Sometimes, sunshine, beaches and palm trees can feel just a little overrated. Sometimes, all you want is a thick, heavy snowfall, a pristine piste and the mountain landscape of your dreams, to glide your way to true happiness. And to help you on your way, we’ve done the gruelling work of rounding up the best countries for ski and snowboarding holidays.
Whether you’re after waist-high fresh powder, heart pumping jumps and seriously steep runs, or if you’re more about the picturesque chalets and après-ski life, you’re never too far from a perfect ski and snowboarding destination.
Pack your thermals and emergency sunscreen, and let’s hit the slopes.
With nearly 500 resorts across the United States, it’s no surprise that it’s renowned for being one of the best countries for ski and snowboarding holidays.
With the season running from autumn through to April, and in some places, as late as July, there’s rarely a time that you won’t get some decent action. There are plenty of resorts of all sizes and variations from coast to coast, but with so many to choose from, how do you choose where to go?
A good place to start might just be the state renowned for having “the greatest snow on Earth.” And as you make your way into Salt Lake City in Utah, it’s not hard to see why inhabitants of the state are so proud of this accolade – that first glimpse of the epic Wasatch mountain ranges looming over the city will leave you hankering to get on the slopes. Utah gets plenty of heavy snow, with an annual average of over 500 inches – but it’s more about quality, not quantity, here. While you might not always be wading up to your chest in snow, you’ll often find plenty of fresh powder to float through.
You’ll find over 14 ski and snowboarding areas across Utah, but one of the best to head to is Powder Mountain. You’ll find plenty of powder (clue’s in the name), and with daily tickets limited to 1,500 people, there’s generous space to take in the stunning terrain, without worrying about getting crowded on the slopes.
Another top pick in Utah is Park City – a former home for snowboarding Olympians back in the 2002 Winter Games, you’ll find over 3,000 acres of terrain for both skiing and snowboarding. Best of all, between December and March, the park opens up an area just for night rides, meaning you can enjoy the powder for a lot longer.
Just over an hour away from Utah is another iconic winter sports state – Colorado. With an incredible landscape of mountains, it’s hard not to fall in love here.
Aspen and Vail are two of the most world renowned resorts that you could ever come across – both within a few hours drive from Denver. While Vail is a little less high, its more diverse terrain, with 31 lifts and over 5,000 acres, means that there is always something for all levels.
While Aspen has obtained a glossier status of late, attracting plenty of Hollywood’s finest, along with the crème de la crème of the sport, this rugged mountain town resort is still one of the best places to enjoy a truly high wattage experience on the slopes.
The resort encompasses four individual mountains which each have something special to offer. Buttermilk, home to the X Games each winter, serves up an epic music and winter sports festival, while Aspen Mountain, aka Ajax, has plenty of high-speed turns and tough moguls to test your mettle on. Be sure to check out the free morning yoga sessions for a scenic stretch to start the day.
If you like your snow served up with a little more sunshine, then head out west to the Golden State. While California might be better known for a different kind of boarding, it also boasts some of the highest snowfall in the country.
Make the most of it in some of the most breath taking resorts in the state, including Lake Tahoe and Mammoth Mountain. Thousands of acres, hundreds of inches of fresh snow and a wide variety of terrain are all balanced with lots of sun, promising the most perfect of bluebird days.
If you want the best of all worlds, head to the twin resorts of Bear Mountain and Snow Summit, with ample ski and snowboard areas for beginner levels, and plenty of fun cruises around. And being just a couple of hours away from Los Angeles and the ocean, you can enjoy the unique “California Double” – hit the slopes in the morning, before catching the waves with a picturesque Pacific Ocean sunset, to close the day.
North of the border, Canada boasts some of the most iconic ski and snowboarding holiday resorts in the world, with enviably incredible mountain ranges spanning the country, enormous resorts and a mammoth amount of snow through the year.
Whistler is undoubtedly one of the most famous ski resorts on the planet, with reliable and consistent snow conditions, over 11 metres of snow a year, and two mountains, Whistler and Blackcomb, combined together, to deliver an immense 8,000 acres of skiable runs. A handy record-breaking PEAK2 PEAK gondola helps you zip across the peaks – as well as giving you incredible 360 degree mountain views to dream of as you glide over the forest.
