Whether you’re looking for serious slopes or you’re all about the après, our guide to skiing in Europe reveals the best resorts, hotels and chalets to visit in the Alps, from historic classics to new openings for this winter season
It’s that time of year, when temperatures drop across Europe, and thoughts turn unerringly to the mountains. And where better to head than the Alps – snow-capped peaks and dramatic glacial valleys, the highest concentration of ski resorts in the world, and plenty of winter sun to take the chill off. We’ve gathered some of the undisputed greatest ski resorts, as well as new players on the scene, which bring together the best destinations for skiing, wellness, and general Alpine charm this winter.
Many of these resorts are leaders in sustainability too. Les Trois Vallées and Espace Killy regions in France are run entirely on renewable energy, and their piste bashers have replaced diesel for bio oil, while the Arlberg region in Austria makes use of biomass plants that burn locally sourced wood chip to heat close to 100 per cent of all businesses and homes in the region. Many of these resorts are close to train stations, making it possible to travel from major European cities straight to the mountains without flying.
The French Alps have the highest mountains in the range, and some of the biggest connected ski resorts available, characterised by wide motorway pistes, lively après (La Folie Douce is a classic fixture) and traditional Savoyard dishes. We can already smell the tangy melted raclette and sizzling tartiflette.
Aman Le Mélézin, Courchevel 1850
The largest resort of them all is Les Trois Vallées, stretching from Courchevel, across Meribel, and up to Val Thorens. Since 1971, the entire region has been connected by lifts, making it possible to ski across all three valleys; in the last ten years, the lifts have been running entirely on renewable energy, reducing the resort’s environmental impact. While Val Thorens’s high altitude and large hotels make it well catered to massive student trips, things are decidedly more glamorous at Courchevel – a series of four villages, split by altitude, scattered up the valley.
Courchevel 1850, the centre of the resort and the highest of the villages, is the location of Aman’s first alpine destination, Aman Le Mélézin. Set just above the town, directly on the pistes, the four-storey châteaux has all the ultra-luxurious details one can expect from the brand: rooms and suites with private balconies, terraces and steamy hot tubs; a bar, smoking lounge, and in-house Japanese restaurant; and two floors dedicated to wellness, with a spa, hammam, sauna, swimming pool, and gym. There’s also plenty of activities available, including ski lessons or guiding arranged through the hotel, dawn hot air balloon trips, and mountain meals at sunset, transported by horse drawn carriage.
Zannier Hotels Le Chalet, Megève
Megève, in the Mont Blanc massif of Haute-Savoie, was the first purpose-built ski resort in the Alps, constructed in the 1920s upon the existing 13th-century village by the Rothschild family as an alternative to Switzerland’s St Moritz. It’s also the resort featured in the beginning of the 1963 film Charade with Audrey Hepburn. Its smaller size means it often benefits from quieter pistes compared to its larger neighbour Chamonix.
On a hill above the town, Zannier Hotels Le Chalet occupies three traditional chalet buildings, made up of 12 rooms and suites, a spa, and in-house restaurant. You can book one room, or buy out a whole chalet. The interiors marry classic wooden panelling with a wabi sabi aesthetic, replete with slouchy linen sofas, abstract paintings hung on the walls, and art tomes scattered across coffee tables, with all bathrooms served with Le Labo products. If you’re into the interiors philosophy of Axel Vervoordt, this stay could be the alpine getaway for you.
A.M.A. Selections, Val d’Isère
On the edge of the Vanoise National Park, where the Trois Vallees can be found, lies another titanic ski resort – the Espace Killy region, which joins Val d’Isère with neighbouring town Tignes. It’s one of the finest places to ski, due to its size, snow certainty and altitude. It also has some of the most charming traditional chalets in the French Alps, and lively après bars on the pistes to boot, for glasses of crisp rosé in the sun.
The resort is also committed to reducing its environmental impact. The lifts run exclusively on renewable energy, its fleet of piste bashers are fuelled by hydrogenated vegetable oil, and they’ve begun the purchase of electric shuttle buses to transport people around resort, with the aim of having an entirely zero-carbon fleet in 2025.
Luxury holiday rentals A.M.A Selections has a growing portfolio of properties in Val d’Isère and Tignes, as well as in other French resorts like Chamonix, Meribel and Courchevel. The chalets range in size from eight to 18 guests, and all have wooden panelling and exposed beams, comfy rugs and sofas, and cosy fireplaces. Chalet Oxalis overlooks the Isere river, and has a hot tub and sauna, with the option of hiring a private chef to prepare family meals at home.
In the centre of the Alps, more than half of the small landlocked nation of Switzerland is covered by Alpine peaks and emerald lakes. A stay in Switzerland is arguably the quaintest of the lot, but also the most expensive, with exchange rates favouring the Swiss franc.
Badrutt’s Palace, St Moritz
St Moritz, in the Engadin valley in Grisons canton, is one of the most traditional ski towns in all the Alps, and probably the most glitzy: Cartier host polo world cups here, an annual horse race is held on the frozen Lake St Moritz every February, and an insane collection of boutiques from some of the biggest fashion houses in the world line its high streets. St Moritz is another world, where guests can expect to be treated like royalty (which is just as well, because many of them are anyway).
