In mountain resorts across Europe, advanced skiers can test their nerve on a wonderfully varied range of challenging terrain. From steep pistes and deep powder to snow-parks with half-pipes, kickers and rails to hit, Europe’s ski resorts have a massive amount to offer. Although skiing can be an expensive sport, adrenaline-seekers don’t have to break the budget to get out to the slopes – many of the resorts have a wide range of accommodation options to choose from, so those on a budget can get their ski-fix and it won’t necessarily cost the Earth!
The Chamonix Valley is home to the villages of Les Houches, Argentiere, Chamonix town and Le Tour, and together they offer some of the very finest advanced-level skiing and back-country potential in the whole of France. The resorts all sit within about an hour’s drive of Geneva airport so getting there is easy, and for skiers on a budget the choice is vast.
Chamonix Valley, France by Phil Hawksworth
There’s a whole host of one, two and three star hotels and guesthouses in and around Chamonix to choose from, offering catering on a bed and breakfast or half-board basis. Booking rooms in a youth hostel is also a great way to stay in this stunning region on a budget and there are lots of options to consider, often with surprisingly good facilities.
Some visitors to the Chamonix Valley organise their travel independently and if you’re looking for a package with flights and airports transfers included, Chamonix’s options are limited. That said, skiers on a budget looking to get onto the slopes without hassle can look at properties like the Hotel Sapiniere or Club Med Chamonix, which both offer packages that include flights and transfers. The latter may appear expensive but if you consider that aside from travel, they also include food, accommodation, lift passes and tuition, the value for money is great.
The best runs for advanced skiers in Chamonix are spread out across the entire valley! Les Houches offers amazing off-piste skiing, and heading down through the pines to village level is fantastic after fresh snowfall. Argentiere offers a good selection of black runs, and the areas of Brevent and Flegere have lovely long red pistes to enjoy, where you can really get a good pace up. Serious back country skiers can hire a guide and head up the Aiguille du Midi cable car for the infamous Vallee Blanche run, or take a trip along the valley to the quieter Le Tour area, where intrepid skiers can lay fresh tracks through deep snow days after the last snowfall.
St Anton am Arlberg
St Anton sits near Innsbruck in the Tyrol region of Western Austria, and is one of the most popular Austrian resorts amongst European skiers with a pedigree stretching back decades. Rapid and modern lifts line the flank of the resort, from the Galzig in the west to the Nasserein in the east, offering swift and hassle-free access into the valley. The lift-served off-piste here is spectacular and you can spot open powder fields from nearly all of the chairlifts in the area.
Crosscountry trail, St. Anton am Arlberg, Austria by Dezso Papp
For advanced skiers looking to visit St Anton on a tight budget the options are many and varied. On the packaged holiday market chalet Pia is a 3* property with 36 beds, located just off the resort’s main high street. It’s a five minute walk to town centre and access to the Galzig lift is easy on foot. The 3* chalet Elfie is another good packaged option for those on a budget. It sleeps 24 and sits just seven minutes away from the town centre and the Galzig gondola. Both these chalets include breakfast, afternoon tea plus evening meals.
If you’re happy to buy flights separately into Innsbruck or Friedrichshafen airport, St Anton has a wide selection of guesthouses, hotels and self-catered chalets you can stay in boasting good locations and decent value for money; for more information on accommodation, skiers can click here. Independent catered chalets like the Waldhausli and the Arlberg are comparatively inexpensive across the entire season, and are popular options for skiers keen to see this iconic resort for themselves.
Up on the slopes advanced-level terrain can be found in abundance, and after fresh snowfall off-piste powder fields are everywhere! Advanced skiers can take the Gampen then Kappl lifts for the area’s best selection of steep and challenging black pistes, and there are three different routes back to resort level to explore. Leaving St Anton behind and heading over towards the resorts of Lech, Stuben or Zurs, advanced skiers can enjoy the area’s enormous off-piste potential as well as pleasantly varied and challenging slopes. Mechanised piste-bashers keep the slopes in absolutely pristine condition, something the towns below are enormously proud of.
For advanced skiers looking to really test their mettle, St Anton is home to der Weisse Rausch (the White Ring.) This is one of the longest, most challenging and most varied ski races in the world, with participants starting at the Rufikopf peak before setting off on the twenty two kilometre endurance battle. The White Ring draws racers from across the globe keen to test their skills against the best in the game, and when it’s all over and done with the after-party has to be seen to be believed!
