There are thousands of resorts all over the world to choose from when planning your first holiday or finding the perfect adventure. Different people will favour different factors too, such as accessibility from a nearby airport, the variety of terrain available, and how picturesque the village is.
This is a brief overview of the things to consider when deciding where to go.
Skiing can be expensive. However a combination of choosing the right place to ski and the right time to go can help you reduce the burden on your wallet.
Traditionally, Bulgaria and Andorra have been two destinations that score highly on the budget ski trip awards. Andorra certainly offers plenty of bang for your buck, with recent investments in infrastructure upgrading the entire ski experience.
Italy can also offer an excellent ski holiday for less, with exceptional food and drink available for a significant discount on other Alpine regions.
On the flip side, big French and Swiss resorts tend to be more exclusive; a strong Swiss Franc makes spending in the country unfavourable in recent years, and some French resorts often angle themselves towards a more wealthy clientele, with limited accommodation options for those on a budget. However, value can still be found in many French resorts, particularly those most often used by “locals”.
Different regions of the Alps can guarantee good conditions at different times. As a rule of thumb, anything with terrain over 2,000m is normally a good bet for snow at all times of the year, including at Christmas and later in the season around Easter. The French resorts of Tignes, Val d’Isere, and Val Thorens are good examples, as are the Austrian resorts of Kuhtai and Solden. Many Austrian resorts are able to open as early as October – albeit with limited terrain – owing to their snow surety, allowing skiing at October half term for committed snowsports enthusiasts!
This does not mean that resorts below this 2,000m mark aren’t snow sure; it just means that it is more risky booking very early and very late season deals. Morzine, one of the lowest resorts in the Alps, has plenty of snow to go around by late December, and offers as fantastic skiing as its higher counterparts.
It goes without saying that some resorts are easier to get to than others, especially if you are planning on a weekend getaway, aren’t a fan of long transfers, or want to mix up the resorts you ski at.
Many Swiss resorts are connected directly to the country’s fast and efficient railway network, offering easy access to the country’s two main airports, Geneva and Zurich. In Austria, the mountainous nature of the country means resorts are never too far away; 11 resorts surround Innsbruck, for example, and are less than one hour from Innsbruck airport. A shuttle bus serves many of them from Innsbruck city centre, too, a configuration that is rarely matched anywhere in the world!
French and Italian resorts can be more difficult. A number of them are close to airports, such as Morzine and La Clusaz to Geneva, Alpe d’Huez to Grenoble, or the Via Lattea resorts to Turin. Others, however, are the end of long, winding valleys, such as Tignes, France, or Livigno, Italy.
Environmental sustainability is becoming an increasingly important factor in deciding where to go skiing. Many ski resorts already have a good head start in being environmentally friendly, as they often rely on renewable hydro energy, operate a car-free resort, or are well connected to railway networks.
The Ski Club has highlighted those that go above and beyond this base measure. Using globally recognised certification systems, including the Flocon Vert award (France), B-Corp certification (worldwide), or the National Ski Area Association’s Golden Eagle Awards (USA), you can easily locate resorts that are considered truly environmentally sustainable.
We’ve also worked with our partner SnowCarbon to highlight resorts that are easy to get to by train; flying contributes more greenhouse gas emissions per day than any other aspect of your skiing holiday, so knowing where and how to go skiing by train can make a huge difference to your snowsports carbon footprint.
The look, feel, and happenings in resort can make the difference between a good ski holiday and a great ski holiday.
There is a stark divide between the chocolate box, car-free villages of Switzerland and Austria, and the modern, purpose-built resorts of France, with the former perfect for a postcard home or an Instagram hashtag, that latter … not so much.
What modern and bigger resorts may lack in style, they certainly make up for in substance. Some of France’s best skiing can be found in modernist dreams from the 1950s and 1960s, such as Tignes and Les Arcs. And the best resorts for dancing the night away on tables at après ski bars are the bigger, bustling resorts of Austria and France; Ischgl, St Anton and Solden immediately spring to the mind of many skiers!
All resorts will have at least one ski school to allow you to learn to ski or snowboard, or improve your technique, as well as offering guiding.
In all countries, instruction is governed by a national body, ensuring the same curriculum is taught at every level and in every resort. Some countries such as France offer a truly centralised ski school with a central booking system; others, you will need to find the ski school on a resort-by-resort basis.
In some resorts, there will also be a number of “private” ski schools, i.e. not governed by the central governing body (although all instructors will be fully qualified). This is most common in big resorts in France and some in Austria and Switzerland, and especially those with a strong British clientele.
You will also see a rise in aggregator services, such as Maison Sport or SkiBro, offering access to independent instructors and guides.
When planning where to go, consider the following: