It’s never too early to plan for a Christmas ski holiday. So, here are our picks of the best resorts for to choose to make it magical. 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 eight of the best bets.
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.
If “Christmas ski holidays” means a traditional alpine Christmas setting, then Kitzbuehel is the place for you. Nestled in the Tyrol, this picture-perfect alpine village, which hosts the legendary Hahnenkamm race each winter, 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) and hot spiced wine. Daily activities include pony rides and a petting zoo, and singing from the local choirs which fills the central square in the evenings from 6pm. 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.
The resort kicks off its winter season like no other with a Winter Opening Concert at the top of the mountain, then there’s the annual Ischgl Krampus Run which features 50 krampusses, wearing traditional – slightly-scary – looking wooden masks (think horned beast-creature), trekking through the village at night. 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, 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.
World-class skiing, traditional Alpine charm, and an award for the prettiest village in Europe, luxurious Lech has a lot going for it and is well-deserving of its place on our “Christmas ski holidays” list. It’s also great for a party and at the beginning of December world-renowned DJs hit the dancefloor to get the Christmas party started! The pretty village is also decked out in thousands of sparkly lights 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!
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. Every village has Christmas events lined up and it goes without saying that Father Christmas will pay a visit to all of them. 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!
The Chamallow Party is held outdoors at either Place du Forum in Courchevel 1850, or the Place du Bachal in Courchevel Moriond, and features fire pits, hundreds of marshmallows roasting, and a lot of happy, sticky little faces.
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). Its big-scale celebrations have given it a place in our best resorts to ski on the Christmas list. Festivities kick off with Santa arriving on 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 in early January.
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 alone is enough to put it on our “Christmas ski resorts” list). Beautifully decorated and sumptuously lit, the Christmas tree 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 that 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.
Les Gets has built a reputation as one of the most family-friendly resorts in the Alps and this has nudged it into our ‘best places to ski at Christmas’ list. 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.