What is the best ski and snowboard destination in the world? A tough question. If the snow or weather are poor, even the best resorts will struggle to provide as good an experience as a smaller resort with clear skies and powder snow. Fighting with herds of other skiers to get on the lifts, or get served in the restaurants or have some room on busy slopes can put anyone off any resort. Ski-in/ski-out convenience, off-piste activities, rustic charm, apres piste… all these count for some people as more important than mile after mile of pristine piste.
However it is fair to say that there are some resorts that have everything that can make for a fabulous winter sports holiday. The following 30 winter sports destinations have the largest amount of piste of anywhere in the world, and no less than 10 of them are in Switzerland. France also has 10, Austria 8, Italy 3 and Canada and the USA 1 each.
Each ski region listed has over 200km piste and you can be pretty certain that every one has funparks, toboggan runs, off-piste, freeride opportunities, Nordic circuits, plenty of bars and a host of other amenities. Which are the very best, though? here are my choice of ten.
I rate some of the Austrian resorts less highly for on-piste than off-piste. They do get good snow, but are often lower than the French and Swiss resorts. Also many of the areas are not linked and in effect comprise a geographically close collection of relatively small resorts. However St Anton in the Arlberg is definitely one of the premier ski destinations in the world, and Ischgl almost makes the cut. I remember when you could ski a circuit round St Anton and St Christoph to Lech and Zurs, but now they are a short bus or taxi ride away.
France has the best linked ski areas in the world, with the Trois Vallees and L’Espace Killy definitely in my top 10 winter sports destinations in the world. Avoriaz in the huge Portes du Soleil that links it with Switzerland would also just make the cut. Not as extensive a ski area, but just outside my top 10 would be Chamonix.
Whistler and Vail are the pick of the North American resorts, although there are many other excellent and slightly smaller destinations.
Italy has many wonderful medium-sized resorts, but Cervinia is the only one I would include in the very best resorts, largely as part of the wonderful Matterhorn ski area it shares with Zermatt. Cortina gets an honourable mention.
And rounding out the top 10, would be St Moritz, Verbier and Davos–Klosters from Switzerland. I would probably rate the Jungfrau as being as good if not better than Les Portes du Soleil, and honourable mentions go to Saas-Fee and Val D’Annivers (which, with 220km of piste spread over the valley probably should be in the top 30). But top of the list… Zermatt!
Anyway, by size of piste, here are the top 30:
|Country||Name||Resorts||Piste Km||# Lifts||Lifts/Hr||Bottom m||Top m|
|Switzerland & France||Les Portes du Soleil||Champèry, Les Crosets, Torgon (CH), Avoriaz, Morzines, Les Gets (F)||650||200||256000||1000||2460|
|France||Trois Vallées||Courchavel, Meribel, les Menuires, Val Thorens||600||198||260000||1300||3300|
|France & Italy||Voie Lactée/Via Lattea||Montgenèvre, Clavière,Cesana, Sansicario, Sestrière, Sauze d´Oulx||575||138||100000||1860||2823|
|France||Megève||Megève, Combloux, Saint-Gervais, La Giettaz, St Nicolas de Véroce, Les Contamines Montjoie||490||206||52000||850||2350|
|Austria||Bregenzerwald||Bezau, Alberschwende, Egg, Andelsbuch etc||450||174||131528||600||2050|
|Austria||Zillertal||Mayrhofen, Finkenberger, Tux, Hintertux, Zell, Gerlos, Konigsleiten||433||115||107820||630||3250|
|Italy||Aosta Valley||Espace San Bernardo, Monte Rosa, Alagna, Pila||429||108||123000||1200||3260|
|France||Les Arcs-La Plagne||Les Arcs, La Plagne||425||131||207044||1250||3250|
|Switzerland||Engadin||St.Moritz, La Punt, Maloja, Pontresina, Samedan, S-chanf, Sils, Silvaplana, Zuoz||350||54||67480||1730||3303|
|Austria||Salzburg||Flachau, Wagrain, St. Johann-Alpendorf, Radstadt, Altenmarkt-Zauchensee, Kleinarl, Eben, Filzmoos||350||187||140000||650||2200|
|Switzerland & Italy||Matterhorn Ski Paradise||Zermatt (CH), Breuil-Cervinia, Valtournenche (I)||350||52||86751||1524||3883|
|Switzerland||4 Vallées||Verbier, Nendaz, Veysonnaz||331||88||79710||1400||3330|
|Switzerland||Adelboden-Lenk||Adelboden, Frutigen, Lenk||311||98||52420||1100||2400|
|France||Les Sybelles||Le Corbier, St-Jean-d´Arves, La Toussuire, Les Bottières, St-Sorlin-d´Arves, St-Colomban-des-Villards||310||73||30000||1550||2620|
|France||L´Espace Killy||Val d´Isère, Tignes||300||87||155925||1550||3456|
|Austria||Innsbruck||Nordpark, Patscherkofel, Axamer Lizum, Kühtai, Muttereralm, Rangger Köpfl, Glungezer, Schlick 2000, Stubaier Gletscher||285||79||68000||856||3210|
|Austria||Arlberg||St. Anton, St. Christoph, Stuben, Zürs, Lech, Klösterle/Sonnenkopf||280||85||123600||1304||2811|
|France||Le Grand Massif||Sixt, Samoens, Flaine, Morillon, des Carroz||265||73||85603||700||2500|
|France||Serre Chevalier||Briançon, Chantemerle, Villeneuve, Le Monêtier-les-Bains||250||62||77000||1200||2800|
|Switzerland||Gstaad Mountain Rides||Rougemont, Saanen, Gstaad, Saanenmöser, Schönried, St. Stephan, Wasserngrat, Wispile, Zweisimmen, Château-d’Oex, Eggli, La Videmanette, La Braye, Rinderberg, Rellerli, Glacier 3000||250||62||57600||1000||3000|
|Austria||Wilder Kaiser/Brixental||Söll, Kirchberg, Ellmau, Brixen, etc||250||89||140000||650||1965|
|France||L´Alpe d´Huez||Massif des Grandes Rousses||237||82||101000||1120||3330|
|Canada||Whistler Blackcomb||Whistler, Blackcomb||228||39||65907||653||2284|
|France||Les Deux Alpes||Les Deux Alpes||220||46||71767||1600||3566|
|Switzerland||Flims Laax Falera||Flims, Laax, Falera||220||27||40410||1100||3018|
|Austria||Montafon||Golm, Kristberg, Scruns, Gargellen, Gaschurn||219||61||90320||650||2300|
|Switzerland & Austria||Silvretta Arena||Samnaun (CH) Ischgl (A)||215||45||78900||1700||2900|
|Switzerland||Jungfrau||Wengen, Mürren, Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen||213||34||44150||940||2971|