Ski Resorts: the European Canon

One of the most common requests on r.s.r.e comes from intermediate skiers seeking advice on more adventurous resorts. This page is intended not as a list of "best" resorts in rank order but more as a guide to resorts in Europe that a skier should visit sometime during a skiing career of perhaps twenty years. They're all suitable for the person seeking to ski for a week or a fortnight and expecting all the normal facilities of an International Resort. For a weekend one would probably come up with a different list. Nor is the list intended for very experienced skiers who will already have their own very firm ideas about which resorts were worth a second visit and no doubt many of them will find my lists contentious.

A second group who may find this guide useful are non-europeans wishing to choose a suitable resort for a first visit or dsecond visit to the Alps. I should say first to these people that they will find almost any European Alpine resort spectacularly exciting compared to most resorts elsewhere in the world. However a ski trip to Europe may be your one-and-only visit, it will certainly be expensive and you might as well make sure that you experience one of the best. This does produce one or two distortions in the lists. For example Zermatt and the Dolomites should not really qualify for list B, but even expert skiers who have not yet visited them should do so some time.

I have deliberately not graded the resorts in any particular order as personal preference will play a large part in any choice. Nor do the lists comprise the ten most difficult, the ten biggest, the ten "best" etc. etc. I have deliberately gone for a selection that gives an assortment of different types of resort and which would provide a wide variety of experiences. The list is biased solely by the fact that I have included only resorts in which I have personally skied. The only exception is Ischgl, where I have not skied but where my wife has. If I receive feedback with recommendations for other resorts I will add later lists.

Why no table for beginners and intermediates? Well, its a long time since I skied in this category so it's more difficult for me to make suggestions. One might argue that many of List A are suitable for beginners but, most of the resorts in thelists are amongst the world's most fashionable resorts. They are therefore expensive. On the whole, inexperienced skiers will find smaller resorts better value for money. Therefore, unless your rich (in which case your best ploy is probably to invite my wife and I to join you as your personal guides ;-) choose a small cheap resort at which to learn.

 A. Advanced/Intermediate

In general its much easier for a resort to qualify for this list than for list B. In fact I could very easily have added several more resorts but struggled to keep the list down to ten. In particular I've been very harsh on the French to try and retain a balanced International Portfolio. The main qualifying criterion for this list is a wide variety of pistes.

1

St Anton

Excellent technical training including very good off-piste schools

2

Trois Vallees

Unsurpassed variety

3

Portes du Soleil

Excellent variety

4

Zermatt

Fabulous views

5

Dolomites

Fabulous views, good variety, cheap

6

Crans Montana

Good views, good for families

7

La Plagne

Good variety, good for families

8

Les Arcs

Good variety, good for families

9

Serre Chevalier

Good variety, good for families

10

Ischgl

Good variety, Austrian gemutlichkeit apres-ski

B. Advanced/Expert

In general these resorts have a lot of black, difficult or off-piste skiing. For some (Zermatt, the Dolomites) the skiing is rather more limited but is compensated by spectacular scenery which should be experienced at least once in a skiing lifetime. For example, I would not go to Zermatt for excitement but I plan to return there with my wife for a romantic Wedding Anniversary before we hang up our skis for ever. In general this is the list for which its most difficult for a resort to qualify. One might be surprised at the degree of overlap between the expert and the advanced list. Well, in my experience I find that increasingly I'm tempted to return to favourite resorts for third or fourth visits rather than try something new.

1

Chamonix

Very severe skiing

2

St Anton

Severe skiing, very good advanced tuition

3

Trois Vallees

Something for everyone from severe to beginner

4

Domaine Killy

Severe skiing, early snow, very good advanced tuition

5

Portes du Soleil

Something for everyone from severe to beginner

6

Verbiers

Severe skiing

7

Zermatt

Fabulous scenery

8

Dolomites

Fabulous scenery

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Copyright©Dennis Summerbell, 2003, (Link to full copyright notice)

Updated 25th Jan 2003