Listen to the carollers, enjoy the live music, and guzzle the vin chaud and hot chocolate in Val d'Isere at Christmas
Copyright: Office du Tourisme Val d'Isère
The OnTheSnow team just couldn’t wait any longer to share with you our pick of the most magical Christmas ski resorts. Whether or not you’re lucky enough to be heading to one of these top resorts this winter, grab yourself a steamin’ mug of hot chocolate, find a spot to get warm and cosy, and read on to find out what’s crackin’ at the best festive ski resorts.
Val d’Isere is such a good all-rounder it could easily make most “Top” lists; top slopes, top terrain, top setting, top snowfall and top bucks (yes, it’s not cheap but it is worth it). The resort has a top reputation among regular skiers for good reason: mainly a magnificent ski area, the Espace Killy, with soaring mountains and superb views. What’s more, the snowy Alps provide a perfect setting for a magical Christmas.
The town, which was developed around a 17th Century church, combines traditional Savoyard architecture with modern and stylish buildings. The old town is still the centre point today and on Christmas Eve a colourful street parade with costumed characters fills the streets. Huddle together to listen to the carollers, enjoy the live music, and guzzle the vin chaud and hot chocolate on offer. Papa Noel will make his way through the town on his sleigh before arriving in the main street to greet the children and smile for photos. Get to the Tourist Office for 15.00 and make-up artists will be armed with glitter and paint to create sparkly designs on faces.
Val d'Isere's pretty setting makes for a magical Christmas
Copyright: Office du Tourisme Val d'Isère
Narnia-esque Ischgl is one of our favourite resorts at OnTheSnow – it has a Winter Opening Concert like no other which has featured many a bonafide rockstar (this year it’s The Beach Boys). For Christmas 2015 the resort has a number of special activities including the Ischgl Krampus Run on 5 December. The run features 50 krampusses, wearing traditional - slightly-scary - looking wooden masks (think horned beast-creature), trekking through the village at 9pm. The beasts finish at the Silvrettabahn car park where they put on a mystical show. If you’re lucky enough to be in Ischgl at the end of December, then head to the Silvretta Centre on Boxing Day, for the Christmas in the Mountains event where you’ll be treated to a beautifully sung selection of Christmas carols from all over the world. And as if that wasn’t enough, on 29 December, at the Prennerhang, the ski school are putting on a torch-lit night show where expert skiers and snowboarders will perform tricks and fly through the air with effortless style.
Ischgl Krampus Run on Dec. 5 each year
Copyright: Krampusverein Ischgl
No Christmas ski resort list would be complete without picture-perfect Kitzbuühel. Nestled in Tyrol, this gorgeous alpine village, which hosts the legendary Hahnenkamm race, has its festive plate piled high with activities.
From 26 November until Christmas Eve, you'll find an enchanting Christmas Market filled with beautiful handicraft stores, a twinkling forest of fir trees, and plenty of konditorei (a café selling pastries). Daily activities include pony rides and a petting zoo, the lighting of the t Candle, and singing from the local choirs which fills the central square in the evenings from 18.00. Austrian food is deliciously indulgent so be sure to gobble up a few treats. Kaiserschmarrn – a traditional pudding of shredded pancake with icing sugar and plum compote is our favourite!
Christmas in picture-perfect Kitzbuehel
Copyright: Markus Mitterer
World-class skiing, traditional Alpine charm, and an award for the prettiest village in Europe, Luxurious Lech has a lot going for it. It’s also great for a party and on 4 December, DJ Paul Lomax (Ibiza), DJ Fab (CH), Rufus Martin (USA) and Saintro P will be hitting the dancefloor to get the Christmas party started! The pretty village will also be decked out in decorations and Lech’s traditional Christmas Market will take place at the newly redesigned Zug village square. There you’ll find a settlement of wooden huts selling everything from candles and gingerbread to delicious gluhwein to keep you warm. Live music, choirs and brass bands will be playing at the Market to get everyone into the festive spirit!
Live music at the Christmas market in Lech
Copyright: Maria Muxel
Courchevel is Val D’Isere’s more glamorous sister. It’s not that the skiing is better (although some would argue it is) but rather it’s more glitzy. This year, every village has Christmas events lined up and it goes without saying that Father Christmas will visit each village. As night falls, his helpers will line the main street with glowing torches and fairy lights will twinkle in the fir trees to create a spectacular Christmas display.
For a spot of festive shopping visit the Christmas Village, located in Place du Tremplin, where you’ll find wood carvings made by local craftsmen, seasonal delicacies to feast on, and much more to fill your loved ones’ stockings with!
One event we won’t be missing on 9 December is the Chamallow Party. The event, held outdoors at either Place du Forum in Courchevel 1850, or the Place du Bachal in Courchevel Moriond, will see fire pits, hundreds of marshmallows roasting, and a lot of sticky faces!
Spend Christmas in glamorous Courchevel
Copyright: OT de Courchevel
Spanish resorts generally don’t get enough of a mention but they’re actually rather good at putting on a show for the festive period and chic Baqueira-Beret is no exception. The resort, one of Spain’s largest, lies at the head of Val d’Aran, on the northern side of the Pyrenees. It’s not a chocolate box village but neither is it unattractive and in any case the dramatic backdrop of the Pyrenees mountains more than makes up for a lack of wooden huts. The skiing at Baqueira is especially good with long runs suited to all levels, reliable snow cover at the start of the season (particularly in the Argulls area), and excellent food and apres (you wouldn’t expect anything less from the Spaniards who like to party hard). As for the Christmas affair, Santa arrives in a dog sleigh on Christmas Eve at Baqueira, however, in Spain they celebrate the Epiphany and most of the real fun takes place after 31 December, when fireworks, live music, and dancing will entertain guests. A procession featuring The Three Kings arriving on snow-groomers will take place at Baquiera Beret on 5 January.
Reliable snow cover in Baqueira Beret, Spain
Copyright: Baqueira Beret
A picturesque and stylish resort, Megeve has a number of delightful treats in store for the winter season. One of its most eye-catching is the giant Christmas tree that dominates the central square. The tree, which is beautifully decorated and sumptuously lit, has a different theme each year and has previously been adorned with spectacular Swarovski crystal ornaments and exquisite hand-painted baubles. Few towns look as magical as Megeve at Christmas time – it’s covered in fairy lights, horse drawn sleighs and ice figurines which tell the story of the nativity.
On Christmas Eve, Father Christmas arrives with his elves bearing gifts for both children and adults (hot chocolate for the kids and vin chaud for the parents!). For an extra special event, the midnight mass in the historic 13th Century church is not to be missed.
Magical Megeve at Christmas time
Copyright: Simon Garnier
Les Gets has built a reputation as one of the most family-friendly resorts in the Alps. Apart from doing the usual ‘child-friendly’ things extremely well, it has some unique attractions like its chocolate workshop and mechanical music museum to excite young eyes. Santa is officially in residence along with his elves for two weeks from a few days before the big day, right through to early January and he’s always quietly appearing around the village and even on the ski slopes, you just have to look out for him.
Christmas procession in Les Gets
Copyright: Nicolas HEU / OT Les Gets