Gary Clark, Academy Director at ski instructor course provider SIA Austria, shares his insider view on the trendiest places in the European mountains and where to find them.Look no further than SIA Austria’s guide to uncovering hidden gems in some of the most popular ski resorts on the continent.
Visiting all the trendy spots at a ski resort is exciting, but have you thought about tasting the mouth-watering traditional dishes, experiencing après-life like a local, and going off the beaten track for a view worth the trek?
According to Forbes, in 2024, people will be prioritising authentic travel experiences that connect them with local cultures, fueling a highly sustainable travel trend.
Gary Clark, Academy Director at SIA Austria, said: “Most of the ski resorts on our list are nestled in ancient villages that boast a long history and traditions. While blending in modernity is a great way to attract more tourists, people are trying to get away from the ‘hot spots’ and opt for the ‘hidden gems’. It’s great to see that culture tourism is having an uptake, especially among young people embarking on a gap year ski season.”
Nestled in Switzerland’s expansive Four Valleys, Verbier stands as the largest and most renowned ski resort in the region. The resort’s high-Alpine landscape offers a plethora of lines and routes, making it a haven for enthusiasts seeking challenging yet accessible off-piste experiences. And the après-ski life is just as exciting as the slopes.
The best ridge run in Verbier and Four Valleys
The Tête de la Payanne Ridge Run is a spectacular ski trail spanning approximately 3.5 km with a manageable 295m ascent and a 639m descent. The one-hour trip up from the Bruson ski area unveils the beauty that surrounds this Alpine gem. There are countless runs from the top, with the ridge run standing out as a truly spectacular experience. As you navigate the expansive trees, remember to veer skiers left, ensuring a seamless return to the Bruson chairlift via the cat track.
The best restaurant cherished by locals in Verbier
If you want to check out a spot that has been around for 40 years and is known both by locals and jet-setters, try Chez Dany. Located at an altitude of 1715m, Chez Dany offers a tranquil escape from the bustling crowds, inviting you to savour a moment of paradise and traditional cuisine. Indulge in their classic fondue made from local organic cheese, which is truly divine, while relishing the effortlessly chic ambience.
Dine with monks at St. Bernard
For a day out in winter, the Grand St. Bernard Monastery, located on the border with Italy, is a great way to indulge in ski touring and top off your skin with a modest but delicious meal served by monks. Warming homemade soups and fresh tea served in huge mugs will make your trip memorable.
Start your journey from the car park of the now-closed St. Bernard ski area and trace the well-defined jeep track that ascends to the Grand St. Bernard Monastery, situated on the Col. Grand St. Bernard. The ascent, spanning approximately 90 minutes, unfolds amidst untamed landscapes, offering a captivating experience through nature’s stunning beauty.
Kitzbühel is a small village in Tirol, nestled in the heart of the Austrian Alps. Seamlessly fusing centuries-old traditions with modern luxury, Kitzbühel is a true gem of its own, captivating with its picturesque mediaeval charm. The town boasts a rich skiing legacy, enhanced by cutting-edge snowmaking and lift systems.
The best local dining in Kitzbühel
If you want to taste homemade Tannenwipfel Gin Spritz and authentic Tyrolean cuisine while overlooking the dreamy panorama of the Kitzbühel Alps, head to Berggasthof Hagstein. Reliving tradition in a new and exciting way for five generations, this gem welcomes its guests in a rustic setting for a truly authentic experience. Plus, it’s easily reachable by car.
The best Austrian tavern experience in Kitzbühel
For those seeking a genuine Austrian tavern experience, Huberbrau Stuberl offers a wide range of Austrian beers and traditional cuisine, such as a Tiroler Gröstl with fried potatoes and an egg or a Wiener Schnitzel. This is the perfect spot in the old town, where you will surely meet locals and become immersed in the culture and flavours.
Chamonix, with its towering peaks and picturesque alpine meadows, stands out as one of Europe’s most sought-after and charming mountain resorts. Renowned as the home of the continent’s highest peak, Mont Blanc, and regarded as the birthplace of mountaineering, Chamonix proudly hosts some of the world’s premier ski resorts.
The best local bakery in Chamonix
The newly renovated L’Épicerie des Praz, next to the post office in the village of Les Praz, offers local products and pastries carefully selected by the owner, Gaële. Before heading to the slopes, stop by L’Épicerie de Praz and pick up your made-to-order sandwich prepared with fresh bread, cheese, and local charcuterie produced by Gaële herself and her sheep (Cacao, Fleurs des Champs, and Neige). The shop also offers an assortment of artisanal creations, such as ceramics and natural skincare products, perfect for a gift.
The best high-mountain chalet refuge in Chamonix
The classic stone Chalet Refuge de Lognan is a true gem, perched at an altitude of 2023 m on the slope of Les Grands Montets, just below the tip of the Glacier d’Argentière. It serves traditional Savoyard mountain dishes whenever the Lognan cable car is running.
Access is somewhat off-piste, which adds to the chalet’s charm. There are two options: skiing to it from the Herse chairlift or via the Point de Vue run that follows the glacier from the Aiguille des Grands Montets cable car. Along the run from the Croix de Lognan, you will find stunning views of the village of Argentière.
The refuge is run by a local high-mountain guide, the grandson of France’s famed alpinist of the 20th century, Armand Charle.