An Insider's Guide to Skiing Europe: Where

From renting a car to cheap places to stay and where to go, 15 tips for skiing the Alps

Mar 5, 2013
Outside Magazine

Riederalp in winter.    Photo: Public Domain

With 750 miles of mountains strung across eight countries, dialing in on where to go can be hard. Here are a few things to consider.

TIP 01: Italy is cheap. Cortina is often compared to Aspen—they’re both upscale resorts that attract a sophisticated clientele. But check out these prices: $65 per person per night in Cortina will land you a clean, medium-sized room in a three-star, family-run B&B on Cortina’s main drag. This price includes a huge breakfast buffet—muesli, freshly-baked pastries, and an assortment of local meats, breads, and cheeses (make a sandwich, pocket some fruit and apple strudel, and you’re set for lunch). Something comparable in Aspen would be $200 a night, minus the Euro charm and bomber breakfast spread. A lift ticket costs 60 bucks a day and accesses 420 lifts and 758 miles of in-bounds terrain as Cortina is a part of a network of 12 inter-connected mountains known as the Dolomiti Superski. That doesn’t include the countless off-piste options, like the Creste Bianche couloir off the Son Forca-Padeon chair or backcountry descents like Bellunese Vecchia and Antermoia off the Marmolada massif, the only glacier in the Dolomites. Lesser-known Italian resorts like Prali and Monte Rosa are even cheaper and more freeride-oriented.

TIP 02: Check out off-the-beaten-path ski areas. Instead of hitting big-name resorts like Verbier, Switzerland, or Val d’Isère, France, try lesser-known resorts that often offer comparable skiing at more affordable prices, minus the crowds and drunken Brits. Val d’Anniviers, a ski area in the Swiss canton of Valais, is a freerider’s paradise: four different resorts—Zinal, Grimentz, Vercorin, and St.Luc-Chandolin—on one $50-a-day (or $293 per week) ski ticket that serves up crowd-free, in-bounds skiing and rowdy backcountry terrain, like the steep lines off the Liasion on St. Luc-Chandolin, where the Freeride World Tour qualifier will take place on March 9 and 10. A week’s stay in a studio apartment that sleeps two in Chandolin costs $443. Or head west to La Grave, France, where a week of skiing with the Skier’s Lodge will run you $1,500 and includes six days of guided skiing (you need a guide in La Grave, all of the skiing is off-piste and the mountain is riddled with cliffs, crevasses, and avalanche terrain), accommodation, and two meals a day—a breakfast buffet and a four-course French dinner—and some of the best skiing of your life.

TIP 03: If time is your limiting concern, hit a resort that’s close to a major city. Chamonix, France, is an hour from Geneva, Switzerland. St. Anton, Austria, is two hours by train from Zurich, Switzerland. You’ll leave the East Coast in the evening and be in the Alps by morning.