Best High Altitude Ski Resorts in Europe

The highest ski resorts in Europe are in the Alps and have slopes above 3,000m and accommodation at around 2,000m. This gives them reliable snow conditions, wonderful views, ski-in/ski-out convenience, car-free environments, fast access to snow-sure runs, and a longer ski season.

William Micklethwait, Editor of, picks out the very best high-altitude ski resorts in Europe for different types of skiers and snowboarders at different times of year.

La Plagne, France – Best for Beginners

Family on skis on groomed slope in front of Belle Plagne in la Plagne

Beginners can ski from the doorstep in high-elevation villages like Belle Plagne © La Plagne OT_JNJ-Photo

La Plagne offers a choice of attractive snow-sure villages that are perfect for beginners. Belle Plagne, Plagne Soleil and Plagne Villages are all located at 2,050m above sea level, with good nursery slopes nearby, including some free lifts. When beginners graduate from these, there is an inexpensive lift pass that covers a small network of easy pistes, and when they want to explore further, La Plagne is crisscrossed by novice-friendly gentle blue runs. Plagne Aime 2000 (2,100m), Plagne Centre (1,970m) and Plagne Bellecote (1,930m) also have good facilities for beginners and are similarly snow-sure and convenient to stay in, but not as visually attractive.

Ultimate-Ski Guide to La Plagne >

Runners Up: Les Arcs, Obergurgl

Cervinia, Italy – Best for Relaxed Easy Skiing

Cable car in Cervinia with the Matterhorn in background

The Cervinia-Zermatt ski area near the Matterhorn has Europe’s highest ski lifts © Cervino SpA_Niccolò Venturin

Cervinia has some of the highest and best ‘motorway pistes’ in the Alps: long, wide, gently-sloping, groomed slopes, with good snow, lovely views, and plenty of nice mountain restaurants. Cervinia is the highest ski resort in Italy, sharing a vast ski area with the resort of Zermatt which has the highest aerial cableway and highest glacier runs in Europe at 3,883m. Cervinia itself is not as beautiful as Zermatt and lacks Zermatt’s testing black slopes and ungroomed ski routes, but Cervinia, at 2,050m, is much higher, so it has better snow at resort level, and more ski-in and ski-out accommodation. Cervinia is also less expensive. And don’t let the piste map mislead you: many of Cervinia’s runs might be graded red but they are perfect for relaxed easy cruising.

Ultimate-Ski Guide to Cervinia >

Runners Up: La Plagne, Alpe d’Huez

Val Thorens, France – Best for Intermediates

Skiers relaxing on the slopes above Val Thorens

Skiers above Val Thorens in France’s 3 Valleys ski area © OT Val Thorens

Situated at 2,300m above sea level, Val Thorens is the highest ski resort in Europe in which you can stay, with multiple lifts above 3,000m (the highest, Bouchet, reaches 3,230m). And these lifts access superb red runs that will challenge but rarely frighten intermediates. Keen skiers and snowboarders can also use Val Thorens as a base to explore all of the Three Valleys ski area (“Les 3 Vallées“) the world’s largest ski area. Les Menuires, St Martin de Belleville, Meribel and Courchevel are all within reach, and all have good slopes for intermediate skiers, although none are quite as elevated or as snowy as Val Thorens.

Ultimate-Ski Guide to Val Thorens >

Runners Up: Tignes, Les Arcs

Arc 2000, France – Best for Black Runs

Skier on high steep ungroomed slope above Les Arcs

Arc 2000 has technically demanding, steep, ungroomed runs © Les Arcs_Outdoor Spirit

Arc 2000 is sited at 2,100m, making it one of the highest ski destinations in the French Alps. It’s also perfectly placed for quick access to the steep black runs accessed from the 3,226m Aiguille Rouge cable car, the 2,832m Grand Col chairlift, and the 2,730m Varet gondola. Most of these are never groomed and will test even ski experts. If that’s a challenge too far, stick to slightly easier ski terrain, such as the black runs that form most of the 7km long descent from the top of the Aiguille Rouge to Villaroger with a vertical drop of over 2,000m; or use the full Paradiski ski area pass to cross over to La Plagne, where there is a similar long run starting from the Bellecote glacier at over 3,000m. As a village, Arc 2000 is no beauty, but this means it’s less expensive, allowing you to grab a bargain or ‘go up a star’ and stay in its luxury hotels and residences.

