The highest ski resorts in Europe

3rd October 2014 | Alicia Taylor, Editor

Resorts in this article: Avoriaz, Courchevel, La Plagne, Lech Zürs am Arlberg, Les Arcs, Obergurgl-Hochgurgl, Tignes, Val d'Isère, Val Thorens

Val Thorens village with chairlift overhead

At 2,300m, Val Thorens is the highest ski resort in Europe

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 ski lift: 3,200m

Ski-in/ski-out lodging: Le Sherpa

Val Thorens is the highest ski resort in Europe and one of the most snowsure 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.

Plenty of powder in Val Thorens, France

Copyright: Val Thorens Tourism

AVORIAZ, FR

Village altitude: 1,800m

Highest ski 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 snowsure 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.

Avoriaz is a ski-in/ski-out resort

Copyright: DaveOnFlickr

TIGNES, FR

Village altitude: 1,550-2,300m

Highest ski 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. Tignes is one of the highest ski resorts in Europe, but it's worth noting the resort is actually divided into four villages, each with a different altitude. The highest are 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.

Skiing above the treeline in Tignes, France

Copyright: Katallys / Livecam 360

VAL D’ISERE, FR

Village altitude: 1850m

Highest ski lift: 3,456m

Ski-in/ski-out lodging: Le Brussels

Like neighbouring Tignes, Val d’Isere also scores big on our highest ski resorts list. 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.

Pretty village of Val d'Isere, France

Copyright: OT Val d`Isère

COURCHEVEL, FR

Village altitude: 1,300-1,750m

Highest ski lift: 2,700m

Ski-in/ski-out lodging: Hotel Courcheneige

Courchevel 1850 is the highest of the ski 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.

Fresh snow in Courchevel, France

Copyright: Courchevel Tourism

LA PLAGNE, FR

Village altitude: 1,250-2,000m

Highest ski lift: 3,250m

Ski-in/ski-out lodging: Hotel & Spa Carlina

La Plagne on our highest ski resorts list which is split into separate villages. There are 10 in total set between 1,250 and 2,000m, but Belle-Plagne (2,050m) and Plagne 1800 are most popular. La Plagne’s local ski area is snowsure, 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.

Taking the lifts in La Plagne. The Paradiski area is favourite with UK skiers

Copyright: Beatrice Koumanov

LES ARCS, FR

Village altitude: 1,200-2,000m

Highest ski 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.

Plenty of powder in Les Arcs, France

Copyright: Les Arcs/Paradiski

LECH-ZUERS, AU

Village altitude: 1450-1716m

Highest ski 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. The villages are some of the highest ski resorts in Austria and 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.

Snow-clad Lech village, Austria

Copyright: Leo Meiseleder

OBERGURGL-HOCHGURGL, AU

Village altitude: 1,930m

Highest ski 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.

Skiing down to Obergurgl-Hochgurgl, Austria

Copyright: Obergurgl Tourism

 

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