Our Highest Resorts In Europe-ish
Height is something that has become synonymous with snow reliability for early and late season skiing. But going for height is a good idea throughout the season. Even in the midst of winter the higher the resort, generally, the better chance of fresh snow and you're pretty much guaranteed to be able to ski back into resort.
Of course, height isn't the only factor in snowfall amounts, but it's an easy one to look out for. A factor we can actively manage by taking our ski breaks in the loftiest of ski resorts. Being in a high resort isn't always the best idea when it comes to windy weather or low visibility in a white-out. Generally, the very highest resorts are largely above the tree line so on a bad day it can be bleak and miserable. I love skiing, though I can't remember the last week I had where I skied all day every day. When you're staying in some fantastic accommodation it doesn't hurt to have a spa day when the weather's bad.
So for those of us who are fixated on height, here are our highest resorts in Europe. (Based on resort height as opposed to highest ski-able point).
VAL D'ISERE - France
- Resort height - 1,850m
- Highest point - 3,456m
Grab a copy of The Echo a free resort mag that'll have listings of events and live music whilst you're in resort. Go online for the snow forecasts, lift status, avalanche risks and webcams (echomag.co.uk). A great tool to get the most out of your time in resort. It's not all about getting sprayed with champagne next to people spending daddy's money in the Folie Douce - though it makes an entertaining afternoon.
Stay at the 3* Hotel L'Avancher which is being completely refurbished for the 2017/18 winter season - be the first to test it out.
OBERGURGL - Austria
- Resort height - 1,930m
- Highest point - 3,080m
The resorts largely north or north-west facing slopes hold their snow well for an incredibly long season by Austrian standards. The fact that every piste is covered by snow cannons only helps. The ski in, ski out villages and wonderful English speaking ski schools make it very family friendly. And the après is lively but not hectic.
Stay at the 4* Hotel Jagdhof to have use of the hotel's private ski instructor and host.
LES ARCS - France
- Resort height - 1,600m to 2,120m
- Highest point - 3,226m
The height of Les Arcs really depends on which of the four villages you stay in. Roughly speaking as the altitude increases so does the cost of accommodation. Arc 2000 is home to the first 5* hotel, Arc 1950 is the traditionally designed ski in, ski out delight. Arc 1800 is for the nightlife and Arc 1600 sprawls throughout the trees. Choose wisely.
Stay at Chalet des Cascades for ski in, ski out heaven in Arc 2000.
CERVINIA - Italy
- Resort height - 2,050m
- Highest point - 3,480m
Italy's giant. The highest and most snow-sure in the country. Linked with Zermatt the skiing extent is vast, the Glacier is an added snow security measure. This is one ski resort that is certainly blossoming right now, with a lot of growth planned for the next few years - get here whilst the in resort prices are still light years below its French and Austrian counterparts.
Stay at the 4* Sertorelli Sporthotel for an eco-friendly ski break in the centre of town.
TIGNES - France
- Resort height - 2,100m
- Highest point - 3,456m
Tignes ski region links with Val d'Isere creating what is well regarded as the most snow-sure ski area in Europe. With 60% of its 300km of pistes being above 2,500m it's not surprising. Although it lies in the Northern Alps its proximity to the Italian border means snow also arrives from the south-east - a double whammy if you like.
Stay at the 4* Hotel Le Ski d'Or for an intimate and friendly vibe.
VAL THORENS - France
- Resort height - 2,300m
- Highest point - 3,200m
There's no surprise in Val Thorens being the highest resort in Europe, it's well known for the fact. The resort is moving away from its budget reputation to more upmarket ventures. Numerous classy establishments have popped up in recent seasons such as the retro Fahrenheit Seven. The snow sure, ski in, ski out village is certainly alluring to many.
Stay at the 4* Hotel Le Val Thorens, the first hotel to be built in the resort. It's ski in, ski out and in the centre of town - you don't get that combination very often.
If the European offerings haven't quite hit the heights you are looking for. You only have to jump across the pond to the US to sample resort bases higher than many European mountain tops.
BRECKENRIDGE - USA
- Resort height - 2,925m
- Highest point - 3,915m
At 2,925m, Breckenridge's resort base is higher than Avoriaz's highest point. It's high enough to feel a little sick (I had nosebleeds for the first day) but you soon get used to the altitude. The wide open and gladed runs are something that simply doesn't exist in Europe. And with the old mining town exterior, Breckenridge is big on character.
Stay at the 3* Beaver Run Resort to be on the lifts in no time.