Now that we’re in the thick of winter, it’s time for the ski season to descend upon us. For the next three months we can expect to see snaps of our friends and loved ones ensconced in mountain culture, living the life of luxury in cozy alpine villas piled high with powder snow. And while the US has plenty of viable and enviable skiing destinations, it is the European resorts that always manage to somehow do it better, balancing great mountain runs with all the continental allure of the après-ski. In mountain ranges spanning France, Italy, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and Slovenia, there’s plenty of European snow to be had for all; it just depends on what kind of experience you’re up for.
Across the vast mountain resorts, there are a number of reclusive spots, hidden from popular view in favor of their larger, more lively cousins. Boasting some of the greatest mountain views with a fraction of the tourists, these places are enviable holiday spots, promising nothing but miles and miles of fresh snow. If you’re heading to Europe this ski season, bear these resorts in mind; they might just surprise you.
Located in sleepy Haute-Savoie, Beaufort is a town that is renowned for its cheese the world over. Home of the fruity variety of the gruyère cheese, the town’s skiing facilities are often overlooked, meaning that for most of the ski season there’s nothing but great snow and open runs. While there are few restaurants and shops to entice tourists, the vast ski slopes more than make up for it. Boasting access to three separate ski areas, Beaufort caters to all levels of proficiency and is renowned for its plentiful quantities of powder snow.
Hiding some of the best backcountry tracks across the alps, Zinal is a resort that deserves serious attention. Dotted with traditional alpine cabins and piled high with powder snow, the area looks like it could have been lifted from any picture postcard. Home to a game-changing set of ski runs, the resort connects to nearby Grimentz by way of cable car, linking you to a more crowded area should you so desire it. Home to the palatial Zinal Glacier, the area is full of natural surprises.
Located in the Ziller valley, Hochfügen is a resort often overlooked in favor of its livelier nearby cousins. Things might just be about to change, however. Home of the Freeride World Tour qualifiers, the ski resort draws in a number of professional skiers and snowboarders each year, its series of runs more than catering to the crowd. If you’re searching for something a little more challenging, Hochfügen is a great option and, void of the droves of skiers you might find elsewhere, the perfect place to kick up a little powder.
Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy
While the upmarket Italian town might be a hotspot for shoppers and foodies alike, its neighboring ski resort is often surprisingly empty. Boasting 140 km of almost empty slopes, the area is a great place for all levels of skiers to take to the snow, from beginners right up to the advanced. Although the area might be quiet during the day, it transforms itself at night into a buzzing après-ski hub. It’s really got the best of both worlds.
If you’re heading to Europe this ski season, you might want to try sourcing a region untouched by the masses. Home to wide slopes, fresh powder snow and few tourists, these alpine resorts are a great way to get back on the hills – and they might just encourage you to come back, year after year.