Top 10 Biggest Ski Resorts in Europe

8th February 2017 | Patrick Thorne

Hitting the slopes in snowsure Tignes, France - ©Tignes Tourism

Hitting the slopes in snowsure Tignes, France

Copyright: Tignes Tourism

One consideration when choosing a ski destination, particularly once we reach at least intermediate standard, is just how much skiing is there? As ski areas have grown and interconnected with one another over the years, you can now opt for huge ski regions – some so big you need never ski the same slope twice.

The main appeal of the biggest ski areas in Europe is for those experienced skiers who have direct access to more challenging terrain than they’re likely to find at any standalone resort – all accessible on one ticket. Most of the interlinked ski areas are among the more expensive lift passes in Europe however, and it is worth considering whether buying it is good value if you are not likely to make full use of what is available. If money is no object, then why not enjoy sampling the blue runs in different resorts and perhaps skiing over the border from France for a real pizza in Italy or a cheese fondue in Switzerland?

When buying a ski pass for one of Europe’s biggest ski areas, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. In the 3 Valleys, for example, you can opt for passes for individual valleys or for just one or two individual resorts, saving 20-30 percent on the full 3 Valleys pass. The most popular of the interconnected ski areas are the largely lift-linked ones, where you don’t need to take off your skis to catch a bus between sectors.

The biggest of them all are as follows...

1. Les Portes Du Soleil, France & Switzerland, 650km

Cross-border skiing & choice of modern or traditional resort

One of the claimants to the title ‘biggest ski area in the world’, the Portes du Soleil has 650km of piste, 50km more than the 3 Valleys, BUT for purists there are small breaks in the circuit – at the edge of Chatel’s ski area for example or when you cross Morzine on foot or by bus to get from Les Gets to Avoriaz – where you must walk or take a bus a few hundred metres across resort centres or similar so it is not quite fully interconnected.

About a dozen villages are linked on the pass, two thirds of them in France, the others in Switzerland. Famous names include family-friendly Les Gets, traditional Châtel, British favourite Morzine, snow-sure Avoriaz and the traditional Swiss resort of Champéry.

Morzine's tree-lined skiing makes up part of the massive Portes du Soleil - ©OT Morzine - Matthieu Vitré

Morzine's tree-lined skiing makes up part of the massive Portes du Soleil

Copyright: OT Morzine - Matthieu Vitré

2. The 3 Valleys, France, 600km

Good for all abilities, snow-sure skiing, gourmet dining

Undisputed number-one for size, the 3 Valleys is a ski region of spectacular statistics as well as superb skiing with more than 2,000m of lift-served vertical. Among the big-name resorts here is Europe’s highest, Val Thorens, as well as Courchevel, home of the world’s most expensive chalet holidays and Brits favourite, Meribel.

Room to stretch your legs on the ski slopes of Meribel - ©Meribel Tourism

Room to stretch your legs on the ski slopes of Meribel

Copyright: Meribel Tourism

3. Sella Ronda, Italy, 500km (est.)

Spectacular scenery, traditional villages, easy runs

There’s an unofficial entry at number thee as the ski region around Italy’s Sella Ronda is never promoted as a region in its own right. It’s part of the giant Dolomiti Superski region, which is always keen to promote the Sella Ronda circuit of 23km of piste and 16km of lifts - about 39km in total – but does not make much of the fact that the Sella Ronda is a hub with valleys like Gardena, Badia and Fassa radiating off it. 

Blick über die Dolomiten - ©Alta Badia

Blick über die Dolomiten

Copyright: Alta Badia

4. Paradiski, France, 425km

Family-friendly, good intermediate cruising, easy rail access

Created more a decade ago by the connecting of the already giant ski areas of La Plagne and Les Arcs, Paradiski instantly became one of the world’s five biggest ski areas. The link was made by the Vanoise Express, a double-decker cable car that makes a spectacular crossing 380m above the valley floor. There’s a mixture of traditional valley resorts and high-altitude, snow-sure purpose built centres. Peisey Vallandry, which lies in a key location between the two giant resorts, has a reputation as a Nordic ski centre close to the Vanoise national park. Located above Bourg St Maurice, the ski area can be reached by Eurostar direct from London St Pancras.

 

Taking the lifts in La Plagne. The Paradiski area is favourite with UK skiers - ©Beatrice Koumanov

Taking the lifts in La Plagne. The Paradiski area is favourite with UK skiers

Copyright: Beatrice Koumanov

5. 4 Valleys, Switzerland, 412km

Luxury accommodation, snow-sure skiing, awesome off-piste

Verbier, the most famous member of the biggest ski area in Switzerland, is known for its exciting terrain and après-ski vibe. The region is one of the most snow-sure in the Alps and when snow cover is at its greatest, off-piste descents of up to 2,500m vertical are possible down to the valley floor.