Ultimate-Ski Guide to Les Arcs  >

Also, see feature: Les Arcs Highest Villages

Runners Up: Tignes, Val d’Isere

Val d’Isère, France – Best for Freeride & Ski-Touring

Freeride snowboarder walking through snow in mountains above Val d'Isere

The Tignes-Val d’Isere ski area is famous for its high-altitude freeride, split boarding and ski touring © Val d’Isere OT

Val d’Isère and Tignes, two of the most snow-sure high altitude resorts in the Alps, share an extensive ski area (formerly known as the Espace Killy Ski Area) which includes two 3,000m glaciers, and some of the best freeride in Europe. And if you go ski touring, the possibilities are endless. So should you stay in Val d’Isere or Tignes? It’s a close call because they are so well connected, but for freeriders, split boarders and ski tourers, Val d’Isère might have a slight edge because its local ski area has more treelined off-piste when visibility is bad. Val d’Isère ski resort is located at 1,850m, but you can stay above 1,900m in outlying suburbs like Le Fornet, Le Manchet and Chatelard, which are all at the bottom of famous freeride descents.

Ultimate-Ski Guide to Val d’Isere >

Runners Up: Tignes, Monterosa

Obergurgl, Austria – Best for Families

Dawn view of Mountain Star Restaurant at the top of the Gurgle ski area in Austria

Top Mountain Star Restaurant in Gurgl ski area © Oetztal Tourism – Rudi Wyhidal

Not all high-altitude ski resorts are artificial modern creations. Obergurgl is sited at 1,930m above sea level but has parish records dating back to medieval times, and you can stay at the heart of the old village next to its 18th Century church and be only a short walk from a lift network which takes you to north-facing ski slopes above 3,000m. Or if you’re prepared to sacrifice tradition for convenience, you can stay in Obergurgl’s purpose-built satellite resort of Hochgurgl at 2,150m, Austria’s highest ski resort village. Both Obergurgl and Hochgurgl have a strong family-friendly ethos with excellent ski schools. Their shared ski area, called Gurgl, does not have many steep runs, so it suits novices and intermediates best. It’s not very large but it has a bus link and lift-pass sharing arrangement with Solden, and together the two resorts should be big enough for most skiers.

Ultimate-Ski Guide to Obergurgl-Hochgurgl >

Runners Up: La Plagne, Val Thorens

Zermatt, Switzerland – Best for Romantic Ski Holidays

View of Zermatt ski resort centre at night with Matterhorn in background

Zermatt’s historic centre beneath the Matterhorn © Zermatt_Leander Wenger

With the Matterhorn as a backdrop, Zermatt’s car-free streets and historic hotels make it the most romantic of the large Swiss ski resorts. Its fabled mountain restaurants are perfect for cosy lunches regardless of whether you’re outside basking on a sunny terrace or inside huddled around a log fire. Even the journey up to the ski resort of Zermatt, on a hundred-year-old mountain railway, is different and scenic. And the views from the top of its famous ski area are to die for. Both the Blauherd-Rothorn and Gornergrat-Hohtalli sectors have lifts ascending above 3,000m, whilst Matterhorn Glacier Paradise has the highest cable car in Europe and the highest ski slopes at 3,883m. And whilst Zermatt village might have a comparatively modest elevation of 1,620m, you can find romantic hideaways far above it at Riffelberg (2,582m) and Gornergrat (3,089m) which has the highest hotel in Switzerland.

Ultimate-Ski Guide to Zermatt >

Runners Up:  Saas Fee, Courmayeur

Saas-Fee, Switzerland – Best for Non-Skiers

Walking on the glacier above Saas Fee

You don’t need skis to explore Saas Fee’s glaciers ©SaastalTourismusAG-Filme von draussen

Can you have a successful ski trip if some of your party don’t ski? In Saas-Fee, you can. This traffic-free village in the Swiss Alps, perched at 1800m above a quiet valley surrounded by mountains and glaciers is the perfect ski resort for non-skiers. Saas-Fee’s main lifts are pedestrian-friendly so everyone can reach the highest viewing platforms as well as the world’s highest revolving restaurant. There’s even a separate mountain reserved for tobogganing, snowshoeing and winter walking, as well as an ice-skating rink, a winter Via Ferrata route, ice climbing and a zipline. But if you do want to ski, Saas Fee’s mid-sized area suits relaxed intermediates who can enjoy some of the best snow records and longest ski seasons across Europe, with lifts reaching up to 3,573m.