While Whistler is famed for its ski and snowboarding action, it’s a fantastic all-rounder too. The ski town has a vibrant après-ski scene, while for those who prefer to relax in comfort after a challenging day in the snow, you’ll find some decadent Jacuzzi and spa experiences to help you unwind.
Next to Whistler, Banff National Park is another top pick for ski and snowboarding holidays in Canada, where you’ll find three world-class resorts in one area. In the heart of the Rocky Mountain range, you can look forward to inches of fluffy, dry powder and a huge amount of variety. Newbies will find plenty of guidance and support here, while seasoned pros can indulge in all the chutes, steeps and bowls they could ever hope for. Take a moment to soak up the stunning scenery all around you while you’re at it though – it’s not for nothing that Banff was designated a World Heritage Site.
If the busy après ski bustle of Banff feels a little too much, head to Jasper instead. Just 30 minutes away, you’ll have over 90 runs to choose from across Marmot Basin in Jasper National Park, and 1,700 acres of richly diverse terrain to play in. With a more laidback and relaxed atmosphere, you can soak up the more rustic, charming small-town vibes here. Don’t miss out on the Icefields Parkway outside Jasper, where you can catch the Athabasca Glacier, one of the world’s biggest non-polar ice fields, and home to the heart-stopping glass-bottomed Skywalk.
World-class powder, “snow monsters” and a uniquely Japanese cultural charm makes this country a sure fire contender for one of the best countries for ski and snowboarding holidays in the world.
For starters, the combination of geography and climate serves up some of the fluffiest, powdery snow that you’ll ever be blessed with. With a low moisture content that keeps snowflakes fluffy and dry, you might not be able to indulge in much of a snowball fight, but that’s more than made up for with the light, floaty runs, offering up perfect conditions to ski and snowboard in. With annual snowfall of up to 14 metres, you can rely on plenty of snow through the season.
You’ll also be able to enjoy that magical moment of swooping through the trees – with the heavy snow fall, trees regularly turn into what are locally known as “snow monsters”, due to their eerie, weighed down appearance, giving you an amazing, otherworldly experience you’ll find nowhere else.
Beyond the slopes, Japan’s winter sports culture is tempered beautifully with a taste of tradition – you can’t miss the thermal hot spring onsen, a very Japanese take on the classic après ski hot tub. Get cold toes toasty in the specially designated foot onsen (does what it says on the tin), and be sure to scrub down and hose up until you’re sparkling clean in the public, and thankfully segregated, baths.
And best of all of course, is the local food – the perfect way to fuel up before and after a day in the snow. From fresh fish plucked straight from local ponds before being sashimi-ed up before you, to steaming bowls of noodles, brimming with hot, tasty broth, traditional pancakes and of course, Nabe, the traditional Japanese hotpot, there’s plenty of deliciousness to keep you warm and happy.
When it comes to resorts, top of the list to visit should be Shiga-kogen. The first resort in Japan to have a ski lift, it is the country’s most popular ski and snowboarding destination, and had all the world’s attention when it took part in the 1988 Winter Olympics, with the world’s first Olympic snowboarding competition.
With 21 ski areas and 71 lifts across them, leave yourself a few days to explore and make the most of it. While Shiga-kogen is quiet on the après ski scene, you might get to bump into some unexpected neighbours in the hot tub – check out the nearby hot springs of Yudanaka, where you might meet the local macaque monkeys enjoying a cosy soak.
For a quintessentially Japanese and picturesque skiing or snowboarding holiday, head out to Hokkaido. Beautiful trees and relaxed pitches are complemented with deep inches of excellent powder, making it the perfect spot for hard core adrenaline junkies looking for incredibly rewarding runs. And when you fancy a break from the slopes, head out to the charming local region, for some temple hopping and delicious, steaming bowls of ramen in a local inn.
Europe has its own hefty share of destinations competing for the spot of the best country for ski and snowboarding holidays, with the cluster of resorts around the Alps, and each side of the epic mountain range has its own unique appeal.
