Getting ready to book your ski trip? Not quite sure where to go?
You’ve probably heard of The Alps, but what do you really know about them?
Do you know where they are, or what areas it covers?
Don’t worry, we’re here to tell you everything you need to know.
This vast array of mountains is the highest in Europe, offering breath-taking views, and slopes for all skiing abilities.
Spread across France, Germany, Austria, Italy and Switzerland, you’re spoilt for choice with all the ski holiday destinations available.
We’ve got details on all the different locations. This guide will introduce you to some of the best resorts and delicacies, and includes information on what to do next.
France is the perfect ski location.
It’s just a short flight from the UK, meaning you can take on the mountains in just a few hours.
France is also home to the biggest ski area in the world, Les 3 Vallées, with a slope length of over 600km.
Here you’ll find eight resorts - Val Thorens, Les Menuires, St. Martin De BelleVille, Meribel, Brides-Les-Bains, La Tania, Courchevel and Orelle.
Val Thorens is the highest ski resort in Europe. A trip in a gondola to the top of this mountain is definitely worth it for the views.
You can purchase a ski pass which covers all eight destinations, so if you love exploring, and want access to a range of altitudes, this is the perfect place to visit
Just make sure you pick up a free resort guide map.
However, if it’s the guarantee of snow you’re wanting, make sure you go to Avoriaz, which sits in the region of Portes du Soleil.
Year on year this town gets the greatest snowfall, so you won’t need to worry about ‘no-snow’ days here.
If you’ve embarked on a ski holiday before, you may already be aware of ‘après ski’.
For those of you who don’t know, ‘apres ski’ describes the social events that occur after you have finished skiing for the day.
At the end of a day, you will usually ski down to a bar/ski lodge, unclip your skis/board, and enjoy music and drinks.
France is well-known for its ‘après ski' culture, with many enjoying afternoon parties on the mountain.
Dancing at the popular bar chain ‘La Folie Douce’, is liked by all ages (18+).
The après nightlife offers a chance to unwind and reflect on the days skiing, whilst being immersed in the heart of the mountains.
With over 50 ski resorts in the German Alps, you have plenty of options when it comes to picking where to visit.
We won’t list them all (we’ll be here all day), but we’ve picked out a few recommended spots for skiers.
The most popular includes Zugspitze, known for its seven-month snow season and consistent winter sunshine.
If you are wanting to clime high, then this is the perfect location for you.
Zugspitze is the highest mountain in the German Alps, with altitude levels between 2000 and 2720 metres.
This was also the first German ski resort to become certified for its safety standards – so you can be confident on the level of safety this place offers.
Another loved spot is Garmisch-Partnerkirchen, whose name you may recognise from the television, as they hosted the downhill and giant slalom disciplines of the Alpine Skiing World Cup in January this year.
Tying in one of these events with your ski-trip is sure to make for a memorable holiday.
If, however, you prefer cross-country skiing, Oberammergau should be top of your list.
With the Ammergau Alps having over 100km of trails, there’s plenty of routes for you to take to explore a mix of wooded landscapes and sun filled views.
Austria is known for its linked ski resorts, providing you the opportunity to ski more than just one area.
This allows for greater variety in slopes and the opportunity to experience a greater number of runs at your level.
We recommend checking out the below for their great cross-resort connections.
Arlberg – This resort joins together St Anton, St Christoph, Lech, Zürs, Zug, Stuben and Sonnenkopf.
And with a new gondola system in place you can now access 300km of runs which span across several mountains.
Ski Welt – This offers, again, an impressive 279km of piste to ski, covering the resorts of Brixen, Ellmau, Scheffau, Söll, and Westendorf.
Skicircus – This pass enables you to ski or board the resorts of Saalbach, Hinterglemm, Leogang and now Fieberbrunn, offering 240km of runs.
Beyond these areas, Kitzbühel should also be considered - Skiresort.info ranks it as number one in the world.
They have rated Kitzbühel an impressive 4.8 stars out of 5 across an 18-point evaluation, criteria which includes ski resort size, slope offerings and slope preparation.
A great place to visit for all skiing levels is Cortina d'Ampezzo.
It is the perfect town to explore, with its array of shops and restaurants, and beautiful limestone cliffs surrounding it.
As this place hosted the Olympics in 1956, you will also be able to catch a glimpse of the now-shut ski jump and bobsleigh run used – which are impressive to see from the heights of a gondola.
The option to ski on Mont Blanc can be found in the resort of Courmayeur (Monte Bianco).
In 2015, the Skyway Monte Bianco cable car was built, which takes you as close as you can get, via public transport, to the summit of this mountain; reaching elevations of 3,466m at its final stop – Punta Hellbronner.
Here, you can take in the spectacular 360⁰ views of the mountain from its panoramic terrace. If you are feeling confident enough, both off-piste routes and hiking trails start from here too.
A final location to visit is Bormio, known as the wellness mountain.
This is the ideal place to combine skiing and relaxation.
