How do you go about quantifying which are the best ski resorts in the world? We’ve spent hours debating this very subject at Snow Magazine HQ. After all, while endless terrain, fantastic backcountry and brilliant slope-side restaurants all help resorts bag a few bonus points, the best resorts go one step further in a wide range of ways, so deciding which ones made the cut wasn’t exactly easy.
How do you weigh up, for example, the best ski resorts in Italy vs. the best resorts in Canada? Can you really compare a French mega-resort with an abundance of family-friendly pistes to a tiny two-lift operation in the backwoods of Colorado? And what about the towns? Do you prioritise ski-in, ski-out access, or chocolate box aesthetics? Is it all about the après, or about the growing number of fine dining restaurants popping up in ski resorts?
To a certain extent, the answer to all of these questions is subjective. Everyone's idea of what makes the perfect ski holiday is slightly different, and we're not going to pretend that this list solves those all those debates (in fact, if anything, it's more likely to spark new ones). What it does do, however, is represent the considered opinions of the Snow editorial team. Between us, we've racked up hundreds of years of skiing and snowboarding, and visited countless ski resorts on six of the seven continents (sadly, none of us has made it to Antarctica... yet).
Having compiled a long-list of over 100 resorts, from Avoriaz to Aspen and from Val d'Isere to Vail, we evaluated them on a wide range of factors including the quality of the skiing on and off-piste, the variety and the vibe of the town, the ease of access, prices and a multitude of other factors, including new lifts and services, and environmental initiatives. Finally, after much deliberation, we reached a decision. For the reasons laid out below, these are the places we think are the best ski resorts in the world this winter.
Once a sleepy Alpine village, Andermatt has always been a magnet for skiers and snowboarders, who come here for the excellent off piste terrain, enviable snow record and challenging terrain. Since 2022 however, Andermatt has been owned by Vail Resorts, and the company’s deep pockets means there’s a lot of investment—and some big changes—on the horizon.
Vail Resorts has promised to pump 110 million Swiss francs (£95 million) into improving the ski area infrastructure, and the company has allocated a further 39 million francs (£33 million) for real estate developments in the village itself. This new ownership also means it’s now included in Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass scheme, so you can expect serious savings if you’re visiting other Vail Resorts this winter. It appears the promised improvements are already in sight, too – new developments for winter 23/24 include new digital signage throughout the resort, makeovers of both the ice rink and the resort’s cross country skiing course and a new restaurant in the Valtgeva area. Several hotels – including Hotel Sonne and Hotel Badus will also undergo major refurbishments.
And last but not least, there’s the sheer quality of the terrain—and it's this that's always made Andermatt one of the best ski resorts in Switzerland. There are 180 kilometres of slopes, 33 lifts and numerous mountains with a height of 3,000 metres above. You’ll never run out of space here, thanks largely to the gondola, built in 2019, which linked Andermatt’s ski area with nearby Sedrun.
Even without that, however, there’s terrain for all levels of skier. While it's intermediates who will be most at home in Andermatt, freeriders from all over the world have been flocking to the Gemsstock mountain area for years. Home to steep descents and numerous black runs, this area is best explored with a guide. Another reason to visit? Andermatt is one of Europe’s most snow sure resorts, thanks to its position, which means it gets snow from both the south and the north.
Read our guide to Andermatt ski resort here.
Aspen-Snowmass, Colorado, USA
There’s a lot going on in Aspen as the 2023-24 winter season approaches. First up is what’s being referred to as the Pandora Expansion, which will add 20 per cent of skiable to terrain to this powdery paradise. Amazingly, it will be the first major development since the opening of the resort’s Silver Queen Gondola in 1985. Highlights of the new area, accessible via a high-speed quad, will include 1,220 vertical feet (371m) of terrain and 15 new trails along with several beginner-friendly areas.
There’ll still be plenty of tougher terrain for intermediate and advanced skiers, who’ve been flocking to Aspen for decades – this is a resort spread over four mountains, after all. Divided into four areas (Buttermilk, Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands and Snowmass), the resort sits at 2,422 metres above sea level, has 509 kilometres of piste and 5,305 skiable acres (2,146 hectares). Beginners tend to hone in on Snowmass, while the slopes above Aspen Town are best suited to intermediate and advanced skiers. Daredevils craving the ultimate adrenaline fix should head to Aspen Highlands, which is groomed less frequently, and where skiers with their sights on the famous Highland bowl can hop in a snow cat (you’ll still need to hike the final stretch). It’s definitely worth the effort – not only for the top quality backcountry terrain, but for the views of Maroon Peak, one of Colorado’s many “fourteeners” (peaks over 14,000 high).
