Europe may be best known as a warm-weather destination, but along with the charming Christmas Markets, there’s another reason you should consider visiting in winter – go for the skiing! Modern skiing originated in Europe. So, why wouldn’t you want to visit some of the world-renown destinations in this part of the world that offer a unique skiing experience.
Blame it on the more casual attitude Europeans take toward skiing. They don’t rush to make the first tracks on the mountain, and they enjoy long, leisurely lunches on the slopes to savor the gourmet cuisine. Combine this with some of the most scenic skiing you’ve ever done, and it’s fair to say that Europe – particularly the following three destinations – may soon be your favorite ski vacay. So, grab your skis and let’s go!
Zurich is called the portal to the Alps for good reason. This popular tourist city sits at the edge of the Swiss Alps. Although you’ll have to leave the city to play in the powder, you can easily access a handful of resorts in less than two hours.
These resorts include favorites such as Atzmännig, which is ideal for families and beginners; Flumserberg has 40 miles of pistes for skiing and snowboarding; and Engelberg, the area’s premier resort, is accessible via train and usually open October through May. Here, you can go downhill skiing, Nordic skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, snowshoeing or take a cliff walk on a glacier suspension bridge.
For the laid-back, hip traveler, you can stroll through the trendy neighborhood, Zurich-West.
When you need to take a break, Zurich will charm you with its cultural attractions, which include more than 50 museums (14 are devoted to art), shopping and a cool culinary scene. Don’t miss visiting Altstadt or Old Town with its cobblestone streets and churches; Rietberg Museum, a leading center of non-European art in the world; and the Swiss National Museum, housed in what looks like a fairytale castle.
For the laidback, hip traveler, you can stroll through the trendy neighborhood, Zurich-West. This former industrial district has been transformed into a cultural and culinary center where you’ll find galleries, jewelry makers, fashion designers and a plethora of dining options. End the night at Moods, a jazz club located inside the Schiffbau, a renovated building where ships were once built that hosts dozens of cultural and theatrical performances every year.
After hosting the Olympic Winter Games in 1964 and 1976, Innsbruck – it’s fair to say – knows a thing or two about winter sports. In fact, every type of winter activity you can imagine, including riding in an Olympic bobsleigh, is available here.
Innsbruck features nine ski areas for alpine skiers, Nordic skiers and snowboarders. While each has incredible features, there are a few standouts, but there’s a bonus! The city runs a free ski bus that will take you directly to the slopes, which makes staying in Innsbruck a cinch.
For the perfect day trip to ski at a much higher elevation, you can visit Kuhtai, an Austrian resort located at an altitude of about 6,627 feet.
On the Nordkette mountain range, for instance, you’ll find Seegrube and Hafelkar, which you can reach from the center of Innsbruck via funicular and a cable car system that offers breathtaking views. If you’re skiing with children, you should consider Muttereralm, which offers significant discounts for children under 15 when you purchase an adult day ticket. For the perfect day trip to ski at a much higher elevation, you can visit Kühtai, an Austrian resort located at an altitude of about 6,627 feet. Stubai Glacier, one of the Alps’ most famous glacier ski areas, is another option.
Winter experiences don’t end on the slopes. In Innsbruck, visit the Bergisel Ski Jump, which features a ski jump where you might catch a live competition, a restaurant with panoramic views, and a viewing terrace with an incredible perspective of Innsbruck.
Other attractions to bookmark include the Museum of Folk Art, where you’ll learn about the lives of Innsbruck residents over the past centuries; the Imperial Palace, once the seat of the Tyrolean sovereigns; the Golden Roof, an Innsbruck icon with its copper roof tiles; and Swarovski Crystal Worlds, located in a nearby village called Wattens, features 14 underground Chambers of Wonder that offer artistic interpretations of crystal. Are you ready to be dazzled?
If Turin, or Torino as it’s known in Italy, rings a bell, it should. It was the host city for the 2006 Winter Olympics. In fact, with its 900,000-plus residents, Turin – at that time –became the largest city to host the Winter Games. You can stay in Turin or in the mountains, where you’ll have to make day trips into the city, which is a popular option among skiers. The choice is yours.
In case you didn’t know, there are two popular resorts located in the Alps in Alta Val Susa. The first resort, Bardonecchia caters to winter sports fans as well as partygoers. In fact, the nightlife here is quite revered. The resort features 62 miles of snow-covered slopes that peak at 9,186 feet, and of course, if you have people in your group who don’t enjoy downhill skiing, they can go snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or snow tubing. Bardonecchia is located an hour from Turin via train or car.
Cross-country skiers should head to Pragelato, a cross-country skiing capital known for its charming mountain villages.
The second option, Via Lattea (a 90-minute drive from Turin) consists of several resorts and villages that make up its 250 miles of pistes. And while you can find every winter sport at both of these resorts, cross-country skiers should head to Pragelato, a cross-country skiing capital known for its charming mountain villages.
Looking for ski break? Head into Turin to explore its museums, monuments and the Royal Residences located in the city’s center. Take a stroll around Turin’s main square, Piazza Castello, and stop for a cup of coffee in one of the many cafes to enjoy the views of the Royal Palace or take a more proactive approach and visit the palace. Don’t miss out on an opportunity to see the massive collection of Egyptian artifacts at the Museo Egizio. And car enthusiasts can’t leave the city without a visit to Museo dell’Automobile with its exhaustive collection of cars – a crowd pleaser even among non-car buffs.