Reliable snow for freeskiers in Verbier, Switzerland - ©Verbier Tourist Office

Reliable snow for freeskiers in Verbier, Switzerland

Copyright: Verbier Tourist Office

6. Milky Way, France - Italy, 400km

Cross-border skiing, intermediate runs, extensive snowmaking

The ski resorts within the Milky Way, or the ‘Via Lattea’, include Sestriere, Claviere, and Sauze d’Oulx in Italy and Montgenevre in France. The area used to rely on ropey old drag lifts and if you wanted to ski from one end to the other you had to employ a guide and take a taxi to the far end to have time to ski back. But the 2006 Winter Olympics brought huge lift investment on the Italian side and has led to what’s now a high-tech area where you can zip from end to end and back within the day. 

Sestriere, Via Lattea (Milky Way), Piemonte - Italy - ©Ezio Romano

Sestriere, Via Lattea (Milky Way), Piemonte - Italy

Copyright: Ezio Romano

7. Matterhorn Ski Paradise, Switzerland – Italy, 360km

Stunning views of the Matterhorn, long descents, year-round glacier skiing

Europe’s highest ski lifts take you up from Zermatt into the heart of one of the world’s biggest ski areas – crossing the Swiss border to the Italian resort of Cervinia and also including Valtournenche in the Aosta Valley. The area includes incredible runs for all standards, with the world’s second biggest lift-served vertical drop (2,379m), and an epic 20km descent down to Valtournenche.

Breathtaking views of the Matterhorn from Zermatt's slopes - ©Zermatt Tourism

Breathtaking views of the Matterhorn from Zermatt's slopes

Copyright: Zermatt Tourism

8. Espace Killy, France, 300km

Challenging terrain, snow-sure glacier, ski-in/out accommodation

Espace Killy, named after the famous French skier Jean-Claude Killy, connects the two world famous resorts of Val d’Isere and Tignes. Regarded by many as one of the most exciting ski areas in the world thanks to its famous steep terrain, including the Olympic Downhill run on the Bellevarde face, masses of off piste opportunities and also having one of the planet’s biggest lift-served verticals of more than 2,000m add bonus points. 

Taking the cable car up from Val d'Isere to the snowsure Espace Killy ski area - ©NUTS.FR / OT.VAL D'ISÈRE

Taking the cable car up from Val d'Isere to the snowsure Espace Killy ski area

Copyright: NUTS.FR / OT.VAL D'ISÈRE

9. Le Grand Massif, France, 265km

Family friendly, deep snow, easy access from Geneva

The Grand Massif is one of the closest ski areas to Geneva and has a reputation for excellent snow conditions, all season long, thanks to its proximity to Mont Blanc. The area is centred on the modern resort of Flaine, surrounded by small traditional villages with long pistes, some up to 13km in length.

A powder-filled Flaine in Le Grand Massif, France. - ©Agence Zoom

A powder-filled Flaine in Le Grand Massif, France.

Copyright: Agence Zoom

10. Le Grand Serre Chevalier, France, 250km

Sunny skiing, lower prices, relaxed atmosphere

The leading resort in the Southern Alps, Serre Chevalier is made up of 13 villages (three connected to the ski area) that are spread over 6km of the Guisane Valley floor from the old town of Briançon, the highest town in Europe. The area was created when Briançon was connected by a six-seater lift to the rest of the network in 1989.

Serre Chevalier is a favourite with families - ©Serre Chevalier Tourism

Serre Chevalier is a favourite with families

Copyright: Serre Chevalier Tourism

Gallery

View All

Top Stories This Week

Deer Valley Acquisition Brings KSL Count to 13 - ©Liam Doran

Deer Valley Acquisition Brings KSL Count to 13

The affiliates of KSL Capital Partners, LLC and Henry Crown and Company are making waves this week with an announcement to acquire Deer Valley Resort.

Full Article

News Roundup: United Adds Flights to Ski Country, TripHero Makes Transporting Ski Gear a Breeze

News Roundup: United Adds Flights to Ski Country, TripHero Makes Transporting Ski Gear a Breeze

United Airlines plans to increase its ski town presence this winter by adding flights into some of the biggest ski destinations in the country.

Full Article

Related Articles

Infographic: Top 3 South American Resorts

Wondering how to burn those frequent flyer miles? Two words: South America. From mid June to October, skiers and riders can keep their... More

Advertisement

Newsletter

Get OnTheSnow on the go
Learn more

Advertisement

Advertisement