At the centre of it all is Badrutt’s Palace, which has got to be one of the closest contenders to a real life Grand Budapest Hotel in existence. Built in 1896 in a stately neo-gothic style, its founders Johannes and Caspar Badrutt imbued the hotel with old world grandeur. Ornate wooden carvings sweep the ceilings in the restaurants, bars, spas and 155 guestrooms, where towering windows frame views of Lake St. Moritz and the dramatic peaks behind. Staying in Badrutt’s Palace is an Alpine experience at its most historic and palatial, with turrets, ballrooms, terraces and antique furniture, paintings, rugs and wallpapers to be explored. You’d be forgiven for expecting Ralph Fiennes to sweep past in hotel concierge garb at any moment.
Hotel Crans-Montana by Faern
For a more compact experience, the Crans-Montana region in the French-speaking Valais canton has a more laid-back energy than some of its larger neighbours, although there’s still Cartier, Louis Vuitton and Hermès boutiques in town, so it’s not without its constituent glam. Set on a plateau at 1,500 metres, with views from the Matterhorn to Mont Blanc, the twin towns of Crans and Montana get plenty of dramatic Alpine sun year round. The resort is also a credited leader of the ‘Swisstainable’ programme, which commits to comprehensive sustainability across all tourism providers.
New for this winter season is Hotel Crans Montana by Faern, a new collection of Swiss alpine hotels that takes its name from the German feiern, ‘to celebrate’. Their properties are geared towards bringing people together for care-free, outdoor experiences, which they neatly describe as ‘altitude living’. Hotel Crans Montana has 134 rooms, a restaurant, and a speakeasy cocktail bar, all designed in a modern mountain sensibility. It also has the largest wellness suite in the whole town, so if you’re up for staying in, you can be safe in the knowledge that you will be fully pampered.
Austria has the largest share of the Alps out of any country, taking in the central and eastern alps, with the best skiing found in the Vorarlberg, Tyrol and Salzburg regions. Straddling the first two is the St Anton am Arlberg resort, which is often considered the cradle of alpine skiing, and takes in around ten villages and towns scattered across the valleys. In 2016, a new gondola linked Zürs to Stuben, making it the largest connected ski area in Austria.
Hotel Aurelio, Lech
At the centre of the region is Lech, a particularly traditional Alpine village replete with its namesake river, rolling alpine meadows, and a classic Austrian onion dome church. It is far more low-key than some of the glitzier resorts, which is at odds with its clientele: Princess Diana famously favoured Lech, and taught young Prince William and Harry how to ski here.
Lech also has impressive green credentials. The village has been carbon neutral since 2019, limiting its avoidable emissions and off-setting unavoidable ones with accredited environmental protection programmes. Since 2020, the combined Lech and Zürs ski area runs entirely on renewable electricity, meaning all lifts, mountain restaurants, and snow-making facilities are powered by hydroelectricity, saving an estimated 1265 tons of CO2 emissions every year. Locally sourced wood chip is used in biomass heating plants, producing enough energy to heat close to 100 per cent of all households and businesses in Lech, Zug, Oberlech and Zürs, saving around 24,000 tons of CO2 emissions annually. Lech and Zürs also consciously limit the two villages’ capacity for visitors to 10,000 guest beds, ensuring a sustainable level of tourism to the region.
As for where to stay, near the centre of town, the Hotel Aurelio is a refreshingly compact hotel of only ten rooms, with a separate chalet that can be booked out, with its own wellness suite and terraces. The hotel rooms are all pine-clad comfort and cosyness, and the hotel boasts a sun terrace, an indoor lounge and a traditional restaurant.
Italy gives the chance to combine outdoor winter adventures with Italian cuisine – an easy choice for many. Its mountains lie along the full length of the range, from the eastern slopes of Mont Blanc in Courmayeur, along the south of the Matterhorn and the Swiss Alps, to the limestone peaks of the Dolomites in the east.
Adler Lodge Alpe, Alpe di Siusi
It’s here – the Dolomites – that arguably the most iconic Italian alpine experiences can be had. South Tyrol in particular makes for a fascinating destination. The region was formerly in the Austrian Empire, and in the peace process following the first world war, was handed to Italy, resulting in a fusion of Austrian and Italian culture – Italian pizza with Austrian beers, yes please. Legendary alpinist Reinholt Messner, the first person to climb all of the world’s 8000-metre peaks, is from here, and has embedded several sleek, modernist museums about its summits, all dedicated to the history of climbing.
In this region, on the undulating plateau of the Alpe di Siusi, lies Adler Lodge Alpe. The intimate retreat overlooks a rolling Alpine meadow, cut with swathes of dark spruce, and flanked by jagged limestone peaks. Inside, the Lodge’s 18 suites and 12 chalets are panelled with the same spruce that grows outside; the sauna is fuelled by hay from the surrounding meadows; the loft level spa looks out towards the mountains; and the outdoor pool reflects the rock faces above. You can rent your outdoor equipment straight from the ski room in the hotel, and can set off on downhill, cross-country or snowshoe excursions straight from the front door. The majority of the food served in the restaurant is locally sourced, minimising air miles and hotel carbon emissions, as well as supporting local businesses.