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It ought to be pretty easy to determine the biggest ski areas in the world, but until recently the measurements resorts use to promote the amount of skiing they offer have varied and invariably veer in favour of the biggest possible figure.
val thorens three valleys france
Recently, however, Swiss writer Christophe Schrahe has re-measured the runs of the world’s major ski resorts using digital techniques and come up with what can – for now – be called a pretty definitive list. So, read on – and be assured that if you can’t find the skiing you’re looking for in one or more of the following resorts it may be time to hang up your skis


Les Trois Vallées, France 493km

Nowhere else in the world comes close to the Three Valleys in terms of the mix of size, altitude, vertical and variety. From chi-chi Courchevel to cheap and cheerful Les Menuires there’s skiing here to suit everyone from off-piste animal to clueless first timer, along with stacks of accommodation, dining and entertainment options and relatively easy access by plane, train or automobile from the UK.
www.les3vallees.com


Portes du Soleil, France/Switzerland 426km

Not as snow sure as the Three Valleys, but you’d have to be pretty unlikely not to score some good skiing in an area as big as this, with Avoriaz in particular being a good bet for great skiing and boarding.
Competent skiers can enjoy a tour of the whole area with the thrill of skiing across international borders, taking in everything from the pretty Swiss villages of Champéry and Morgins to the purpose-built, rather utilitarian Avoriaz and its more attractive neighbours Morzine and Les Gets.
www.portesdusoleil.com


Paradiski (La Plagne/Les Arcs), France 378km

Paradiski came into being in 2003 with the linking of the two already impressive ski areas of La Plagne and Les Arcs by the huge Vanoise Express 200-person double-decker cable car. In many ways this was an über-expensive PR stunt since each resort already had enough skiing to satisfy even the most demanding skiers, from the superb off-piste of the Bellecôte Glacier above La Plagne and the Aiguille Rouge above Les Arcs to the endless miles of cruiser runs both resorts are renowned for, but no one seems to be complaining at having almost 400km of pistes to go at as a result.
www.paradiski.com


Sella Ronda, Italy 374km

It may not quite be the biggest but the Sella Ronda is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful ski areas in the world, set as it is in the heart of the Dolomites, much of which is a UNESCO World Heritage Area.
The Sella Ronda Circuit is the classic way to explore the ski area, and easy circuit for any confident intermediate which takes in not just lovely scenery but the attractive resorts of Selva-Val Gardena, Corvara, Arabba and Canazei and the opportunity for great coffee and lunch breaks at a range of great mountain restaurants.
www.sella-ronda.info


Zermatt-Cervinia, Switzerland/Italy 252km

Spectacular as well as big, both these resorts sit beneath the Matterhorn, probably the world’s most iconic mountain. The views of this magnificent peak are more breath-taking from Zermatt on the Swiss side; but the prices here will also make you gasp, and the skiing on both sides of the border may also have the same effect as these are amongst the highest ski resorts in Europe.
Italian Cervinia is more rough and ready than Zermatt, and nowhere near as pretty, but like its Swiss neighbour has great intermediate skiing as well as some good off-piste and heli-skiing for more advanced skiers and boarders.
www.zermatt.ch
www.cervinia.it


Whistler-Blackcomb, British Columbia 252km

The biggest ski area in North America has some fantastic terrain, especially for more experienced skiers, but sometimes suffers from being close to the Pacific coast which means the snow can be so wet at times that it’s actually raining on the lower slopes.

The resort is made up of two mountains, Whistler and Blackcomb, both of which have enough altitude to ensure good conditions up high even if it is soggy lower down, and although a bit formulaic the resort villages are well designed and have a great range of accommodation, restaurants and nightlife.
www.whistlerblackcomb.com


Milky Way, France/Italy 251km

A mere one km of piste – or lack thereof – drops the Milky Way into seventh place. It’s not as well-known as you might expect considering the size of the ski area, which added to the snow-sure factor of some of the area’s higher resorts such as Montgenevre in France means you can often find top-quality skiing here without busy slopes.
On the Italian side – where the majority of the skiing is to be found – costs tend to be lower and the dining better, with Sauze d’Oulx probably being the best bet since it’s easier on the eye than the unappealing Sestriere and also has famously lively nightlife.
www.montgenevre.com
www.sauzeonline.com


SkiWelt, Austria 240km

The lift-linked Skiwelt area is great if you want to ski amongst classic mountain scenery and picturesque ski villages – resorts such as Westendorf and Ellmau are exactly what you’d expect in the Austrian Alps. However, it is quite low so good ski conditions are not assured.
The terrain is especially well-suited to intermediate skiers looking for long, easy cruisers, although Söll has some more challenging skiing to offer.
www.skiwelt.at/en


L’Espace Killy (Tignes/Val d’Isere) , France 232km

L’Espace Killy boasts two of the world’s most famous ski resorts, virtually guaranteed good snow conditions on account of the altitude (you can ski year-round on the glacier above Tignes) and an excellent range of terrain to suit all abilities, although powder hounds and off-piste enthusiasts are especially well catered for.
Of the two resorts Val d’Isere is undoubtedly the more attractive, but you don’t really come here to wander around a pretty ski village; you come to ski hard (and maybe party hard too).
www.espacekilly.com


Vail, Colorado 222km

Proving that not everything in the USA is biggest, Vail just squeezes into the top ten; but although not the biggest it’s certainly up there amongst the best with the quality of the terrain and the snow.
There’s a great mix of well-groomed intermediate runs, good off-piste in the Back Bowls and excellent tree skiing, although the rather characterless (and expensive) resort may not appeal to skiers looking for a more traditional alpine experience.
www.vail.com