Alpine Splendor: The Short List

SNOW WHITE SLEPT HERE: Germany's Neuschwanstein Castle     Photo: Corel

Best Airport: Züch, Switzerland
Fly here, fetch your bags, catch a train to the central station (they run every ten minutes), and within a half-hour of touchdown you're rumbling through dreamy Alpine scenery to your hamlet of choice. www.zurich-airport.com

Best Castle: Neuschwanstein, Germany
If it's overcast and predictable at Garmisch, bop over to Neuschwanstein, a medieval-style castle that nutty King Ludwig II built in the 19th century out of a fascination with fairy tales. Perched atop an impossible finger of rock, it's reached via a steep 30-minute climb. www.neuschwanstein.de

Best DJ Scene: St. Moritz, Switzerland
Throw some clogs in your pack and join well-lubricated jet-setters on the party tram up Corvatsch for St. Moritz's traditional Friday Snow Night. Ski or snowboard down to midmountain, retrieve clogs, and dance in a steamy disco until last call, at 2 a.m. www.stmoritz.ch

Best Après Bar: Pub Mont Fort, Verbier, Switzerland
Known for cheap 20-ounce steins of Carlsberg beer and a giant, sunny deck, the two-level bar is a sea of bronzed faces that includes extreme snowboarders, freeskiers with film credits, and every other international big-mountain type. www.pubmontfort.com

Best place to check e-mail: CyBar, Chamonix, France
Reconnect with home as drop-dead-gorgeous Norwegian snowboarders surf the Net, while on another floor of this cavernous bar Canadian freeskiers watch The Big Lebowski. 011-33-4-50-53-69-70

Best Carbo-Loading: La Perla, Italy
The owner of this five-star restaurant in Corvara, in the stunning Alta Badia region, turns out the lights each night on the 27,000-bottle wine cellar, saying, "We let the babies sleep." And the kitchen sends out pumpkin ravioli with truffle oil. It's the karmic antithesis to the Olive Garden. www.hotel-laperla.it

Best Shopping: Livigno, Italy
The whole town of Livigno (www.livignoweb.com) is a duty-free zone, and shoppers for booze, perfume, cigars, and electronics prowl the streets, along with suspicious numbers of telemark skiers. Framed by 3,000-vertical-foot escarpments, Livigno is home to April's Free Heel Fest, Europe's biggest telemark celebration. www.livignofreeheel.it

Best Baroque Fantasy: Pichlmayrgut, Austria
Outside this "sport hotel" village (doubles, $235; www.pichlmayrgut.at) are turrets and onion domes; inside are subterranean passages leading to indoor tennis courts, bowling lanes, and steam rooms. Across the street is one of the Dachstein-Tauern Sportregion's 111 ski lifts, accessing 140 miles of slopes.

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