Finally, we can’t mention Aspen Snowmass without referencing its fantastic après ski scene. Snowmass and Aspen Mountain tend to be the liveliest spots – in Snowmass, we recommend Sam’s, famous for its potent negronis and delicious Italian fare, while Aspen Mountain’s slope-side Ajax Tavern, with its enormous patio, is this area’s most Insta-friendly party spot. Options are more limited in Buttermilk and Aspen Highlands, although we’re big fans of Aspen Highlands’ Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro, near the Maroon Bells area – head here for DJ sets, champagne spray parties and stunning views.
Read full review of Aspen Snowmass ski resort here.
Cervinia has always been linked to its neighbour Zermatt, one of the best ski resorts in Switzerland, via the slopes. But now there's one more, massive reason to visit this fantastic Italian ski resort: Opened in July 2023 the brand new, high-speed Matterhorn Alpine Crossing allows you to travel from one resort to the other, and reach heights of 4,000m, without even setting foot on the pistes, (should you wish). The new connectivity makes crossing between the two far quicker, benefitting skiers and non-skiers alike.
Other reasons to visit Cervinia include the ridiculously long winter seasons (ski lifts typically operate from late October until early May), its sustainability credentials (you’ll find some of Italy’s finest examples of bio-architecture here) and the huge ski area. One of our favourite bits is the Indianpark snowpark, which you’ll find at the foot of Monte Cervino (the Italian name for the Matterhorn). Its various obstacles – both manmade and natural - make it a magnet for some of the world’s best skiers and snowboarders. We’re also huge fans of the park’s chillout zone, the highlight of which is the barbecue area.
Prefer to stick to the regular slopes? You’re in luck. You’ll have over 150 kilometres of slopes to explore—rising to 360 kilometres if you include Zermatt. The majority of these are best suited to intermediate skiers, with a great network of easy blues which connect directly to the resort’s centre. The large Plan Maison beginner's area is perfect for skiers taking to the snow for the first time. Some of the more challenging terrain can be found close to the Swiss border, while the ludicrously long runs which lead all the way down to the historic village of Valtournenche will appeal to those who love a ski safari.
Read our guide to Cervinia ski resort here.
Chamonix Mont Blanc, France
It might feel like a cliché to include Chamonix, but this legendary resort is certainly worthy of a spot on this list. Sure, there are resorts with more buzz around them this year Sölden and Val Gardena, which we also considered seriously, are hosting the alpine world ski championships in late 2023, for example). But it's just really hard to argue against Cham, famous for the diversity of its terrain, the reliable snow conditions, huge ski area, and incredible views of the tallest mountains in Europe, including, of course Mont Blanc. The high altitude terrain here is obviously world famous, although this is also where you’ll find some of Europe’s best tree runs, complete with mellow side hits (one of the reasons French snowboarder Arthur Longo, the viral video king of side hits, recently announced he was moving here). It might be most famous as a destination for serious skiers, but the reality is whatever level you're at you'll find your dream stomping ground in the combined terrain of Chamonix's five main ski areas — Brevent, Flegere, Grands Montets, Domaine de Balme and Les Houches.
Then there's the resort itself, which is less an alpine village than a proper town — with facilities and amenities you won’t find in any other ski resort. Its proximity to Geneva and the airport, which you can reach in just over an hour, means the permanent residents are a more cosmopolitan crowd than you'd find in many places in the French Alps. This is reflected in the resort's bars, which are hugely varied.
Finally, there’s its history. Chamonix has been a winter holiday town since the late 1700s, when it was a staple of the Grand Tour which young aristocrats took around Europe. How many other ski resorts can boast that they've played host to people like Keats, Shelley, Mary Shelley and Lord Byron? The presence of Mont Blanc means that much of the history of mountaineering has been written in Chamonix, and alpine skiing was essentially invented here—the first ski lift was installed here in the early 20th century, and next year marks the 100th anniversary of the the first Winter Olympics, held right here in 1924.
Read our full resort guide to Chamonix Mont Blanc here.
