Compare Europe & Worldwide Ski Resorts
Ski terrain in Europe is vast in scope, like at Mayrhofen in Austria.
Powder skiing in Europe is awesome like at La Thuile in the Aosta Valley.
Vast interlinked ski resorts like Ski Arlberg are the norm in Europe.
Skiing in Europe is only limited by your imagination (La Rosiere, France).
Cheap lift passes for vast terrain is easy to cope with at Monterosa, Italy.
Suaze d'Oulx in Italy has the world's best value lift pass.
Fieberbrunn in Austria is part of the Skicircus Saalbach mega resort.
Ski some steep piste trails in Europe like the Hari Kiri at Mayrhofen.
Sestriere in the Via Lattea ski area has all its terrain over 2000m elevation.
it is possible to find solitude in Europe, just head hard left or right!!!
The early bird gets the worm in Europe. Those who wake first, take first!
Skiing powder in Europe.
The mega resorts of Europe are magical mystery tours from town to town.
Enjoy perfect piste & villages in Europe (3 Peaks Dolomites - Sesto, Italy).
The Via Lattea in Italy is the world;'s best value skiing.
Ski lifts in Europe are a cut above the rest of the world (Mayrhofen).
Head off piste with care in Europe (Andermatt, Switzerland).
Kronplatz Italy has 22 gondolas. Yep that's not a typo!
Powder anyone? Ski Europe.
No where combines scale, infrastructure, terrain & culture like Europe.

Compare Europe & Worldwide Ski Resorts

Compare Skiing in Europe

How does skiing in Europe compare to skiing elsewhere in the world – i.e. skiing in Canada, the USA or in Japan? The information below aims to compare skiing in Europe to other parts of the world, but also to provide some comparisons between the Europe ski resorts.

Ski Resorts Europe - Statistics

Ski resort statistics can often tell a thousand words about a skiing destination and steer you towards the best resort, but unlike North American resorts, most of the European ski resorts aren’t obsessed with stats. In Europe it’s often difficult to find reliable information, particularly snowfall data, and various sources often report contradictory statistics. Contradictory statistics can be for a number of reasons including: complex interlinked resorts; different lift companies operating within the same resort area; shared lift passes between resorts; and resort areas concurrently operating under different names.

Volume of Snow

Whilst some European ski resorts have statistics on the average snowfall per season, the majority of ski resorts in Europe don’t report this statistic. To put it bluntly, does it snow in Europe as much as parts of Japan and North America? In a few places the answer is yes, but for the most the answer is no. Does it matter? No. Skiing in Europe is so diverse that you will be able to find powder somewhere, sometime during every winter.

We all know that climate change is impacting on winters across the globe. It rains or is dry more readily even in powder paradises like Utah, Alaska and Japan than it did in the past. Same for Europe. Like anywhere in the world, being there on the powder day can be a game of chance. We at Powderhounds do try and better the odds though by skiing at the world’s powder magnets and providing the reviews for all to judge.

The snowiest part of Europe is along the high alpine spine of the Alps from France through Switzerland, Italy & Austria. The heavily glaciated 4000m+ mountains around the resorts of Chamonix, Courmayeur, Zermatt, Cervinia & Monterosa receive between 7 to 15m of snow a year. Interestingly though, local variations can and do occur. In 2016/17, Chamonix had a poor snowfall year, but on the opposite side of Mont Blanc, the resorts of Courmayeur & La Thuile had a comparatively stellar year. The Swiss resort of Andermatt had a snow base of 4m at the end of March in 2017 & is renowned for its consistent snowfalls. The Arlberg area of Austria variously reports getting 7 to 10m of annual snowfall. Anyone that visits the Arlberg resort of St Anton will vouch for it being a snow magnet. The Via Lattea in Italy receives a respectable 5-6m+ every winter.

When in doubt in Europe choose areas with terrain above 1500m (or less than that in Austria - its colder there!), close to glaciers & rated by Powderhounds!!

Most European ski resorts use snow-making to create or top up the cover on main piste trails. Europe has led the way with the world’s best snow making technology. In some areas, like the Dolomites, the snow-making system is so good that at a few ski resorts (Kronplatz for example) one wouldn’t be able to tell if one was skiing natural or man- made snow.

Europe Skiing Vertical

The ski resorts in Europe are renowned for having super long vertical with endless runs that burn the thighs. It’s almost laughable when Canadian and USA resorts boast the longest, or second or third longest vertical in North America considering that it is just a fraction of some of the resorts in Europe! Whistler has 1,600 metres of vertical, yet Chamonix in France has 2,800 metres & Zermatt in Switzerland has 2,200 metres. And when you compare the European vertical to South America, Japan, Australia & New Zealand, then the contrast is really significant! Whilst very few North American ski resorts have verticals in excess of 1200m, most major European ski resorts have verticals of at least 1200-1500m & beyond.

Size of Europe Ski Resorts

It’s difficult to compare the size of the ski resorts in Europe to those in the rest of the world. Whilst other continents typically report the skiable terrain in hectares (or acres), the Europeans indicate size by reporting the total length of piste trails in kilometres. This of course doesn’t provide any indication of the size of the off-piste skiing terrain. Exceptions to the rule are Serre Chevalier and Val d'Isere in France which reports a whopping 3,900 & 10.000 hectares of ski terrain respectively. Having been there, the Powderhounds can vouch for the fact that they are vast.

