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Discovering unique ski destinations

Posted on January 24, 2024 by Bryony Eacott
Skier wearing a helmet carries skis over her shoulder as she makes her way through a crowd of people at a popular skiing resort in Europe.

Tired of the same old runs at your usual ski resort? Maybe it’s time to switch things up and give one of these unique ski resorts in Europe a try.

While they may not have the same level of fame as the well-known ones, these resorts offer great value without compromising on quality. They have top-notch facilities and cater to skiers of all levels, making them worth thinking about for your next adventure.

 A view from the top of the snow covered mountains of Åre in Sweden, a ski resort area in Europe.

Åre, Sweden

At over 1,270 metres, Åre’s highest run ascends nearly one kilometre above the town and has a greater vertical drop than any other ski resort in northern Europe. Now that’s impressive! 

With 89 slopes and red runs as challenging as any in the Alps, the resort is suitable for all levels of skiing. What’s more, it offers guaranteed snow from December to May. It also has more nightlife, finer dining, more après-ski and more history than neighbouring Norway and Finland.

For non-skiers, there’s dog-sledding*, ice climbing, a moose farm, saunas and boutique shopping to keep everyone well entertained.

Ski level: Beginners, Intermediate, Experts
Top tip: Avoid the queues when you arrive and buy your ski pass in advance by booking your SkiPass online.

Skier in a multi-coloured jacket makes her way down the slope at speed, with a few other skiers in the distance at a unique ski resort in Europe.

Samoëns, France

This ancient village sits modestly in the Grand Massif, an area that’s home to over 260 km of relatively crowd-free pistes. The longest run is the 14 km Les Cascades blue run from Grandes Platières (2,480m) to Sixt via the pretty refuge at Lac de Gers.

Conditions are ideal for beginners and intermediate level skiers, while there’s plenty for experts too – try the Gers bowl with its 800m drop of off-piste skiing

For a break from the slopes, there’s always the famous Alpine botanical garden as well as several excellent, great value restaurants – pleasures you may never have in some of France’s more expensive resorts!

Samoëns village is traffic free and centres round a beautiful square. A weekly market and gourmet shops selling local cheeses and patisserie make for that authentic French experience, and all just an hour’s drive from Geneva.

Ski level: Beginners, Intermediate, Experts
Top tip: If you can, avoid peak seasons by booking a mid-week trip during the quieter month of January.

Wide shot of a busy ski resort in Europe, with skiers and accommodation in the distance against the background of the mountains.

St. Martin de Belleville, Three Valleys, France

The village of St. Martin de Belleville retains a quintessential French farming atmosphere, where the locals make cheeses, keep chickens and smoke their own hams.

This is a quiet and beautiful base for exploring the Trois Vallées, but don’t expect huge amounts of raucous après-ski activities – the heart and soul of village life is what it’s all about here.

Skiers enjoy the 600 km of slopes descending to Meribel and Courchevel, as well as the quieter slopes of the Belleville Valley. The skiing, combined with the simplicity of local gourmet cuisine while dining under old vaulted ceilings, makes for a memorable French experience. 

Ski level: Intermediate, Expert
Top tip: For those more experienced skiers, head to the upper slopes of La Masse to avoid the crowds and to find steeper slopes.

A young family of 4 in bright ski wear enjoying a ski run through a snowy national park.

La Thuile, Italy

Despite the fame of the Aosta Valley, La Thuile has somehow managed to remain relatively undiscovered. If you like a purpose-built resort without a wild après-ski scene, this attractive old mining village is ideal. 

You can ski to the village of Mont Blanc or pop over the border to France and neighbouring village of La Rosière if you’d like to venture a little further afield.

La Thuile is popular with families and beginners, thanks to its excellent, easy slopes and free childcare facilities!

The pretty village centre boasts several shops, restaurants and bars to enjoy, but without the throngs of après-skiers you will meet in other European resorts.

Ski level: Beginners
Top tip: La Thuile is renowned for its shorter queues and peaceful slopes, even during peak times. It’s a great option for those seeking to escape the crowds, especially during school holidays.

Snow covered village sits in the valley between mountains near a popular ski area.

Baqueira-Beret, Spain

Tucked away in the Northeast of Spain, this resort in the Spanish Pyrenees has 4,700 acres of ski-friendly snow in Val d’Aran, and is popular with Spain’s Royal family. 

Sophisticated Baqueira-Beret has just over a 1,000m vertical drop and 146 km of downhill runs to enjoy, along with some of the best snow cover in Europe. 

Expect long runs catering for all abilities, a mix of simple yet exciting runs, and off-piste variations from almost every marked run. 

The majority of the skiing is for intermediate skiers but some steeper runs like Escornacrabes (translates as: where goats tumble) have plenty of challenges for experts and goats alike!

