Lifestyle & Culture

Dispatches’ expert-curated list of Europe’s best ski destinations for 2019/2020 (updated)

Meiringen-Hasliberg, Switzerland

Along the lines of La Dôle, Meiringen-Hasliberg in the Jungfrau Region east of Interlaken is more of a family friendly, low key ski destination, popular with locals … and with way shorter lines even in high season than the bigger, more famous ski areas, according to our experts.

Oddly, there aren’t a lot of pistes for beginners, though the off-piste skiing is top-notch. A beautiful area without a whole lot to do but ski. Of course, you can always go down to the Hooters in Interlaken, which we found amusing back in the day. (And no, it’s not part of the American fast-casual T&A restaurant chain.)

The season opens 14 December and closes 13 April.

The details:

• 60 kilometers of pistes

• 5 gondola lifts, 4 chairlifts and 4 tow lifts

• about 50 percent of the runs are rated red, with only about 10 percent rated black

• passes start at 26 euros for kids per day, youths 42 euros and adults 54 euros.

Where to stay: Das Hotel Panorama

You can get to Meiringen-Hasliberg via Bern or Lucerne.

Zermatt, Switzerland

Zermatt is Switzerland’s most famous ski resort and it lives up to its reputation. It has a “charming, secluded feel in a narrow valley” where only electric buses and vehicles are allowed, says Edzard. And of course, it also has the Matterhorn if you’re interested in scenery.

Zermatt is right on the Swiss/Italian border, so you can ski from Switzerland into Italy.

Of all the ski destinations on this list, Zermatt is probably more a lifestyle destination because snow is not a sure thing here. (That said, there is a glacier that always has snow and there’s artificial snow all year.)

What it has for certain is luxury shopping on Bahnhofstrasse, nightlife and aprés ski. And yes, several ski websites list this as the most expensive destination in Europe at about 1,200 euros per day, roughly twice the cost of going skiing in Garmisch over in Bavaria on the German/Austrian border. But websites such as Ski Solutions have discount package deals.

The “ski test” initial season opens on 19 October and runs through 1 December, when the official season opens. The season closes on 22 April.

The details:

• 293 kilometers of pistes in three areas and is linked by lift (and piste) to Cervinia, Italy, which means access to another 160 kilometers

• Longest slope: 25 kilometers (Matterhorn glacier paradise – Zermatt)

• about 60 percent red slopes, 20 percent blue slopes and 20 percent black slopes

• there are a total of at least 100 lifts in the three areas forming a super-efficient lift network

• Lift tickets start at 79 CHF, or 73 euros, per day and you can get them here.

Chamonix, France

Dispatches reader Ree Golly pinged us, recommending Chamonix and several others, which we’ll add later. This is an actual ’round-the-calendar city the shadow of Mt. Blanc – Europe’s highest peak – and the Aiguille du Midi on the Swiss/French border.

It’s been a winter destination since it hosted the first Winter Olympics back in 1924. Chamonix is the place a lot of us learned to ski, and we’ve seen it grow over the years from a destination for British rock climbers and mountain climbers to a mega ski resort popular with extreme skiiers, snow boarders and mountain bikers.

This is very popular and relatively affordable destination (compared to Switzerland!) that’s easy to get to from Grenoble, Geneva and other cities via Aix-les-Bains. So get ready for crowds. But the facilities are top-notch and there are plenty of places to stay at very price levels.

Chamonix has multiple ski areas, and confusingly, they all have different opening days starting 16 November. But all are scheduled to be fully open (depending on snow conditions) by 14 December.

The details:

• Chamonix is super-popular because it has slopes for skiers of all skill levels from novices to the best in the world, as well as 20 kilometers of off-piste in the Vallée Blanche run.

• Chamonix’s five ski areas – Brévent, Flégère, Balme Vallorcine, Grands Montets and Les Houches – can be accessed by an unlimited pass starting at 67 euros per day for adults. You can get yours here.

• The highest lift goes up to 3,842 meters, or 12,600 feet!

• Yes, Chamonix is a real town/small city with lots and lots to do including shopping and nightlife/aprés ski. But if you want a low-key experience, there are smaller villages up and down the Chamonix Valley such as Les Houches and Servoz.

• A warning from personal experience – the télépherique up the viewing platform on Aiguille du Midi is so steep and fast that you tend to experience the effects of oxygen depletion, especially if you’ve come to Chamonix from lower altitudes without a period of adjustment. Which means a lot of people get woozy on the way up.

Been there. Done that. Hated it.

Saalbach-Hinterglemm, Austria

This is by popular demand. Several Dispatches readers pinged us saying they rank Saalbach-Hinterglemm near Salzburg as their favorite go-to resort in Austria.

This huge complex is a popular party destination, hosting Rave on Snow each December, White Pearl Mountain Days in late March and early April and several competitions. But’s also a serious ski/winter sports destination with the Skicircus, 270 kilometers of runs connecting Saalbach, Hinterglemm, Fieberbrunn and Leogang. Saalbach is also a great off-piste destination, according to our expats and there’s an annual Mountain Attack nighttime competition.

Here are the deets:

• 270 kilometer of runs including 78 blue slopes, 48 red slopes and 12 black slopes. Saalbach claims the longest ski circuit in the Alpes, and you can see the details here.

• 70 lifts

• There are more than 300 places to stay in the area, and you can see the list here ranked from the best to, well, the least best.

• The season runs through 13 April.

Lift tickets start at 45 euros for adults, 23 euros for kids and you can get yours here. There are also lots and lots of options/discounts, so check out the website carefully.

To see what you’re missing, check out the live feeds here.

Saint Anton am Arlberg, Austria

This is where it all started. This is where it’s all still going on in the Tyrol just west of Innsbruck.

Saint Anton am Arlberg is the Mecca of skiing, a resort real skiers have to visit because this is where skiing made the jump from military training to an excuse for us all to buy expensive gear and pack onto the deck at The MooserWirt.

It’s also a good destination for set jetters since a ton of ski movies were shot here including “Downhill Racer” with Robert Redford. Lech near St. Anton is where the Dutch royal family goes, so, you know, if it’s good enough for them ….

Unlike the exclusive la-ti-dah destinations on this list, this is a giant, super-popular resort that makes almost every annual list of the best in Europe. The Alberg region includes St. Anton, Pettneu-Schnann, St. Christoph, Flirsch and Stegen, so there are lots of places to stay.

The website is the best we’ve seen, and has features including pages dedicated to accommodations.

The numbers:

• 88 cable cars connected ski areas up and down the valley as part of a 54-mile system.

• 305 kilometers of pistes. The longest downhill run (8.5 km) with a vertical drop of 1,350 meters leads from the Valluga mountain via the Ulmer mountain lodge to St. Anton am Arlberg.

• the majority of slopes on the 18 ski routes are easy-to-medium. But there are a ton of black slopes.

• lots of events including the Audi Ice Experience and the FIS European Cup for women.

You can see all the options for passes here.

Check out our 2019 list of best off-the-radar ski destinations here.

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