With their picturesque villages, spectacular views and cosy mountain restaurants, not to mention glittering snowflakes dancing in the crisp clean air, ski resorts seem designed with romance in mind.
Days sliding the slopes together are interspersed with cosy chats on chairlifts, coffee with a view on sunny terraces or, if the snow is coming down, snuggling up in a mountain restaurant with a fire for the afternoon. And there’s no better backdrop for commemorating a romantic getaway than the world-famous outlines of mountains like the Matterhorn, Eiger or Mont Blanc.
For traditional atmosphere, the charmingly rural villages of lower-altitude resorts are hard to beat, but there’s no need to forgo a big ski area, or snow reliability to find romance or chocolate-box charm. Large ski areas like the Trois Vallées in France have pretty villages to stay in, as well as modern high-altitude bases purpose-built to take advantage of lofty slopes. And snow-sure resorts like Zermatt in Switzerland or Lech in Austria are extremely easy on the eye too.
Of course, the best romantic ski getaways are not all about the slopes – and luckily it’s not hard to find picturesque streets for wandering hand-in-hand, which may be packed with designer shops as well as bars and restaurants. There’s also plenty of more varied ideas for bonding after hours, whether it’s taking a horse-drawn carriage ride, twirling on an ice rink, or getting the adrenalin pumping with Alpine activities like late-night tobogganing
Many ski resorts have a reputation for wild partying après ski, not the worst way to celebrate a relationship, but for those who prefer, there’s always cocktails in sophisticated bars, dancing the night away in a glamorous club, or fine-dining complete with Michelin stars.
However you like it, here’s our pick of the 10 of the best places to be swept off your feet…
Best for spectacular scenery
Anyone dreaming up the perfect romantic Alpine retreat might think of a tiny car-free village of narrow lanes lined by small chalets, at an altitude high enough to more or less guarantee snow on the rooftops. No doubt it would also have spectacular views of dramatic, soaring peaks – and be conveniently reached by a cable car followed by a mountain railway. Welcome to Mürren.
The peaks in question are the famous trio of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau directly across the valley from the village, and seemingly close enough to touch. Mürren has compelling slopes too – the run of 1,300m vertical from the 2,970m Schilthorn to the village is one of the great pistes of the Alps, with views even better than those from the village. The descent starts with the Steilste black run (German for “steepest”) and includes a section of the course of the infamous annual Inferno, the world’s largest amateur ski race. Views can also be enjoyed from the Piz Gloria mountain restaurant at the top of Schilthorn, which featured as Blofeld’s lair in the 1969 Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
On their own, Mürren’s pistes don’t add up to a huge amount (54km) with chairlifts serving shorter intermediate slopes at village level and more higher up at mid-mountain. However, it’s easy (though not quick) to catch the railway and cable car down to the valley town of Lauterbrunnen and then up another railway to Wengen, to explore the slopes it shares with Grindelwald. Both resorts are covered by the same Jungfrau region lift pass as Mürren, adding up to 210km of pistes in total.
Where to stay
Mürren may be car‑free, but there’s no need to haul bags more than a few yards from the station to the one four-star in the village, the Hotel Eiger, which also offers fantastic views.
Best for a weekend getaway
This traditional mountaineering village sits at the foot of Mont Blanc at one end of the Mont Blanc tunnel, with Chamonix in France at the other end. The heart of Courmayeur is the pedestrianised Via Roma, lined with smart boutiques and enticing bars and restaurants, as well as delicatessens and shops selling antiques and homewares. Restaurants both in town and on the mountain are of a particularly high standard, and Courmayeur is one of the spiritual homes of the long, lazy lunch.
Courmayeur is less than two hours from both Geneva (116km) and Turin (150km), making it ideal for a short trip. Well‑heeled Italians from Milan and Turin arrive en masse on Friday evenings, thronging the designer boutiques and cocktail bars of Via Roma. Fortunately, since the ski area is a compact 41km, only a small number hit the slopes – they come for the party rather than the piste.
The ski area best suits confident intermediates, and is easily covered in a single weekend. For more adventurous romantics, the off‑piste terrain offers considerable challenges, and the Skyway Monte Bianco cable car towards the summit of Mont Blanc accesses descents including the famous Vallée Blanche into Chamonix. With 360‑degree rotating glass cabins, the cable car is a worthwhile outing for everyone, and at the top is a circular terrace with some of the best panoramic views in the Alps.