On the French side, Chamonix, Courchevel and Alpe d’Huez are some of the most highly rated, and popular ski resorts in Europe.
Courchevel takes the prize for size, with the largest ski domain on the continent. Featuring three interconnected resorts, together, they form the Three Valleys, boasting hundreds of kilometres of ski runs, over 60 lifts, and 10 major summits. With so much on offer, it’s unsurprisingly a top choice for pros – you can expect excellent off-piste terrain, tree skiing and couloirs, but a quarter of the area is also marked off for beginner levels too.
In classic French skiing style, Courchevel matches the excellent climate on the slopes with equally enticing après ski conditions – you can look forward to glossy accommodation, a glam party scene, and Michelin-starred restaurants.
For those craving a tougher challenge, head across to Chamonix. Less of a singular resort, expect to commute across its numerous satellite villages on the daily, but the journey is well worth it. Situated around Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest peak, it’s an instant icon to cross off the bucket list. But it also features some of the toughest terrain in the world, over its six different areas. The most daunting pistes are at Les Grands Montets, where you can sweep through fast and icy runs if you’re up to the challenge, while the white knuckle Kandahar run at Les Houches will make even the toughest veteran wince.
For something a little less intimidating but just as fun, check out Alpe d’Huez, one of the best resorts for all-levels skiers and snowboarders. A generous mix of sports, great food and a relaxing vibe make this an ideal destination for those who want to make the most of their time, both on and off the slopes.
It’s hard to think of Switzerland and not visualise endless mountain peaks, covered in heaps of fluffy, magical snow (and also, chocolate.) Home to the epic Matterhorn, Switzerland is a must-visit location for any self-respecting winter sports fan, and with nearly 60 peaks across this mountainous country, you’re spoilt for choice.
Any round up of Swiss ski and snowboarding resorts has to tip the hat to St. Moritz – for many, the birthplace of ski tourism. The resort dates back to 1864, and now has 88 runs on offer, with 200 miles of piste to explore. It’s the perfect destination if you like your winter sports with a side of old school glamour – check out the many fine dining options around, including the el paradiso restaurant, renowned for having the best cream slice in the world.
If you prefer exceptional action over baked goods however, check out Laax, one of the best snowboarding resorts in the world. One of the biggest domains in Switzerland, Laax has an incredible freeride terrain. While there’s something for all levels, pros will fall hard for the biggest half pipe in Europe. A good selection of chilled out bars ensures the party continues long into the night.
For the iconic Swiss skiing experience, little else can beat the magical sight of seeing the Matterhorn ahead of you, while surrounded by picture-postcard scenery. Zermatt captures the best of skiing, with excellent terrain for intermediate levels onwards, and over 2,100 metres of vertical drop to enjoy. Three interlinked ski areas and an old-school funicular gives some excellent views over this pretty mountain village, making it a hard place to leave.
But for hardened pros who want to get straight to business, just make a beeline to Verbier. With 410 kilometres of ski runs, a huge expanse of backcountry terrain, fantastic long distance skiing, and of course, the Tortin – infamous for being one of Europe’s steepest descents – it’s not hard to see why Verbier has attained a cult-like following for being one of the best locations for ski and snowboarding holidays.
It’s not a place for inexperienced beginners however – it’s mostly all high altitude terrain, with a primary focus on off-piste and freeriding, making it the perfect location for the annual Verbier Ride and Verbier Xtreme annual events. To balance all that hard work, the resort also boasts some of the chicest luxury lodgings, including the stylish W Verbier, voted as the country’s best.
For a distinctly Italian mix of style and snow, you might want to head to one of the 300 spectacular ski areas across Italy. With both the Alps and the Dolomites to choose from, there are ample places to hit the slopes – and the excellent food and wine make Italian ski and snowboarding holidays a pretty exceptional combination.
Italy boasts a good variety of resorts – from the charming, traditional mountain village feel on the Italian end of Mont Blanc, the chic glamour of the Dolomites, to the magical, fairy tale forests of South Tyrol, and the mythical slopes of Mount Etna.
