European resorts have been linking up with their neighbors to try and claim to be the biggest and best in the world. This has lead to small little villages joining up with massive resorts and giving visitors access to hundreds of KM of pistes, Orelle in Les 3 Vallees for example. This can save you money when searching out cheap accommodation. Within our guide we’ve broken down linked areas into individual resort reviews, which explain their part in a linked area, so below is some information on the major linked European areas, whose resorts are covered in more depth individually within the guide. These linked areas often sell resort specific lift passes, so before you buy a more expensive pass for a large area make sure you’re going to use it. You can often buy individual daily upgrades which can work out better value if you’re only leaving your base resort once or twice within a week. You may also find yourself boarding from one country to another, and yes you should carry your passport with you. In the Portes Du Soleil you could see Swiss customs officers giving chase to a suspected drug runner on skis. I’m not winding you up, I’ve seen people have their back pack searched so leave the weed in the hotel. If you’re into getting up early and covering a large area then linked areas are for you. If you’re the type of boarder who gets up late and spends all day in the park or are learning, save yourself a few quid and pick a resort with a cheaper lift pass
Which is a popular haunt with the Brits is Courchevel, Meribel, and Val Thorens but also incorporates La Tania, Les Menuires , St Martin de Belleville, Orelle (which is a link from the once non visited fourth valley, into Val Thorens) and if some tour operators are to be believed Brides-les-Bains which is a 30min bubble ride to Meribel’s base. All of these resorts make up a total of 600 km of pistes.
Without a doubt Les 3 Vallees has something for everyone; an incredibly well connected and modern lift and piste system, great accessible offpiste, plenty of bars and hotels. The main draw back is it’s bloody expensive and the terrain parks are not the best by a long way, but with that much terrain the natural hits easily make up for it.
Is a huge area with fourteen resorts linked by one pass in France and Switzerland. Avoriaz and Morzine sit in the middle of a prawling mass of resorts which vary hugely in appeal and aesthetics. Châtel, Morgins, Champéry, and Les Gets make up the best of the rest. The Portes Du Soleil is 650 km of piste, but unlike Les 3 Vallees, the pistes aren’t interlinked into a compact area - they are more spread out into a huge arch and suit the boarder who likes to get a load of miles boarded in a day. The mountains aren’t the highest around, little over 2200 m, but the resorts benefit from the snow created by it position next to Lake Geneva.
This area is made up of Val d’Isere and Tignes, both resorts are above Bourg St Maurice which is easily reached with the snow train from London. They are two of Frances best resorts, both have great infrastructure, fantastic pistes, good terrain parks and great off piste. L’Espace Killy is covered by one pass, it’s possible to buy a single resort pass for Tignes but pointless unless you’re a beginner, Holiday makers who buy a weeks pass in the Les 3 Vallees get a free day in this area and if you have a car it’s well worth the day trip. Also a short drive down the road is St Foy, one of Frances best kept secrets.
If you’re into getting miles of pistes covered in a day or a beginner who wants to get some easy terrain under your belt, then the SkiWelt is for you. Most of this area is really a long line of low level mountains or high hills. The main resorts are Soll, Ellmau/Scheffu, and Westendorf, but also include Hopfgarten and Going. The total area has 250 km of piste and there are a few parks, but the only one of note is in Westendorf which is without a doubt the gem of the whole area, with good off piste and by far the best and most varried terrain.
The Ski Welt is surrounded by more traditional steep ocky alpine mountains, but virtually all the developed slopes here are rolling low level pistes, which often rely on fake snow. This is not a place to get the heart thumping of an advanced rider but it’s perfect for the beginner or early intermediate.
Dolomite Super Ski
Not actually linked in the way of other areas, the Dolomite Super Ski has one lift pass which covers 12 valleys within the Dolomite area. Cortina, Val Gardena, are the best known resorts. The area of Dolomite Super Ski has over 1200 kmof piste and over 400 lifts. This massive area is only achievable with the aid of a car and a lot of time. The area also boasts a good Heliboarding operation to keep the rich, advanced rider happy. If you’re into good food and touring small resorts, with the aid of a motor, then the Dolomites are for you.
Is the Italians answer to Les 3 Vallees in France. While being much smaller in pisted area (180km) it does cover 3 valleys and as such has heaps of off piste and is home to some of Italy’s best Heliboarding.
Gressoney, Champoluc and Alagna make up villages for this area and all retain an old style alpine charm. The resorts are at the beginning of the Aosta valley and within easy reach of Milan and Turin. With a top area of almost 3300 meters the area is snow sure, and is a top place to visit for any intermediate and advanced freerider. Night life can be a little dull so you’ll have to make your own party.
This area spans Italy and France, and is also known as the Milky Way. It is made up of Sestriere, Sauze d’Oulx, Sansicario, Cesana, Claviere and Montgenevre. Many of these resorts played host to most of the Skiing events at the Torino 2006 Olympics and are close to the resort of Bardonecchia which hosted all the snowboarding. In total there’s over 400km of lift linked terrain.