European ski resorts are legion and often legendary. But are there some alpine aces we’ve all missed? Are there any secret treasures out there, quietly delivering the goods while the spotlight falls elsewhere?
The trouble is, one person’s hidden gem is another’s back yard. And if it’s still hidden now, in 2017, can it really be much of a gem?
Only one way to find out — get on the road and explore. Or two, if you count reading our guide to 10 of the best European resorts you may not have heard of.
1. Val d’Anniviers (Switzerland)
Why? Quiet valley, traditional villages, famous high mountains, extended ski area.
The Val d’Anniviers is a sideshoot of the broad Rhone valley and an unknown backwater compared to its Valais neighbors — and international giants — Zermatt and Verbier. Home to five small unspoilt resorts, the area is gaining recognition thanks to the recent cable car link between the two biggest, Grimentz and Zinal. It’s a secret powder haven offering more than 100 kilometers of sunny cruising.
The pretty Valais village of Zinal (1,670 meters) is hemmed in at the head of the valley by what’s known as the Imperial Crown — legendary peaks such as the Matterhorn, Weisshorn, Zinalrothorn, Obergabelhorn and Dent Blanche, all towering over 4,000 meters. Grimentz, five miles down the hill, is an old-school charmer with blackened wooden chalets and traditional barns (raccards) and cowsheds.The separate, but linked, villages of St-Luc and Chandolin offer a further 60 kilometers of skiing, but no one’s coming here to break the odometer.
What else? Like a Swiss cheese riddled with holes, the Zinal glacier has caves and grottoes aplenty and visitors can strap on some snow shoes and take a hike right into its icy depths.