For classic style, mountainous charm and a good, all-levels terrain in the Italian Alps, Courmayeur ticks all the boxes for the perfect ski holiday. For intermediates onwards, there are some serious descents to enjoy via the SkyWay cable car – keep your eyes peeled to take in the stunning 360-degree views of Mont Blanc en route. Courmayeur also has a pretty legendary party scene – and plenty of classic Italian fare in the many praiseworthy restaurants, lining the village streets.
While the Dolomites are technically still a part of the Alps, the north-eastern corner of the Italian mountain range gets its own name, and you’ll find a distinctive character and appeal here, in resorts that stand out against their north-western neighbours.
With exceptional panoramic views and a greater variety of slopes, the Dolomites have several enticing resorts nestled up in the peaks, and while there’s something for everyone, it’s the quieter, understated glamour that makes this region so distinctive, compared to the glossier sheen of the Italian Alps.
Val Gardena takes prime place amongst resorts in the Dolomites, attracting everyone from families to World Cup superstars looking to polish up their skills. One of its key attractions is its interconnected network of 12 excellent ski areas, all served by a single pass. Here, you’ll find everything from the Alpe di Siusi, perfect for beginners taking their tentative first steps, to world-class skiing on the more challenging areas across the resort.
With devastatingly pretty South Tirolean landscapes around you, and sun drenched days for much of the season, make sure you pack your sunscreen.
While you’ll find great food in every Italian resort, the Dolomites get a special gold star for some serious regional comfort food. Being close to the Austrian border, you can look forward to some mouth-watering savoury dumplings, smoked meats, local wines, and the best apple strudel you’ll ever taste.
Northern Italy tends to get most of the sporting action, but if you head down to Sicily, you’ll be rewarded with a reward of truly mythic proportions. As Europe’s largest still-active volcano, Mount Etna has the double bonus of being the site for many a grisly ancient myth, and also some fantastic skiing and snowboarding too.
There are two major resorts across the mountain, with great conditions between December to February. Although the slopes are certainly a little tamer than those up north, the lava-smoothed surfaces and breath-taking Mediterranean views across the sea make the trip well worth it.
Just be warned that Mount Etna is still a pretty active volcano, so if you are planning a visit, do look ahead to check conditions, to avoid having to play an IRL version of “the floor is lava.”
For pure picturesque, icing-sugar dusted wonder, it’s hard to beat Austria as one of the best countries for ski and snowboarding holidays. If you’ve ever wanted to make your Wham-inspired dreams of frolicking around quaint wooden chalets in the snow come true, surrounded by charming countryside and bright blue mountain skies, Austria is pretty much unbeatable on all fronts.
One of the most popular and highly rated areas in the country has to be St Anton – one of the best freeriding resorts in Europe, fantastically lengthy pistes, and an enormous web of cable cars to take you up into the surrounding resorts, you can enjoy fast cruises, and an epic, long run, with the longest coming in at nine kilometres, through the Arlberg ski area.
St Anton is not a particularly beginner-friendly area, as a lot of slopes get quite steep and narrow. But for thrill seekers and powder hounds, especially those who like to party hard afterwards, it will not disappoint.
A more family and all-levels friendly resort, and perhaps the country’s most popular, is Kaprun. Right at the base of Kitzsteinhorn, this glacier ski resort is a hub for active sports enthusiasts of all stripes, and boasts Austria’s biggest super pipe.
You’ll find a reliable mix of terrain, with a diverse mix for all levels to explore, as well as more challenging runs, including Black Mamba, with a serious 63% gradient.
Kaprun isn’t party central, but still has a great nightlife scene, with a good selection of bars and restaurants. Don’t miss the Ice Camp, with a network of igloos that contains an ice bar, lounge and sun deck – or the tantalising treats of the Tauern Spa.
Lastly, if you’re heading out with a non-skier, a ski or snowboarding holiday can often get pretty tedious, pretty quick. Thankfully, the Austrians have worked out a perfect solution, with the beautiful resort of Igls. Gorgeously scenic and with ample runs to keep the sporting party happily occupied, it’s also just a scenic tram ride away from the charming city of Innsbruck, as well as gondola rides that will allow everyone to soak up the magnificent mountain views, without needing to strap on.