New Year’s and the Christmas holidays are just around the corner and the people of Monaco are now dreaming about the beauty and exciting fun of Alpine ski resorts.
Monaco now looks like a magical land, all wrapped up in twinkling garlands and colourful Christmas decorations. Magic is in the air. But the winter-loving soul is missing a “je ne sais quoi” amid all these lights. Perhaps it’s the crunch of snow under your feet and rosy cheeks from cold? If the New Year for you is all about wrapping up in a warm fur coat, making a snowman, the frosty air nipping your fingers, skiing, sledging and fragrant mulled wine by the fireplace, then pack your bags and head out into the mountains. We recently wrote about ski resorts in the Monaco area. Today we would like to introduce you to some elite ski resorts in the Alps.
Courchevel is celebrating its 70th
The first resort on our list is celebrating an important birthday this year. Over the past 20 years it has beeт favourite with many tourists. Courchevel is located in the French Alps, in the heart of the Tarentaise valley, in the Savoie region. Strictly speaking, Courchevel is not a town or even a village as such. It is a complex of villages located at different heights above sea level.
Even if it is celebrating its 70th year, the resort is quite young. It was founded in 1946 and gained worldwide fame after it became one of the venues for the 1992 Winter Olympics.
Ski lovers can use four levels of slopes at an altitude of 1,000 to 1,850 meters above sea level, all through the season. You have a choice of cable cars, lifts and a funicular to reach the top. And to descend, there are over a hundred tracks of varying complexity, colour coded from green to black. Their total length is over 150 km.
If you are not a skier yet, it is best to make your debut here under the supervision of local trainers. Courchevel has an excellent ski school where any novice can try their hand at skiing. If you are a professional, the Saulire and Vizelle mountain tops are for you. Ski-in ski-out hotels located right on the slopes will make this an unforgettable experience for you.
Not only can you go skiing here, but you can also play golf, take climbing lessons, go mountain biking, fish in the local lakes and finish your day with a delicious dinner at La Table du Kilimandjaro. In addition, the resort is proud to feature a few Michelin-star restaurants. The “Les Airelles” restaurant of “Les Airelles” hotel was awarded two gastronomic Michelin stars. It is the same for the “1947” restaurant run by Yannick Alléno, an elite figure of French gastronomy. For those who are missing Monaco, Stars’n’Bars has opened their new restaurant in Courchevel. It shares the same space as the water park Aquamotion. Children can go down the water slides while you are enjoying a perfectly hot pool in the fresh air!
This famous resort has everything you could want for children of all ages to enjoy a long-awaited winter break. Ski schools for young people aged from 3 to 12 and several kindergartens are available for your convenience. For the little ones, there is a sledging playground. Older ones can go on a snowmobile ride. In addition, children will also enjoy an indoor ice rink, a climbing hall, a bowling alley and a variety of gaming machines and simulators. However, Courchevel is not merely a good family resort. It is also a party place with some lively local nightclubs such as Les Caves de Courchevel, La Grange, and Le Kalico.
If you like shopping, in addition to sportswear brands you will find the famous fashion boutiques of Dior, Chanel, Gucci, Fendi and others. Otherwise, what kind of a holiday is it without good shopping?
You can travel from Monaco to Courchevel by private plane or helicopter. The Principality is 500 km away from the resort. If you decide to go by car, the journey will take you about five and a half hours.
For more information please visit the resort’s website: www.courchevel.com
Chamonix: conquering the Mont Blanc
Chamonix is the largest and oldest resort in the French Alps. It is located 15 kilometers from the Swiss border and the same distance from Italy.
The Chamonix valley stretches for 17 kilometers from Vallorcine to Servoz. It encompasses four municipalities and a number of interesting villages which are a good starting point for your trip around the Mont Blanc massif.
In 1770, the first inn was opened in the valley. The conquest of Mont Blanc marked a real boom for climbers willing to tame this seemingly unconquerable mountain. Chamonix also hosted the very first Winter Olympics in 1924.
The town of Chamonix is located at an altitude of 1,000-1,200 meters above sea level while all the slopes are above 2,000 meters. So you wouldn’t really be able to ski right from the door of your hotel.
The 70 slopes of varying difficulty will satisfy both beginners and professionals alike. The resort, however, does not make up a uniform skiing complex linked by a network of ski lifts. All its different zones have separate cabins, chairlifts and drag lifts.
