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Are you one of those people in search of the perfect deep powder? The thrill of making fresh tracks down a run no one has gathered the nerve to take on yet is incomparable. Off piste skiing is a challenge like no other, but an incredible amount of fun once you start to master it. While North America is usually considered the King of back country skiing, there are plenty of incredible places to go in Europe to rival it. Having already brought you 10 of the best Michelin Star restaurants in ski resorts in the last ultimate ski bucket list, our attention now turns towards experiences on skis.
We’ve already looked before at a few of the best European freeride ski resorts. Now we will have a more in-depth inspection into 5 of the best resorts for off piste skiing in Europe, with a focus on the best off piste experiences in each one. Read on to discover the resorts that should be top of your bucket list for off piste skiing on your next ultimate luxury ski holiday in Europe.
Let us begin with maybe the most famous off piste run in the world. The Vallée Blanche is the Shangri-La for backcountry enthusiasts, in easily one of the best resorts for off-piste skiing in Europe: Chamonix. From the centre of Chamonix, head up the famous Aiguille du Midi cable car to a breathtaking altitude of 3,842m. Up here you can Step Into The Void, take a panoramic gondola over to Italy, and most importantly, clip on your skis and experience the ultimate run for off piste skiing in Chamonix.
The Vallée Blanche is an impressive 20km long, with a 2,700m vertical descent. While the skiing is incredible, you will also be treated to some of the most spellbinding views imaginable. Surrounded by the Mont Blanc massif and the famous peaks of the Chamonix Valley, life does not get much better than this. As it is located on glacier terrain with sneaky crevasses, the accompaniment of a guide and use of proper safety equipment is essential. The reward for your precaution is safely skiing one of the most beautiful off piste areas in the world. The Vallée Blanche is what off-piste skiing in the Alps is all about!
Verbier is a resort that should need no introduction, though we do have a handy resort guide for those unfamiliar. Verbier is renowned for its sensational collection of ultimate luxury chalets, as well as for being part of the epic 4 Vallées ski area, home to 400km of incredible pistes. Venture off-piste skiing in Verbier, however, and you are in for an even bigger treat. It’s with good reason that Verbier is the location for the Grand Finale of the Freeride World Tour each year.
Mont Fort is the tallest and most iconic mountain of the 4 Vallées. It is also home to the best off piste skiing Verbier has to offer. At the 3,330m peak of the Mont Fort, you have either a devilish black run or the exhilarating Mont 4 Zipline down. Head over to the Backside runs of Mont Fort, though, and you will find yourself in powder heaven.
Once you commit to Mont Fort Backside, you will find yourself in total seclusion. The number of freeride routes over here are practically endless. Long, challenging routes with untouched couloirs and pillowy powder bowls in the remote alpine wilderness. Backside of Mont Fort is not the only reason Verbier ranks among the best resorts for off piste skiing. Nearly all routes down lead back to the resort of Siviez, where easy access back to the lift system of the 4 Vallées can have you skiing a new route in no time. Ski touring will often be required, and as always, a local guide is recommended to mitigate risks and also help you discover the best off-piste skiing routes of Backside Mont Fort.
St Anton and Lech are part of the large Arlberg ski area. They are some of the best resorts for off-piste skiing in Austria. Off-piste skiing in St Anton offers skiers a wide range of options. Lots of large open powder bowls can be found just off the side of pistes and lift lines. With off piste skiing in Lech and St Anton, in part due to their excellent snowfall record, you will almost always find fresh powder to create new tracks through.
The must-ski lines when staying in the Arlberg is the off piste down from the top of Valluga to Zürs. There are two classic routes down from the Arlberg’s tallest mountain; Valluga Nord and Valluga West. These freeride routes are a must for anyone staying in luxury chalets in St Anton or a Lech luxury chalet. It is a lengthy, fluffy descent from the top of the Valluga. You will begin your journey with some steep, challenging off-piste sections. As you make your way down, the route gets easier until you find yourself gliding over relatively flat terrain. This will allow you to drink in the beautiful views as you soar atop the snowy clouds down to Zürs. Make no mistake, though, the top section is fiendishly difficult and requires the use of a guide before you get to fully enjoy the open off-piste garden.
Val d’Isère might be one of the best resorts for off piste skiing in the Alps for routes directly accessible from chairlifts. You can save yourself a lot of touring time with a lift pass for the Tignes-Val d’Isère ski area, and spend more time skiing fresh powder and challenging lines.
The most famous line to conquer on a luxury ski holiday in Val d’Isère is the Pisteurs Couloir. So named as supposedly only the pisteurs are brave enough to tackle it, the Pisteurs Couloir represents the ultimate experience for off-piste skiing in Val d’Isère. Taking the Grand Pré chairlift, you are faced with a hike along a ridge to the peak of the Rocher du Charvet. The couloir is found coming down the north face of the mountain. There is a steep, narrow entryway through the cliff, which once navigated successfully, opens up to several different choices of route down. Good snow conditions are paramount for skiing the Pisteurs Couloir. As well as expert skiing ability and a fearless heart.
While staying at a Zermatt luxury ski chalet, off-piste skiing in Zermatt is a guaranteed good time. With its high ski area, long season and excellent snowfall record, Zermatt is easily one of the best resorts for off piste skiing in Europe. Head over to the quieter Rothorn and Stockhorn areas for the best of the untouched powder.
The Stockhorn area can be reached via the Hohtälli-Rote Nase cable car. There are several fantastic, lengthy, itinerary runs over here. Itinerary runs are marked, but ungroomed, routes for off-piste skiing in Switzerland. The Stockhorn area treats you to a wide, open mountain face of fresh snow. Finding untouched powder to enjoy will be no difficulty. There are even several cliff drops and steeper sections for the more adventurous off piste skiers to play around with.
The Rothorn is found just across from the Stockhorn, accessed by starting your day from the Sunnegga funicular in Zermatt. The Rothorn offers some similarly amazing itinerary ski routes. There are multiple gullies and ridges to challenge your off-piste skiing ability. And an added bonus of off piste skiing in the Rothorn area? The iconic Matterhorn views as you float atop the powder.
Hopefully this has given you an idea of where to head off for your next freeride adventures. There’s no better time than now to start planning your next ultimate luxury ski holiday. For more information on staying in an ultimate luxury chalet at any of the resorts mentioned, then send us an email. Alternatively, give us a call on +44 (0)1202 203653 to speak directly to one of our Ski Specialists.
The Ultimate Ski Bucket List will continue its countdown. Join us on our next edition, where we will look at the best après bars in ski resorts.