Best of the Alps
The Best of the Alps Ski Resorts
The Best of the Alps is an association of twelve of the most prestigious mountain resorts in the Alps. Internationally renowned and instantly recognizable to skiers and non-skiers alike, the Best of the Alps resorts set standards that many other resorts aspire to reach.
The twelve resorts of the Best of Alps are four season destinations known the world over. Whether skiing, hiking, biking, climbing, golfing or simply enjoying the alpine scenery, these resorts will leave you with a lifetime of memories. The only problem will be deciding which one to visit next!
Everything about Chamonix is impressive. In the shadow of Mont Blanc (4,810m), the highest mountain in the Alps, the deep Chamonix valley has more skiable slopes than seems possible and something for all abilities, though adventurous skiers and boarders have most to gain from a visit including ski runs with a vertical elevation of more than 2,000m and the “Vallée Blanche,” the most famous off-piste run in the world. A magnet to skiers, mountaineers and all extreme sports devotees, the thriving town of Chamonix is busy all year round and only one hour (103km) from Geneva airport, making it one of Europe’s most popular destinations for weekend and short break skiing.
Cortina d’Ampezzo in the heart of the spectacular Dolomites is Italy’s premier “see and be seen” mountain resort and appeals to committed holiday-makers as much as skiers. The views and the mountain restaurants are as impressive as the skiing at this Italian gem resort. Visitors will find the atmosphere to be relaxed and decidedly Italian. Long lunches, abundant sunshine and chicly-clad guests are the norm. Cortina consists of four very distinct ski areas, each offering a radically different yet impressive ski experience. Home to some of the most prestigious fashion boutiques in Italy, Cortina is the one of the most luxurious resorts in the Alps and about 2 hours (148km) from Venice’s Marco Polo airport.
At 1,560m Davos is the largest resort in Switzerland and one of the highest Alpine resorts in Europe. Davos is comprised of five resorts, any of which would be large and varied enough to be a world class resort in its own right. It is a vast network stretching from the Rinerhorn south west of Davos to Pischa in the north east. The Rega ski pass also covers Klosters’ ski areas of Gotschna and Madrissa. A quick glance at the piste map may imply that Davos is largely an intermediate’s resort but don’t be fooled, the Davos-Klosters ski area has huge off-piste potential. Getting to Davos from Zurich airport (174km) takes about 2 hours by car or 2 hours 40 minutes by train.
The unified towns of Garmisch and Partenkirchen comprise Bavaria’s most famous alpine resort. Staring up towards the mighty Zugspitze (2,962m) the highest mountain in Germany, Garmisch-Partenkirchen is actually two distinct resorts. The “Classic” resort located next to the town hosted the 2011 World Championships and is an annual stop of the World Cup tour. The “Zugspitze” area is accessible by cable-car or cog-railway, where just below the summit skiers can whisk down Germany’s only skiable glacier. Scores of lodging properties close to both areas dot the surprisingly sprawling village, replete with a large pedestrian area. Less than one hour by car from Innsbruck (58km) airport or one hour thirty minutes from Munich (137km) airport.
The picturesque village of Grindelwald, and its neighbours, Wengen and Mürren, come closer to the fairytale image of an alpine ski idyll than anywhere else in Europe. However, it’s not the extensive skiing, quaint cog railways or rustic ambience but the imposing north faces of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau that make the biggest impression, whether you’re there to ski or just to soak up the atmosphere. The World Cup stops in Grindelwald every year for the famous Lauberhorn downhill, but if you’re looking for a slightly tamer descent, don’t miss the region’s famous moon- or torchlit run to the valley, complete with fondue! Getting to Grindelwald from nearest main airport Zurich (152km) takes two hours by car or three hours by train.
The historic Tirolean town of Kitzbühel has two claims to fame which combine to make it a major attraction for skiers and non-skiers worldwide. One is the stunningly picturesque town itself dating back to the thirteenth century; the other is the greatest World Cup downhill ski race in the world: the feared Streif descent on the celebrated Hahnenkamm. Of course, Kitzbühel has plenty of gentler terrain for recreational skiers and boarders, a wide choice of accommodation to suit all budgets, good nightlife and plenty of activities for non-skiers in one of Austria’s classic all year round resorts. Driving to Kitzbuhel from nearest airports Innsbruck (92km) or Munich (168km) takes around one or two hours respectively.