Originally a spa town, it now has thermal baths - perfect to unwind in after a long day of skiing.
Purchasing the Bormio ski and spa pass will allow you to ski and gain access to the outdoor pools, and top rated spa facilities in the “QC Terme” spa’s in both Bagni Nuovi and Bagni Vecche
What’s not to love?
Switzerland is one of the countries that hosts the downhill and slalom events of the FIS Ski World Cup every year.
So if you are planning a January trip, I’d definitely try and get tickets, as it’s sure to be an adrenaline-filled day, watching expert skiers soar down the runs at record speeds.
If you are looking for the picture perfect alpine ski experience however, Grindelwald (in the Jungfrau region), and its neighbours Wengen and Mürren, offer just that.
But if the postcard scenery isn’t enough, Grindelwald sports offer a moonlight skiing experience where you can hit the slopes from 7pm to 10pm, and take in the spectacular starry skyline.
Some other resorts to visit in the Swiss Alps are as follows…
Davos – This resort is perfect for intermediate level skiing, and with the available Rega ski pass you are able to cover destinations beyond Davos – Rinerhorn, Gotschna and Madrissa.
Engelberg-Titlis – This is perfect if you like the convenience of ski-in ski-out destinations. You can also ski here from October through to May, so there’s plenty of time to get your snow fix.
This resort has 40km of beginner slopes, with the majority of their slopes being at beginner or intermediate level.
A beginner slope doesn’t mean you have to be at the bottom of the mountain however, there is a great range of slopes at this level higher up the mountains, so you can get the full high altitude ski experience, and really embrace the amazing views.
Part of Ski Welt (Austria’s largest linked ski area), this resort has great nursery slopes for lessons and beginner skiing.
This is also perfect for snowboard beginners, with the lowest slopes located in Going, Astberg and Brandstadl.
This is highly rated for its beginner skiing, in particular the two areas of Rif Nel and Les Jeux.
As an added bonus, you can purchase a lift pass which solely covers these areas, so there’s no need to waste money on a pass that covers areas beyond your depth.
An extra advantage this resort offers is its 300 days of sun a year. You can therefore enjoy learning to ski in nice conditions.
One thing to consider, with some low level resorts, is that they may not offer the most scenic views and amenities that you require.
Therefore, it’s good to do your research on the resorts before you book.
In general, most places offer beginner slopes, however - some less than others, so if you don’t mind skiing runs several times, it may be better to choose a more popular resort. For example, Chamonix, Les Arcs, Meribel etc.
This resort is well known for its steep pistes and difficult runs, so perfect if you are looking to embark on some challenging routes during your break.
In particular, the ski areas of Les Grands Montets and Brevent, both offer advanced slopes.
For the real expert skiiers, a must is the Valluga Mountain off piste tour.
At 2,811m, this terrain can only be accessed with a guide, but is well worth it for any thrill seeker.
Beyond this, the areas of Rendle and Warth-Schroecken both offer some great black runs and un-groomed trails.
This is an area full of steep and fast runs, with its most famous being Tortin (700m vertical) and Gentianes (900m vertical).
A word of warning, these aren’t for the faint hearted, but are very popular with the advanced skiers.
You can also take your advanced skiing to the next level and head to the snow park at La Chaux (2260m).
Amongst its amazing mountains, the Alps is a cheese lover’s paradise.
In addition to this, each country offers its own unique tasty dishes, so here’s a list of a few to try on your next trip to the Alps.
Melted semi-hard Swiss cheese, poured over meat, bread, potatoes and vegetables.
A lot of restaurants will put the raclette on your table, where you are able to melt your own cheese in individual dishes, then pour this onto your food.
This is melted cheese in a communal pot, which is usually lit by a candle or small stove to continually melt it.
You can dip in various foods such as bread, potatoes and vegetables – a rich but delicious treat.
A dish originally from Savoy in the Alps, this contains baked cubed potatoes with bacon and melted cheese (of course).
You can’t go to the Swiss Alps without sampling their famous chocolate, whether in block or melted form, it’s a must!
After a day on the slopes warm up with a glass of mulled wine – a German favourite, and on the menu of most bars and restaurants in Germany and Austria.
A breakfast dish originating in the Swiss Alps.
It likens to a fritter with potato being the main ingredient - crisp on the outside and soft in the middle, the perfect all day snack.
This can be made into a full meal with the addition of extra ingredients such as bacon, onions and cheese.
A sweet soufflé. This light and fluffy dessert flavoured with vanilla and lemon – the perfect after dinner treat.
To arrange your ski trip - Crystal Ski, Neilson, Inghams and Alpine elements are just a handful of the booking agents you can go with to plan and secure your holiday.
Finally, with all that sorted, make sure you also have get the necessary insurance sorted too. Remember that winter sports are covered outside of your generic insurance.
If you’d like to compare quotes with ease, Medical Travel Compared offer competitive prices for winter sports. Have a look at the rates on offer here.