Best Resorts for Off-Piste Skiing
Elizabeth Willis | 12 November 2019 | Ski Resorts
For thrill-seekers after a bit of excitement, the pisted area of a resort is sometimes not enough. If you love skiing down the mountain in waist-deep powder making the first tracks after a fresh snowfall, you'll want to try one of our favourite resorts for off-piste skiing. From world-famous powder capitals to secret spots for finding untracked areas days after a snowfall, we’ve created a guide to the best resorts for off-piste in Europe.
Chamonix is the most famous off-piste resort in the Alps, and for good reason. In Chamonix, you can ski in the deepest powder whilst enjoying panoramic views of Mont Blanc. The amazing natural freestyle terrain is a paradise for powder hounds, with plenty of bowls, steep couloirs and tree-skiing to discover. It’s widely considered the ‘mecca of freeriding’ in Europe, and with the Mont-Blanc Unlimited lift pass, you can access 900km of amazing terrain all the way to Italy’s Courmayeur. We recommend you hire a ski guide to make the most of the area – on glacial terrain, there are plenty of dangers! Off-piste enthusiasts have to ski the Vallee Blanche, arguably the most famous off-piste route in the world.
Alpine Answers tip: Keen off-piste skiers might prefer to base themselves in Argentière, 9km down the road from Chamonix. Although it’s slightly smaller and has a less buzzy atmosphere, accommodation here is better value for money, and there is much quicker access to the high lifts taking you up to Les Grands Montets – important on powder days!
St Anton, Austria
The Arlberg is heaven for off-piste skiers. It’s the largest linked ski area in Austria, with 200km of itinerary routes on top of the 305km of groomed runs. St Anton is a serious freeride resort, as well as being home to some of the most famous après bars, but you’ll need to be up early to make the first tracks on powder days! Skiing off the back of Valluga is the most popular place to go, although you will need a guide to use the Valluga II lift to get to the top. On the other side of the Arlberg is Warth-Schroecken, which holds the title of Europe’s snowiest ski resort. Whilst it might not have the steepest descents, there’s always plenty of fresh snowfall to enjoy.
Alpine Answers tip: the area of Sonnenkopf is not connected to the rest of the Arlberg region by lifts, and can sometimes be forgotten. However, it’s worth making the effort to get there on powder days. It’s quieter, and much less tracked out. It’s where the locals go!
Tignes - Val d’Isère, France
The Tignes – Val d’Isere area, previously Espace Killy, is one of the best ski areas in Europe for lift-accessed off-piste. There are 25,000 acres of ungroomed mountain to explore, including wooded areas, cliff drops and glaciers. You can find some steep free-riding very close to lifts here. The region also benefits from its extensive, high-altitude skiing – up to 3,456m. Le Fornet is one of the most popular areas for heading off-piste, but head to Tignes Les Brévières if you’re confident and looking for a real challenge.
Alpine Answers tip: Tignes-Val d’Isere is known for its unique micro-climate, thanks to its geographical location. It sucks in snowstorms from the East and West, meaning it sometimes gets a lot more snow than its neighbouring resorts!
Another serious contender for the title of ‘Free-ride Captial of Europe’, Verbier usually makes it into every list of best resorts in the Alps! It’s naturally rolling terrain makes for wide powder fields and the incredible couloirs and bowls are every expert skier's dream. Verbier is also known for its excellent snow conditions, and some of the most challenging lift-accessed, off-piste terrain in the Alps. One of the most famous areas is off the back of Mont Fort: the mountain has just one (heavily mogul-ed) itinerary run!
Alpine Answers tip: Take the Jumbo lift up to Col-des-Gentianes, and look for people hiking up a couloir, or the tracks they've left behind. Follow them to ski the famous ‘Stairway to Heaven’!
Davos and Klosters, Switzerland
Davos and Klosters boast a large ski area between them, with 56 lifts and 320km of piste. The region has an excellent snow record, and a whole mountain dedicated to freeriding! There’s plenty of short, steep off-piste to be enjoyed here, like the famous ‘Wang’ route beneath the second stage of the Gotschnabahn gondola. There are also lots of long itinerary routes, descending all the way to the valley floor. The route down to Kublis (814m) from the Weissfluhjoch (2,963m) is one of the longest in the Alps. We recommend staying in Klosters, the pretty village has all the alpine charm that Davos lacks. It’s also the endpoint of many of the longer runs, and the royal family's favourite resort!
Alpine Answers tip: The region is less popular with British skiers than some of the famous resorts in the Alps, despite being easy reach from Zurich airport. You also get much more for your money than in the big Swiss resorts like Zermatt and Verbier. With far less ‘ski bums’ in resort, powder here can stay untracked for days!
If you’re adventuring away from the safety of the marked pistes, always remember to equip yourself properly. Take a phone, an avalanche transceiver, probe and a shovel with you. Occasionally, you may also need skins, ropes and crampons. An ABS airbag system is also worth the investment if you can afford it. Never head off-piste alone, and tell people where you are planning to go for the day. We recommend hiring a mountain guide for the day, apart from taking you to the areas on the mountain with the best snow conditions, they can provide you with all the safety equipment and tell you how to use it! They will also reveal exciting routes you wouldn't have discovered on your own.
If you love skiing off-piste, we can find you the best accommodation in the perfect resort for you – it’s what our ski specialists are for! We can also recommend and book brilliant ski lessons and guides, so you can make the most of your holiday. Give us a call on 020 7801 1080 or send us an enquiry now.
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