Skiing holidays are immensely popular the world over, but some of the best destinations for a snow sports trip are located within Europe. The vast Alpine mountain range offers a huge number of different ski resorts, spaced out between several different countries, each with their own unique charms.
Perhaps foremost among the great Alpine ski centres is St Moritz in Switzerland. It has a rightfully earned reputation for being the playground of Europe’s rich and famous and its glamorous jetsetter clientele means that there is no shortage of luxury accommodation, as well as fine restaurants and nightlife. However, St Moritz is not all about excess and opulence (even if you can play snow cricket or polo, if the fancy takes you), it also has fantastic skiing over many different slopes and the natural beauty is quite astounding. In other words, it is understandable how St Moritz has become so popular among Europe’s elite.
For a more budget-friendly and accessible resort, it is hard to go wrong with Chamonix (or Chamoniz-Mont-Blanc, to give it its full name), situated in the French Alps. Although it has its fair share of luxury hotels and expensive private villas, its sheer size means that it is popular with skiers of all means because, after all, they’re here for the slopes. Here, Chamonix doesn`t disappoint, with the mighty Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Europe, providing a great challenge and attraction for many visitors, as well as plenty of smaller novice slopes and a world-renowned off-piste area. The whole region is easily accessed by an extensive network of lifts.
Elsewhere, Zell am See, in the Austrian Alps, sells itself far more on its unparalleled natural beauty and huge range of activities available there all year round, than it does on its off-slope attractions, not that it`s short on those either. It is a charming and picturesque medieval town, situated on the edge of a lake, which not only distinguishes it from the other generic Austrian ski resorts, but also broadens the range of sports available. Alongside standard skiing and snowboarding, visitors are also able to partake in trekking, climbing, mountain biking, glacier skiing and water sports on the lake. Overall, Zell am See offers a more well-rounded Alpine experience.
Another popular ski destination is Zermatt, in Switzerland, which in off-season times is a small village with fewer than 6000 inhabitants but which swells massively when the skiers arrive. Perhaps the main attraction of this tiny town is its proximity to the impressive Matterhorn, with its sculpted pyramid shape not only giving it a striking appearance but also many great ski runs. In addition, Zermatt is ‘car-free’ to help prevent air pollution so it is best reached by a traditional red train and the station then gives way to cobbled streets and horse-drawn sleighs – an image that makes Zermatt almost impossible not to fall in love with.
Finally, Tignes, located in the French Alps and joined with nearby Val d’Isere as part of the Espace Killy ski region, is an immensely popular winter sports destination. During the 1992 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, Tignes was home to the freestyle skiing competition and it isn`t hard to see why. The resort itself actually comprises five different villages, built around a huge dam and the nearby Grand Motte glacier provides skiing opportunities for the majority of the year. Tignes’ size makes it an obvious choice for those who are looking for a budget trip with some guaranteed quality skiing, rather than those seeking exclusivity.
Overall, Europe’s ski resorts provide a huge variety of different experiences, meaning there’s something on offer for everyone, whether they prefer luxury destinations, quaint villages or bustling vibrant centres. Whatever your choice a Barclays credit card is an essential for any trip, offering financial security and flexibility.