The Under-The-Radar European Ski Resorts to Visit This Winter—And Where to Stay

A 15th-century church in Arosa, Switzerland.Photo: Getty Images
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So you’re planning your next vacation to one of the great Europe ski resorts. You’ve already shredded in St. Moritz and Verbier. Apres-skiing in Courchevel is a been-there-done-that moment. And you’ve even “gone off the beaten path” by tackling the Austrian Alps in Lech. Now you’re looking for somewhere new and unexpected for your next mountain holiday. Thankfully, Europe is full of winter sports destinations, some more famous than others. Indeed, variety on the continent is so vast that an adventurous snow enthusiast could be schussing somewhere new every time they fasten on their skis. Even Portugal—known primarily for its postcard-perfect summer-by-the-sea vacations—has a small mountain! 

Below, these four European ski destinations might not have the massive international cache of Gstaad or Megève. But they still offer exceptional infrastructure, fabulous wellness hotels (for post-ski relaxation), award-winning restaurants, and, of course, plenty of après-ski revelry.

Madonna di Campiglio, Italy

Photo: Getty Images

When people think about winter trips to Italy, glamorous Cortina and Mont Blanc-adjacent Courmayeur often get the most attention. But tucked beneath the dramatic peaks of the Brenta Dolomites, Madonna di Campiglio is well worth the detour. The ski area connects 97 miles of runs across three villages, and you only need one pass to ski them all. In addition to challenging terrain (the Canalone Miramonti is a 1,800-feet-long World Cup slalom course), there are tons of unforgettable excursions available in Madonna di Campiglio, including a sunrise experience where you ski the mountain at first light. 

Trentino, the province in northern Italy where this ski area is located, is also a fantastic food-and-wine destination. This is where Trentodoc, a crisp, bright sparkling wine made with grapes indigenous to the mountains, has been produced for more than a century. (Local wineries make still wines, too.) A good number of vineyards receive visitors for tastings and tours during the winter season. And given that you’re in Italy, delicious meals are never too far away. In the village of Pinzolo, not far from the ski lift, is Ristorante Mildas, a beloved family-owned dining room serving worth-traveling-for regional fare since 1966. Indulge in a gorgeous beef filet oven-baked with potatoes, mountain herbs, and red chilies after a lung-busting day skiing. But don’t leave without trying the Mirko-style Spaghetti, an umami-packed bowl of pasta tossed with tuna, capers, garlic, and tomatoes. It was concocted by the founder of the restaurant when it first opened over 50 years ago.

Where to Stay

Courtesy of Lefay Resort & Spa Dolomiti

If you want a hotel that beautifully marries mountain style and multiple wellness options, book yourself into one of the 88 suites and 23 residences at Lefay Resort & Spa Dolomiti. A minimalist combination of blonde timber and floor-to-ceiling windows help give this property an atmospheric sense of place. Suites, which start at a massive 613 square feet, come with spacious terraces where you can breathe in that fresh mountain air. There are also two restaurants—one casual, and the other a fancier venue that offers a multi-course tasting menu inspired by the region. You definitely have to commit to the breakfast, though, if only for the delightfully sumptuous nutella croissant. But the most impressive part of the Lefay Dolomiti is the three-floor wellness complex. Anything you could think of, it delivers. Indoor-outdoor infinity pool? Cold plunge? Transformational skin and body treatments? An aqua therapy experience? An in-house line of lotions and potions? Check, check, check, check, check.

Arosa, Switzerland

Photo: Getty Images

There’s no shortage of world-class mountain hotspots in Switzerland. But if you’re looking for a more relaxed alternative to the glam of St. Moritz, Verbier, and Gstaad, head to the easternmost canton of Schanfigg Valley, where 140 miles of skiable terrain await in the storybook village of Arosa. Perched 1,800 feet above sea level, this quaint Swiss mountain town is a compact snow mecca that will inspire you to exchange designer boutiques and see-and-be-seen après hotspots for (family-friendly) outdoor pursuits. Think: sledding down the mountain, heading to the lake for early-morning ice bathing, horse-drawn carriage rides, and hiking to hilltop chalets for wine-and-cheese tastings. The 140 miles of trails (this includes neighboring Lenzerheide resort) are great for beginner and intermediate skiers, but there are of course more challenging runs, including the Black Diamond Slope, which meanders down the mountain for over a mile and a half. Since 2005, Arosa has also hosted a Gay Ski Week, where a calendar of parties, musical performances, themed après-ski events, and ice skating break up days spent getting to know the mountain’s pistes.

