ski resorts for beginners and advanced skiers, where to book for sun-soaked après ski, and which resorts offer extra activities such as off-piste skiing and sleigh riding? Whether you’re looking for family fun or an epic adventure with friends, here’s the ultimate guide to planning your next ski holiday.
When to Go Skiing
A ski holiday over Christmas or New Year is not only great for the snow but also means you can kick back and relax without having to think about cooking a turkey or hosting a party. A more affordable option is early December, but you’ll want to look out for snow-sure resorts, so you don’t fall short with a lack of powder. January is one of the best months to book a ski holiday with far fewer queues than December but still as much snow.
For many resorts, January to March is peak powder season, and you can expect lots of fresh air and extremely cold pistes. If you prefer your temperatures a little warmer, there are still many places to ski come March and April. If you want to find out when each resort opens and closes for the season, its highest altitude and ski range, and how many pistes are available. In that case, Piste Pro has a database of ski maps and resort information that seamlessly lays out everything you need to know in one place.
Beginners Ski Holidays
If you’re planning to book a beginner’s ski holiday, look out for resorts with plenty of green and blue runs. Opt for resorts that offer gondolas to the beginner slopes instead of chair lifts, which can be quite daunting for a novice. Meribel is a great place to learn to ski with two nursery areas, eight green pistes, and 25 blue pistes. In Italy’s Dolomites, the Olympic resort of Cortina d’Ampezzo is a fantastic all-rounder for novice skiers, offering gentle angled and wide runs alongside truly magnificent mountain scenery.
Best Resorts for Seasoned Skiers
If your go-to vibes are long and daring Alpine descents, powdery white-knuckle rides, crazy chutes, and challenging runs, head to Chamonix, Verbier, Zermatt, or Courchevel. An adrenalin-filled winter wonderland for seasoned skiers, these resorts offer everything from 2000-meter vertical descents to some of the most difficult black runs in the world. In glitzy Zermatt, you will find glacier runs and mile upon mile of reds while in Courchevel, skiing from the top of Le Saulire is an expert sportsman’s dream. Chamonix brings numerous off-piste runs and high-speed thrills in the Grands Montets area, while Verbier boasts incredible technical lines through the stunning tree-lined Vallon d’Arby.
Make it a Family Affair
Whether you’ve got 2.4 children or friends with kids in tow, planning a family ski holiday means finding a magical resort that works for all ages. La Rosiere ski resort has all the ingredients for the perfect family ski trip. Sitting at the foot of Mont Blanc, it constantly appears in the top ten French resorts with the most snowfall and even offers across border skiing to Italy. Extra activities for all the family include snowshoeing, dog sledding, snowkiting, and even an igloo village. There are plenty of easy slopes and kids ski schools to enroll in, and many of the family chalets come with chalet childminders so you can escape for fondue and wine come nightfall.
Skiing with Friends
If you’re planning a group skiing holiday, you’ll want a fantastic mixture of skiing, après ski, and other adventures. Ski holidays with friends often bring a mixture of abilities to the table, so choose a resort such as Zermatt or Morzine, which offer lively après ski, a wide choice of different colored runs, and lots of galleries, shops, and spas to explore. Friends who appreciate the good life will love the luxury hotels found in the resort of Val d’Isère in France. In contrast, Switzerland’s laid back Laax resort boasts great ski-in ski-out accommodation as well as four snow parks and over 200 kilometers of slopes.
The Liveliest Après Ski
The allure of après ski turns an invigorating day on the slopes into an evening of music, dance, fondue, and fun. Many resorts begin their après ski at lunchtime and carry on the tradition well into the night. If you’re looking to party, Austria’s St Anton regularly tops the list as having one of the liveliest after-hours scenes. Expect open-air bars, double stacked beer trays, live music, and plenty of fondues. In France, Val Thorens takes it one step further, housing Europe’s highest open-air nightclub and boasting insane valley views.
For a slice of Italian glamour, the resort of Sauze d’Oulx offers legendary bombardinos intimate village wine bars. Moreover, lots of dancing on the sun terraces. One of the most affordable après ski resorts in Pas de la Casa in Andorra. And the list certainly wouldn’t be complete without Chamonix. You’ll find everything from Great Gatsby inspired bars to live DJs. And wine and tapas until the early hours of the morning.
What to Pack
Packing is an art form for any holiday, but you need a checklist for a ski trip. For skiing, you’ll need to pack a waterproof and breathable ski jacket, a pair of salopettes, insulated gloves. Also ski socks, a neck warmer, a few fleeces jackets or merino wool mid-layers. And a few merino wool base layers. Ski goggles are essential, as are sunglasses, a balaclava, and hand warmers for extremely cold conditions. If you’re a beginner or don’t have your equipment, you’ll be able to hire ski boots and helmets in-resort.
Don’t forget comfy PJs, bed socks, and a swimsuit or trunks for chalet hot tubs, hotel pools, and the spa. For days when you’re not skiing, you’ll want snow boots at the ready. As well as winter warmers such as casual jeans, jumpers, and t-shirts. And a pair of regular gloves and a hat. Après-ski is casual across all resorts, but if you like to go smart, ear warmers, cute knit hats, comfy shoes. And fluffy jackets work well. Evenings will be cold, so always make sure to add those base layers! Accessories wise, a high SPF sun cream, and SPF lip balm are crucial. And a rucksack and flask are handy for Nordic walking and shopping days.
Become a Piste Pro
A skiing holiday is a true luxury experience. And there’s nothing quite like that fresh mountain air, powder white snow, and Alpine village atmosphere. Our ultimate guide to planning your next ski holiday will have you hitting the slopes in style. Be ready to give your limbs a full day workout before indulging in an evening of time-honored après ski. Use the Piste Pro database of ski maps and resort information to get acclimatized with your new location easily. Before you know it, you might just be making those insanely difficult double back diamond runs.
Michael J. Branco is the Chief Editor of Easy trip Guides. He covers skiing, snowboarding, hiking and camping blogs, and buyers guide.