Reveling in a winter wonderland in the world’s great ski locations-the Rockies of Banff, the Alps in Switzerland, Austria and France, the Dolomites in Italy … all conjure images of soft power, fairytale slopes lined with pine trees, huts and chalets to grab lunch or a warm beverage of your choice.
But, what is there to do beyond the slopes? And what of those you love don’t ski – or who want a day off?
Picking the right destination for an enchanting vacation for all creates happy memories!
Here are 10 activities you can incorporate into a ski destination vacation off the slopes:
- Try a new activity, like snowshoeing to get outdoors on a hike
- Take a romantic ride on a horse-drawn sleigh
- Skate on a lake or lakeside rink
- Soar to mountain vistas (and most likely a delightful mountain top restaurant) on a gondola
- Find a hot spring or outdoor Jacuzzi to relax together at day’s end
- Go for a wine tasting. Many European areas are also near wine regions. Even in the cellars themselves are closed, there are still wine experiences to be found.
- Try local food or sample a Michelin-starred restaurant
- Go sledding or tobogganing – another way to whoosh down slopes
- Visit museums. Hours may be diminished- and so are the entry prices
- Wander and shop in charming towns and villages, soak up the atmosphere and see how the locals live.Inspired to travel this winter to a ski destination?
Image credit: DolomiteMountains.com
While you dream of your special ski destination, here is some inspiration and a short guide to some top Europe ski areas to go:
Go for the glitz of St. Moritz, or the more laid-back yet upscale charm of Gstaad, the quaint iconic Zermatt, or the lovely Andermatt.
But away from the biggies such as these, you can enjoy authentic mountain life in smaller villages in valleys with cable cars and ski lifts connecting surrounding mountain slopes in the winter time and bicycling adventures in spring, summer, and fall.
Many times my family and I enjoyed these areas for greater family-friendly terrain.
Curious? Check out these beautiful images on the Switzerland tourism board.
I love Austria for its architecture as well as its winter activities.
In Innsbruck the Old Town is so picture-perfect that you’d think it was manufactured.
But it isn’t, and the touch of it being a favorite stop for the imperial Maria Teresa adds some royal sparkle.
Iconic in Austrian Tyrolean villages is that onion-domed church. Well-known names in Tyrol are Ishgl and Obergurgl-Hochgurgl.
It is easy to stay in a lovely city such as Salzburg, and take the train for a day of skiing.
There are chalet resorts that cater specifically to families, and others that evoke a more adult party scene and others that are uber-luxe. Lovely St. Anton combines lively nightlife and skiing for all from beginner to advanced.
Its largest ski area is Les Trois Vallees which encompasses endless variation in slopes – but also villages to visit and boasts some pretty great upscale dining.
Courcheval is all glitz and glamour, but there are more down-to-earth vibes in smaller villages. The Grand Massif will be a good place to look for family ski slopes and good ski schools. Chamonix is THE place for outdoor adventure (think mountaineering).
There are lower-altitude places to ski, of course and many are family-friendly.
In the southern Alps you can experience a laid-back friendly atmosphere in Montier Les Bains and its ski resort, Serre Che. France hosts a myriad of ski areas, so work with an advisor to find just the right one for you.
Germany has the Alps, too!
The wonderful Garmisch-Partenkirchen area boasts lovely villages and a host of slopes, including the largest peak of the Zugspitze.
Up over the mountains from there in one direction is Ammergau and Oberammergau, and Mitterdorf in the other. Lower Bavaria is a great destination to have a magical winter and ski vacation.
On the other side of Germany towards France is the Black Forest, and Feldberg and surrounding area are the perfect destination for manageable slopes and cute towns to enjoy – and maybe bring home a cuckcoo clock!
The Olympics were held in Italy – so you know there is great skiing to be had – plus the Italian lifestyle and food for the win.
In the Alps (fly into Turin) hundreds of miles of terrain can be found in Sestriere and Sauze d’ Ouix (great for learn-to-ski and more challenging terrain) – plus you are in the Piedmont region fr great food and wine.
To the north of Turin is the famous Aosta Valley ski region and a myriad of resorts there.
From here you can ski into France as well. Courmayeur is the most famous name here, and with views of Mont Blanc, Italian boutique shopping, restaurants and nightlife, it is a wonderful full vacation spot in winter.
At the foot of the Matterhorn on the sunny Italian side, Cervina is connected to Zermatt for the advanced skier and snowboarder, and is a favorite of intermediate skiers and has good beginner slopes. There are tons of off-slope activities and dining galore.
The Dolomite Mountains
The Dolomite mountains (easily reached from Milan airports) boast many ski resorts. The poshest and one that is a huge complex of connected mountains and trails is Madonna Di Campiglio. Its well-groomed trails are an intermediate’s dream.
Livigno, on the Swiss border is peaceful enough to have the nickname Little Tibet. It is not only reliable in snowfall, it is budget-friendly.
Nearby and equally low key is Bormio. Nearer to Austria, Cortina and surrounding resorts dot the mountains here forming a super-ski area.
The seemingly endless terrain for all levels as well as a substantial off the mountain offerings for food, shopping and fun, makes this area a rival to others in Europe.
If you’d like to have more ease in your travel planning in 2019, I’d love to help!
You can stay informed and inspired in planning your travel by reading more of my blogs. You can also follow me on Facebook. Twitter @enlitndjrntrvl, and Instagram @enlightenedjourneystravel. Sign up to receive the blogs and a newsletter filled with more insights and offers so you don’t miss a thing.