Japow, the soft, fluffy, delicacy cooked up by the unique weather systems over the sea of Japan, is undoubtedly best enjoyed on the country's northernmost island. That said, there's still plenty of the white stuff to be found further south. Take Honshu, Japan's main island, which lays claim to the kind of couloirs and steeps that Niseko and the other famous resorts further north can only dream of.
Hakuba, one of the larger mountain towns in the range, offers easy access to several ski areas, including Happo One, Norikura Onsen and the slightly confusingly-named Cortina. Between them, these slopes offer pistes for every skill level, along with a huge variety of backcountry lines.
The terrain around here would be reason enough to visit, but there’s another reason to visit the Japanese Alps - because they're not as famous, they tend to attract fewer foreigners. So while an après ski bar in Niseko is just as likely to be owned by an Australian as a local, in Hakuba, it's easier to enjoy an authentically Japanese cultural experience - which, let’s face it, is wehy most people come skiing in Japan in the first place.
Read our full Hakuba resort guide for more info.
Kicking Horse, Canada
One of the most exciting developments for winter 2023-24 at Kicking Horse relates to sustainability—its piste grooming fleet now includes several ultra-modern Prinoth piste bashers which which meet Stage 5 emission standards. And then there’s the terrain: more specifically, 3,500 acres (1,416 hectares) of skiable terrain, offering 4,314 feet (1,314m) of vertical, 121 runs, 85 marked couloirs, and five lifts. The terrain is laid out across five bowls which were once only accessible by helicopter, and offers plenty of variety.
As is customary in North America, the bulk of the best backcountry terrain here is "in-bounds", meaning it's patrolled and controlled for avalanche risk. This also means the routes are marked, and Kicking Horse's trail map includes numerous black diamond and double black diamond runs. The snow here is incredibly consistent, with an average of about 7m falling each season, and because it's miles from the sea (the nearest coastline is 489 kilometres away), it stays dry days after a dump. Having said that, it's not all about the gnar here. The lower flanks of the mountains, accessed via the Catamount lift, offer easy green runs that loop through the trees: perfect for beginners. You can stay in the tiny purpose-built ski resort village at the base of the mountain, or for the true Canadian Rockies experience, in nearby Golden, a 19th Century railway town that still maintains a healthy dose of its original charm.
Driving, of course, also gives you the flexibility to explore the rest of the ski resorts on the Powder Highway. While Kicking Horse is the pick of the bunch, Revelstoke, which is just nearby, Red Mountain, and Whitewater, further south, are all well worth a visit.
Read our full Kicking Horse resort guide for more info.
Madonna di Campiglio, Italy
If Kicking Horse is the archetypal Canadian mountain resort, nowhere sums up skiing in Italy quite like Madonna di Campiglio. Italians from further south will try and convince you that people from the Trentino region are practically Austrian, such is their proximity to the Tyrolean border, but don't believe a word of it.
Stereotypes are two-a-penny on the slopes here, from women in fur coats and Gucci sunglasses, to the best-dressed snowboarders you'll see anywhere in Europe. But this is precisely Madonna's charm. Crystal Ski Holidays have the resort on their books, but you're unlikely to run into many Brits. In other words, if you’re after the ultimate Italian alpine experience, it doesn’t get better than this.
Let’s start with the mountains. The Dolomites are famously stunning, but the peaks around Madonna, the Dolomiti di Brenta, are particularly beautiful. Jagged, red rock spires capped by bright white snow and flanked by forests of dark green pines. The ski area is large - the fifth largest in Italy, with over 150km of marked piste. At the top of the Grosté lift, you'll find the Ursus Snowpark, one of the best terrain parks in the country, if not the whole of Europe.
While the off-piste in the Madonna ski area isn't world-class, the nearby resort of Passo Tonale, which can be accessed on the same Superskirama ski pass, boasts some of Italy's best lift-accessible backcountry. As you'd expect, the food both on and off the hill is second to none. And while Madonna isn't the cheapest by Italian standards, it's still a snip compared to the most of the ski resorts in France. With the cost of living crisis making price a key concern for many this winter, this is all the more reason to include it in our list of the world's best ski resorts.
Read our full Madonna di Campiglio resort guide for more info.
What can be said about Morzine which hasn't already been said a million times? One of France's most famous ski resorts - particularly among Brits - it combines competitive prices with one of the biggest ski areas in the world. Quite simply, there's something for everybody in the Portes du Soleil.
