The Top 10 Most Desirable Ski Resorts In The World For The Year 2022.
How do you determine which ski resorts are the greatest in the world? It’s a topic on which we’ve spent countless hours debating. We all know what makes a great ski resort: miles of pistes, a diverse range of conveniently accessible back country terrain, excellent restaurants, and so on. But what distinguishes a superb ski resort from the rest?
How do you compare the best ski resorts in Italy to the best ski resorts in Canada, for example? Can a French mega-resort with family-friendly highway pistes truly be compared to a modest two-lift operation in the Colorado backwoods? What about the cities? Do you value ski-in/ski-out convenience over chocolate box aesthetics? Is it all about the after-party, or do you prefer a more formal meal?
To some extent, the answers to all of these issues are subjective, and we’re not claiming that this list will stop all of the discussions (in fact, it’s more likely to start new ones). It does, however, represent the editorial team’s well researched thoughts. We’ve skied and snowboarded for hundreds of years and visited innumerable ski resorts on six of the seven continents between us (none of us has made it to Antarctica… yet).
We evaluated them on a wide range of parameters, including the quality of the skiing on and off-piste, the variety and spirit of the town, the convenience of access, the pricing, and so on, after compiling a long, long list of 100+ resorts ranging from Avoriaz to Zermatt, from Arinsal to Zell am See. We finally came to a decision after much thought. These are the areas we think are the top ski resorts in the globe this winter, for the reasons listed below.
Table of Contents
Baqueira Beret, Spain
What, where, when? We understand your query. Jenny Jones, an Olympic medalist and multiple X Games winner, thought the same thing before heading to Baqueira Beret for a piece in Snow Magazine last year. It didn’t take long for her, like so many other visitors, to be convinced of this Spanish resort’s many attractions.
Baqueira (pronounced like Shakira) is Spain’s largest ski resort, located in the Central Pyrenees about 50 kilometres northwest of Andorra. The ski resort’s 160 kilometres of pistes provide enough variation for skiers of all abilities, but it’s off-piste where it really shines. With lifts running up to six different slopes from the centre, there are plenty of terrific lines within walking distance. Because the Pyrenees are so much closer to the sea than the Alps, the snow is wetter and sticks to steeper slopes, resulting in Alaskan-style spines in these mountains if you look hard enough. Heli skiing is permitted in Spain, unlike in the Alps, and Pyrenees Heli skiing, situated in Vielha, offers some of the most reasonable rates in Europe.
Because of its southerly location, the season is shorter, but you get an hour extra of daylight during the winter, making it an ideal base for ski touring. Catalan cuisine, of course, is a pleasant contrast to the typical heavy Alpine meal of cheese, cheese, and more cheese. Baqueira’s main town, developed during the 1960s ski resort construction boom, isn’t particularly attractive. If aesthetics are a concern, there are lots of lovely outlying villages to choose from, like Tanau, where the Spanish royal family has a lodge. While Spaniards may argue that Baqueira is costly, these things are relative; a six-day liftpass for the entire area is €252, which is significantly less than a comparable pass in the Alps.
The best part? It is almost seldom crowded. You can often have the off-piste in Baqueira to yourself, as Ms. Jones discovered. That alone would place Baqueira Beret among the top ski resorts in the Pyrenees, but when you factor in the rest, it ranks among the best ski resorts in the world.
Although France is known for its contemporary mega-resorts, there are still a few places in the Hexagone where things feel a little more traditional. A good example is Bonneval-sur-Arc, which lies hidden away at the top of the Maurienne valley. This small cluster of stone shepherds’ cottages is only 45 minutes from Val d’Isère in the summer, but in the winter, when the road across the Col d’Isèran pass closes, it feels like you’ve arrived on another planet.
The first lifts were erected in Bonneval in the late 1960s, but the village is much older, and with few contemporary structures, it has managed to keep a wonderfully quiet air. The groomed ski area for families isn’t vast. Only 26 runs resulted from the few lifts. If you want to rack up the miles, there are combined liftpasses that give you access to the larger ski resorts down the valley, such as Val Cenis, Aussois, and La Norma.