Ask any group of advanced skiers which French resorts they most enjoy visiting, and Tignes will almost inevitably make the list. It sits in the Espace Killy in France, over the ridge from its more upmarket neighbour, Val d’Isere, and the range of steep terrain there is as good as any you’ll find anywhere in the whole of France. The entire area offers around 300 kilometres with a good percentage of that dedicated to steep red and black runs ideally suited to advanced-level skiers.
Tignes, France by titom-666
One of the best things about Tignes for budget-conscious skiers looking for the steep and deep is the range and quality of accommodation options there, at the lower end of the price spectrum. Chalet hotel Le Dome is a prime example; a 3* property with flights and transfers available in a package deal, sleeping 26-31 people. Le Dome sits a minute’s walk from the Boisses gondola and offers fully en suite rooms, lounge and bar area – for skiers on a budget it’s a great option. Tignes chalets like Les Tavaillons and Le Tichot are also great for budget-conscious skiers looking for a price-savvy ski package.
A great way to ski in Tignes and save money on accommodation is to base yourself down in Tignes Les Brevieres, a pretty village at the base of the valley yet within easy reach of Tignes centre via a gondola and chairlift. Independently-run chalets like the BonjourBonjour or the Lavachet Lodge offer great value for money plus the flexibility to sort travel at the times and costs that suit you. It’s also worth noting that there’s a black piste called Sache which starts at the Aiguille Percee peak at 2748 metres and runs all the way down to les Brevieres at 1550 metres – what more could advanced skiers ask for?
Another highlight for advanced skiers in the Tignes valley include the steep red and black pistes atop the mighty Grande Motte glacier, at an eye watering 3456 metres. There’s a long red piste here called Double M, under the Les Lanches chairlift, which is a sheer thrill to ski and takes you nicely back into Val Claret for further exploration!
Dominated by the spectacularly imposing peak of the Matterhorn mountain nearby, the Swiss resort of Zermatt is one of the most iconic of all Europe’s ski resorts. A whopping 23% of the area’s 200 kilometres of piste are designated black runs so Zermatt is an advanced skier’s paradise, and with a base altitude of 1600 metres and lifts taking you up to 3820 metres, Zermatt offers excellent snow coverage and strong off-piste potential all winter long.
Zermatt, Switzerland by chensiyuan
One of the main drawbacks of a stay in Zermatt is the expense of everything. Zermatt’s lift passes are some of the most expensive in Europe and the resort has more Michelin-ranked mountain restaurants than you can shake a stick at, so it’s perhaps surprising to find the resort in an article aimed at skiers on a budget. Zermatt is included in this list for its suitability for advanced skiers, and as this is a sizeable resort, there will be some types of accommodation options available at the lower end of the budget scale.
For independent travellers the airports of Geneva, Zurich or Milan are the closest, and for cheap accommodation the resort offers a few fantastic options. The Matterhorn Hostel, for example, sits about 200 metres from town centre and 100 metres from the main lift station, with dormitory and private rooms, common rooms with satellite TV, cooking facilities and ski rental deals. Regarding accommodation which includes flights and transfers, options such as the Atlanta and Bellevue are great. The 3* chalet Atlanta is a wonderful option for skiers on a budget – it sits a 3 minute stroll from town centre and offers on-foot access to the Sunnegga and Gornergrat lifts in under 4 minutes!
Highlights for advanced skiers in Zermatt are plentiful but it’s worth noting the amazing black runs off the Stockhorn and Hohtalli peaks. You can access them from the Gornergrat peak, and they’re well-linked via gondola. Myriad routes down offer wonderful variety, and the long piste 7C takes you to a great little mountain cafe for a drink in the snow. Over to the south, the Schwarzee peak is the start of the piste 12, a long sloping black run which changes into a red piste and takes you from 2583 metres all the way down to resort level at 1620 metres.
Thanks to the diverse range of pistes and package deals, any adrenaline seeking skier is sure to find something to suit their requirements.
Anna Campbell is a freelance writer who blogs on a freelance basis to share her travel tips for those about to hop on a plane for their next holiday. Anna has been involved in travel journalism for several years, and currently lives in London.
Category: Ski Resorts