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 low-lying cousins, particularly at the beginning and end of the ski season. Long winter seasons stretch from November to May. Throughout winter, snow is reliable right down to the village which is 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 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. You 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. Prices drop with the altitude, but they’re not as convenient for doorstep skiing. Here’s our pick of the highest ski resorts with the best ski-in/ski-out accommodation . . .
The highest ski resorts in Europe are located in France and Austria.
Highest ski resorts in France
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 because of 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 of slopes in the Three Valleys, has varied terrain and fast, modern lifts. State-of the-art snowmaking enhances 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 a spokesperson for Val Thorens Tourist Office.
Village altitude: 1,800m
Highest ski lift: 2,466m
Ski-in/ski-out lodging: Chalet Aspen
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 (650km ski area). Its extensive and varied local slopes are among the best and most snowsure in the whole 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 so be sure to book early to bag some of the best snow in Europe.
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 in Europe. 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. 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 of slope-side accommodation with piste-to-porch skiing, so if you’re a fan of first tracks, this one’s for you.
Val d’Isere, FR
Village altitude: 1850m
Highest ski lift: 3,456m
Ski-in/ski-out lodging: Les Chalets du Jardin Alpin
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 Legettaz.
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.
La Plagne, FR
Village altitude: 1,250-2,000m
Highest ski lift: 3,250m
Ski-in/ski-out lodging: Hotel & Spa Carlina
La Plagne, one of the highest ski resorts in Europe, is split into 10 separate villages set between 1,250 and 2,000m. 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. There are also sheltered forest runs for bad-weather days. Lift-linked with Les Arcs, the resorts make up the 425km Paradiski area.
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. They 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 sit above 2000m and snowmaking is being extended in particular on the west-facing slopes.
Highest ski resorts in Austria
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) are up there with the best snow in Europe. They share a linked ski area in the Arlberg ski domain. Terrain is best-suited to intermediates and freeriders. The villages are some of the highest ski resorts in Austria and see plenty of powder (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.
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.