Take a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life and head to the mountains this winter. We’ve rounded up our top ski resorts for escaping the masses – think quiet slopes, tranquil towns and sleepy mountain villages.
Searching for a peaceful resort that still has plenty of piste to explore? Add Scheffau to your shortlist. It’s in the heart of the SkiWelt, Austria’s second-largest linked ski area, so you’ll have 284km of runs on your doorstep. The village itself is pretty traditional, with chalet-style buildings lining the snowy streets. Evenings here are all about sampling local dishes in family-run restaurants and getting cosy with a hot chocolate in the hotel bar.
A small, Savoyard-style village, Chȃtel is a quieter alternative to nearby Avoriaz. Instead of high-rise apartment blocks, the streets here are full of wooden chalets clustered around a Gothic church. Above the village, there are tree-lined slopes where beginners can build up their confidence. And intermediates can head off to discover the rest of the 650km Portes du Soleil ski area. Après is pretty low-key here – in between skiing, you can unwind in the pools at the Forme d’O aquatic centre or strap on some snowshoes and explore 40km of walking trails.
Bad Hofgastein, Austria
The Gasteinertal ski area has over 200km of slopes, so there’s lots of room for skiers to spread out. And after a day on the mountain, there’s nothing more relaxing than spending some time in a spa – luckily, Bad Hofgastein has one of the best ski resort spas in Austria. The Alpentherme is fed by natural hot springs, and its hot pools, saunas and steam rooms are just what you need for a dose of wintertime wellbeing. When you’re done in the spa, take a stroll around the cobbled streets and admire the colourfully painted medieval buildings.
Val di Fassa, Italy
The resort of Val di Fassa covers seven sleepy villages, which all have good access to the Dolomiti Superski and the Sella Ronda circuit. You’re surrounded by the pink-hued peaks of the Sella Massif mountains – now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And with loads of gentle slopes winding between the rocky outcrops, you don’t need to be an advanced skier to enjoy the views. As for where to stay, take your pick from some excellent 3 and 4-star half-board hotels and enjoy evenings sampling the local Ladin cuisine, from pasta to pastries.
St Johann in Tyrol, Austria
Tucked between the impressive Kitzbüheler Horn and Wilder Kaiser mountains is the small town of St Johann. Often overshadowed by cosmopolitan Kitzbühel just down the road, it’s a perfect pick if you want to enjoy excellent skiing with a more laid-back atmosphere. The historical centre has all the charm of an authentic Tyrolean town – think wooden buildings, colourful frescoes and an onion-domed church. On the mountain, there’s a mix of mainly blue and red runs, with everything from open piste to wooded glades. And thanks to a speedy, modern lift system, the queues are usually short too.
One of France’s best unknown ski resorts, this village isn’t far from big-hitters Tignes and Val d’Isère, but it’s a world away when it comes to atmosphere. Tucked away at one end of the Tarentaise valley, its compact ski area is a powder hound’s dream – almost all the off-piste terrain is skiable and lift queues are a rare sight. The Savoyard village is full of rustic wood-and-stone chalets, with a few bars and restaurants dotted around. And accommodation-wise, there’s a choice of luxury, self-catering apartments where you’ll have plenty of room to unwind after a day on the slopes.
The four valleys of the Ski Juwel ski area are sprinkled with quiet resorts, but when it comes to peaceful winter getaways, Alpbach is the pick of the bunch. It’s regularly voted Austria’s most beautiful mountain village – picture timber-framed buildings clustered around a church with a slender spire. The family-run guesthouses and small hotels give the place a friendly, laid-back feeling. And when it comes to skiing, the wide, tree-lined slopes have plenty of space to perfect your turns.
La Rosière, France
La Rosière shares its slopes with La Thuile, just over the border in Italy, so you’ll get to ski two countries in one trip. And with heaps of long blues and gentle red runs to explore, it’s a favourite with beginners and intermediates. Surrounded by pine trees, the village itself has a laid-back vibe with a handful of cosy restaurants and friendly bars to visit in the evening. Most of the accommodation is self-catering apartments, so you’ll have the space to spread out and the freedom to eat what and when you want. And if you fancy somewhere even quieter, pick an apartment in the smaller village of Les Eucherts, 1km down the road.
Serre Chevalier, France
Stretched across three valleys, Serre Chevalier is known for sunny weather and varied skiing, with everything from powder-filled bowls to tree-lined trails and even an Olympic downhill run. The resort is made up of three authentic French villages, each with its own lifts and nursery areas, so getting on the slopes is hassle-free. You can also stay in Briançon just down the valley – it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where you can spend an afternoon exploring the cobbled streets of the old town and visiting the 17th-century castle.
Made up of three quiet villages, Gressoney is the ideal base from which to explore the Monterosa ski area – an off-the-radar place for most people. With its high-altitude skiing, long runs and powder, experienced skiers will feel right at home here. There’s also 180km of groomed terrain to tempt intermediates. And with impressive views of Mont Blanc, the Monte Rosa massif and glaciers as a backdrop, you’ll have some great holiday photos share when you get home too.
Santa Cristina Val Gardena, Italy
Nestled between Selva and Ortisei, Santa Cristina is the smallest of the three Val Gardena resorts – but the skiing is anything but small. You’ve got easy access to the world’s biggest ski area, the Dolomiti Superski, as well as the famous 26km-long Sella Ronda circuit. The village itself is home to laid-back locals and a mix of restaurants and shops that serve up a true taste of South Tyrolean culture. After skiing, unwind in your hotel spa or sip an aperitivo at the bar.
A big beginner area and heaps of activities make Ruka one of the best resorts for families. The slopes are quiet all day and the lifts stay open late so you can ski when you fancy. The resort itself is split between the main village and the quieter Ruka Valley area. To get from one to the other, you’ll need to pop on your skis or hop on the speedy Village2Valley gondola. When it comes to a cosy place to stay, this country sets the standard with its traditional log cabins – most of which come with wood fires and private saunas. And with the Finnish wilderness on your doorstep, you’ll have no problem finding some peace and quiet.
El Tarter, Andorra
Just down the road from the bigger resort of Soldeu is the relaxed village of El Tarter. It’s part of the Grandvalira, the largest ski area in Andorra, with over 200km of piste to explore. First-timers will love the gentle beginner slopes, while intermediates can whizz down the long, wide reds. And if you’re skiing with little ones, check out the Bababoom Circus kids’ ski area. In the village, there are lots of great-value apartments and a well-stocked supermarket, so you can whip up a tasty supper and enjoy a chilled night in with friends or family.
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