Choosing the right ski area to suit your skill level and needs is very important. Many resorts in the Alps don’t present enough of a challenge for more experienced skiers; therefore we have outlined five of the best ski areas in the Alps:
It goes without saying, Chamonix is one of the great mecca’s of the skiing world. Renowned for its steep, challenging and somewhat intimidating terrain… skiing in Chamonix will thrill even the most experienced and skilled skiers. Made up of five main resorts within the valley (Le Tour, Grand Montets, Flegere, Brevent and Les Houches), there is a huge choice of pistes, the majority of which are red and black. If its powder snow you are searching for, Chamonix will most certainly not disappoint, with one of the best snow records in the world… there is an extremely high chance you will be skiing in deep, light, champagne powder! Whether you are brave enough to take on the numerous awe inspiring couloirs, prefer powder skiing in the trees or wide open powder bowls… Chamonix is the ski resort for you. When selecting your ski chalets in Chamonix, be sure to consider that the five aforementioned areas are not all linked by the lift system. Therefore, taking a bus or driving between the areas is necessary.
Choosing a skiing holiday in Tignes is always a good option due to the high altitude mountains reaching up to 3456 metres, combined with the two glaciers, you are almost guaranteed to have good snow conditions throughout the winter ski season. As part of L'Espace Killy ski domain, the area accessible from Tignes is enormous… providing 300kms of pistes (25 black runs and 46 red). This is why Tignes has become one of Europe’s premier ski resorts. Due to the high altitude, the powder snow is usually very light and dry which will please any experienced skier. Many ski chalets in Tignes are ski in/ski out, which means you can ski directly to the lift from your chalet… extremely convenient for those who want to get the maximum amount of time on the mountain. The only downside to skiing in Tignes is that there is very little woodland, meaning no tree skiing and nowhere to ski in shelter when visibility and conditions are bad. However, very close by you have the neighboring resorts of Val d’Isere, Sainte Foy and Les Arcs which are well worth a visit.
3) La Grave
La Grave ski resort lies in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region only 77kms from Grenoble airport, and is famous for being un-pisted. This provides a free-ride paradise for off-piste and extreme skiing enthusiasts. Skiing in La Grave doesn’t come without its perils… as the area is un-pisted and has no formal avalanche control, it is highly recommended to take a guide. As well as the obvious risks, there are also hidden crevasses on the glacier which must be avoided. La Grave is home to some of the most exciting and challenging lift-serviced terrain in the world, making it an obvious choice for experienced skiers and those in search of powder snow. Ski chalets in La Grave are all very close to the main gondola at 1450m altitude, making access to the mountain quick and easy. At the top of the two main gondolas, you can take a button lift as high as 3550m to reach the Girose Glacier. From there you can also access the Les Deux Alpes ski area which is only a 2km walk/ski tour away from the Girose Glacier.
Located in the Aosta valley at the foot of Mont Blanc, Courmayeur is one of Europe’s most famous ski resorts. The mountain scenery, viewable from an abundance of ski chalets in Courmayeur, is spectacular and beautiful. Although not the highest of ski resorts, the ski area above Val Veny faces north and north-west, and as a result keeps the snow well. The great thing about skiing in Italy is that heli-skiing is legal (un-like in neighboring France). This means you can access some incredible un-tracked terrain in search of the most perfect champagne powder. From Courmayeur, it is also possible to access the Valle Blanche on the French side of Mont Blanc. A 17km off-piste route starting at an impressive 3812 metres altitude. Mountain restaurants in Courmayeur are a treat; here you can enjoy real Italian pizza, amazing fresh pasta and fantastic Italian coffee.
Flaine forms part of the Grand Massif ski area in the northern French Alps with over 265kms of piste and incredible off-piste terrain. As well as having one of the best snow records in the Alps, Flaine also has an excellent and modern ski lift system… including the Grand Vans (Europe’s very first high speed 8 person chair lift). Piste skiing in Flaine is excellent… the most notable runs include: Styx (black), le Diamant Noir (black), Serpentine (blue/red), Fred (red), and Mephisto (red). However, the main reason to visit Flaine for an experienced skier should be to benefit from direct access into one of the best north facing powder bowls in Europe, if not the world! The Gers bowl as it’s known to locals, lies north of the Flaine ski area… this incredible free-ride paradise is a play ground for extreme and experienced skiers. Laced with natural features and daunting couloirs… a day in the Gers bowl will leave you smiling from ear to ear. The best and most secret area of this fantastic bowl is the ‘Magic Forest’… a beautiful woodland which is full of powder pillows and fun features. Finding the right line in the forest is not easy so you might have to get friendly with the locals in order to be guided! Ski chalets in Flaine are not the most charming you will discover, but are built for purpose and give you quick and easy access to the Grand Massif ski area.
Written by Gil Hunter, and experienced skier, who shares his knowledge through Much Better Adventures. Find great ski holidays in Chamonix from local, independent and ethical operators.