Where to Stay

Courtesy of Tschuggen Grand Hotel

Originally opened in 1929, Tschuggen Grand Hotel remains one of Switzerland’s most stunning five-star hotels. The 128 rooms and four brand-new lofts are all massive and sumptuous, but try to grab one that comes with its own Finnish sauna. Otherwise, the 53,820 square-foot spa, which features head-turning glass sails designed by Mario Botta, delivers all the wellness experiences you could dream of, from cold plunge pools to marble steam rooms to muscle-relaxing massages to daily yoga classes. There are five restaurants here, but the most fun is called The Basement, a subterranean hangout that serves Alpine comfort food (homemade apple strudel is a must-order) and comes with mini bowling lanes.

Kitzbühel, Austria

Photo: Getty Images

When it comes to Winter Olympic legacy, glitzy Kitzbühel—located just over an hour outside Münich—is one of Europe’s most storied. This mountain town of about 60,000 inhabitants was called home by a group of six athletes who would eventually become ski superstars in the 1950s. One of them—Toni Sailer—won all three gold medals in alpine skiing at the 1956 Olympics in Cortina, Italy. (Today, there’s a ski clothing brand named after him.) This might matter very little to you today, but it just goes to show that skiing in Kitzbühel is the real deal. 

The region around Kitzbühel has multiple ski options—about 145 miles of terrain, but the most famous mountain is the Hahnenkamm, which lords right over the town itself. The Hahnenkamm Races are not just among skiing’s most prestigious events, (part of the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup), it’s also one of the oldest, held annually since 1931. A day on this mountain can be challenging, in the best way, but the experience is pretty cushy, too: There are 58 lifts that take you to trails of every level, and when you get peckish or need a break, there are 60 huts and mountain restaurants where you can warm up with a steaming mug of glühwein. And the Medieval town center—full of old-school frescoes and colorful historic houses—is almost as picturesque as the peaks.

And if that’s not enough, the SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser-Brixental is not that far away. And in that resort, there are another 170 miles of skiable terrain, reached by 83 lifts. If you’re into night skiing, there are 10 illuminated kilometers of slopes here, the most in Austria.

Where to Stay

Courtesy of Stanglwirt

Sitting at the base of the dramatic, jagged peaks of the Wilder Kaiser, Stanglwirt ticks a lot of boxes. The entire property covers about 30 acres, and it’s been thoughtfully organized so that the guest experience is as dynamic as it is varied. In addition to 170 Alpine-chic rooms and suites, there is an immense three-acre wellness facility that features indoor and outdoor pools, saunas, and treatment rooms. (Don’t sleep on the Barbara Sturm facials!) The resort boasts several dining venues, including a restaurant outfitted with a window onto one of the farm’s cowsheds. And if you need more to do, Stanglwirt is also home to one of Europe’s most comprehensive hotel tennis programs. Here, six of the 14 courts are indoors so you can come for the skiing and stay for the tennis lessons.

Baqueira Beret, Spain

Photo: Getty Images

If you’ve only considered traveling to Spain for its big cities and famous beaches, you’re missing out on winter-season adventures, especially in the Pyrenees. Baqueira Beret, which celebrates its 60th birthday in 2024, offers a different ski culture to the Alps, though it’s only about 115 miles away from Toulouse Airport. Spain’s largest ski resort, Baqueira Beret combines approximately 100 miles of runs across three different areas: Baqueira, Beret, and Bonaigua. You’re in Spain now, so while lifts start up at 9 a.m., the mountain won’t really get busy until around lunchtime; early-bird skiers have a lot of the piste to themselves. The resort is known for consistently delivering fantastic snow conditions thanks to the Atlantic-facing slopes of the valley, and many of these runs are easygoing (not as crowded as more popular regions in the Alps) and wide (great for less experienced skiers). But moguls and miles of off-piste terrain are there to be conquered by those who dare. In fact, in January 2024, Baqueira Beret will host a stop of the Freeride World Tour, where you can marvel at daredevil skiers taking on some of the mountain’s most hair-raising terrain. 

With your skis off, there’s plenty more to do, including over two dozen mountainside restaurants. There’s a venue from famed jamon pioneers Cinco Jotas, for instance, and if you’ve built up a thirst, the Moët Winter Lounge has free-flowing champagne. From Baciver, the resort’s highest point at 8,563 feet, you can even spot Andorra, another ski destination that has its own if-you-know-you-know atmosphere.

Where to Stay

Courtesy of Plum Guide

If you’re looking for grand-dame hotels, Baqueira Beret may not be for you; accommodations here are on the smaller side—family-owned guest houses and apartment rentals. Plum Guide has vetted a great selection of homes and chalets. Consider Snowfall Sanctuary, a ski-in/ski-out hideaway minutes away from the Baqueira’s lifts. Amenities here include an open-plan kitchen, a fireplace, and ski storage in the building to make getting on the first chair that much easier.

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