The draw of popular resorts such as Alpe d’Huez, St. Anton and Verbier is undeniable; large ski areas, plentiful après ski and convenient connections make for a brilliant holiday. However, if you’re travelling during the peak season, chances are you will be sharing the slopes with other skiers. If you’re now starting to think about where to book your next trip, why not leave the crowds behind and discover these largely unvisited, lesser-known ski resorts.
You may be surprised to learn that Utah has some of the best snow in the States. Alta is one of the most convenient ski resorts in the state, as it’s just 30 minutes’ drive from Salt Lake City airport. Alta is known for reliable snowfall year after year and is one of the top destinations for powder skiing in North America. Connected to the Snowbird ski resort, it also offers killer unpatrolled bowls and superb tree lines, making it the perfect secret ski resort for powder fanatics.
Once you’re up in the mountains, you’ll notice something surprising about Alta – no snowboarders. It’s one of the only ski areas to remain completely snowboard-free, giving skier’s unparalleled access to the runs. Despite being a relatively unknown ski resort, Alta also has a lively après ski scene, perfect for a fun skiing holiday with friends.
If you want world-renowned powder runs and convenient chalet-style accommodation, the lesser-known ski resort of La Tania might be for you. Not only is it the most affordable of the resorts in Trois Vallées (the largest skiing area in the world), it also offers many stylish and comfortable ski-in ski-out chalets. This secret ski resort is situated at 1,400m and has 38 new snow cannons to provide a snow-sure holiday. With its dedication to nature preservation and ‘no car’ town centre, La Tania is also particularly well suited for a no-stress, family-friendly ski holiday.
Situated in the Aosta Valley on the Italian-French border, the peaceful resort of La Thuile combines a 12th-century village with a modern lift-base complex. The resort’s 150km of lift-linked pistes offer a diverse mix of intermediate, black and nursery slopes, as well as links (weather permitting) to the nearby French resort of La Rosière.
A relatively unknown ski resort outside of Italy, its quiet, uncrowded slopes make La Thuile an ideal secret ski resort for families and beginners. Tree-lined black runs, off-piste terrain and heli-skiing are all available for more experienced skiers. Children up to the age of eight receive a free lift pass for the same duration as an accompanying fee-paying adult, and facilities for children include a snow playground and Edelweiss magic carpet.
The après ski here includes some charming pubs and cafés, as well as an abundance of delightful chocolate shops. The resort was awarded the title of City of Chocolate in 2009 and a trip to the Chocolat café and bar is not to be missed. Be sure to try the famous ‘Tometta di La Thuile’ – a 350g milk chocolate bar filled with a local hazelnut paste and Piedmont hazelnuts.
The French resort of La Clusaz is frequently overlooked due to its low altitude, but this hidden gem offers an abundance of off-piste terrain and quiet slopes, as well as a charming traditional French village. Located in the Haute-Savoie region of the French Alps, La Clusaz is one of the best unknown ski resorts in France, covering a much larger ski area than most people realise – it’s spread over five mountains.
Ski terrain includes beginner-friendly nursery slopes and unusual rock formations that provide a suitable challenge for experts. La Clusaz is also home to the world’s first Telemix lift, which features both chair lift seats and covered gondolas. The village has a traditional square and Savoyard church, as well as an ice rink, outdoor market and a good selection of local shops. La Clusaz is known for fine food and has a great choice of restaurants, including La Scierie, where specialities include an incredible champagne fondue.
Tucked away near the Austrian and Italian borders, Samnaun is able to fly under the radar – perhaps because Switzerland has such an impressive selection of ski destinations. This unknown ski resort is the region’s best-kept secret, which is surprising considering that the resort is situated in the largest ski area in the Eastern Alps. If you stay at Samnaun you have access to the Ischgl and Silvretta ski areas, where there are over 230km of groomed slopes waiting to be explored. There are numerous deep-powder runs, and it’s is home to the world’s only double-decker cable car to take you to and from the slopes in style.
Samnaun also offers plenty of opportunities to relax off the slopes, from browsing the superb range of shops – it’s the only duty-free area in Switzerland – to enjoying Alpenquell Erlebnisbad, a luxury pool complex where you’ll find a sauna, whirlpools and massages.
Home to some of the best unknown ski resorts in Italy, Alta Badia is in the centre of Europe’s largest ski area, the Dolomiti Superski region, home to an incredible 1,200km of well-groomed slopes serviced by 450 chair lifts. In the heart of the region and on the Sellaronda circuit are the delightful villages of Corvara and Colfosco.
Both of these resorts offer great access to the main slopes, including connections to the Marmolada Glacier. The Alta Badia ski area itself covers 130km, with sweeping views of the Dolomites and wide blue slopes that are ideal for beginners and intermediate skiers. Experts will enjoy the technically challenging World Cup run, Gran Risa, which features a vertical drop of 448m. Low air humidity ensures the snow remains light and powdery for days on end, and the slopes are kept perfectly groomed throughout the season, ensuring brilliant ski conditions. As an added bonus, skiers can track how far they’ve skied by using the region’s online Ski Performance Check.
Switzerland’s secret ski resort of Engelberg is home to some of the best off-piste skiing in the world. Head up to the Titlis glacier by the Rotair cable car; it rotates a full 360-degrees on the journey so make sure you get a space by the windows for far-reaching views over the mountains. The skiing on the glacier reaches up to 3,020m with some fantastic, long red runs down. The snow record is enviable, with Engelberg often recording one of the deepest snowbases in Europe over the winter. Powder-lovers return season after season to enjoy epic descents on world-famous off-piste routes; we recommend the legendary 1,000m vertical Laub run.
There is a real community feel around Engelberg with a warm and welcome atmosphere in the bars and restaurants in the evening. For a special evening out, head up high for a candlelit fondue at the Panorama restaurant on the glacier.
If you’re looking to ski somewhere different, Norway is a truly memorable destination for a winter holiday. Skiing is an important part of Nordic culture, as shown by their impressive history as the most successful nation to compete in the Winter Olympics. One of Norway’s oldest ski resorts, Geilo, is a charming town sitting between two national parks. It’s a fantastic choice for families and beginners looking for a truly magical winter holiday. There are some great nursery slopes for learners and most pistes are wide and quiet, and more advanced skiers are catered for too with challenging reds and blacks on offer.
It’s not just about the skiing in Norway though; the off-the-slope experiences are unique. Incorporate a trip to the dramatic fjords, try your hand at cross-country skiing or head out on a dog-sledding adventure and see the landscape from a new perspective. Geilo is also home to beautiful wooden cabins with log fires; perfect if you’re after the full Scandinavian experience.
If you’re interested in discovering more of our secret ski resorts, please speak to our experts on 0207 471 7700.