Ultimate-Ski Guide to Saas-Fee >

Runners Up: Zermatt, Tignes

Arc 1950, France – Best for Christmas Ski Holidays

Skiers and snowboarders in Arc 1950's snowy car-free streets

The streets in Arc 1950 are for skiers not cars. © Les Arcs_Andy_Parant

The best high-altitude resorts for Christmas and New Year ski trips combine high lifts with treelined slopes, and nowhere does this better than Arc 1950. Located at an elevation of 1950m, it takes just 3 lifts to reach the highest point in Paradiski at 3,226m, so you’re certainly going to have a white Christmas. But in a mid-winter blizzard, you don’t have to tough it out on a bleak exposed glacier: instead, you can drop down to the woods that cover nearly half of Les Arcs, where the runs are enjoyable to ski even in poor visibility. Arc 1950 is part of Paradiski, one of the largest ski areas in the world, and it’s an attractive village to spend the festive season in, with nice-looking buildings, comfortable apartments, glorious views, and car-free streets where children can play in safety.

Ultimate-Ski Guide to Les Arcs >

Also, see the special feature: Les Arcs Highest Villages

Runners Up: La Plagne, Val d’Isere

Sölden, Austria – Best for Easter Ski Holidays

Skiers on glacier above Sölden skiing through ski tunnel

Sölden Glacier Ski Tunnel © Otztal Tourism_MathäusGartner

At 1,377m, Solden is the lowest village in this list but it’s still one of the highest resorts in Europe and one of our top picks because its ski passes cover an area with two glaciers and three different sectors with lifts above 3000m: Schwarze Schneide at 3,340m; Tiefenbachkogel at 3,250m; and Gaislachkogl at 3048m. This makes Solden one of the most snow-sure ski resorts in the Alps and guarantees snow at Easter, no matter how late Easter is. And if Solden’s low base elevation worries you, then stay up the mountain in Solden’s purpose-built, satellite resort at Hochsolden at 2090m which is one of the highest ski resorts in Austria. Solden best suits novices and intermediates. Strong keen skiers should buy an Ötztal lift pass which also covers nearby bus-linked Obergurgl.

Ultimate-Ski Guide to Solden-Hochsolden >

Runners Up: Val Thorens, Tignes

Hintertux, Austria – Best for Ski Weekends

View of the Austrian Alps from the top of the Hintertux glacier in winter

The Hintertux Glacier is one of the most snow-sure in the Alps © Tirol Tourist Board_MonEpic

Hintertux itself is ‘only’ 1500m above sea level, but above it, the Hintertuxer Gletscher is one of the most snow-sure ski areas in the Alps and has some of the best glacier ski runs in the world. Hintertux’s top lift at 3,250m is one of half a dozen that rise above 3000m, and its compact ski area (about 60km of runs) might be all you need on a short break. But if you want more, or bad weather closes in and you would prefer to ski lower down in the woods, Hintertux is part of Zillertal 3000 which includes the much larger but lower resort of Mayrhofen, and buses shuttle between them. Hintertux is about a 90-minute drive from Innsbruck airport, and it has a very long ski season, staying open for skiing in summer, autumn and spring, so you can dash here for a quick powder fix before or after your main ski trip.

Ultimate-Ski Guide to Hintertux >

Runners Up: Stubai, Verbier

St Moritz, Switzerland – Best for Luxury Ski Holidays

The Kempinski 5 star hotel surrounded by snow in St Moritz

Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains in St Moritz ©Engadin St. Moritz Tourismus AG

St Moritz is one of the most famous ski resorts in the world and synonymous with luxury, with legendary 5-star hotels like Badrutt’s Palace, The Kempinski, The Carlton, The Kulm and Suvretta House. Its streets are lined with boutiques selling exclusive designer brands; many of its mountain restaurants are dedicated to ‘money no object’ gourmet dining; and its frozen lake hosts polo matches. But St Moritz is also one of Switzerland’s highest ski resorts. St Moritz Dorf, the smartest part of St Moritz, is located at 1850m, and St Moritz’s three separate sectors all have very high ski-lifts: on Corvatsch they reach 3,303m; on Corviglia/Piz Nair 3,057m; and on Diavolezza/Lagalb 2,978m.

Ultimate-Ski Guide to St Moritz >

Runners Up: Zermatt, Verbier

Les Deux Alpes, France – Best for Budget Ski Holidays

Skiers and snowboarders on the high altitude pistes above Les Deux Alpes

Les 2 Alpes has the highest groomed ski runs in France ©Les 2 Alpes – luka leroy

Les Deux Alpes (also called ‘Les 2 Alpes”) is probably the least expensive European ski resort with runs above 3,000m for all standards. At 1,650m, Les 2 Alpes itself is not particularly high, but its lifts go all the way up to the Glacier de la Girose which has the highest pistes in France at 3,568m with reliable snow cover throughout the ski season and even into summer. From here you can descend to Mont de Lans at 1,300m, the world’s largest vertical drop (2,268m) for a groomed run. Very keen skiers might find the Les 2 Alpes piste network a little small, but the lift pass covers day trips to nearby Alpe d’Huez (which also has skiing above 3,000m), and Les 2 Alpes has excellent freeride and ski touring, including routes across the glacier into La Grave.

