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Including Europe’s most famous ski resorts, up-and-coming destinations in Chile and one of Japan’s most popular spots to plummet down a mountain, we count down the world’s best ski resorts.
This resort lies within the famous Trois Vallées ski area, which comprises 180 lifts, 335 marked runs spanning more than 600km, and over 100km of cross-country trails. The Trois Vallées area also includes the popular resorts of Courchevel and Val Thorens. Méribel, which hosted the 1992 Winter Olympics, has two snowparks, over 2km of toboggan runs and family-friendly facilities, as well as facilities for disabled skiers. The season is long, from early December until late April.
Chamonix is the bucket list European destination for many hardcore skiers. Its four ski areas have one of the most majestic backdrops in the world: Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest peak. The resort, which hosted the very first Winter Olympics in 1924, is famous for its adventure skiing and range of runs that sweep down glaciers and dramatically steep mountainsides. There are beginners’ slopes too, so you don’t have to be a total thrillseeker to enjoy the resort.
While it is hard to choose from Switzerland’s many outstanding ski resorts, Zermatt, with its background of the grand Matterhorn, just pips the others. Its high altitude means skiing is possible throughout the summer as well as winter – it is the highest summer ski resort in Europe. Zermatt has 360km of pistes and a snowpark for snowboarders and freestyle skiers, right in the shadow of the Matterhorn.
St Anton, Austria
Sitting pretty in the Tyrolean Alps in western Austria, St Anton was formerly a hamlet before becoming one of the first ski resorts in the world. It was home to the first ever ski school and has some of the best snow in Europe thanks to the frequent snowfall that litters the slopes in perfect powder. It might have great skiing, but it is also renowned for its buzzing aprés-ski. After a day of skiing, visitors head to the infamous MooserWirt, on piste number one, for beers, burgers and a background of stomping tunes mixed by the resident DJ.
Sierra Nevada, Spain
The Sierra Nevada is home to the most southerly ski resort in Europe, where skiers can experience the surreal sensation of hitting the slopes in the morning and sunbathing on the beach along Spain’s south coast in the afternoon. Spain might not be as known for its skiing as France, Austria and Switzerland, but it’s a good option if you’re looking for exciting pistes and more reasonable accommodation and food costs. Just 32km from the city of Granada, the Sierra Nevada Ski Resort reaches a heady 3,300m and has a vertical drop of 1,200m. The resort has over 106km of marked slopes and 124 runs, spanning easy to very difficult.
If you’re looking for a budget skiing option, you could do a lot worse than Bansko, Bulgaria’s most popular ski resort located at the foot of the Pirin Mountains in south-west Bulgaria, 160km from the capital, Sofia. The resort has 70km of ski runs as well as a fun park and half-pipe for snowboarders. While Bansko is not as developed as the bigger resorts in the Alps, it is a good option for a reasonable ski holiday, whether you’re a beginner or more advanced.
Riksgränsen is a ski resort unlike any other; the world’s most northerly ski resort is located 200km north of the Arctic Circle in Lapland. Due to its dark and freezing winters, the ski season runs from February to June, making it a great spring or early summer destination. Visitors can ski by the light of the midnight sun in what must be one of the most magical ski experiences in the world. There is a great range of on and off-piste skiing and when you’re not hitting the slopes, you can go dog sledding or take a snow mobile tour.
Canada’s most famous ski resort, north of Vancouver in British Columbia, hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics and welcomes over two million visitors every year. The ski area, at 3,240 hectares, is one of the biggest in the world and the Winter Olympics meant facilities were updated and lots more investment was pumped into the resort. It’s a family-friendly resort, the quaint Whistler village is a lovely place to explore and there are plenty of great aprés-ski options, whether you’re looking for child-friendly or late night and lively.
Vail, Colorado, USA
Vail Ski Resort in Colorado is one of the biggest ski resorts by area in the United States, with a skiable area of over 5,000 hectares. It is spread over three areas and has 193 runs, spanning beginner, intermediate and advanced. It’s a family-friendly resort with plenty of activities to entertain the kids. There are also two snowparks including a super pipe. The season runs from November to April.
Valle Nevado, Chile
A day trip away from the Chilean capital of Santiago, Valle Nevado is great for everyone from families to hardcore snowboarders. It is located in the El Plomo foothills of the mighty Andes mountain range and has around 800 hectares of skiable area. The resort was conceived by a group of Frenchmen who wanted to emulate France’s best ski resorts in the Andes. It opened in the late eighties and has been growing ever since. Today, it offers great powder skiing, as well experiences like heli-skiing. The ski season runs from June to October.
One of Japan’s most popular ski areas is on the northern island of Hokkaido. It offers incredible views over the dormant volcano, Mount Yotei, and four interconnected resorts that comprise over 325 hectares of skiable terrain. Its international pull means nightlife is a melting pot of nationalities and more akin to a big city than a rural outpost. Sooth your aching muscles by visiting one of the many hot springs, or onsen, dotted around the mountains. The ski season typically runs from November to early May.