The highest ski resorts in Europe have the longest winter seasons with some of the most extensive and varied slopes, but best of all – there’s lots of snow.
High-altitude resorts are noticeably snowier than their lowing lying cousins, particularly at the beginning and end of the ski season, and long winter seasons stretch from November to May. Throughout winter, snow is reliable right down to the village – a huge plus for beginners learning on those lower runs. This also means that doorstep skiing is often possible, so no need to lug your skis (and your kids’ skis) back to your hotel.
In general, the higher the altitude, the steeper the vertical, so advanced skiers should find plenty of challenging terrain. What’s more, the majority of these ski areas tend to sit above the treeline – where the big snow dumps happen – so ideal for powder fiends.
The highest ski resorts in Europe aren’t short of investment either, so expect to find some of the best resort infrastructure in the Alps. But all this snow and investment does not come cheap. If money is tight, consider the villages further down the mountain, as prices drop with the altitude, but they're not as convenient for doorstep skiing.
Here’s our pick of the highest ski resorts in Europe with the best snow and ski-in/ski-out accommodation:
VAL THORENS, FR
Village altitude: 2,300m
Highest lift: 3,200m
Ski-in/ski-out lodging: Le Sherpa
Val Thorens is the highest ski resort in Europe and one of the most snow-sure due to its altitude and north-facing slopes. The compact village has a good range of ski-in/out lodgings and convenient nursery slopes. The extensive ski area, both locally and in the vast 600km Three Valleys, has varied terrain served by fast, modern lifts and state-of the-art snowmaking to enhance the excellent natural snow cover.
“Ninety-nine percent of Val Thorens’ ski area is set between 2,000m and 3,200m. Its lofty position guarantees excellent snow throughout the long winter season, which stretches from November to May,” says Gregory Guzzo, director of the Val Thorens Tourist Office.
Highest ski resorts: Skiing back to your doorstep in Val Thorens
Village altitude: 1,800m
Highest lift: 2,466m
Ski-in/ski-out lodging: Chalet Violetta
Avoriaz 1800 is perched on a sloping shelf high above the town of Morzine. This car-free resort is a big hit with families and has plenty of ski-in/ski-out lodgings. Avoriaz enjoys a great position in the Portes du Soleil and its extensive and varied local slopes are among the best and most snow-sure in the whole 650km ski area. One of the best ways of getting around town is by taking a horse-drawn sleigh ride. A slight drawback is the relatively limited number of hotels and restaurants.
Highest ski resorts: Take a horse-drawn taxi around town in Avoriaz
Village altitude: 1,550-2,300m
Highest lift: 3,456m
Ski-in/ski-out lodging: Residence Le Lac
Tignes guarantees a long ski season with reliable snow, making it one of the best alpine bets. The 300km Espace Killy ski area it shares with Val d’Isere offers a huge amount of varied terrain for all levels. The resort is divided into four villages, the highest being Val Claret (2,300m) and Le Lac (2,100m). The west-facing runs down to Val Claret get a lot of afternoon sun, but heavy-duty snow machines ensure snow quality is never an issue. Val Claret has plenty slope-side accommodation with piste-to-porch skiing, so if you’re a fan of first tracks, this one’s for you.
Highest ski resorts: Skiing above the treeline in Tignes
VAL D’ISERE, FR
Village altitude: 1850m
Highest lift: 3,456m
Ski-in/ski-out lodging: Le Brussels
Like Tignes, Val d’Isere is rarely short of snow thanks to its height. The local ski area has many north-facing slopes which hold the snow well and you’ll find plenty of runs between 2,300 and 2,900m. Val d’Isere is particularly noteworthy for its great lift-served off-piste. If it’s ski-in/ski-out accommodation you’re after, head for the developments of Le Chatelard and La Legettax.
Highest ski resorts: Lunch next to the peaks in Val d'Isere
Village altitude: 1,300-1,750m
Highest lift: 2,700m
Ski-in/ski-out lodging: Hotel Courcheneige
Courchevel 1850 is the highest of the resort’s five villages, (although it’s more accurately placed at 1750). Courchevel 1850 is at the heart of the ski area and gets the best snow. There are several pistes running straight through 1850, resulting in a wealth of ski-in/ski-out lodgings. The 150km of local slopes offer extensive and varied terrain with some wooded runs and impressive snow making. If that doesn’t suffice, there’s always the 600km Three Valleys to explore.
Highest ski resorts: Hotel Courcheneige - Bellecote piste, Courchevel
LA PLAGNE, FR
Village altitude: 1,250-2,000m
Highest lift: 3,250m
Ski-in/ski-out lodging: Hotel & Spa Carlina
La Plagne is split into 10 villages between 1,250 and 2,000m, but Belle-Plagne (2,050m) and Plagne 1800 are most popular. La Plagne’s local ski area is snow-sure, with the majority of slopes north-facing and set between 2,000 and 2700m. Unlike most high-altitude resorts, La Plagne has few steep pistes, but does have some serious off-piste to make up for it as well as sheltered forest runs for bad-weather days. Lift-linked with Les Arcs, the resorts make up the 425km Paradiski area.
Highest ski resorts: Taking the lifts in La Plagne, Paradiski area
LES ARCS, FR
Village altitude: 1,200-2,000m
Highest lift: 3,226m
Ski-in/ski-out lodging: Chalet des Neiges
Arc 2000 and Arc 1950 are the highest of Les Arcs’ five villages and offer compact, car-free centres with ski-in/ski-out accommodation (mostly apartments) situated above and below the lifts. Les Arcs’ varied pistes range from pretty wooded runs to genuinely challenging skiing with easy-to-reach off-piste. Snow here is reliable as most of the runs are above 2000m and snowmaking is also being extended particularly on the west-facing runs.
Highest ski resorts: No shortage of snow in Les Arcs
Village altitude: 1450-1716m
Highest lift: 2,444m
Ski-in/ski-out lodging: Hotel ILGA
The exclusive ski resorts of Lech (1,450m), Zuers (1,716m) and Oberlech (1,660m) share a linked ski area in the Arlberg ski domain with terrain best-suited to intermediates and freeriders. High-altitude by Austrian standards, the villages see plenty of snow (double that of St. Anton and three times Kitzbuehel), making for a long, white winter. Oberlech – a collection of four-star hotels with pistes running through it – is where you’ll find most of the ski-in/ski-out accommodation.
Highest ski resorts: Lech blanketed in snow
Village altitude: 1,930m
Highest lift: 3,082m
Ski-in/ski-out lodging: Hotel Riml
The traditional village of Obergurgl is one of the most snow-sure non-glacier resorts in the Alps thanks to its high slopes. Even higher still is neighbouring Hochgurgl (2,150m), just a gondola ride away, with a cluster of hotels. A couple of drawbacks: limited advanced pistes and few ski-in/ski-out lodgings.
Highest ski resorts: Obergurgl is perched high on the mountain