The Alps are home to some of the most spectacular panoramas in the world, but a surprising number of ski resorts manage to totally trash this scenery by constructing the ugliest buildings you can imagine (we're looking at you, Flaine). If booking a ski holiday in a beautiful ski resort is important to you, then check out this list of ten charming alpine villages - with world-class skiing to boot!
There's something special about the Dolomites. Maybe it's the way they take on a pinkish hue at sunset, or maybe their unique shape (did you know the Dolomites used to be underwater?). Either way, you can't go wrong waking up with a view of these spectacular mountains every morning. St. Ulrich/Ortisei has the double advantage of having bright, colourful wooden houses that offer a lively contrast to the usual browns and greys of a ski resort. It's part of the Val Gardena ski area, so a quality ski holiday is assured.
Another ski resort set in the Dolomites, Cortina d'Ampezzo is beloved by the jet-set and you'll find plenty of swanky boutiques and art galleries here. Elegant wooden buildings with an impressive mountain backdrop, coupled with typical Italian charm, testify to why this has been a popular winter sports destination for several centuries. The ski area is nothing to sneeze at either, with 120km of predominantly red and blue slopes that are perfect for cruising while appreciating the view.
Popular with the British and Dutch royal families, Lech am Arlberg is Ski Arlberg's classy counterpart to the raucous St. Anton am Arlberg. Lech has a sophisticated atmosphere where the well-heeled come to relax away from the crowds. Lech is a former farming village and it has retained its rustic charm; for ski-in, ski-out accommodation, head slightly uphill to Oberlech, where you'll find upper-class hotels with the slopes at their doorstep.
Just a few hours from Lyon Airport lies Megève, which has a pedestrianised medieval centre with cobblestone streets. Megève enjoyed a surge of popularity with the rich and famous in the 1920's but has since retreated to off-the-beaten-path status, so although the infrastructure is there, the crowds aren't! Part of the Evasion Mont-Blanc ski area, the village gives access to 445km of slopes, which should surely be enough for anyone's ski holiday.Photo © Evasion Mont-Blanc
Chamonix is world-renowned for the quality of its skiing, in particular its off-piste terrain in the Vallée Blanche. The town is located underneath the watchful eye of the towering Mont Blanc, and the streets are bursting with more Michelin-starred restaurants than is normal for a ski resort! To get a feel for the lovely surroundings, take a ride through the region on the cherry-red Montenvers train and pause to contemplate the stark beauty of the Mer de Glace.
This Swiss village is renowned for its 16th-century wooden houses, which heark back to the times when this was a simple farming village. Grimentz isn't your typical ski resort, and you're more likely to find accommodation with a villager than in a 5-star hotel. As part of the Val d'Anniviers ski area, Grimentz grants access to 215km of slopes.Photo © Grimentz/St-Jean Tourisme
The pedestrianised historic town centre in Saas-Fee still sports some of the ancient Spycher barns on stilts, traditional of the Valais region. Even the modern architecture here takes care to emulate the authentic feel of the village. Saas-Fee offers high-altitude skiing on several glaciers, as well as a world-class snowpark. Accordingly, it draws a lot of professional skiers and snowboarders who come to practise in the early ski season.
Lovely wooden chalets and a spectacular mountain backdrop make the Tyrolean resort of Alpbach the perfect choice for a romantic ski holiday away from the crowds. Nestled in the Ski Juwel Alpbachtal Wildschönau ski area, Alpbach has over 100km of slopes to explore. Closest to the village you'll find pretty tree-lined slopes that are ideal for beginner skiers and snowboarders. Alpbach is close to Innsbruck Airport.Photo © Alpbachtal Seenland Tourismus
Courmayeur is a medieval Italian town in the Valle d'Aosta with cobblestone streets and a car-free centre. Its position at the foot of Mont Blanc can't be beat - it's located on the other side of Mont Blanc from its sister city, Chamonix. The ski area has a little bit of everything, from low-lying tree-lined slopes up to high-altitude off-piste in the Cresta d'Arp.
You can't write a top ten list about beautiful ski resorts and not mention the ski resort that lies right in the shadow of the Matterhorn, the most iconic peak in the Swiss Alps! The town of Zermatt has a pedestrianised village centre with attractive wooden buildings and narrow streets that are car-free except for electric buses and taxes, so the only traffic noise comes from the clop-clop of horse-drawn sleighs. This is a classy village with the price tags to match, but you'll find top-notch shopping, dining and après-ski.
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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