Ski circuits in the Alps
Want to explore an entire ski resort without having to repeat lifts? More and more ski resorts in the Alps are installing ski circuits that take you through all the highlights in one day. These ski circuits are clearly signposted so you can find your way without the help of a guide – it’s the perfect way to discover a new ski resort on your own terms! Be aware that due to their length and demanding nature, anyone attempting to complete a ski circuit should be a confident skier with an adequate level of fitness. If you’re thirsty for a new challenge, here are 7 brilliant alpine ski circuits to try on your next holiday.
The Sella Ronda is perhaps the best-known ski circuit in Europe. Skiers and snowboarders have flocked here since the 1970’s to tackle this impressive tour that runs around the Sella massif in the Dolomites UNESCO site. The 26km circuit takes participants on a 6-hour trek through four Italian valleys: Val Gardena, Alta Badia, Arabba and Fassatal, with possible side-trips to the neighbouring ski areas in the Dolomiti Superski area. The Sella Ronda is marked with green and orange signs and it can be done clockwise or counterclockwise. Clockwise, marked in orange, is considered the more challenging version with its steeper slopes.
The brand-new Run of Fame at Ski Arlberg has only been open since the 2016-2017 ski season, inaugurated in honour of the new Flexenbahn cable car which connects the towns of Stuben/Rauz and Lech. Offering a whopping 65km of pistes, the Run of Fame ski circuit is dedicated to the stars, both the sport and silver screen variety, who have graced these slopes with their presence at one time or another. Ski in the footsteps of famous Arlberg pioneers Johann Müller and Hannes Schneider, as well as local ski stars such as Karl Schranz and Mario Matt. The circuit boasts 18,000m of altitude gained and lost as it winds its way through the entire Ski Arlberg area, starting from the village centre in Warth and passing through the Rendl in St. Anton before making its way back to Warth. Even strong skiers should allow a full day to complete this gigantic ski circuit.
The Tauern Circuit takes skiers and snowboarders in a loop around Obertauern and, like the Sella Ronda, it can be done clockwise or counterclockwise. The green counterclockwise tour includes seven lifts, while the red clockwise version has nine. Since both versions are fairly manageable at approximately 12km each, it is possible to attempt them both in the same day. Diehard skiers can also challenge themselves on the Gamsleiten 2, one of the steepest and most demanding slopes in Austria.
Skiers and snowboarders will complete a total of 12500 vertical meters on this impressive ski round in the Matterhorn-Zermatt ski area – you are guaranteed to feel the burn in your legs here! But the view at the top is well worth the effort – successful participants will enjoy spectacular vistas of the iconic Matterhorn and numerous other 4000m-high mountain peaks. Indeed, the tour itself falls just short of 4000m. The Safari 12500 will take you on 29 lifts, bringing you from the Matterhorn in Switzerland, over to Valtournenche in Italy and back again. If you’re lucky, you might encounter some of the local chamois, a kind of goat-antelope native to the Alps.
Matterhorn ski safari © Zermatt Bergbahnen
Athletic skiers only, please! With 72km of pistes and 12500m of altitude gained and lost, the Skicircus Challenge at Skicircus Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang Fieberbrunn is not for the fainthearted. Leading from Saalbach Hinterglemm through Leogang and Fieberbrunn and then back again, the tour usually takes around 7 hours and is widely considered the longest ski tour in the Alps. The terrain itself is varied and covers 32 lifts. The one thing to remember? Keep a close eye on the time and don’t be tempted to stray too far from the course, because once the lifts close you’ll have to take an expensive taxi back to your accommodation.
The beautiful Königstour ski circuit leads skiers and snowboarders through the Hochkönig ski area. Participants will cover 32km of pistes and 6700m in altitude change between the Maria Alm and the Mühlbach. This ski circuit, which takes you over five imposing mountain peaks, is a good option for less experienced winter sports enthusiasts. Families will also enjoy the Königstour. Rustic mountain huts beckon to you from every turn, and the fantastic pistes and outstanding views make this one of the loveliest ski circuits in the Alps.
The Smuggler's Run passes through two countries. True to its name, participants in this ski circuit should carry a large empty rucksack on this tour so they can take advantage of the duty-free shopping across the Swiss border before returning to Austria. The 36km Golden Smuggler's Run is very scenic and hits up all the highlights of the Ischgl - Samnaun - Silvretta Arena – at peak times, you’ll find thousands of skiers and snowboarders on this circuit. However, there are also the options of the shorter and easier Silver and Bronze circuits for those with less time or stamina.
Smuggler's Run © Ischgl
The first ski circuit was established over 50 years ago in Vorarlberg. Known as The White Ring, it was a 22km ski circuit that connected Lech and Zürs. Today, The White Ring has been integrated into the Run of Fame at Ski Arlberg, but The White Ring race is still held annually in honour of this beloved ski tour. Thanks to the success of this original ski circuit, a variety of other circuits soon cropped up all over the Alps. To this day, they continue to enjoy mythical status among skiers and snowboarders.
Born and raised in the ski paradise of Vancouver, Canada, I learned to ski before I can remember, balancing precariously on my parents’ skis as they sailed down the hill. I started snowboarding in my teens and am now delighted to be exploring everything Europe’s ski scene has to offer!
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