Transfer time: Geneva Airport 88km/60mins
Lift pass: €106.40 for 3 days
Chamonix (1,040m) is the place for alpine thrill-seekers wanting to push themselves to the extreme. This weekend ski break is known the world over for its steep, challenging runs, off-piste powder and dramatic mountain scenery. Chamonix hosted the first Winter Olympics in 1924 and is considered by many to be the birthplace of alpine skiing. The resort is a large, attractive town offering both traditional charm and a lively nightlife.
STAY: Langley Hotel Gustavia
Chamonix has no shortage of hotel accommodation, so hoteliers are likely to be flexible on dates rather than enforcing Saturday to Saturday. Hotel Gustavia is relaxed and informal, offering character and great value considering its location in the centre of the resort. Three nights half board begins at £449 per person.
EAT: Les Vieilles Luges
Located near the base station of the Maisonneuve chairlift in Les Houches is Les Vieilles Luges, a rustic 18th-century barn off the piste at 1,200m. With a cosy atmosphere and friendly owners, it’s an ideal spot to stop and refuel with hearty Savoyard food on those blizzard days when the wooded slopes of Les Houches are the place to be. Remember to bring cash as there are no card payments.
Transfer time: Geneva Airport 87km/60mins
Lift pass: €138 for 3 days
Megève (1,050m) is a low village with skiing up to 2,353m, so snow conditions can be variable. Terrain is suitable for all levels: from long, green runs to plenty of off-piste areas which stay untracked for days (although not on the scale of Chamonix). Megeve is very much a traditional Haute-Savoie village surrounded by working farms. This idyllic weekend ski break has more than 90 restaurants (eight with Michelin stars) and the Place d’Eglise is lined with upmarket shops, cafes and patisseries.
STAY: La Grange d’Arly
In the heart of Megève village, just a few minutes’ walk from the nearest lift is this charming three-star chalet-hotel. Think exposed woods and colourful furnishings in the traditional alpine style with a cosy bar and lounge – with open fire – for drinks before or after dinner. A highly welcoming and family-run hotel. Three nights B&B begins at £496.
EAT: Le Refuge
Megève’s restaurant scene is beginning to attract more attention than its slopes. At Le Refuge, head chef Franck Soyer sources the beef from a local farmer, whose cattle graze on pastures visible from the restaurant’s terraces. Despite the popularity of the restaurant, there is a refreshing lack of pretension, evident in Soyer himself taking the orders. The wine list features about 40 modestly priced local bottles and the interior is a small, all-wood chalet with a terrace worth reserving if the sun is shining. Our tip: book in advance and go for lunch rather than dinner.
St. Anton, Austria
Transfer time: Innsbruck Airport 100km/60mins
Lift pass: €106.40 for 3 days
The cosy town of St Anton am Arlberg (1,300m) retains its traditional Tirolean atmosphere. The large ski area (260km of runs, 83 lifts) means you never need ski the same run twice. Some of the most challenging slopes are Glazig, Gampen, Schindler Kar and Kapall. St Anton is an ideal weekend ski break for those craving lively après-ski: head to the Krazy Kangaruh and MooserWirt bars, both located directly on the slopes, where you can go to stomp on tables in your ski boots, drink obligatory shots of Jagermeister and listen to German cover bands.
STAY: Hotel Banyan
Set back from St Anton’s main high street, Hotel Banyan is very close to the lifts, restaurants, bars and shops. Don't come here for dirndls and carved bed-heads; this is a modern, stylish hotel. Leisure facilities include an indoor swimming pool, sauna, steam bath, small gym with exercise machines and massage/treatments rooms. It’s a great choice for easy access to the slopes and all of the night-time action. Three nights B&B begins at £648.
EAT: The Hospiz Alm
By the base of the St Christoph chairlift, foodies will find a local legend, The Hospiz Alm, which is famous for two reasons. The first is its extensive wine cellar; the second isthe access route to said cellar – via a slide. If it’s sunny, grab a table on the terrace; when the snow is falling, head inside and make a base on one of the large wooden tables. Food includes a top-notch traditional Tiroler Gröstl fry-up.