Ultimate-Ski Guide to Les 2 Alpes >

Runners Up: La Plagne, Cervinia

Tignes, France – Best Overall High-Altitude Ski Resort

Skiers and snowboarders below the Aiguille Percee in Tignes ski resort

Tignes exemplifies high-altitude skiing in the Alps ©Tignes

If you’re organising a ski trip for a mixed party with different abilities and interests, take them to Tignes. The main villages are located at 2,100m and the top lifts are on a glacier at 3,456m, making Tignes one of the most snow-sure ski resorts in France. For beginners, it has convenient and free nursery slopes. For intermediates, it has a huge ski domain shared with Val d’Isere that’s mostly composed of blue and red runs. And for experts, it has tough black slopes and phenomenal freeride plus a large freestyle snowpark. Then there are all the other activities, which include ice diving, paragliding, dog-sledding, nighttime motorbike tours of the slopes, nordic skiing, horse-drawn carriage rides, ice skating, tobogganing and snowshoeing in the woods. The après ski scene is easy to avoid if you’re after a quiet holiday, but it’s all there if you want it, from dancing on tables to late-night bars and clubs. Also, there’s plenty of accommodation for most tastes and budgets.

Ultimate-Ski Guide to Tignes >

Runners Up: Val Thorens, Val d’Isere

High Altitude Ski Resorts in Europe – FAQs

What are the highest ski resorts in France?

Ski areas in France with the highest elevation lifts – Chamonix 3,777m*; Les Deux Alpes 3,568m; La Grave 3,550m*; Tignes 3,458m; Alpe d’Huez 3,330m; Val Thorens 3,230m; Les Arcs 3,226m; Val d’Isere 3,197m; La Plagne 3,080m. *Highest lift accesses only off-piste terrain.

What are the highest ski resorts in Austria?

Ski areas in Austria with the highest elevation lifts – Pitztal Glacier 3,440m, Solden-Hochsölden 3,340m, Hintertux Glacier 3,250m, Stubai Glacier 3,250m, Kaunertal Glacier 3,108m, Obergurgl-Hochgurgl 3,082m, Kitzsteinhorn-Kaprun 3,029m.

What are the highest ski resorts in Italy?

Ski areas in Italy with the highest elevation lifts – Cervinia 3,883m; Courmayeur 3,466m*; Monterosa 3,275m; Arabba-Marmolada 3,269m; Passo Tonale 3,030m.

What are the highest ski resorts in Switzerland?

Ski areas in Switzerland with the highest elevation lifts – Zermatt 3,883m; Saas-Fee 3,573m; St Moritz 3,303m; Verbier 3,300m; Engelberg 3,020; Laax 3,018m; Villars-Gryon-Les Diablerets 3,016m; Crans-Montana 3,000m.

Which are the highest ski resort villages in the Alps?

Approximate elevation of resort centres: Val Thorens 2,300m; Hochgurgl 2,150m; Tignes Val Claret/Le Lac/Le Lavachet 2,100m; Plagne Aime 2000 2,100m; Arc 2000 2,100m; Hochsölden 2,090m; Cervinia 2,050; Belle Plagne 2,050m; Plagne Soleil 2,050m, Plagne Villages 2,050m.

Are there high-altitude ski resorts in the Pyrenees?

There are high altitude ski resorts in the Pyrenees but they are not as elevated as the highest ski resorts in the Alps. The highest ski lift in the Pyrenees (Pic du Midi Cable Car, Grand Tourmalet) at 2,877m is about 1000m lower than the highest ski lift in the Alps (Matterhorn Glacier Paradise Cable Car, Zermatt). The highest ski resort village in the Pyrenees (Pas de la Casa) at 2,080m is about 220m lower than the highest ski resort village in the Alps (Val Thorens).

What are the highest ski resorts in the Pyrenees?

Ski areas in the Pyrenees with the highest elevation lifts – Grand Tourmalet (France) 2,877m*; Pas de la Casa (Andorra) 2,640m; Ordino-Arcalis (Andorra) 2,625m; Baqueira Beret (Spain) 2,610m; Soldeu (Andorra) 2,560m.

Pas de la Casa (2,080m) is the highest ski resort village in the Pyrenees.

Author: William Micklethwait

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