The 650km of lift-linked pistes, which stretch across the border between France and Switzerland, make this a magnet for fans of everything from high alpine skiing to blue run cruising. There are plenty of snow parks for freestyle skiers and snowboarders, while fans of off piste skiing will drool at the range of accessible backcountry terrain on offer — more than you could ever explore in a lifetime.
Admittedly, the popularity of this vast ski area means that there are occasionally bottlenecks on the most popular ski lifts – particularly those in the resort itself, but there’s a reason to many visitors choose to base themselves in the centre of Morzine. A proper town, rather than a purpose-built ski resort, it's got a year-round population and plenty of independent businesses run by locals, including an excellent local craft brewery, the Bec Jaune.
Somehow, the town has managed to avoid the worst of the imitation Bauhaus building spree which swept through France in the seventies, and it's maintained its traditional, wooden chalet vibe. And while the British presence is strong (the fashion-conscious seasonaire set has even earned it the hipster sobriquet of 'Shorezine,' after London's Shoreditch) it hasn't overwhelmed what made this ski resort great in the first place.
Read our full Morzine resort guide for more info.
In what is, by definition, a crowded field, Mürren has to be a top contender for the ski resort with the best views in the world. From the resort’s centre it’s possible to see not just one, but two 4,000 metre peaks, the Mönch and the Jungfrau, as well as the forbidding form of the Eiger—one of the world’s most famous mountains.
This hat trick of high altitude awesomeness sits at the heart of what's known as the Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch UNESCO World Heritage site. The railway which accesses it is insane feat of alpine engineering which culminates at the Jungfraujoch, Europe's highest station at 3,454 metres and resort’s most Insta-friendly spots. Prefer skiing over selfies? You’re in luck.
It’s a brilliant ski resort for families, with fast ski lifts and slopes suited to all ability levels, but the ski area boasts plenty for properly avid skiers too. The Kandahar Ski Club, one of the first ski racing clubs in the world, was formed here in 1924. Meanwhile, the Inferno Race, a 2,000 metre descent from the top of the Schilthorn down to the village of Lauterbrunnen, is one of the great historic alpine challenge and has taken place since 1928.
The nightlife might not rival the après ski scenes in larger ski resorts, but if you've come to Mürren for the après, you've kind of missed the point. This ski resort is all about giving visitors - skiers and non-skiers alike - a taste of traditional Switzerland, and as a place to soak up alpine culture, it doesn't get much better.
Read our full Mürren resort guide for more info.
Whittling down the world's best ski resorts into a manageable list is a near impossible task—as is shown, very obviously, by the fact that this is the only one of Austria's excellent resorts to make the cut. Yet if you have to choose just one ski resort which represents the all the best bits of the Austrian Alps, we'd argue that Obergurgl-Hochgurgl is a pretty strong contender.
A high altitude ski resort with snow sure slopes, this twin-resort skiing destination has everything from challenging and high alpine off piste terrain, to cruisey blues and laidback tree runs. There's an extensive network of cross country trails, and the two towns - and the scattered mountain huts between them - provide plenty of opportunities for schnapps-fulled après ski celebrations Austria is famous for.
Prices are refreshingly low - especially compared to skiing in France or Switzerland – and if you buy a lift pass for longer than three days here, you automatically get access to the entire Ötztal area. This includes the resort of Sölden, just a short bus ride away (and where you can dial the nightlife up to 11, should you so wish) and the tiny, oft-overlooked village of Vent. The latter only has a handful of lifts, but they offer access to one of the best ski touring areas in the Alps, and multiple mountain huts. That kind of variety, at Obergurgl-Hochgurgl prices, is hard to argue with.
Read our full Obergurgl resort guide for more info.
Colorado is blessed with a wealth of world-class ski resorts. Drive just a couple of hours down the Interstate west of Denver and you'll pass the exits for Vail, Breckenridge, and Copper Mountain, any one of which could stake a claim to a place on this list. Instead, we've opted to include Telluride, further south. While it might not have the name recognition of some of its more famous neighbours, we believe it just pips them when it comes to all-round excellence.
What makes it so special? Let’s start with the San Juan mountains. The peaks in this part of Colorado are steeper and more dramatic than the gently-sloping summits which surround the resorts in the northern half of the state. Not convinced? Take a look at a can Coors: the towering Wilson Peak, which features on the logo, is just round the corner from Telluride.