Where to stay
A luxurious hotel with a spa and 72 rooms and suites housed in chalets, the design of the Grand Hotel Courmayeur Mont Blanc is modern and chic in all the communal areas as well as in the bedrooms. It’s 500m from Courmayeur’s main pedestrian area, and the hotel runs a private shuttle service to the lifts.
Best for travelling a big ski area
St Martin de Belleville, France
Most of the resort villages in the giant 600km Trois Vallées ski area are notable for their convenience for the slopes rather than charm, but pretty, quiet St Martin, an old cheese-making village in the Belleville valley, is an exception.
While St Martin has a sleepy profile, its lifts are modern – a fast gondola followed by a fast chairlift ascend from the village to the ridge above the Belleville and Les Allues valleys. From there, pistes lead in one direction to Méribel and Courchevel, and in the other to Les Menuires and Val Thorens, or the local red and blue runs coast back down to St Martin. For the more expert, the off‑piste runs from the top of Point de la Masse back to St Martin are exciting. It’s essential to explore them with a mountain guide – the avalanche risk can be high and it’s easy to lose the way.
In the village, modern architecture respects the old farmhouses and 17th-century church, and there are plenty of plush chalets available. Staying here gives a very different experience from more famous Trois Vallées resorts like as Courchevel and Méribel, and is not for party animals.
The church hosts regular concerts, and there’s a museum tracing two centuries of community history. Traditional restaurants abound, and for splashing out there’s La Bouitte in the adjoining hamlet of St Marcel, a restaurant with multiple Michelin stars.
Where to stay
Five-bedroom Chalet Astilla is five minutes’ walk from the slopes just outside resort centre. It has a spacious lounge and large terrace with seven-seater hot tub. From €3,000 for the entire chalet based on 10 sharing, self catering, with Self Catered St Martin. Excludes travel.
Best for luxury & fine food
In 1916, Baroness Noémie de Rothschild decided that France should have an equivalent to swanky St Moritz in Switzerland, and set about transforming the farming village of Megève to attract Alpine A-listers. Today, the traditional traffic-free village is the epitome of aristo chic, with glittering boutiques, restaurants and hotels lining the town square and ancient cobbled streets.
Megève is home to many upmarket hotels, including a Four Seasons. There is also a first‑class selection of eateries. A couple of miles outside Megève, the three-Michelin star Flocons de Sel is one of the truly great restaurants in the Alps. In the 1950s Charles Aznavour and Brigitte Bardot were swinging at Club de Jazz Les Cinq Rues, and it’s still a Megève must, but for those who like to party there’s now also table-top dancing at the Folie Douce at the top of the Mont Joux lift. There’s also a fabulous sports centre, Le Palais, with separate indoor pools for adults and children, saunas, a steam room, indoor hot tubs and and Olympic standard indoor ice rink.
While it lacks the altitude of some of its neighbours, Megève’s slopes are extensive, with 325km of gentle pitches blessed by knockout views of Mont Blanc, and lots of tree-lined runs for low-visibility days. Three main ski areas – Rochebrune, Mont d’Arbois and quiet Le Jaillet – are reached by different lifts from town. Lifts are owned by the Compagnie du Mont Blanc which operates Chamonix’s lift system, and upgrading to a Mont Blanc Unlimited lift pass gives access to nearby Les Contamines, as well as Chamonix, Courmayeur and Verbier.
Where to stay
The five-star Fermes de Marie is a small, luxurious hamlet of nine beautiful chalet-style buildings set a few minutes outside the town centre. Bedrooms come in all sorts of sizes and are individually designed and furnished with gorgeous antiques. Wellness facilities are top-notch too, and there are three restaurants.
Best for expert adventures
Switzerland’s most famous resort brings together every Alpine cliché, from the world’s most photogenic mountain, the Matterhorn, to streets lined with a jumble of blackened, weathered, wobbly-looking chalets. Strolling around the car-free town is a pleasure, though there are bicycles and electric taxis to watch out for.