The resort is easily accessed from the hillside villages of Baqueira, Arties, Salardu and Tredos. But, for après-ski, you’re likely to want to stay within the resort area to make the most of the late-night Spanish scene of tapas bars, restaurants and nightclubs.

Ski level: Beginner, Intermediate, Expert
Top tip: There’s not many off-slope activities here so it’s not ideal for non-skiers, but most hotels have a spa and pool for unwinding after a day of skiing.

Bird's eye view of a large ski run on a bright wintery day at a unique ski resort in Slovenia.

Kranjska Gora, Slovenia

This charmingly cosmopolitan alpine area boasts a unique culture and cuisine in addition to its 18 ski slopes reaching altitudes of up to 1,215m. 

From December until mid-April, the resort excites intermediate and expert skiers with plenty of red and black trails. But, if you’re more of a beginner, you can take advantage of the excellent ski schools available in town.

For non-skiers, Slovenia can’t fail to impress with its unspoilt natural scenery, as well as the elegant capital city of Ljubljana with its Christmas Markets. And ever-popular Lake Bled, both just a few hours’ drive from Kranjska Gora.

Ski level: Intermediate, Expert
Top tip: If you’re not too busy skiing, pick from one of the amazing hiking trails and explore Slovenia’s countryside, waterfalls and all. 

Group of skiers enjoying après-ski around a warm fire, with a glass of wine.

Mzaar, Lebanon

Now for a bit of a wild card: Mzaar Ski Resort. Not only is it famous for its exceptional skiing, but it also boasts après-ski so incredible that locals often make the trip up the mountain just for a night out!

Skiers, snowmobilers, snowboarding addicts and paragliders flock to Mzaar from mid-December to early April for its pristine snow and lively atmosphere.*

The resort’s 100 km of runs are varied in difficulty and many are wide and tame enough for beginners. 

Excellent cross-country skiing can also be enjoyed and, on a clear day, you should be able to spy the coast and Beirut just an hour’s drive away.

Ski level: Easy, Intermediate, Expert
Top tip: Up for heart-pumping excitement? Try the zip wire! Soar through the air at 20-25 mph and enjoy breathtaking views.

What to pack for a ski holiday

When it comes to hitting the slopes, staying warm and comfy is key. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out, having the right gear can make all the difference! So, here’s a handy list of must-haves for your next skiing adventure.

  1. Clothing – pack some thermal base layers. Like a fleece, warm hat, gloves, neckwarmer/scarf, helmet, goggles, thermal socks, waterproof ski jacket and trousers to keep you toasty on the slopes.
  2. Equipment – skis, poles, snowboards, boots.You can bring your own or hire these at the resort. If you’re hiring equipment, remember to pre-book it before you go.
  3. Reusable water bottle or hydration pack (if you prefer to go hands-free) – to stay hydrated. If you tend to get dry lips in the cold, having a lip balm might be handy too.
  4. Backpack – not essential but great for carrying your essentials. Snacks/cameras/sunglasses and suncreams.
  5. Portable charger for your phone – because who wants to miss capturing those breathtaking mountain views!
  6. Travel insurance for winter sports – to cover you for the extra risks that come with a holiday on the slopes.

Ski lift carrying skiers in colour ski jackets and trousers up to the top of their favourite ski run.

Things to do on ski holidays for non-skiers? 

Don’t worry if skiing isn’t your thing on holiday, there’s plenty of things to keep non-skiers busy too.

Many ski resorts offer a range of activities such as snowshoeing, ice skating, and even dog sledding.* And if you’re into photography, winter offers some stunning opportunities to practise your skills. The snowy peaks, the clear blue skies, the winter wildlife. It’s a photographer’s dream come true.

For those who prefer indoor activities, most ski resorts have spas and wellness centres, where you can relax and rejuvenate.

But one of the best things about not being a skier is the chance to sit back and soak in the snow-covered scenery. Picture yourself snuggled up by a cosy fireplace, sipping a warm drink and getting lost in a good book from the comfort of your accommodation. 

What does winter sports travel insurance cover?

From equipment loss cover to piste closure, or emergency medical costs, Winter Sports Travel Insurance can cover you for the unexpected. 

You can add Winter Sports cover to your Single Trip policy, while some of our Annual Multi-trip policies come with cover included as standard. 

With a Comprehensive policy, you’ll have cover for two winter sports trips, up to a total of 21 days. But if you choose a Signature policy you’ll get up to 28 days of cover for two trips – so you can enjoy your winter holidays for longer! 

Read our Winter Sports Travel Insurance page to find out more about what’s covered and what’s not. 

Unique ski destinationsSee our winter sports resorts

*For full details of the sports and activities covered by your policy, please see our policy documents.

by Bryony Eacott

Bryony is Staysure’s Junior Content Executive. Not a fan of cold weather, you’ll usually find her on holiday somewhere hot and sunny. Paris and Reims are on her travel list for 2023.