Top 8 Places to Go Skiing in EuropeRuss Bily
Ski vacation…this type of recreational holidays is no less popular today than traveling to hot countries. If you are planning to spend a vacation not on the sea coast but in the midst of snow-capped peaks, take a closer look at the ski resorts of Eastern and Central Europe.
If you ski like a pro or like an amateur, if you count on a budget or luxury vacation, Eastern and Central Europe is a perfect place for your unforgettable winter holidays.
In one of my previous articles, “Recreational Holidays in Europe”, I wrote that Europe is rich in resources for the development of the recreational sector and tourism, in particular, because of the mountains. Alps, Tatras, and Beskid Mountains make Europe one of the best places to go skiing.
Beautiful scenery, excellent trails, fantastic après-ski, a warm, traditional welcome, and reasonable prices – that’s what awaits the lovers of winter entertainment.
Tempted? So prepare your skis, as there are a lot of booking options still available this season. If you’re not sure which ski resort is for you, here are top 8 places to go skiing in Europe.
Luxury Austrian Ski Resorts
Austria traditionally takes the first place in terms of the most popular ski resorts. There are luxury, pretentious places such as Lech, St. Anton and Sölden, which are as expensive as the resorts of Italy and France, and also cheaper ones, but not less great, for example, Mayrhofen, Kitzbühel, Zell am Ziller.
It’s not difficult to explain the popularity of ski resorts in Austria. First, a huge number of skiing trails. Second, a high level of service. Third, a well-thought-out price policy, the opportunity to relax at any price. Fourth, the stunning nature of the Austrian mountain valleys. And, of course, an integral part of the rest in Austria is the world famous Austrian après-ski, evening entertainment and social activities after skiing.
Anywhere in Vorarlberg, Tyrol, southern Salzburg, Carinthia, south Upper Austria, south Lower Austria and northern Styria, you’ll find skiing facilities and a well-developed winter tourism infrastructure. Alongside with downhill skiing, other winter sports are popular: Nordic, or cross-country skiing, snowboarding, and tobogganing are practiced all over the Alps. Skiing is not only part of international tourism but also an essential element of Austrian culture.
Beginners will be happy in Lech in Vorarlberg, in Tyrol east of Innsbruck and most areas of Salzburg as well as Styria and Carinthia. Intermediate skiers often go to Ischgl, Kitzbühel, and Söll. Salzburg offers access to Saalbach-Hinterglemm and St. Johann. Advanced skiers should go to the South of Salzburg around Badgastein or to the Arlberg region. The skiing capital of Austria is St. Anton, popular among advanced skiers. St. Christoph, Zürs, and Lech are also famous for challenging slopes.
Austrian ski resorts are so good that it’s really difficult to single out the best one. However, I’ve decided to pitch upon St Anton am Arlberg (for professionals), Saalbach(for intermediates), and Alpbach (for beginners).
St. Antonis the ski capital of Austria and one of the world’s leading ski resorts. It’s ideal for experienced skiers seeking challenging ski terrain, numerous excellent mountain restaurants, vibrant après-ski and a wide range of accommodation. But I have to say that if you’re beginner or intermediate, you’d better spend your winter holidays in the Tirolean Alpbach, the prettiest village in Austria, or in Germany. But more on that later…
St Anton is a world-famous ski resort with long traditions and one of the most famous sports centers in Austria. Along with the resorts of Lech, Oberlech, Zürs and St Christoph, St Anton is part of Arlberg ski area and also a member of “Best of the Alps.” Alpine skiing in St Anton became popular at the beginning of the 20th century, and here the world’s first ski school was opened. In 2001, the World Ski Championship was held here.
Located within two to three hours’ drive of three international airports and with a railway station at its heart, the resort is easy to reach and, once there, small enough to navigate on foot or by the free public buses. The village is situated at 1,305m and the Valluga cable car, the highest lift, goes up to 2,810m. Actually, this is not a place for the faint-hearted. A blue slope is 110 km, it could well be classified dark red in a lesser resort. But if you’re a kind of person who confidently stays on skis, this place is for you!
Now in the village, you can find everything for your perfect holidays: indoor swimming pools, saunas, solariums, bowling alleys, billiards, archery, tennis, and squash. In the evenings, nightclubs open their doors for you. There are a lot of sports shops and ski rental shops. You can also visit the Museum of Alpine Skiing, situated in one of the most beautiful buildings. Not surprisingly that the world elite often spends winter holidays in St Anton. Here you can easily meet a star who enjoys the Tyrolean hospitality and the best skiing holidays in St Anton.