The neighbouring villages of Lech and Zürs in Austria’s celebrated Arlberg ski region are home to an impressive number of luxury hotels and upscale restaurants. Zürs, the smaller of the two villages is a purpose-built resort while Lech was voted the most picturesque village in the Alps in 2004. Both offer access to outstanding terrain, including “der weisse Ring” (The White Ring) a 20km, 5,000 vertical meter ski safari above and around the towns of Lech, Oberlech, Zug, and Zürs and the entire Arlberg ski area including nearby St Anton am Arlberg. Whether you choose to stay in Lech, Zürs or one of the smaller surrounding villages you’ll be treated to an unforgettable vacation in one of Austria’s most picturesque places. Just two hours by car from Zurich airport (199km).
One of France’s most upmarket ski resorts, Megève is part of the fragmented Evasion Mont Blanc ski area which boasts over 400km of piste skiing including some of the best slopes in the Alps. Located just over one hour from Geneva airport (70km) Megève is a popular choice for both short breaks and family holidays and has plenty of activities to keep non-skiers fully entertained. A charming traditional Savoyard town, Megève famously attracts an affluent clientele including many celebrities from France and overseas. There are no huge hotels or other mass market elements: indeed, this is one of the main attractions of this pretty medieval town with its narrow, cobbled streets and exclusive boutiques and prices to match.
The Austrian village of Seefeld offers a wide array of winter sports activities and is a world-renowned destination for cross-country skiing having hosted the Nordic Events at both the 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympics. The less important Alpine skiing is on two separate, but soon-to-be connected mountains, the Gschwandkopf and Rossehütte. The former is perfect for beginners while the latter is the larger of the two areas and better suited for intermediates. Seefeld’s storybook pedestrian square, enticing restaurants and high-end hotel accommodation make it a popular choice for discerning families and couples. Driving there from Munich airport (173km) takes around two hours, but Innsbruck airport (20km) is nearest and offers the shortest transfer times.
St. Anton is among the world’s greatest and most renowned ski resorts. Straddling the border of Tirol and Vorarlberg, St. Anton is many things to many people, but best for experienced skiers, especially Powderhounds who will love the off-piste, and party animals drawn to St Anton’s epic nightlife. With over 250km of piste skiing including the nearby resorts of Lech-Zűrs and masses of off-piste terrain including one of Europe’s longest uninterrupted lift-accessible off-piste descents, St Anton am Arlberg is the ski capital of Austria. Whether there to ski, party or just get away, St. Anton pairs old world charm with modern luxury that is sure to leave you wondering how soon you can return. From Zurich airport (195km) to St Anton takes about two hours by car or three hours by train. Innsbruck airport (100km) is nearer but offers fewer flight connections.
From royal polo matches on the frozen lake to abundant five star hotels and the moneyed elite flying directly into the local airstrip, the Swiss resort of St. Moritz ‘s posh credentials are impeccable. Few resorts can top St. Moritz’s glamorous reputation. But the resort’s poshness is exceeded only by its world-class terrain and an extensive all year round calendar of events. Host of the 1928 and 1948 Winter Olympics and a four-time venue for the Alpine Skiing World Championships, St. Moritz’s pedigree as a ski destination is difficult to match. What’s more, it’s high elevation between 1,800 and 3,303 metres (5,906−10,837 ft) makes St. Moritz one of the most snow-sure resorts in Europe. From Zurich airport (162km) to St Moritz takes about two hours by car or as long as 3 hours 45 minutes by train.
Zermatt ‘s skiing certainly justifies its reputation as one of the best ski resorts in the world, but it’s the complete package including the 4,478m Matterhorn – Switzerland’s most iconic mountain – and some of the best on-mountain restaurants in the Alps that makes Zermatt so special. Matching the size and diversity of the mountains, the valley offers boundless possibilities for skiers of all abilities including abundant off-piste. From top hotels to (relatively) humble guesthouses, there are beds galore, and restaurants and nightlife to match, in an old mountain village that has long since grown into a vibrant car-free town. Equidistant from Geneva (230km) and Zurich airports (230km), Zermatt is easy to get to from Geneva by car (as far as the car park at Tasch) then by train in around 3 hours or by train from Zurich airport in 3 hours 30 minutes.
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Author: David Cronheim