All this makes for brilliant diversity of terrain, including some seriously steep couloirs and backcountry which feels wonderfully remote. Often the only signs of life are logging roads linking a few abandoned mining settlements straight out of a Clint Eastwood movie.
The town itself combines some of that same, old western appeal (it's a former mining settlement, after all) with an unexpectedly bohemian vibe. Famously, The Grateful Dead sold out two nights here back in the 80s, and there's an annual film festival that attracts almost as many Hollywood lefties and luvvies as Sundance. There's serious luxury in Telluride too if you want it, especially in the newer Mountain Village development up the hill.
While you're there, make sure you take a day to ski in nearby Silverton, a single-lift, guide-access only mountain that's one of the best resorts for backcountry skiing anywhere in the world. Then stick on Smuggler's Blues, by Glenn Frey of The Eagles fame, as you cruise back into town, and listen out for the lyric about hiding contraband "up in Telluride". Things have moved on since he wrote that tune back in the 80s. But while the gold they mined here might be gone, there’s definitely no shortage of powder stashes hidden in these hills.
Read our full Telluride resort guide for more info.
Verbier might be one of those places which needs no introduction, but let's take this opportunity to bust a few of the common myths surrounding this celebrated Swiss ski resort.
Firstly, that it's just a posh hangout for minor royals, England rugby players and James Blunt. None of this is untrue. Blunt even has a lift named after him, and it's still the only ski resort we've ever visited where one of the major ski schools is sponsored by an asset management firm. But Verbier is also home to Xavier de le Rue, arguably the most talented freerider ever to strap on a snowboard, Geraldine Fastnacht, a pioneering female wingsuit pilot, and the Verbier Xtreme—the annual finale of the Freeride World Tour, and the gnarliest on-snow contest anywhere in the world.
One reason they all choose to base themselves here is the easily accessible backcountry, which is among the most challenging anywhere in Switzerland, and indeed the world. Verbier also has one of the world's largest ski areas, with the lifts from the main village offering access to a huge network that links La Tzoumaz, Nendaz, Veysonnaz and Thyon. Together, they form what's known as the 4 Vallées, which is home to some of the best skiing you'll find anywhere in Europe, along with some of the longest ski runs anywhere in the world.
Verbier isn't cheap (the most expensive beer we've ever bought, anywhere in the world, was at Verbier's famous Farm Club) but then which ski resort in Switzerland is? This doesn’t mean skiers on a budget need to steer clear. The wallet-friendly Mont Fort, a hang out favoured by locals, is a good place to start, while Le Chable, at the bottom of the valley is usually pretty competitively priced when it comes to accommodation. And in the event your lottery numbers come up? Consider 67 Pall Mall a new members-only club which has the resort’s only micro-brewery and a wine list offering thousands of wines (including 1,000 from Switzerland). The downside? Membership fees start from around £2,500 per year.
In all seriousness, if you're counting every penny, you're missing the point of Verbier. The reason all those rich and famous folk love it here is the combination of incredible restaurants, epic powder, and some of the most naturally exciting slopes - both on and off-piste - you'll find anywhere on the planet.
Read our full Verbier resort guide for more info.
One to watch: Amirsoy, Uzbekistan
We can't, in all conscience, tell you that Amirsoy, a new development in the Central Asian nation of Uzbekistan, is one of the best ski resorts in the world. But we can honestly say that of all the ski destinations the team has visited recently, this is the one that excited us the most.
As one of only two "double-landlocked" countries in the world (the other being Lichtenstein) Uzbekistan is about as far from the sea as it's possible to get. This means the snow that falls here is famously dry, and stays light and fluffy for days after a dump.
Built in world record time at a cost of £75 million, Amirsoy marks the first attempt to construct a modern resort with French-made lifts, German piste-bashers, and Austrian standards of safety in the region. It's still early days - the resort opened in late December 2019 - but the plans for this place are big, and with the country opening up to tourists and the abolishment of the previously draconian visa requirements, it's significantly easier get to.
As anyone who's been skiing in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan or Kazakhstan will be able to tell you, the dry powder of the Tien Shan mountains really is like nothing else you'll ever experience. And this is precisely why Amirsoy is our "one to watch" for this year. Or, if you fancy heading a little further off the beaten track for your next ski holiday, one to head to as soon as possible.
You can read the full story of our trip to Amirsoy here.