But this cult ski resort isn’t all about tough skiing and hard partying. St Anton is rated among the top five resorts in the Alps for a very good reason: located in Austria’s Arlberg region, one of Europe’s snowiest areas, it boasts 305 km of pistes. In addition, it has a highly efficient lift system (88 lifts) and an attractive town bursting with stylish hotels, chalets, and restaurants. As for après-ski, there are 73 restaurants: 2 Asian, 5 Italian, 2 local, and 6 gourmet restaurants, 22 cafes, 16 bars and pubs. There are cinemas and disco bars. All services are high-quality, but a little expensive.
Saalbach and neighboring Hinterglemm are a 90-minute drive from Salzburg airport. They are very popular due to the wide variety of perfectly equipped and interconnected routes so that they are the place of real pilgrimage for all lovers of mountain skis. In the very name of the region – “Ski Circus”- the dizzying possibilities of superactive recreation are reflected.
The skiing area of Saalbach – Hinterglemm is at an altitude of 1003-2098 meters. The two villages are at the center of a magical ring of 2,000m peaks. These form a natural circuit of pistes that can be navigated in either direction to give adventurous intermediates a sense they are actually going somewhere each day.
Perhaps, the ski slopes in this region are the most diverse in the country. All of them are connected by a system of lifts into a single skiing area. There are 124 trails, and their total length is 200 km. The vast majority of trails are blue and red: the first – 90 km, the second – 95 km. There is also a small number of descents for the extreme: black runs are 15 km. There are 55 modern lifts: 15 cable cars, 16 double “chairlifts” and 24 rope tows.
The two villages are at the center of a magical ring of 2,000m peaks. These form a natural circuit of pistes that can be navigated in either direction to give adventurous intermediates a sense they are actually going somewhere each day. During the 2015/16 season, Fieberbrunn, to the north, was linked to Saalbach and Hinterglemm – making the combined ski area one of the biggest in Austria, with 270km of slopes, accessed by 70 lifts.
Saalbach has a charming center with traditional cafés, bars, designer clothing boutiques and a clutch of smart four-star hotels. Hinterglemm is more peaceful proposition and better for families.
Alpbach is a family-friendly ski resort just a 50-minute drive from Innsbruck airport. A popular tourist destination both in summer and in winter is the winner of the “Most Beautiful Village in Austria” contest. It’s perfect for complete beginners who don’t need the complexity of a large resort, so if you are a beginner, pay a visit to this prettiest Tirolean village in Austria.
Alpbachtal consists of 63km of skiing area including a small ski area nearby at Reith in Alpbachtal offering some of the best night skiing in Europe. A new gondola provides the long-awaited lift-connection to the Wildschonau and in winter the new Alpbachtal-Wildschonau “Ski Juwel” region has 128km of piste skiing and 17km of ski routes served by 47 ski lifts. The main ski lifts, 5-10 minutes from Alpbach village, are easily reached by car or free ski bus and offer easy access to good skiing for beginners and intermediates on family-friendly slopes including good nursery slopes for young children and novices.
There are three ski schools in the resort, Alpbach-Inner Alpbach, Alpbach Aktiv, and Skischule Alpbachtal, and all of them have fine reputations.
Alpbach is also great value for money – prices are low, even by Austrian standards. Visiting the resort during the dedicated family weeks, when children under 15 get a free lift pass, makes it even more popular.
Please note that in 2018 this period will be from March 24 to April 8.
In Bavaria, where, in fact, the ski resorts of Germany are concentrated, the Alps are just as beautiful and high as in Austria or Switzerland, but the prices are lower. Germany is especially good for beginners and families since there are plenty of low slopes. However, if you’re a pro, don’t think that you’ll be bored. Infrastructure in Germany is not inferior to the Austrian and Swiss resorts. A whole network of ski lifts, hotels, restaurants, cafes – all this is provided for tourists coming to Bavaria and, it must be said, works fine.
The season here begins in December and lasts until April. So, which ski resorts in Germany are in demand among tourists today?
The ski resort Garmisch-Classic – Garmisch-Partenkirchen is perhaps the most popular ski resort in the country. By the way, it is located directly at the foot of the highest peak in Germany—Zugspitze. Its height is almost three thousand meters. Despite this fact, the resort is full of gentle slopes. For skiing and snowboarding, there is 40 km of slopes and 4 km of ski routes available. 17 lifts transport the guests. The winter sports area is situated between the elevations of 732 and 2,050 m.
There are three ski mountains—the Hausberg, Kreuzeck, and Alpspitze – joined together in the Garmisch-Classic ski resort. The winter sports area offers skiing enjoyment for all with everything from family-friendly slopes on the Hausberg to the world-famous Kandahar black slope. All four valley runs have snow-making capabilities.
The long tradition of major sporting events can be felt at Kreuzeck. The resort annually hosts festivals of winter sports. While sporty downhill enthusiasts whiz down the Kandahar downhill run and its 940 meters in altitude difference in around two minutes flat, pleasure skiers can savor the experience of making wide carving turns.
