5 EURO SKI RESORTS TO VISIT THIS CHRISTMAS ;
If you’re dreaming of a white Christmas, then there’s no better place to catch some fresh powder than Europe’s ski resorts. Giving you the chance to bag some mountains and soak up a magical festive atmosphere we’ve rounded up five of our favourite European resorts to visit at Christmas. Each resort we’ve picked offers a good mix of groomed pistes, backcountry, parks and family fun, to cater for a wide-range of skiing abilities.
1. Val D’Isere, France
A winter wonderland Val D’Isere is a fantastic resort to visit at Christmas whether you’re up for serious skiing or planning a more relaxed family break.
Val D’Isere has an excellent reputation for fresh snow at this time of year - the Pissaillas glacier standing at 3,330m is a good bet for fresh powder, but since most slopes sit above 2,500m, conditions should be good wherever you head. La Daille’s Tree Trails are ideal if you’re looking for an off-piste adventure, while the Espace Killy offers a range of long blue and red runs for stronger skiers and snowboarders.
When it comes to Christmas, this resort offers an excellent mix of purpose-built facilities and old-world charm. The old town consists of stone and wood chalets, which are festooned with cascading lights during the Christmas season and gives the resort a magical winter glow.
There’s a real buzz in the air at this time of year too, with festivities waiting for you once you've finished on the slopes. The area is famed for giant floodlit snow sculptures, fairytale torchlit ski shows and firework displays. Father Christmas is also more than likely to put in an appearance and where better to see him.
For those looking for a more traditional Christmas Eve, St Bernard de Menthon church in the centre of the old town puts on a Christmas Eve service and carol singing through the Christmas period.
2. Zell Am See, Austria
Zell Am See has reputation for being a popular family-friendly resort, so is the perfect place to whisk the kids away for a Christmas getaway. As well as skiing the resort offers a range of family-friendly activities, including horse-drawn sleigh rides, a climbing wall, indoor ice skating and ziplining.
Coming into its own during the festive period, it hosts one of the most famous Christmas markets. With crafts stalls, toys, home-baked goods and of course gluhwein available throughout the gingerbread-esque town, it’s hard not to get into the spirit.
Hotels are the predominant accommodation in Zell Am See with few self-catering options, which means it’s a great place if you’re looking for a relaxing break where someone else does all the cooking and washing up. All the hotels make an effort for Christmas, decorating the interiors and putting on festive activities for a truly unforgettable holiday.
When it comes to skiing Zell Am See offers 138km of piste between the Schmitten mountain, Maiskogel by Kaprun, and the Kitzsteinhorn glacier. Snow shouldn’t be a problem as coverage usually reaches right the way down the valley. As well as groomed pistes, there’s freeride routes, fun slopes and parks and pipes to have a play on, so it offers something for the whole family.
3. Zermatt, Switzerland
As Europe’s highest ski area with everything from glaciers to forest runs, you can expect a white Christmas. The Matterhorn Glacier stands 3883m above sea level, while the resort itself stands around 1,620m above sea level, so has a good record of snow early in the season.
A picture-postcard resort, Zermatt is largely made up of wood and stone buildings and is virtually car-free. It is home to a host of shops from boutiques to chocolatiers and at Christmas hosts an array of events, including music concerts and the popular Christmas Service at St Peter’s Church which is also known as the English Church.
Skiing is accessible from the village centre, in either direction via a cable car, funicular or the famous Gornergrat mountain railway. There’s also a park with big and small kickers and a boardercross track to entertain the adrenaline seekers. And while there’s plenty to keep you occupied should you feel like a change of scene, it’s easy to ski across to Cervinia in Italy.
Off the slopes, you can enjoy one-horse open-sleigh rides, sledging and ice-skating on the lake. Plus, the après regularly ranks as some of the best in Europe. However, it’s the food that shines in this resort with Michelin-star Capri and After Seven, both well worth a visit, as is Chez Vrony, which offers unbelievable views and incredible organic locally-sourced delights.
4. Cortina, Italy
Known as the ‘Queen of the Dolomites’, Cortina has everything you need to enjoy a Christmas on the piste this year. Although the transfer time may be longer than some resorts, we think the extra effort is well worth it.
The local lift pass covers 120km allowing you to experience many of the scenic delights of the area. But, for even more freedom, you can choose the Dolomiti Superski ski pass, which gives you access to over 1,200km of slopes. This resort has plenty to offer all abilities but is best suited to piste skiers as the jagged nature of the Dolomites makes exploring off-piste incredibly challenging.
Accommodation in the town is generally half-board, but many hotels will offer a special menu on the 25th December if you don’t feel like cooking on the big day. Plus, the Michelin-starred ‘Tivoli’ restaurant is well worth a visit if you love food as much as you love skiing.
When it comes to festive ambience, Cortina won’t let you down. A grand Christmas tree sits in the main square and is a pick-up point for horse-drawn sleigh rides, while the rest of the town gets festooned in fairy lights. At Christmas, a traditional market selling everything from food, homemade goods, and wooden toys sits alongside the designer boutiques, which attract celebrities to the area.
5. Levi, Finland
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without the big man himself, so why not visit his hometown for an unforgettable Christmas?
Located in the arctic circle, this resort offers fabulous snow conditions, but you need to be prepared for chilly conditions. A good mix of blue, red and black slopes, a kilometre-long park for freeskiers and snowboarders and dedicated children’s skiing areas ensure this resort offers something for everyone.
When you’ve had your fill of the slopes, there’s plenty to explore. You can visit Santa at Rovaniemi's Santa Park or get the elves to take you to his grotto in the woods. There are also other activities on offer, including husky-sleds, snowmobiles, Reindeer farms and sleigh rides. You may even be lucky enough to catch the Northern Lights if conditions are clear when you visit.
Recent upgrades mean the resort offers an excellent range of accommodation and a wide choice of restaurants and bars. The centre of the resort often hosts a Christmas market, giving you the chance to purchase some unique last-minute gifts.
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