The easily accessible off-piste is where Bonneval really shines. The top lift will take you to 3,000 metres, where you may discover a variety of classic routes. The Maurienne valley has its own microclimate, a weather system known as the Retour d’Est that spirals up from the Gulf of Genoa and regularly blankets the mountains here, even while the more northerly ski destinations in France are unaffected. And, unlike Chamonix, where there is a large freeride community, you can still locate first tracks several days after a dump here.
Powder hounds from Val d’Isère frequently slip over the closed col and slither their way down here because the prices are low for France (particularly when compared to those in Bonneval’s upscale neighbour). It’s a three-hour cab ride back, but the untapped riches of this truly hidden gem are well worth it.
The light, fluffy delicacy created by Japan’s peculiar weather systems is unquestionably best experienced – pleasantly cold – on the country’s northernmost island. While Hokkaido gets the brunt of Japan’s tremendous annual snowfalls, the white stuff can still be seen further south. While Hokkaido’s mountains are largely gently sloping volcanoes, Honshu, Japan’s largest island, has far superior geography.
The Japanese Alps are serious mountains, with couloirs and steeps that Niseko and other famed northern resorts can only dream of. Hakuba is one of the larger mountain towns in the range, with easy access to various ski destinations such as Happo One, Norikura Onsen, and Cortina. These slopes provide a vast range of backcountry lines as well as pistes for all ability levels.
The scenery alone is reason enough to visit, but the Japanese Alps offer another distinct benefit over Hokkaido’s ski resorts: they attract fewer foreign visitors since they are less well-known. While an après ski bar in Niseko is just as likely to be owned by an Australian as it is by a local, it is simpler to enjoy a truly Japanese cultural experience in Hakuba – which is, after all, why you came to Japan to ski in the first place.
Kicking Horse, Canada
Kicking Horse is known for its steep and technically hard terrain and is located on British Columbia’s famous Powder Highway. The ski resort is divided into five bowls, each of which was previously only accessible by helicopter, and offers a wide range of terrain. The four lifts provide easy access to numerous chutes (the North American term for couloirs), gulleys, and tree runs.
The majority of the best backcountry terrain here is “in-bounds,” which means it’s patrolled and managed for avalanche risk, as is common in North America. This also means that the routes are clearly defined, and Kicking Horse’s trail map boasts 85+ numbered chutes, the majority of which are graded black diamond or double black diamond. Because it’s kilometres from the sea, the snow is remarkably steady – with an average of roughly 7m falling each season – and it stays dry days after a dump.
However, it’s not all about the gnar in this case. Easy green routes weave through the trees on the lower sides of the mountains, reachable primarily by the Catamount lift – ideal for beginners. You can stay at the small purpose-built ski resort community at the mountain’s base, but for a true Canadian Rockies experience, we recommend renting a car and staying in neighbouring Golden, a 19th-century railway town with a fair dose of its original charm.
Of course, driving provides you the freedom to visit the remainder of the Powder Highway’s ski resorts. While Kicking Horse Mountain is the best of the lot, Revelstoke, Red Mountain, and Whitewater, further south, are also worth a visit.
Madonna Di Campiglio, Italy
If Kicking Horse is the quintessential Canadian mountain resort, Madonna di Campiglio is the quintessential Italian mountain resort. Because of their proximity to the Tyrolean border, Italians from farther south will try to persuade you that people from the Trentino region are essentially Austrians, but don’t believe them. On the slopes, stereotypes abound, from women wearing fur jackets and Gucci sunglasses to the best-dressed snowboarders in Europe, complete with perfectly color-matched goggle straps and highbacks. But it is exactly Madonna’s allure. People come here for Crystal Ski Holidays, although you’re unlikely to see many Brits. If you’re looking for a genuine Italian alpine experience, it doesn’t get much better than this.
To begin with, there are the mountains. The Dolomites are wonderful in general, but the Dolomiti di Brenta, which surround Madonna, are particularly lovely. Red rock spires topped with brilliant white snow and flanked by dark green pine trees. The ski area is quite extensive, ranking fifth in Italy with over 150 kilometres of defined piste.
While the off-piste isn’t world-class, Passo del Tonale, a neighbouring resort accessible via the same Superskirama ski pass, has some of Italy’s best lift-accessible wilderness. As you might think, the food on and off the hill is excellent. And, while Madonna isn’t the cheapest in Italy, it’s still a bargain compared to comparable French ski destinations.