Garmisch-Partenkirchen is the only one of the German resorts, included into prestigious “Best of the Alps.” Up to 80% of tourists are Germans, who usually come here with their families. Families and less experienced skiers feel well at home on the predominantly easy to moderate slopes. Young skiers can learn the basics at the “Kinderland” next to the top station of the Hausbergbahn cable car. Challenges for skiers of all abilities can be found just below the Alpspitze Peak on fabulous slopes just above the tree line – against one of the most beautiful backdrops to be found in the Northern Alps.
Besides skiing, there are many entertainments and amazing places to visit. There is the highest-altitude exhibition gallery in the world (in Zugspitze) and the highest church in Germany. In an hour’s drive from Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the famous castles of the Bavarian King Ludwig II—Neuschwanstein and Linderhof – can be found.
German Oberstdorf is located in a valley in the south-west of Bavaria, on the very border with Austria. This is one of the most beautiful places in the Alps. On the slopes and in the sports centers of Oberstdorf ski jumping competition Tour of the Four Springboards is annually held, as well as skating competitions for long and short distances.
The region is interesting for all types of skiers: there are perfectly prepared trails for beginners, as well as sports tracks designed for the Olympic champions. The highest slope in Oberstdorf is more than two thousand meters, and the longest route of the resort is about 7.5 kilometers. By the way, Oberstdorf also has a carving center and a snowboard park, so do not be surprised if you become a witness of the World Cup during the holiday.
The main ski areas include Fellhorn, with the most modern circular cable car in the country with six-berth cabins, Nebelhorn, the longest slope in Germany – 7.5 km, and Söllereck.
Fellhorn is the top ski region, one of the largest and most modern in Germany. It offers 22 of the best-prepared and diverse kilometers of pistes, 16 cable cars, and lifts, as well as an ultra-modern snow machine system. It is also loved by families thanks to its range of pistes. Almdudler Fellhornpark below the central station is the best place for snowboarders. It also features an area with smaller rails for children and beginners.
Nebelhorn is home to the highest ski resort. Thanks to the guaranteed snow, you can often carry on skiing and enjoying winter sports until May. There are 12 kilometers of pistes for skiing and snowboarding. The 7.5-kilometre-long valley is a real highlight – it is the longest in Germany. You can try out the latest fun sports equipment like Skifox or scooters here. A Kindergarten for the little ones with a practice slope and a fun tube bob run once again prove that German winter resorts are family-friendly.
Söllereck is a real family affair as well. It has easy and intermediate pistes and a children’s practice area with a children’s conveyor belt and ski carousel – everything children need to be happy in winter! The ski region is well-connected thanks to a modern 6-man cable car and 4 lifts. There is also a well-prepared wave run at the main descent. Meanwhile, young skiers can practice their skills in the Sölli-Kinderland.
And of course, don’t forget about après-ski. The resort has spa centers with thermal pools. Hotels, restaurants, and cafes are an integral part of skiing Germany, including Oberstdorf. A large park, a complex with thermal pools, a sports and fitness complex “Kristalbad”, a cinema and an extensive pedestrian zone with restaurants of German cuisine, confectioneries, and bars — all this is waiting for you and your family!
What can you visit nearby? Go to the picturesque waterfall Stueibenfal and to the village of Gershturben, which is under the protection of the state. If you don’t want to limit yourself to just skiing, I also recommend you to visit the beautiful Kristlesee lake.
Berchtesgaden is a small quiet town in the southeast of Bavaria two hundred kilometers from Munich, from where it is rather easy to get there by public transport. It’s also a very popular holiday destination for Germans and guests.Six towns with excellent infrastructure are created here for tourists. Trails are divided here into two types: simple and medium level of complexity. Berchtesgaden has 21 lifts (4 chair lifts, 17 surface lifts) that offer skiers an incredible 1170 meters (3839 feet) of vertical descent. Berchtesgaden has 21 pistes with a total length of 11 kilometers (7 miles). There are 61 kilometers (38 miles) of cross country ski trails at Berchtesgaden. The highest slope here is only 1800 meters.
In addition to the ski runs, there is a snowboard center, a bobsleigh track (every winter there are prestigious competitions), as well as a number of other active entertainments: high-speed slopes onsleds, skating rinks directly on frozen mountain lakes.
The ski resort Berchtesgaden is a worthy competitor to well-known Garmisch-Classic – Garmisch-Partenkirchenboth in the quality of the ski slopes and in the number of attractions. The emphasis here is on new types of winter entertainment: traveling around the surrounding mountains, skating on frozen lakes, tobogganing, bobsledding, freestyle, high-speed descent, and pair skating.
