Ten of the Best Weekend Ski Resorts
Make the most of the European ski season and your precious time off from work by filling your winter with as many ski weekends and short breaks as possible. A quick three or four day jaunt to the Alps is exhilarating and rejuvenating, and gives far better Monday morning water cooler gossip than a trip to your local DIY store.
When picking your weekend ski destination, there are a few things to consider. How close is the nearest airport, and is that airport well served by early morning and late evening international flights? If you’re going for just a few days, you want to be skiing on the arrival and departure days. Can you find accommodation for three nights, rather than the usual seven? To increase your chances of finding a bed for the night, you’re better off planning weekend trips to hotel-heavy resorts in the quieter months of January and March. On arrival in the resort, how quickly can you be on the slopes? It’s these factors that have determined our pick of the ten of best resorts in Europe for weekend skiing and short breaks – that and the fact they all offer varied terrain that is certain to leave you buzzing come Monday morning.
The classic weekend ski destination, Chamonix is perfect for a quick break. It’s just over an hour from Geneva, has plenty of hotels, apartments and chalets geared up for short stays, and has enough steep terrain to satisfy even the greediest adrenalin junkies. A car is useful if you want to ski all the Chamonix valley’s spread-out and separate ski areas, but if you’re only over for a few days, it makes more sense to stay close to the area you most want to ski (for experts this will proabbly mean staying in Argentiere and skiing Les Grands Montets) and using a low-cost, shared transfer service to get you from Geneva airport to your accommodation, such as ChamExpress.
If you’re looking for a quick powder fix the snowsure slopes from the Titlis glacier above Engelberg are a safe bet. Hire a guide to explore the rugged terrain and long runs from the 3,000m Titlis peak or 2,500m Jockstock. Alternatively, tackle the steep reds and push yourself on the mogulled itinerary run from Titlis. An hour and a half from Zurich, Engelberg offers plenty of accommodation options and getting there is easy. Zurich, the nearest international airport, is a major hub so finding convenient flights shouldn’t be a problem. To reach the resort, it’s either one and a half hours by road or two hours by train.
Warth-Schrőcken in the Bregenzerwald is one of the most snowsure villages in Austria, averaging twice as much snow as St Anton or Val d’Isere, and three times more than Chamonix. It’s one of three main ski areas in the Bregenzerwald (all covered by a single lift pass) with excellent piste skiing and quite testing off-piste skiing between Warth and Lech (in the Arlberg). Bregenzerwald resorts offer high standards of accommodation including ski-in, ski-out hotels. Cheap weekend and short break ski packages including lift pass are available through Bregenzerwald Tourism and getting there is easy via Zurich airport or nearest airport Friedrichshafen in under two hours by car. Nearby resorts Daműls-Mellau (equally snowsure) and the Diedamskopf at Au-Schoppernau, connected by free ski bus, are also worth skiing.
While Courmayeur and Chamonix may share Mont Blanc, the similarities are limited. Courmayeur is perfect for an intermediates weekend, not least because it’s got more mountain restaurants than lifts and an enviable choice of delicious places to eat in town too. It’s also home to the fabulously long Cresta Youla red run, spectacular scenery and extensive skiing off-piste, best undertaken with a guide. The chic town of Courmayeur has many hotels, some of which offer excellent weekend deals. Getting to Courmayeur is easy via nearest airports Geneva or Turin and transfer times are around one and a half and two hours respectively. If you don’t want the hassle of driving to the resort yourself (and who wants to start a weekend driving at night on mountain roads in wintry conditions in an unfamilar rental car?) then the AostaExpress has fast, frequent, low cost pay-per-seat transfers from Geneva to the resort and its surrounding villages.
Accessing more pistes than you’ll know what to do with in a weekend, Morzine is a large lively town linked to the 650km of slopes in the French/Swiss Portes du Soleil. While transfer times from Geneva may be brief, pick your accommodation wisely as Morzine is a spread out place and the shuttle buses are confusing. Stay in the centre of town and you’ll be accessing one of the two main gondolas out towards either Avoriaz or Les Gets on your afternoon of arrival – allowing enough slope time to justify an après Mutzig or two in the hub of Robbos bar. Geneva is the closest airport, just one and a half hours away, with an abundance of flights to this key international hub throughout the day. If you’re accommodation in Morzine is out of town then you will need to hire a car, but if it’s central (or near a ski bus stop) then MorzExpress has several shuttles running between the resort and Geneva airport every day and night, and can take you to your door.
For a straightforward weekend of skiing and simple après ski, you could do worse than head to Schladming in the Austrian state of Styria. In a change from the Austrian norm, the village isn’t wall-to-wall umbrella bars, instead the scene is lively but tempered, much like the plentiful red runs spread across the resort’s four areas. Most of the pistes are through woodland and the northerly slopes plus comprehensive snowmaking coverage make it a good destination whatever the conditions. There’s a mainline railway station in Schladming and getting there is easy via nearest airport Salzburg, just over an hour away.
The Swiss alternative to the classic French weekend destination Chamonix, Verbier is a short transfer from Geneva, and an even shorter one from Sion. If you’re looking to inject a dose of glamour into your weekend, the extensive backcountry and expensive nightlife attract a mixture of hardcore skiers and international jet setters, which come together to create an alluring experience. A weekend spent exploring some of the Alps’ best freeride terrain – the Vallon d’Arby, Col des Gentianes, Mont Fort – is worth its weight in gold, and certainly makes for interesting chat at the water cooler on a Monday morning. Sion airport, served by SnowJet, is 45 minutes away and Geneva is just under two hours. If you can avoid it, don’t hire a car to drive to Verbier – parking in the resort is a nightmare! Alpybus provide low-cost shared transfers from Geneva Airport to Verbier, and GVA Transfers have ultra-convenient private ones.
The former Olympic city of Innsbruck, although not strictly a ski resort, is quite possibly the most convenient ski destination in the Alps. With its own international airport and the small but challenging Innsbruck-Nordpark area a 25-minute funicular ride from the old town, Innsbruck is proper doorstep skiing. The city makes a lively base and is surrounded by nine ski resorts, including the Stubai glacier, Igls and Seefeld, each served by a free shuttle bus from the city and with some great intermediate slopes between them. Innsbruck airport is a 15-minute drive from the city centre and getting there is easy, although scheduled flight times daily to and from Innsbruck and choice of airlines is relatively limited.
Sierra Nevada, Spain
For a ski weekend with a difference, head to Spain’s Sierra Nevada later in the ski season. The ski resort is just a 45 minute drive from Granada and about half an hour from the beaches on Spain’s southern coast – ski in the morning, sun bathe in the afternoon and party by night. For somewhere so far south, the resort has a good snow record, largely thanks to its high slopes, and its 87km of pistes will easily keep intermediates content for a weekend. And if you want to fit two and half days skiing into a two-day weekend, take advantage of the night skiing every Saturday. Getting there by flying to Granada then hire a car and it’s an easy 45 minutes drive to the resort.
Roccaraso, Abruzzo, Italy
Enjoy la dolce vita on a weekend in Roccaraso, the biggest and largest of the resorts in the Abruzzo region, unexpectedly found just 90 minutes from Rome and Naples. With 120km of beech-lined pistes to keep you entertained for the weekend, your enthusiasm for the ski slopes will be challenged by outstanding native food and drink – you know that robust bottle of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo you’ve supped before? This would be the Abruzzo of the same name, which is also famed for fabulous pasta and hard salty pecorino cheese. There are flights aplenty to either Rome or Naples where you can hire a car for the one and a half hour transfer to Roccaraso ski resort.