Escape for a few days to the best ski resorts in Europe and discover some new places while you're there. There's time for everything!
When you travel, you can take everything you need. Even a pair of skis, because you can simply check them in as special luggage. If you're just as happy strolling through a city as hurtling down a mountain on a blanket of snow, then read this article because you'll find five ideal destinations for skiers who want some urban life as well.
Geneva and the French and Swiss Alps
For sure, Geneva is well worth a visit on its own: cosmopolitan, open-minded, friendly, picturesque... But apart from charming streets and a wonderful atmosphere, it's also home to various ski resorts. The city is surrounded by Alpine peaks (you can even see Mont Blanc in the distance) and in many cases the ski lifts are only two hours away by car. Valmorel, Val Thorens, Les Menuires, Meribel, Courchevel, La Rosière... you've probably heard all these names even if you've never done a green run in your life because years and years of doing things well have made them world famous. But we could give you another list of resorts all less than 100 kilometres from this Swiss city: Portes du Soleil, one of the most outstanding, plus La Clusaz, Megève, Saint Gervais, Espace Diamant, Chamonix, Les Houches, Combloux, Les Contamines, Grand Bornand and the Grand Massif.
Lyon and the French ski resorts
Lyon is another destination where you can combine sightseeing in the city with whizzing down the pistes. For example, this charming location in France will delight lovers of fine food and wine because gastronomy is practically a religion here. But as well as its 'bouchons' (restaurants serving traditional Lyonnaise cuisine) and monuments, the city is also close to a number of ski resorts. You can go up to Alpe d'Huez and enjoy 116 long slopse (250 kilometres of ski areas, including 'La Sarenne', the longest slope in Europe), head to Courchevel and explore its 600 kilometres of ski areas (the biggest in the world) before or after treating yourself at one of the local hotels and luxury restaurants, pay a visit to Tignes even in late summer because the glacier is open 11 months of the year, live the genuine atmosphere of an Alpine village at Val d’Isère, or ski and then dine on local products at any of the 85 establishments in the resort village of Megève.
Turin and the Italian Alps
In Italy everyone knows it. Here, we simply remind you: Turin is a perfect destination for ski lovers. When you open your hotel or room window and see the mountains all around you, you know you're at the foot of the Alps and that there are more than 50 slopes up there waiting for you and your skis. The clue is in the name of the region where the transalpine city is located: Piedmont, meaning 'at the foot of the mountain'. Anyway, those mountains - the Alps - are home to some of the best ski resorts in southern Europe. And a few of them of barely a hundred kilometres away. Best of all, you can reach them by car or train (get off at Oulx-Cesana-Claviere-Sestriere). Sestriere is the most famous resort, and the highest (2,035 metres), but the place where you'll find snow all year round, because of its geographical location, is Limone Piemonte, in the province of Cuneo. Another resort in this same province is Prato Nevoso, where the easy slopes are ideal for beginners. The closest resort to Turin is Monginevro ('Montegenèvre' in French because it's located in the neighbouring country, near the border with Italy). If you're a fan of cross-country skiing and postcard perfect scenery, you must go to Brusson, in the Aosta Valley; and if you prefer off-piste skiing we recommend Alagna Valesia, next door to Monte Rosa (the second highest mountain in the Alps at 4,634 metres, beaten only by Mont Blanc at 4,810 metres). And if you want to ski and ski until you drop, Bardonnecchia has 100 kilometres of slopes that you won't be able to finish in one day.
Granada and Sierra Nevada
There are few destinations in Europe with the magic and charm of Granada, one of the most enchanting cities on earth. All it takes is a glimpse of the Alhambra to fall under its spell. You'll get one of the best views of this monumental palace of Arab origin from the Albaicín quarter. Look closely and you'll see Sierra Nevada in the background. And up there you'll find an excellent ski resort and emblem of Andalusia. Plus, it's only 40 kilometres from the city centre, so you can be there in under an hour. What more could you ask for? Sightseeing and skiing, all rolled into one. You can reach Sierra Nevada by car (your own, hired or tax) or by bus. However you get there, you'll find a ski area of 110 kilometres with 131 slopes. Not bad, eh? Oh, and watch out for the vertical range: at 1,200 metres it's the longest in Spain. The resort has all the amenities you can imagine, from restaurants and equipment rental to nurseries and ski lockers.
Barcelona and the Pyrenees
Barcelona, one of the capitals of the Mediterranean. Sounds great, and it's true. But it's also true that it's one of the capitals of the Pyrenees. Surprised? You shouldn't be: after all, Pyrenees-Barcelona 2030 is one the candidates bidding to organise the Winter Olympics. All with good reason: in less than two hours by car from the city of Gaudí are the ski resorts of Port del Comte (the closest is 150 kilometres away and has 37 slopes and 16 ski lifts). Just over two hours away are the historic La Molina (with a snow park that has the biggest superpipe in the Pyrenees and offers snowshoeing, segway tours and dog sledging), Masella (with an impressive night illumination system and nine black slopes for experienced skiers) and Vall de Núria (great for families and reached via rack railway through stunning scenery). Just a little further away, but not much, is Andorra with the flagship Grandvalira, a ginormous ski resort, the biggest in the Pyrenees and southern Europe. Even if you skied all day, you still wouldn't be able to complete it. Think you can? Think again - it has 210 kilometres of slopes.