Zermatt has 200km of varied, extensive slopes and is linked to Cervinia in Italy – a further 160km. But the Swiss side’s plentiful itinerary runs (avalanche controlled but not patrolled) and off‑piste challenges are the main attraction for experts. The Stockhorn sector is usually deserted and often mogulled, and the forest itineraries on Schwarzsee, and two from the Rothorn, are similarly testing. The off-piste opportunities are extensive with a guide; more so for those willing to ski tour or heliski. There are also plenty of long, scenic, satisfying runs for intermediates, plus easily accessible, gentle off piste.
A spectacular gondola lift with panoramic views links mid-mountain Trockener Steg to the resort high point, Klein Matterhorn at almost 4,000m. After-hours fun kicks off in the cute huts on the lower slopes of the Matterhorn sector, and many bars have live bands generating a party atmosphere to rival anything in St Anton. Later on, Zermatt has something for everybody, whether traditional or cosmopolitan. The Hotel Post has several venues; for a quieter time after dinner, try the upstairs lounge bar, Papa Caesar.
Where to stay
Well-located in the resort centre, three minutes from the Matterhornbahnen, the 22 Summits has 22 comfortable rooms and suites plus a two-storey spa with Finnish sauna, Alpine hay bath and massage room.
Best for glamour and elegance
Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy
Italy’s chicest destination is an ancient mountain town in the Dolomites surrounded by soaring cathedrals of sandstone. The centre of Cortina is dominated by a green and white bell tower and a glittering confection of grand 19th‑century mansions. The business of skiing and snowboarding plays second fiddle here to the social sport of seeing and being seen outside and inside the elegant boutiques and antique shops lining the Corso Italia, the pedestrianised main street.
Cortina’s 120km of slopes are divided into separate areas, and best suit intermediates and experts – there is a handful of tricky black runs, and plentiful off piste in good snow conditions.
Its Dolomiti Superski lift pass also gives access to 12 other ski areas, including the Sella Ronda, a circular network of lifts and mainly intermediate pistes around a majestic limestone massif, taking in a host of resorts. The connection is via a half-hour free ski bus ride to Passo Falzarego, from where there’s a cable car up to the 2,788m summit of Lagazuoi. From here, a red run leads down the Hidden Valley to the hamlet of Armentarola and on to the resort of San Cassiano and the rest of the Sella Ronda.
Encroaching twilight is the signal for Cortina to come out and play. A colony of voluminous fur coats and designer ski wear gathers noisily in the Piazza Venezia at the start of the evening passeggiata. Much later, the party atmosphere is transferred to intimate wine bars, expensive restaurants, and a smattering of softly‑lit nightclubs.
Where to stay
A grand five-star hotel opened in 1901, the Cristallo is set in an elevated position fairly close to the Faloria cable car, and there’s a free hotel shuttle to and from the lifts and town centre. There’s a splendid indoor pool with fine views, sauna, steam room, outdoor hot tub, gym, and a choice of three different restaurants. For a special occasion there’s the Chef’s Private Table private dining room, with a surprise menu prepared by executive chef Marco Pinelli.
Best for lots of snow
Thanks to royal patronage, few resorts have a more exclusive image than Lech. But while the original cluster of inns around the church and the river has expanded over the years in both quality and quantity, it remains true to its farming village origins. The car-free satellite of Oberlech above the village, served by the 80-person Bergbahn cable car from the village, is almost into a resort in its own right, home to high-end hotels.
Lech has a modest altitude of 1,450m, but it receives up to twice as much snow as some of its French rivals. The local ski area shared by Lech, neighbouring Zürs and Warth-Schröcken is best suited to intermediates, who will find the terrain a lot more friendly than in the linked resort of St Anton. For those seeking variety or more challenges, it is covered by the same Arlberg lift pass as Lech/Zürs, a total of 305km of piste.
Generally speaking, Lech best suits sophisticated, cocktail-sipping types rather than fans of traditional foot-stomping Austria apres. And, as might be expected in a resort that attracts plenty of well-heeled celebrities, it is home to some top-dollar dining options. Most restaurants are connected to hotels and the theme is predominantly traditional Austrian.
Where to stay
Lech has a host of flashy five- and four-star hotels, but the Kristiana is much more discreet and needs booking well in advance. The 29 rooms and suites are all individually designed in styles that range from Chinese to French boudoir. From £2,600 with Scott Dunn.
