Although beach holidays in Europe during winter can be hit and miss, a ski trip is one way to guarantee a good time – and the colder the temperature, the better! A skiing holiday doesn’t have to be super expensive as many chalets will offer low priced shared dorms or if you want to go all out you can live the high-life in luxury hotels and Michelin starred restaurants.
Where to go
Europe is dotted with world-class ski resorts and below are the top three which are definitely worth a visit.
If you’re looking for a winter holiday which offers more than just skiing then Courmayeur in the very north of Italy is the perfect destination. This pretty little town is car-free and is packed with interesting old buildings, diverse shops and picturesque streets. The skiing is a fantastic mix of off-piste opportunities for the more advanced skiers as well as lots of more manageable slopes for beginners. Set in the surroundings of the beautiful Mount Blanc, the area is also ideal for hiking.
Zermatt offers the perfect mix of skiing, dinning and drinking as there are over 60 restaurants nestled amongst 153 miles of ski runs. The cuisine is varied and includes everything from tiny champagne bars to three restaurants with Michelin stars including ‘After Seven’ at the Backstage Hotel, ‘Heimberg’, and ‘Le Capri’ at the Hotel Le Petit Cervin. The views from the slopes are spectacular and are dominated by the world-famous Matterhorn. There is a good ski school for beginners and intermediates to brush up their skills.
Chamonix is one of the most famous places to ski in the world and with good reason as the 10 mile long valley features five ski areas and lift access to some of the world’s most challenging slopes. Intermediate skiers can enjoy the Vallee Blanche, a glacial valley set in the beautiful surroundings of the Alps. The slopes are vast though so if you’re new to the area be sure to go with a guide on your first trip out.
What to wear
Your boots and socks are the most important part of your kit as you will be stood for hours on snow so it’s vital that your ski boots fit correctly and that you don’t cut off your circulation by wearing 12 pairs of socks. If your boots fit right, you should be able to wiggle your toes and you’ll only need one pair of socks as your boots will keep your feet warm. You don’t need to spend a fortune on the most luxurious ski gear available, but you will need to invest in thick waterproof ski trousers to protect your legs when you fall and to keep you dry. Layer up on your top half and top-off your outfit with a zippered waterproof ski jacket which you can open if you get too hot. Waterproof gloves are also a must.
What equipment to hire
Most resorts will hire out skis, boots and poles so there’s no need to take them with you. If you do get into skiing though then the skis and ski bindings you choose will arguably be your most important purchase. Ski bindings are made by die-casting metal which means the bindings are cast as a whole piece of kit, making them safe and strong. When purchasing skis and bindings make sure you ask for advice from a ski instructor and a certified ski technician.
Although not mandatory, you might want to hire a ski helmet as these are fast becoming standard ski equipment and will protect your head should you fall (a helmet will also help to keep you warm!). Most resorts have ski schools so if you’re new to skiing make sure you know how to start, stop and turn safely before heading out onto the slopes. Stick to trials and always respect the right of way of other skiers.
Sarah Stewart is a travel and lifestyle blogger who writes regularly for a range of websites.