Europe is the world’s preeminent ski destination, with top destinations found in multiple countries such as Germany, Switzerland and France. From the Swiss Alps to the rolling hills of Austria and Germany, the continent is rich in snowy terrain, luxurious accommodations and winding cliffs for skiers of all experience levels. The tall peaks and rugged coastal terrain produce higher-than-average snowfall, but climate change threatens to disrupt this trend. However, Europe is still one of the only places on earth with regular fresh powder.
Skiing in Europe can also be cheaper than hitting the slopes in the U.S., not including the cost of airfare. The sheer quantity of resorts leads to more competition and lower prices on rentals and day passes, but the food and accommodations tend to be about the same, according to a recent cost analysis from SnowBrains.
Imagine yourself swishing down a comforter of snow, wearing the latest cool ski gear as you master some of the trickiest runs in the industry. Don’t let your lack of experience hold you back. You don’t have to be an expert skier to book a luxurious ski vacation. Most lodges offer classes and equipment rentals – just make sure the instructor speaks English. Traveling is more fun in a group. Use a ski helmet communication system to talk hands-free with your instructor or friends down the mountain.
Ready for the adventure of a lifetime? Plan your next winter vacation around these stunning European ski resorts:
Alpin & See Resort, Austria
Tucked in the Paznaun Valley of the Tirol in the Austrian Alps, Alpin & See Resort creates a sense of nostalgia with its small-town charm and hospitality. The resort is relatively small compared to the tourist-packed lodges of Europe, which is part of its allure — but that can also make it difficult to reserve a room. The lines for the lift are virtually nonexistent, with the resort mainly attracting weekenders and Austrian locals looking to avoid the crowds.
“See,” translated in English, means lake, even though a major landslide buried it in the earth hundreds of years ago. The area is marked by backcountry terrain with limited maintenance and upkeep. If you love to explore untouched fresh powder, this is the resort for you.
Kaunertal Glacier, Austria
Kaunertaler Gletscher is a remote ski destination overlooking the border of Italy, known for its popularity among beginners with polished slopes and off-road trails for the more experienced. It takes several hours of driving deep into the mountains to reach this sacred enclave, giving you all the privacy you could ever want. You can also take the bus if you don’t feel comfortable navigating what can be a confusing route.
Once you arrive, you’ll find a state-of-the-art lift system with wildly unpredictable terrain. You also won’t find any lift lines here, thanks to the region’s inaccessibility. The best part is that the park is open eight months out of the year, with snow likely from October to May.
Lauchernalp Resort, Switzerland
Experience the magic of the Swiss Alps with unparalleled views of the sun rising over the peaks. But this legendary park has more to offer than sights. It’s home to one of Europe’s biggest skiable verticals, dropping over 5,500 feet with a peak summit of over 10,000 feet. The high altitude makes for some truly fresh, ultra-dense snow that will make you feel like you’re gliding on air, but the area is prone to record snowstorms that can limit visibility and how many hours you can spend on the slope.
La Norma Resort, France
Despite its low elevation, this sun-soaked region of Haute-Maurienne Vanoise features regular snowfall with all the thrills of a steep mountain but without the laborious commute. It’s easy to get to by car or bus with reliable public transit. The park is a well-kept secret among the powder-chasing community, with a plethora of gullies, alpine bowls, ridges and ravines connected by a network of trails. Some areas can be flat, so be prepared to walk your board to the drop-off.
Skicircus Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang Fieberbrunn Resort, Austria
Yes, it’s a mouthful and hard to pronounce if you’re from the U.S., but the infrastructure and accommodations make it more than worth it. The park is home to one of the largest interconnected lift systems in the world, with 70 individual lifts spread out across nearly 900 feet of skiable trails and an expansive backcountry area ripe for exploring.
Take a break from skiing with a visit to one of the resort’s iconic on-mountain restaurants. It’s also a great place to party, with a thriving nightlife and late-night bars. Just don’t let a hangover ruin your trip. The only downside is the crowds, which seem to get worse every year. Going in the off-season can help, but you will still need to wait your turn.
Every skier dreams of getting to Europe, where the peaks are larger and the snow is softer. Reserve your spot at one of these resorts to see the sport at its best.