Skiing in the Alpes from every angle and era
Rising up to well over 4,000 metres the Alps Mountain range is spread throughout Austria, France, Germany, Italy Liechtenstein, Slovenia and Switzerland.Covering an area of 298,128 km² the Alps are home to thousands of Ski resorts all with a unique personality that represents their nation’s character food and traits. Modern man first strapped wooden boards to his feet as a way to transverse snowy terrain hundreds of years ago a trait which later developed into the sport of Nordic skiing (cross-country skiing).Not content with skiing as a way to get from A to B the need for speed took off with, Telemarker’s launching themselves off of Alpine mountains in seek of an adrenaline rush. Now with Alpine skiing firmly established as a sport, it was encompassed into the Winter Olympic Games making its debut Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany in 1936. That very same year the chairlift was invented in America revolutionising skiing as a recreational sport. The 1950’s saw metal skis replace wood with plastic boots taking the place of leather in the 1960’s which has now led to the high-tech carbon gear and Gore-Tex clothing we see on the slopes today. Rather than get into where the best skiing can be found in Europe, which of course has as much to do with the amount of snowfall and conditions as it has to do with location we decided to stick with the top four countries Austria, France, Italy and Switzerland and list our favourite resort in each of them that would give you the best Alpine skiing experience for the money.
Having regularly won the prize for being the prettiest village in Austria, family-friendly Alpbach just oozes Tyrolean charm and is a relative bargain compared to all the better-known resorts of Kitzbühel and St. Anton am Arlberg. Located just a 40-minute drive from Innsbruck Airport, Alpbach skiing is spread over two valleys with 47 lifts and offers 127 kilometres of pistes.Ideal for beginners and intermediate skiers who are ready to challenge themselves, Alpbach is not the place for those seeking black diamond runs or raucous après ski nightlife but is perfect for families and those looking for a relaxing vacation in a picture postcard setting.
Serre Chevalier, France
Located approximately two hours from both Grenoble and Turin airports the Serre Chevalier ski area combines the villages of Briançon, Villeneuve, Chantemerle and Monetier les Bains. Containing 250km pistes with 109 runs to suit all abilities the skiing at this French resort is never hit or miss thanks to its artificial snow making ability. With north facing slopes and an Alpine/Mediterranean climate, plenty of sun is guaranteed, making Serre Chevalier a popular French resort. Look out for the hidden local villages, a wonderful treasure awaits you. With lovely family run hotels, quaint old stone buildings, fine restaurants and an excellent friendly atmosphere to match, you’ll be in a great location for your skiing holiday in France.
Livigno is one of the Alps most inaccessible resorts requiring a three-hour drive from Innsbruck but more than makes up for the inconvenience when it comes to price. With a special tax status dating back to Napoleonic times, Livigno has no value added tax on goods making it one of the cheapest places in Europe to party. Nicknamed “Little Tibet” due to its remoteness near the Swiss border, Livigno is ideal for beginners and intermediates looking for uncrowded slopes where the ski season runs from November through May. A side perk you get with a Ski Livigno Pass is a half-priced half-day skiing at the upmarket resort of St Moritz in Switzerland.
The words Switzerland and cheap almost never appear together in the same sentence, yet it is possible to find inexpensive accommodation and reasonably priced lift passes by becoming a member of the Swiss Youth Hostels Association.Forget any preconceived notions you may have of Youth Hotels as these Swiss affairs are as good as any grand hotel. The new wellnessHostel4000 is a state of the art self-sustainable complex with free Wi-Fi that would not be out of place in a James Bond movie. Saas-Fee is a typical Swiss glacial, car-free Village, a kind of mini Zermatt with super reliable snow surrounded by majestic 4,000-metre peaks. Perfect for intermediates and those seeking a relaxing geothermic spa vacation, Saas-Fee may be just the kind of off the radar place you have been searching for.