Czech Ski Resorts
The highest mountains in the Czech Republic are in the Krkonoše Mountains, in the north of the country, almost on the border with Poland. The highest point is Sněžka, its height is 1062 meters. It is here that the Czech ski resorts – Špindlerův Mlýn, Vitkovice, and Harrachov are located.
From November to March the Czech Republic pleases winter sports enthusiasts with excellent snow and well-organized resorts. The best is Špindlerův Mlýn, where international freestyle and slalom competitions are often held.
If you visit the most famous Czech mountain resort you will find 25 kilometers of groomed ski slopes, 3 snow parks, a U-ramp, 5 chairlifts, 11 ski lifts, 2 children’s parks and 85 kilometers of cross-country trails – all with excellent service.
Špindlerův Mlýn is ideal for anyone who loves winter sports. These are gentler slopes here for beginners, although more experienced skiers will be in their element with, for example, the FIS World Cup black slope at Svatý Petr. For freestylers, there is a snowpark and new Fun tracks, while for children there are parks with professionally-trained instructors for younger skiers. Parking by the cable cars is free and children under 6 years are free, too.
The resort offers excellent opportunities for downhill and cross-country skiing. There are perfectly rolled slopes with artificial snow and more than 100 kilometers of cross-country skiing trails. The Svatý Petr Resort is the most important sports center in Špindlerův Mlýn. Every year, many sports events and races take place there. For beginners and families with children, the
Horni Mísečky Ski Centre is recommended, which offers four ski lifts, well-groomed slopes, and for snowboarders the snow park with a lift. Horni Mísečky also offers cross-country skiing trails which are groomed daily and are connected to Giant mountains ridge trails.There is also new Labská Ski Centre with chairlift which was built the previous season. Among other services, there are skiing and snowboard schools, ski bus, various restaurants, swimming pools, bowling, sledge and toboggan courses. So just choose the ski area and enjoy your winter holidays in one of the most beautiful parts of the highest Czech mountains!
Harrachov is one of the Czech Republic’s best-known ski areas and a world center for ski jumping and ski flying. Lower slopes are illuminated and visitors can try hang-gliding from the main Certova hora peak (Devil’s Mountain).
In this Czech ski resort, you can enjoy skiing on ski slopes of all levels of difficulty in total length over 7km. Harrachov has direct access to 8 individual pistes, served by 15 ski lifts. The skiing is at relatively low altitude, so snow cover can be variable. Ski slopes are equipped with snowmaking system which provides quality skiing for up to 5 months of the year.
There is an airport within two hours drive, so ski weekends, snowboard breaks and short ski holidays to Harrachov are perfectly feasible.
Harrachov offers good skiing, particularly, for beginner skiers as well as some good boarding. Snowboarders are allowed on all ski slopes and they can use all ski tows and lifts. You can also find many smaller private ski slopes in Harrachov.
Mountain Skiing Can Be Affordable!
Skiing is not a cheap pleasure. However, here I’ll give you some recommendations that will allow you to enjoy mountain peaks, rustling skis and snow on your face at an adequate price. So, let’s get acquainted with my recommendations.
1. Explore new territories
The best alternative resorts in the European Alps lie in the East. For example, affordable Czech Republic gives its guests quality slopes a lot of types of ski passes without paying too much money.
2. Descend “from heaven to earth”: the higher you stay, the more you pay.
This rule applies to virtually all ski resorts in the world, which is not surprising. The higher you live, you pay less for the lifts, the views open more picturesquely, so your resort will be more prestigious yet more expensive. However, not everyone wants to overpay for such a shaky concept as “prestige.”
3. Choose the right time
Find out when there is a low season at your favorite resort, that is, the very beginning or end of skiing, as well as the period of school holidays. At a low season, prices are reduced to a stable mark of “inexpensive”.
4. Learn about discounts
The mass of ski resorts gives its guests all kinds of discounts. For example, to”early birds”, when the season is just beginning to flare up, or to family tourists, getting free use of lifts for children up to 6-9-14 years. Moreover, there are discounts for ski passes for large groups or for a long stay (from two weeks and more), and so on.
When a thick blanket of snow envelops the land, downhill skier rejoice. Whether you’re a beginner, an intermediate, an expert, or would simply like to learn to ski, you’ll enjoy perfect winter holidays in Eastern Europe.
Most of the resorts in Eastern Europe have an Olympic past and a rich history. They are also considered climatic health resorts.Here you will have the best time of your life at any ski area, meaning there is something for everyone.
If you’re looking for a high-class winter vacation, Austrian, German, and Czech ski resorts are awaiting you this season. You can enjoy skiing from November till April.
If you are looking forward to having the best winter holidays in Eastern Europe, our service with the local English-speaking driver-guide can drive you to the destination and with a great comfort. So treat yourself to perfect skiing in Eastern Europe! Up the slope!