What can I say about Morzine that hasn’t been stated a million times already? One of France’s most well-known ski resorts, especially among Brits, it combines affordable costs with one of the world’s largest, if not the largest, ski regions. With 650 kilometres of lift-linked pistes spanning the French-Swiss border and more accessible backcountry than you could possibly explore in a lifetime, the Portes du Soleil has something for everyone.
The popularity of this massive ski area does mean that the main bubble up from town can occasionally become congested. However, in the Portes du Soleil, Morzine remains the greatest spot to stay. It’s now almost as well-known for mountain biking in the summer as it is for skiing in the winter. This means it has a year-round population that allows businesses like the outstanding local craft brewery, the Bec Jaune, to thrive, as well as ensuring that off-hill entertainment isn’t confined to a handful of identikit eateries and a tubing zone.
The town has managed to avoid the worst of the imitative Bauhaus construction frenzy that swept through France in the 1970s, allowing it to retain its rustic, wooden chalet vibe. While the British influence is apparent (the fashion-conscious seasonaire set has dubbed it ‘Shorezine,’ after London’s Shoreditch), it hasn’t overshadowed what made this ski resort wonderful in the first place.
Mürren has to be a major contender for the ski resort with the best views in the world in what is, by definition, a crowded field. The jagged contours of not one, but two 4,000-meter peaks, the Mönch and the Jungfrau, as well as the menacing form of the Eiger – one of history’s most famous mountains – can be seen from the balconies of most of the chalets across the valley from the main town.
The Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to those formidable trio. The Jungfraujoch, Europe’s highest station at 3,454 metres, is accessible via an amazing marvel of alpine engineering that affords Instagram chances to equal the Grand Canyon, the Atacama Desert, or perhaps anywhere else on the earth.
The town of Mürren, with its mediaeval chalets nestled around two ridiculously lovely churches, fits nicely into this postcard-perfect scene. But Mürren is more than just a fever dream for influencers. It’s an excellent ski resort for families, with slopes suitable for skiers of all abilities, as well as real hardcore skiing. In 1924, the Kandahar Ski Club was founded, making it one of the world’s original ski racing clubs. Meanwhile, the Inferno Race, a 2,000-meter descent from the Schilthorn summit to Lauterbrunnen hamlet, is one of the great historic alpine challenges, having been run since 1928.
Outside of the Inferno weekend, the nightlife in Mürren will never match that of a larger ski resort, but if you came to Mürren expecting a wild après-ski scene, you’ve kind of missed the point. This ski resort is all about giving visitors – skiers and non-skiers alike – a flavour of traditional Switzerland, and it doesn’t get much better than this as a venue to soak up alpine culture.
The fact that this is the only Austrian ski resort on the list demonstrates how difficult it is to narrow down the world’s best ski resorts into a top ten list. We’d say that Obergurgl-Hochgurgl is a great contender if you were to pick just one ski resort to embody everything that’s best about skiing in Austria.
The twin resorts have it all, from tough high alpine off-piste to a plethora of cruisey blues and reds, as well as enjoyable tree routes for bad weather. The two towns, as well as the numerous mountain huts between them, provide ample chance to partake in the schnapps-fueled après ski parties for which Austria is known, without crossing the narrow line into tourist traps or dreadful cliché. Prices are low in Austria, as they are throughout the country, especially when compared to skiing in France.
The best part is that if you buy a lift pass for more than three days here, you have access to the entire tztal area. This includes the mega-resort of Sölden (where you can turn up the nightlife to 11 if you want) and the tiny, often-overlooked village of Vent, both of which are only a short bus ride away. The latter has only a few lifts, but it provides access to one of the top ski touring locations in the Alps as well as a number of mountain huts. It’s difficult to disagree with such choice at Obergurgl-Hochgurgl costs.
Colorado is home to numerous world-class ski resorts. If you drive west of Denver for a couple of hours, you’ll pass the exits for Aspen, Vail, Breckenridge, and Copper Mountain, all of which may claim a spot on our list. But, of all the Colorado ski resorts the Snow team has visited over the years, Telluride regularly comes out on top. It is, in fact, the only ski resort in this Top 10 that was also on the previous year’s list.