In terms of piste trail length, a simple comparison is useful to comprehend the scale of ski resorts in Europe. Whistler Blackcomb in Canada has around 250km of piste trails across its immense resort. Very few Canadian or North American ski resorts come anywhere near the size of Whistler. However in the French Tarentaise valley alone there are 3 resort areas vastly larger. In the Tyrol state of Austria there are at least another 3 that are bigger. And so it goes.

Increasingly there is a ski resort size ‘arms race’ going on in Europe. The rise of the mega sized ski resort is great for consumers as it means that common ski lift passes cover ever growing lift linked ski areas. The sizes of these mega ski resorts dwarf most of the world’s ski resorts by a long margin.

In Austria the mega resorts include three very close to each other - SkiCircus Saalbach, Kitzbuhel-Kirchberg & SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser Brixental. The Ski Arlberg area (St Anton, Lech, Warth-Schroecken, Zuers et al) is now fully lift linked & creates a new skiing behemoth.

In France, the legendary Tarentaise region is the home of the mega ski resort and includes the world's largest ski area, the Trois Vallees (Three Valleys) (Courchevel, Meribel & Val Thorens), plus the nearby Paradiski (Les Arcs & La Plagne) & the massive Tignes -Val d’Isere. Closer to Geneva, the Grand Massif (Flaine, Samoans et al) & the world's largest ski area across international borders, Portes du Soleil. are popular ski areas with exceptionally high snowfall in cold winters.

In Italy, the mega resorts include the Via Lattea & Monterosa. The central Dolomites resorts of Arabba-Marmolada, Alta Badia, Val Gardena & Val di Fassa are all interlinked & form a huge ‘single’ resort.

In Switzerland a number of cross border mega resorts exist like Zermatt-Cervinia (Swiss-Italian), Samnaun-Ischgl (Swiss-Austria), Portes Du Soleil (Swiss-French). Internally, Verbier is part of the huge interlinked 4 Vallees ski area. And then there are Arosa-Lenzerheide, Davos Klosters & LaaxAndermatt was a small Swiss resort undergoing a transformation to fully interlink with Sedrun (and now Disentis), hence looking to join the ranks of the mega resorts (something it will achieve in season 2018/19!).

In addition to multitudes of medium sized resorts (40 to 120km of pistes), there are also lots of small resorts (<40km of pistes) scattered across Europe. Some of these small resorts provide the best ski experiences in Europe due to low crowds and pristine off piste areas. Most European towns and villages in the mountains will have a lift or two servicing local ski needs.

Interlinked Ski Resorts

Many resorts claim that they are interlinked with others, but the definition of “interlinked” can vary somewhat. Some resorts are physically interlinked via lift passes and piste/lifts such as Ski Arlberg (St Anton, Lech, Zurs etc.), Monterosa (Champoluc, Gressoney, Alagna etc.), Via Lattea (Oulx, Sestriere, Montgenevre etc.) and SkiCircus Saalbach (with Hinterglemm, Leogang and Fieberbrunn). Other European ski resorts may share a common lift pass, but the resorts are not physically interlinked by lifts or pistes. Example include the resorts that comprise Chamonix, Zell am See-Kaprun & the Mayrhofen & Hintertux Glacier resorts.

Europe Ski Runs

The piste skiing in Europe is in quite different to North America and other parts of the world. The runs in Europe tend to be longer and terrain is more varied. It is not uncommon to go from the high alpine, through larch and pine forest, across meadows with fences, hay barns and houses, and down into towns and villages.

Typically most European ski resorts only have smaller proportions of black runs (on-piste), so most of the advanced skiing is off-piste. This can be difficult for strong intermediate skiers and boarders who want to progress on steep groomed slopes and not tackle the potentially gnarly off-piste conditions. Typically also, blue (beginner) runs in Europe can be quite a bit steeper than those in the rest of the world.

The colour codes of the runs also vary from that in Japan, Canada, US, New Zealand and Australia. In Europe the following applies:
     blue run – beginner;
     red run – intermediate;
     black run – advanced.

However some resorts also have green runs just to really confuse everyone:
    green run – beginner
    blue run – intermediate
    red run – high intermediate to advanced
    black run – expert (equivalent of a double black diamond run)

There is very little consistency between resorts as to what a coloured run equates to, and the colours are more of an indication of relativities within that particular ski resort.

Tree Skiing Europe

Another difference with skiing in Europe when compared to that of Canada, USA and Australia, is that much of it is above the tree-line (similar to New Zealand and parts of South America). If you’re used to the piste being defined by cut out areas between the trees, it takes a little getting used to. The advantages of open skiing are that you can put in a turn wherever you feel like it and you don’t have the risk of running into a tree. The disadvantage is that you can’t go tree-skiing (obviously!), and trees help with orientation and visibility on low light days and afford protection from the weather (for both the skier and the snow quality). Regardless of the above, excellent tree skiing does exist in Europe. Serre Chevalier, Oulx & the Via Lattea are the standouts.

Insurance & Lift Tickets

When purchasing a lift ticket you may want to take out the option of insurance. It is often inclusive in other continents, but in Europe it generally isn’t. In many resorts ski patrol rescue is not necessarily free, even if an accident occurs on the piste. Check what is included in the price of a lift ticket or make sure you have travel insurance.