Transfer time: Innsbruck Airport 65km/60mins
Lift pass: €166.50 for 3 days
Mayrhofen (630m) is a pretty town, popular for its expansive terrain and lively atmosphere. The 157km of terrain offers plenty of skiing for all levels, including excellent untracked off-piste, and one of the best snow parks in the Alps: the Vans Penken Park. Advanced skiers can invest in a Zillertal Superski Pass to access a further 500km of terrain. The resort draws hundreds of young party-goers in April for the annual Snowbombing festival.
STAY: Hotel Elisabeth
A short walk from the centre of Mayrhofen is Hotel Elisabeth. The resort’s only five-star hotel, the prices are as top end as you would expect. Like an oversized chalet, with timbered balconies, it is the classiest and most comfortable billet in town, providing luxury in almost rural surroundings, but still having the top bars just five minutes away. The food is great too. Three nights including breakfast is €1,429.20.
This award-winning butcher is renowned throughout the Zillertal for its incredible meat. It is the perfect spot to grab a snack on the way down from the slopes. Visit at least once to try the hot, meat-filled semmel, though it also does a mighty fine bratwurst, as well as burgers, sandwiches and smoked hams. The restaurant has a large outdoor seating area – on a sunny day you couldn’t ask for anything more.
Transfer time: Salzburg Airport 90km/60mins
Lift pass: €164 for 3 days
Originally a mining town, Schladming (758m) is in the heart of the Enns valley and boasts panoramic views of the Dachstein mountains. Above the medieval town is a four-mountain ski complex covering Planai, Hochwurzen, Hauser Kaibling and Reiteralm. The resort is part of the Ski Amade ski area (860km) and is ideal for intermediates looking for a weekend ski break. It has held World Cup events since 1973. The traffic-free village centre offers plenty of modern facilities as well as historic buildings, good bars and plenty of restaurants.
STAY: Villa Gerharter by Schladming-Appartements
Competitively located just 750 yards from the Planai Cable Car, Villa Gerharter offers self-catering accommodation with mountain-view balconies. The next restaurant and a café are just 200 yards from Gerharter’s Villa and a grocery shop can be found just 350 yards from the apartments, which are basic, clean and functional, with useful facilities like ski storage on offer. There’s free parking if you’ve hired a car for the airport transfer. Three nights is €797.
Alongside the famous local hospitality, Schladming offers a great selection of Styrian delicacies. The big three for newbies to try are beef broth with cheesy dumplings, Ennstal lamb and homemade apple strudel. Recently refurbed Platzhirsch-Alm is the town’s top spot for great food and lively apres-ski.
Transfer time: Geneva Airport 110km/60mins
Lift pass: CHF 189 for 3 days
Villars (1,300m) is a pretty, traditional Swiss resort on a sunny south west-facing plateau above the Rhone valley. The large ski area, reached by funicular, will suit most skiers, with plenty of gentle, tree-lined runs for beginners and steep powder-packed off-piste for experts. There are high-altitude glacier runs on the Diablerets.
STAY: Les Mazots du Clos
The winning feature here is the ski-to-door access. It’s also a very short walk to restaurants for dinner, though you may want to stick around the hotel for the outdoor swimming pool, hammam, sauna and hot tub. Three nights including breakfast is £641.
EAT: Vieux Villars
Villars restaurants have a reputation for good food served with local ingredients. Look out for raclette served in typical ‘carnotzet’ rooms. Vieux Villars is one of several establishments recommended for its excellent regional cuisine and a menu that leans heavily on local produce. The long wine list is also sourced close by and a recent refurb has matched fresh décor to the friendly atmosphere.
Transfer time: Turin Caselle Airport 121km/90 minutes
Lift pass: €123.50 for 3 days
Cervinia ski resort is at the foot of Monte Cervino, aka the Matterhorn. Beautifully situated in a broad glacier-capped bowl, it offers fantastic skiing and dining experiences at very reasonable prices. It is also Italy’s most snow-sure resort, with a long season that runs from November to the beginning of May.
STAY: Le Samovar Guest House
Le Samovar offers six spacious apartments in the heart of Cervinia. Top-floor apartments comprise a large living room, a luminous bedroom, a wide bathroom with shower, balcony and terrace with Cervino or valley views as you prefer. Breakfast is served facing a cosy fireplace in the tea room, which is hugely popular with locals following a day on the mountain. The cocktails are great too. Three nights including breakfast is €630.
