Find out which alpine ski resorts attract the most UK skiers and what it is that gives them the edge.
Here are the top five resorts for UK skiers in the big four: France, Austria, Italy and Switzerland. Results were compiled over five years and published in the Snowsports Analysis 2012 (in alphabetical order).
The UK's favourite ski resorts:
France: La Plagne, Les Arcs, Meribel, Tignes, Val d’Isere
Austria: Kaprun/Zell am See, Kitzbuehel, Mayrhofen, Obergurgl, St. Anton
Italy: Cervinia, Courmayeur, Sauze d’Oulx, Selva Gardena, Sestriere
Switzerland: Davos-Klosters, Saas Fee, Verbier, Wengen, Zermatt
A lot of big names make the list, so too do a lot of big ski areas: Paradiski, 3 Valleys, Espace Killy, Ski Arlberg, Milky Way and 4 Valleys. Marion Telsnig from Crystal Ski says, “Lift-linked ski areas are what our customers really like – lots and lots of available pistes.”
La Plagne and Les Arcs in the Paradiski area both make it into the UK’s top five French resorts. Telsnig says, “This ski area has become the favourite for British skiers as they find all they want in these resorts.”
The extensive, varied pistes of the 425km ski area are largely above 2,000 metres and benefit from snowsure conditions. Other highlights include easy-to-reach, powder-packed off-piste and plenty of ski-in/ski-out accommodation. La Plagne is the livelier of the two, offering an enormous choice of restaurants and bars catering to the young crowd.
Telsnig says, “Another advantage is that we offer direct flights from 13 UK airports to Chambery making the journey to and from resort shorter and more convenient.”
UK skier Tim Baker says, “The high-altitude skiing and great conditions in the Paradiski area are hard to beat, especially on a clear day, and if the weather takes a turn you just head down to the lower, wooded runs which are also fun to explore."
Meribel is slap-bang in the centre of the 600km 3 Valleys. Of the eight resorts that make up this vast ski area, Meribel is the only one to make it into the UK’s top five French resorts, beating neighbouring Courchevel and Val Thorens.
Meribel’s local slopes are plenty big enough on their own (150km) with a highly efficient lift system to boot. It is a particular favourite with British snowboarders for its good, varied terrain, snowparks and number of tree runs.
The resort is also one of the more tastefully designed purpose-built French resorts and features high-quality accommodation, gourmet restaurants and an excellent après-ski atmosphere with regular events such as live bands and shows.
Tignes and Val d’Isere together make up the 300km Espace Killy ski area and it’s no surprise to see them both on the UK's favourites list. The high-altitude slopes make the area one of the best alpine bets for snowsure skiing and ski-in/ski-out accommodation.
The extensive, varied terrain has some of the best expert skiing around and plenty of lift-served off-piste. Val d’Isere, the prettier of the two, offers a wider choice of après-ski, but do keep an eye on the prices – it is one of the most expensive resorts in France.
UK skier Robin Gue says, “Val d’Isere is hard to fault for my family. We've been coming here for five winters now and we've always had excellent snow. Last year my wife and I took off-piste lessons which was a whole new experience and one we'll definitely be repeating this year."
St. Anton in Ski Arlberg is one of the UK’s top five Austrian resorts. St. Anton is lift-linked with St. Christoph and Stuben, but the Arlberg Pass also covers you for skiing in Lech, Zuers and Oberlech for a combined 260km. The varied terrain, and particularly good off-piste, make it a big hit with experts and adventurous intermediates.
Fresh powder here is common, particularly in spring. St. Anton gets more snow than a lot of resorts the same height as weather systems tend to move in from the west, dumping straight on the Arlberg.
The car-free centre offers a lively après-ski scene – so lively in fact they’ve just introduced a ‘no drinking in ski gear’ policy after 8pm to try to discourage drunken behaviour.
Sauze d'Oulx and Sestriere, both in the UK's top five Italian resorts, belong to the 400km lift-linked Milky Way ski area which straddles the Italian-French border. The uncrowded slopes, with a mix of tree-lined and open runs, make it ideal for intermediate skiers and there’s good-value accommodation close to the slopes.
Sauze d'Oulx made a name for itself as the "Benidorm of The Alps" for its boisterous nightlife, and you'll probably hear more English voices here than Italian, having said this it's still easy enough to find a quiet family-run restaurant within the pretty cobbled streets of the old centre. The Milky Way resorts are also easy to reach, the closest (Sauze) being just 90km from Turin Airport (a 60-minute drive).
UK Skier Hannah Price says, “We like the small-town friendliness of the Milky Way villages, we’re on first-name terms with a lot of locals, but at the same time it offers a huge and varied terrain."
Verbier, in the UK's Swiss top five, is part of the 410km 4 Valleys ski area. The local ski area is best known for its serious off-piste and each year hosts the finals of the Freeride World Tour. Highlights include the Tortin snowbowl with its huge bumps, the extreme couloirs below Les Attelas, the steep skiing around Mont Gele, and the legendary Col de Gentianes run.
Verbier sits at one end of the extensive 410km 4 Vallees ski area, linking it to Nendaz, Veysonnaz, Thyon and other resorts. The local gondolas and chairs are good, but the wider ski area can seem a little sprawling at times and there are a few tedious links.
The sizeable village gets plenty of sun and the lively, varied nightlife is hard to beat, although watch the high prices in bars and restaurants.
The Snowsports Analysis 2012 also listed these top five resorts with UK skiers in the USA and Canada:
Across the whole of North America, Whistler consistently ranks as number one for UK skiers. Telsnig says, "The resort gets huge snowfalls every season and everything here is built for convenience, from its modern lift system with new Peak 2 Peak gondola to its incredibly wide choice of restaurants on and off the mountain. Vancouver as a city add-on option is also very popular with our customers."