What distinguishes it? In this region of the state, the San Juan mountains are steeper and more dramatic than the gently sloping peaks that characterise Northern Colorado’s ski resorts. (If you’ve ever consumed a can of Coors, you’ll understand what we’re talking about; Wilson Peak, which appears on the logo, is located just outside of Telluride.) Telluride offers a wide range of terrain, including some incredibly steep in-bound chutes (i.e. couloirs). The backcountry is out of limits, and it’s the kind of empty wilderness you’ll only find in North America, with logging roads connecting a few abandoned mining communities that look like they’re straight out of a Clint Eastwood film.
The town itself has a mix of old western charm (it is, after all, a former mining village) with an unexpectedly bohemian air. The Grateful Dead famously sold out two nights here in the 1980s, and the town hosts a yearly film festival that draws nearly as many Hollywood lefties and luvvies as Sundance. If you want it, Telluride also has considerable luxury, particularly in the recent Mountain Village complex up the hill. However, the town as a whole has more history and feels more’real’ than many of the newer, purpose-built ski resorts in the United States.
While you’re here, spend a day skiing at nearby Silverton, a single-lift, guide-only mountain that is one of the best backcountry skiing destinations in the world. Then, when you travel back into town, put on Smuggler’s Blues by Glenn Frey of The Eagles, and listen for the song about hiding contraband “up in Telluride.” Things may have changed since he wrote that song in the 1980s, but there are still significant treasures buried in these hills.
Verbier is one of those ski resorts whose reputation precedes it in alphabetical order, but certainly not on this ranking. Except in this situation, the resort’s reputation doesn’t provide you a whole picture of the site. Verbier has a reputation for being a hangout for minor royals, England rugby stars, and James Blunt, which is accurate. It’s still the only ski resort we’ve ever seen where one of the major ski schools is sponsored by an asset management firm, and Blunt has his own lift.
But Verbier is also home to Xavier de le Rue, probably the best freerider in history, Geraldine Fastnacht, a pioneering female wingsuit pilot, and the Verbier Xtreme, the Freeride World Tour’s yearly finale and the world’s gnarliest on-snow competition. The accessible backcountry, which is among the most challenging in Switzerland, if not the globe, and the snow-sure weather systems ensured by the ski area’s height are what draw people in.
Verbier also has one of the largest ski areas in the world, with lifts connecting La Tzoumaz, Nendaz, Veysonnaz, and Thyon from the main resort. They combine to form the 4 Vallées, which boasts not only some of the best skiing in Europe, but also some of the world’s longest ski runs.
Verbier isn’t cheap in town, but then then, where in Switzerland is? And if you seek hard enough, there are always possibilities. When it comes to lodging, Le Chable, near the foot of the valley, is usually quite affordable. If you’re counting every dime, however, you’re missing the purpose of Verbier. The mix of fantastic restaurants, epic powder, and some of the most naturally interesting slopes – both on and off-piste – you’ll find anyplace on the planet is why all those rich and famous persons adore being here.
Amirsoy, Uzbekistan Is One To Watch
We can’t honestly say that Amirsoy, a brand-new development in Uzbekistan’s Central Asian country, is one of the top ski resorts in the world. But, of all the ski resorts the crew visited last season, this is the one that piqued our interest the most.
Uzbekistan is one of only two “double-landlocked” countries in the world (the other being Lichtenstein), and is about as far away from the sea as one can get. This implies that the snow here is known for being dry, and that it stays light and fluffy for days following a storm.
Amirsoy is the first attempt in the region to build a contemporary resort with French-made lifts, German piste-bashers, and Austrian safety standards. It was built in world record time at a cost of £75 million. The resort launched in late December 2019, but the aspirations for this site are vast, and with the government opening up to tourists and removing formerly severe visa requirements, it’s becoming simpler to get to.
The dry powder of the Tien Shan mountains is unlike anything else you’ll ever experience, as anyone who has skied in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan or Kazakhstan can attest. As a result, this year’s “one to watch” is Amirsoy. If you want to go a little further off the beaten path for your next ski vacation, here is the place to go.
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