EAT: Chalet Etoile
Cervinia’s best-known mountain eatery opened in 1974 and is now run by the Frassy family. The food is sophisticated and delicious, with standouts including the house fish soup and the lobster spaghetti. If you’ve still got room, the puddings are recommended – and so is booking in advance.
Transfer time: Geneva Airport 100km/90mins; Turin Caselle Airport 150km/100mins.
Lift pass: €139.00 for 3 days
Courmayeur (1,224m) is a charming, traffic-free spa town of cobbled streets and pretty alpine buildings. The central Via Roma is lined with bars and upmarket clothing shops. Although it’s not high, the ski area benefits from good snow cover thanks to north or north west-facing slopes, which are best suited to competent skiers. Off-piste is good and there’s access to the famous Vallée Blanche.
STAY: Hotel Berthod
Proximity to the cable cars and great facilities make Hotel Berthod a popular choice with plenty of repeat guests. It features a very comfortable communal lounge area and modern bar, as well as a fitness room, sauna and Jacuzzi – perfect for relaxing after a long day on the slopes. A four-night stay is £615.
EAT: Petit Royal
Inside the Grand Hotel Royal & Golf is the Petit Royal, a tiny Michelin-starred dining room which seats just 24 people. To the lucky few, chef Paolo Griffa delivers gourmet Italian food with a twist. Expect plenty of local specialities, with all ingredients from local farms. It is, of course, essential to book in advance.
La Clusaz, France
Transfer time: Geneva Airport 50km/60mins
Lift pass: €113 for 3 days
With such a short transfer time, it’s a wonder this resort has not gained the same levels of popularity as its Alpine neighbours. Deep in the Reblochon zone, this pretty Savoie village has tons of French mountain culture. Tasteful wooden chalets line the streets, a lovely 19th-century church dominates the village square, and there are some excellent restaurants and a good handful of bars. Almost everyone seems to be local which is a sure sign of a good ski resort. Make sure not to miss the monthly ‘Full Moon’ evenings, when you can ski by moonlight on the Cret du Loup and Cret du Merle areas.
STAY: Hotel Le Christiania
This three-star hotel in the centre of La Clusaz offers great value for money and comfortable accommodation in a traditional, relaxed Savoyard style. Just 50m from the nearest lift, it also only a few moments’ walk from the centre of town. All rooms are en suite with a cosy, homely feel. Restaurant Le Bistro has an outside terrace area. Four nights from £420.
EAT: Chalet des Praz
La Clusaz has a fantastic selection of good quality and reasonably priced mountain restaurants. The majority serve Savoyard specialities, including Reblochon cheese. Chalet des Praz stands out for its tartiflette and raclette. Book the late lunch sitting and hang around for the apres-ski session, which kicks off around 3:30pm and inevitably leads into plenty of dancing on tables to live music. If you’ve overindulged, you can return safely to the village via cable car. A great option for those looking for mountainside fun.
Sainte Foy, France
Transfer time: Chambéry Airport 124km/150 mins
Lift pass: €90.40 for 3 days
Sainte Foy offers an unprecedented mountain experience. This playground is in the Tarentaise valley but is lesser known because of its limited on-piste skiing. Once the home to the Free Ride World Tour Qualifiers, it is an epic location in which to develop your skiing or snowboarding skills on marked un-groomed black runs before heading into the endless unmarked back-country. It has three ‘free zones’ which are easy to access, so you can begin each day early in fresh powder.
STAY: L’Etoile des Cimes Apartments
These four-star, fully equipped apartments in the heart of Sainte-Foy come with a fantastic pool and wellness facilities. With amazing views, they make a well located, modern and spacious option for self-caterers. Two nights from £226.
EAT: Chez Merie
Ski off-piste to Chez Merie in Le Miroir for exactly the sort of laidback, restorative lunch you’ll need after a morning of powder pummelling. Expect great service, superb local cuisine and hearty dishes such as cote de boeuf cooked in the chimney. The two sisters who run the restaurant have a great reputation in the area, so bookings are essential.
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