Picture this: you’re gracefully cruising down a white powdery slope against a pure blue sky, before gliding into a charming chalet to warm up with an indulgent hot chocolate or spiced mulled wine. Sound good? Then get away from the drizzly rain and head to one of Europe’s stunning ski spots. These may be a little further out than the usual destinations, but you’ll be surprised how much you can save on a family ski trip when you travel by car. Add to that the flexibility of not being tied to flight schedules – and breathtaking mountainous terrain to boot – and these are sure to become a regular favourite of the holiday calendar.
The French Alps have long been a favourite of ski-hungry Brits – and for good reason, too. The classic resort of Méribel – which you can drive to in under nine hours from Calais – was founded by British skier Peter Lindsay in 1938 and offers everything you want for a ski break.
Quaint wooden chalets and stunning views come as standard, but one of the best things about Méribel is its incredible location. Together with nearby resorts Courcheval, Val Thorens and La Tania, they make up one of the largest linked ski areas in the world with over 600km of pisted slopes. Its highest peak is 3,000m, meaning you’ll get great conditionseven at the beginning and end of the ski season.
Méribel is suitable for all levels of skiers and snowboarders, with two colossal snow parks offering slopes for all abilities. There’s plenty to do for non-skiers too, such as visiting the Olympic Centre (built for the 1992 Winter Olympics), horse-sleigh tours, snowmobiling and snow hiking.
Zugspitze Glacier, Germany
The most popular ski resort in Germany is Garmisch-Partenkirchen (under 10 hours from Zebrugge) – but for the best ski spot, head out of the main resort and up the mountain to the Zugspite glacier. You’ll need to stay in one of the linked towns as a base, but you can’t beat the incredible skiing conditions at the top of the Zugspite. It’s the highest mountain in Germany with a peak of almost 3,000m, and you can expect jaw-dropping views where you can see four countries: Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Austria.
The combination of the large glacier and high altitude means it gets deep, dependable snow for up to seven months of the year – far longer than most resorts in Europe. Its 20km of slopes make it small but with its well-groomed pistes that are suitable for all levels, it’s definitely worth heading up. The traditionally Bavarian towns of Garmisch and Partenkirchen offer plenty of evening entertainment, from après-ski bars and restaurants to cinemas and a casino.
If you’re after a trip that offers not only skiing but an incredible atmosphere, then drive 11 hours from Zebrugge to Austria. The villages of Saalbach, Hinterglemm and Leogang share the slopes, but Saalbach is the one that’s bursting with character. It won’t take you long to get on the slopes in the morning as most of the accommodation is close to the lifts, which are all super fast. Spend the day gliding across some of the 270km of pisted runs which are best suited for intermediates, though there’s something for all levels.
When stopping to refuel for lunch, you can choose from one of the delicious alpine restuarants on the mountain, all of which serve classic hearty dishes such as Tiroler Gröstl (a tasty bacon, onion and potato fry up), and Schnitzel. Further down the mountain, head to one of the busy après-ski bars in your boots for a refreshing beer or warming Glühwein. You’ll soon find out that the music here is quintessentially Austrian; yodeling and Austropop are the tunes of choice and after a few Schnapps, you may find yourself dancing along. The resort hosts plenty of fun events throughout the season, such as rock concert Bergfestival and electronic festival Rave on Snow – so if you’re looking for a ski trip that includes truck-loads of fun, this may be the place for you.
It comes as no surprise that the Swiss Alps have been the backdrop of a number of James Bond skiing scenes. While you would usually expect attractive views from a trip to the mountains, the Jungfrau-Aletsch is so spectacular that it has earned a place as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Jungfrau is the highest resort on this list with a massive peak of 4,000m, and it also boasts the highest railroad station in Europe at 3,454m, as well as the largest glacier in Eurasia. It’ll take you around nine hours to drive there from Zebrugge (and only 30 minutes more if you’re coming from Calais), but the long drive is well worth it, as you’ll be treated to over 200km of world-class runs.
This resort is best suited for the intermediate to advanced skier or snowboarder, as it features some challenging runs including the slope used for the world’s biggest annual amateur ski competition, the Inferno Race. For a traditionally charming village, stay in Wengen or Mürren, but for a livelier location head to Grindelwald for some louder après-ski bars.
Inspired to book your next ski trip? Take a look at our crossings to Europe today.