Best for extra activities
Silver Star, Canada
Built to resemble a 19th-century mining village, Silver Star is based around a tiny traffic-free square lined with brightly painted mock-Victorian buildings, wooden sidewalks and faux gas lights. One side of the village opens right onto the slopes. Individual houses in the same style are dotted around the slopes above. Nearly all accommodation here is either ski-in/ski-out or less than 30 seconds’ walk to the snow.
Silver Star’s 3,282-acres of slopes suit all standards and the ski school has an excellent reputation. There is a mixture of easy green runs, intermediate cruising on well-groomed trails, and a dense network of single- and double-black diamond runs plunging through the trees, many of them top-to-bottom mogul fields. For those wanting to head straight to the top, a fast gondola links the village to the resort high point at Summit, 1,915m.
The ski school has an excellent reputation. There’s also plenty to do off the slopes, and Silver Star’s all-inclusive My1Pass lift pass includes tubing, skating and access to cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and winter mountain bike trails, as well as access to the slopes.
Where to stay
The ski-in/ski-out Firelight Lodge is in the heart of Silver Star’s village, skating pond and tubing hill as well as the Silver Queen lift. From £907 based on four sharing a two-bedroom condo with Ski Independence.
Best for fun nightlife
With its heavily-buttressed city walls and delicate frescoes, Kitzbühel deserves its reputation as the most beautiful ski town in Europe. In the medieval centre, the pedestrianised Vorderstadt and Hinterstadt are set against a backdrop of the spectacular Wilder Kaiser Mountains. Old coaching inns now converted into four- and five-star hotels vie for space in the streets alongside smart fashion boutiques and wickedly expensive cafes.
Judge by the fur-clad clientèle browsing shop windows, and Kitzbühel might seem the ritziest resort in Austria. But a stay can be surprisingly affordable, and its buzzing nightlife is a key attraction. The Londoner pub has been entertaining party animals since 1976, Jimmy’s is a popular cocktail bar, while Take Five’s resident DJs make it the coolest club in town.
There are three separate sectors – the Kitzbüheler Horn, much more extensive Hahnenkamm, and Bichlalm, a little area given over to freeride. The wider regional lift pass that includes the SkiWelt ski area adds another 279km of runs to Kitzbühel’s 215km – it’s linked to Kitzbühel via a short bus ride. While the resort is home to January’s annual Hahnenkamm World Cup event, the toughest of all downhill ski races, Kitzbühel’s slopes are for the most part flattering, rather than frightening.
Where to stay
The welcoming Tiefenbrunner in the medieval centre has been owned by the Brunner family for over 200 years. It has an indoor pool with panoramic views, saunas, steam room and a gym.
Best for slopes for all
During the 1880s, Aspen enjoyed a brief silver-mining rush, and its historic core was brought back to life by the skiing boom of the late 20th century. This is a delightful place for an evening stroll, window shopping and enjoying its varied restaurants and bars.
There are four separate ski areas – Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Snowmass and Buttermilk – all covered by one lift pass. The long cruising blue runs and short, steep blacks of Aspen Mountain are accessed from town by gondola, while the other three areas are reached by free shuttle buses. Aspen Highlands has intermediate slopes, steep black runs and the challenging Highlands Bowl – reached by a free snowcat ride or hiking from the top lift, and featuring pitches of up to 48 degrees. Snowmass is the most extensive area, with terrain for all, and Buttermilk is the smallest and least challenging – although it also hosts the Winter X Games and has a huge terrain park.
Aspen’s grid of streets hosts the starkly modern Aspen Art Museum, the Wheeler Opera House arts venue, antiques emporia, quirky bookshops and designer stores. And there are enough restaurants, cafes and bars to make mealtimes interesting for weeks, whether tastes run to gourmet fine dining, health food delis, or places that mix the two.
Belly Up has live music, while Eric’s Bar on East Hyman Street has 14 beers on tap and over 50 single malt Scotches. For a bit of history, try the J-Bar at the Jerome hotel. An Aspen gathering place since 1889, it’s on the National Register of Historic Places.
Where to stay
The ski-in/ski-out W Aspen hotel is lively and stylish, and has a rooftop bar and spa pool overlooking Ajax Mountain.
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