While some resorts remain effortlessly cool year-in and and year-out, Paul Deadman, ski expert for Neilson Holidays, shares his views on which European resorts are tipped to be the best places for the 2015/16 season, with stylish hotels, spirited après-ski and fun festivals.
Alpe d’Huez, France
The opening of the Folie Douce après bar in 2013 solidified Alpe d’Huez as one of the best party resorts in France. The resort’s nightlife already had an outstanding reputation with nightclub L’Igloo putting on themed nights, and the famous Freeride Café, which changes its bar prices every 100 seconds via a stock exchange screen from 9pm.
Austria has a reputation for having the best party resorts in Europe. Leading the way is Ischgl, whose music festivals attract some of the biggest global artists around. The ‘Top of The Mountain’ gigs are what made Ischgl famous, with past performers including Beyoncé, Rihanna, Katy Perry and Kylie Minogue.
St Anton, Austria
St Anton holds arguably the best opening and closing parties of the ski season, with après-loving, table dancing bars like the Infamous Taps and Krazy Kanguruh keeping the spirit alive throughout the whole season. Mooserwirt is the must-visit venue for fun seekers, with parties regularly making it on to Austrian TV.
Pas de la Casa, Andorra
Snow lovers looking for great snow, great après and great value will find all three in Andorra’s highest resort, Pas de la Casa. Part of the 210km Grandvalira ski area, the resort is perfect for those looking for a good time on a budget while still offering touches of luxury. Discover the town’s indulgent spa at Escaldes-Engordany, or treat yourself to Michelin dishes by chef Nandu Jubany at the 5-star Sport Hotel Hermitage & Spa in neighbouring Soldeu.
Sauze d’Oulx, Italy
Sauze d’Oulx has a long history as a party destination, and although its après atmosphere is now much more dignified than it used to be, (TripAdvisor reviews rave about the wine bars and fabulous hot chocolates!), there are still plenty of opportunities for visitors to enjoy a cocktail, catch live music and dance into the small hours of the morning.
Bankso is one of Europe’s newest resorts, with just 12 seasons under its young belt. However, within that time, Bankso has firmly established itself as a destination for skiers and boarders looking for a relaxed atmosphere and buzzing après at half the cost of the French resorts. Bansko is also the home to the up and coming Horizon Festival with acts such as Levon Vincent, Craig Charles and Goldie.
Baqueira Beret, Spain
Nestled in the Spanish Pyrenees, Baqueira Beret has been touted as Spain’s best ski resort. It’s still yet to establish itself firmly on British skiers’ radars, giving it a cool alternative edge to the more well-known resorts. The slow pace of Spanish life is evident in the resort and laid back skiers will be delighted to find empty lifts at 9am, as locals don’t tend to strap on their gear until at least 10am.
Mayrhofen makes it into the list thanks to its annual festivals. One of the coolest events on the social ski calendar is Snowbombing. International DJs such as Groove Armada, Prodigy and Fatboy Slim are providing the soundtrack to the 2016 festival, taking place next April. The resort also hosts Altitude Festival in January, which brings together some of the country’s funniest comedians, including John Bishop, Sean Lock and Marcus Brigstocke.
Chamonix is ideal for a glamorous long weekend away, just an hour’s drive from Geneva airport. Adrenaline junkies and extreme sports lovers are attracted to Chamonix’s glorious off-piste opportunities, but away from the slopes visitors can unwind in style with live lounge music at the Quartz bar or with a Michelin star meal at the Avenue de L’Aiguille du Midi.
Val d’Isère, France
As well as being a snow sure resort with a fantastic variety of runs and off-piste opportunities, chic Val d’Isère offers excellent shopping and dining options for visitors. Independent boutiques sell the season’s most stylish gear and you can spoil yourself with a visit to La Grande Ourse, widely revered as the resort’s finest restaurant. Being the cool resort it is, there’s a Folie Douce to help you dance off the fine cuisine!
A popular resort for the royals, Verbier offers a smart and classy stay for those who can afford it. Those looking for love can take part in Verbier’s unique Valentine’s Day Ski Dating service in 2016 - a champagne cocktail at the swanky Farinet Lounge bar would be an unforgettable first date.
Nothing quite beats New Year in Tignes. The resort lays on a massive outdoor party next to the lake with a live performance from a world class DJ and an unbelievable firework display that’s made all the more special against the imposing white mountain backdrop.
Val Thorens, France
Val Thorens is a great option for snowboarders, least of all because it’ll play host to the Rock on Snowboard Tour in 2016 which allows board testing from over 25 brands, has a snowpark, free lessons and live music. Val Thorens is popular with younger snow lovers too, thanks to plenty of pubs and bars to let your hair down in after the lifts shut.
St Moritz, Switzerland
One of the chicest resorts in Europe, St Moritz is a magnet for celebrity skiers looking for a glamorous winter break. Tatler magazine particularly recommend a stay at the sumptuous Kulm Hotel, or the hip and quirky Nira Alpina. La Marmite restaurant offers diners expensive yet astounding dishes such as Corviglia Snow, caviar on a 'piste' of mashed potatoes.
Another fantastic resort that British skiers have yet to discover properly is Gelio. It’s Norway’s oldest ski resort and is wonderfully suited to those seeking something different from brash après and crowded slopes. As well as quiet, pretty slopes, Gelio provides guests the chance to go on a horse sleigh ride, ice fish and sleep in forest cabins.