Now that summer has been and gone, holidaymakers are turning their attention to the 2013/2014 ski season, with Europe’s alpine slopes providing the ultimate outdoor playground once the weather has turned and the snow begins to fall.
If you’re planning your first ever skiing holiday, you’re doubtless feeling a little overwhelmed by the whole thing, with so many countries, let alone resorts, to choose from.
With that in mind, the following guide is designed to help you hone in on your preferred destination and ski resort:
The world’s most popular ski destination by ‘skier days’ according to Domaines Skiables de France, with 57.9 million recorded in 2012/2013, France is a perennial favourite with British slopesmiths thanks to its convenience, value-for-money, huge ski areas and consistent conditions.
One of the most popular resorts is the famous Alpe d’Huez, whose high slopes (up to 3,330m) mean you can almost guarantee snow for your holiday. There are runs to suit skiers of all abilities and the apres ski scene is a winner with tourists.
France’s main rival in Europe and the third most popular destination in the world behind the USA, Austria offers great skiing, a friendly welcome, holidays to suit all budgets and attractive towns for a picture-postcard getaway.
One of the best-known Austrian resorts is the World Cup town of Kitzbuhel, which offers fantastic skiing and a buzzing nightlife scene. Just be wary of what month you book your holiday for as at only 2,000m maximum altitude, Kitzbuhel’s slopes can suffer when things begin to warm up in the spring.
Another one of Europe’s big hitters, Switzerland offers fabulous scenery and skiing, albeit for a little bit more money than its neighbours France and Austria.
The resort of Davos in the Graubunden region is one of Europe’s largest ski areas, so you certainly won’t get bored on a skiing holiday here. And like Alpe d’Huez, some of the slopes top out at over 3,000m for crisp conditions throughout the season.
The final one of Europe’s ‘Big Four’ ski destinations, Italy is yet another great option for a ski break this year. It has many high-altitude resorts, which makes it a great late-season destination.
These include Arraba in the Dolomites, where the highest lift is a little shy of 3,000m. Arraba’s laid back resort is ideal for family groups uninterested in the apres ski scene, although the local wine is cheap and delicious.
As well as the Big Four, there are a number of up-and-coming ski destinations in Europe offering a good and cheap introduction to skiing for those trying the sport for the first time.
These include Andorra, whose Arinsal resort is ideal for groups of beginners looking for fun both on and off the slopes. Plenty of cheap alcohol and lively bars make for fun times once the slopes have shut, while Andorra’s capital, La Vella, is only 7km away.
Intermediates and serious ski aficionados, however, will quickly get bored of Arinsal’s limited runs and should look elsewhere for their ski holiday – any of the above will suit you just fine.
The most important things to consider when booking your ski break are resort altitude and time of year; the apres ski scene (if the off-slope action is important to you); and the quantity of runs to suit your ability. Get these three right and you’ll have a great time.