This is the place of the legendary 20-kilometer White Valley, one of the longest descents in the Alps. A 17-kilometer slope is provided for professionals in the Vallée Blanche.
The village of Les Houches is the most suitable for a family vacation. You and your children will have plenty of entertainment at your disposal: mountain bikes, snowboarding, dog sledding, hiking and, of course, skiing. In addition to outdoor activities, this ski resort also offers an extensive cultural program. The Mer de Glace glacier has a grotto hosting wax and ice sculptures every year.
Chamonix is famous for its Savoyard cuisine which is rich in fat and calories. But after a day outdoors it is just what you need. The most popular dish in this region is tartiflette, a potato casserole with bacon and onions under melted cheese.
Monaco is 450 km away from Chamonix. You can get there by car in 4 hours or by train in 10 hours. You may also reach the resort by helicopter.
For more information: http://www.chamonix.net/english
This Swiss resort invites you to experience a different pace of life for a while, to take a breath and just enjoy the beauty of the mountains. Gstaad is not as glossy as other prime resorts in the Alps. It is more of a pleasant and private club where everything is designed for the convenience of its guests.
For many years this place has been attracting those who love a cosy rustic atmosphere.
Gstaad and its neighbourhood do not have very complicated slopes. They are ideal for leisurely skiing with children and are suitable for beginners.
Just above the town, there are two skiing locations: Wispile and Eggli. Both are equipped with quite low slopes at an altitude of 2,000 meters above sea level. Their total length is 250 kilometers. Most are blue, some red and only 10% of slopes are colour coded black. All the ski areas are divided into several, quite distant zones. There are not many hotels right on the ski slopes, but you will find a few. In terms of the resort equipment, most lifts are draglifts.
Since Gstaad is a traditional bourgeois resort, it has more boutiques than nightclubs to offer. The most elegant and social spot here is a lobby bar at the Gstaad Palace. With an extensive selection of five-star hotels here, you will also easily find an ideal spa to suit your preferences. The recently renovated Grand Hotel Park, for example, offers over 60 different treatments and massages.
During the high season, Gstaad offers a selection of entertainment programmes for children. All the major skiing villages have a ski school and a Snowli kindergarten. As a family, you can enjoy a game of curling, toboggan, ice skating and even hot air balloon rides.
The easiest way to reach Gstaad is from the airports of Geneva and Zurich.
For more information check the resort website: http://www.gstaad.ch/en/
Zermatt, the Matterhorn slopes.
This place is rightly considered to be one the most prestigious resorts in the world. It is located on the upper side of the Visp valley surrounded by 38 peaks, 4,000 meters high. Back in the early 19th century, no one had even heard of this small village hidden in the mountains. Back then Zermatt was not even a settlement and only shepherds would stop there occasionally.
In the mid 19thcentury, doctors proclaimed the mountain air to be a cure for tuberculosis. Swiss villages began to transform into spa resorts.
Zermatt gained its reputation thanks to one of its local residents, Zeider, who built the first hotel in the area, and that hotel is still open for tourists today.
This ski resort is best for confident snowboarders, freeriders and those just looking for a romantic and luxurious place to relax. Zermatt is one of the most beautiful resorts in the world thanks to its crown jewel, the Matterhorn peak.
The total length of the ski slopes is 360 kilometers. Zermatt has three interconnected ski areas: Rothorn (for all skiers), Sunnegga (for beginners) and Gornergrat (intermediate level). There are 61 operating lifts. However, since the resort is vast, be ready to walk with your skis or take a bus/taxi from one lift to another. Beginners may attend one of the seven local ski schools.
Besides skiing, you can go hiking, climbing, paragliding and hang-gliding, sledging, ice skating, as well as playing tennis and bowling. Zermatt is the place to have fun. However, you won’t find a particularly busy night life here. There are 160 restaurants and bars, 9 night clubs, a theatre, Matterhorn Museum, indoor swimming pools and excellent spa hotel facilities for you to enjoy. At an altitude of 3,880 meters, there is an “ice palace” with unique sculptures.
The best way to get to Zermatt is from the airports of Zurich or Geneva.
For more information please visit: http://www.zermatt.ch/en
Though next time we will continue our journey through the famous European ski spots, you would be sure to get your fill of wintry fun and snowy excitement at any of these featured Alpine ski resorts.