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Best ski resorts
Heavy snow creates havoc on Britain’s roads but it's great news for skiers and snowboarders who favour the mountains of Scotland.
Conditions are usually excellent at the five Scottish ski resorts during the winter months so there's never been a better time to try the sport.
If you’re looking for somewhere a little more exotic than Scotland, why not drive to one of Europe's top ski spots?
Glen Coe, Scotland
Originally known as White Corries, Scotland's first commercial ski resort launched here in 1956 and now attracts snowboarders too. Ski amid stunning scenery.
Cairngorm Mountain, Scotland
This spectacular landscape is a popular destination for wintersports fans and one of the best ski resorts in Scotland. Ski, snowboard or sledge in more than 30km of ski runs and a snowboard fun park, suitable for all abilities. There's also a funicular railway.
Glenshee boasts the largest ski lift system in the UK, and its 36 runs are ideal for skiiers and snowboarders of all abilities. The top of the Cairnwell Chairlift is said to offer the best panorama of the Cairngorms to be seen from any Scottish ski area.
Nevis Range, Scotland
Tackle the highest skiing in Scotland, in the shadow of Ben Nevis. The Nevis Range boasts Scotland's only mountain gondola, which takes you to 2150ft in just 12 minutes. And there are runs to suit every ability.
The Lecht, Scotland
Enjoy skiing, snowboarding, and even snowtubing at the Lecht. There are a range of runs and terrains for all abilities, plus snow canons on most runs.
Many of Europe's best ski resorts are accessible by car. Val D'Isère in France, Klingenthal in Germany, and Klosters in Switzerland are around nine hours' drive from Calais, while Chamonix is eight. Andorra in the Pyrenees, between France and Spain, is roughly 11 hours away. Many resorts cater for families, offering childcare facilities for babies from three months old, crèches, ski tuition for children and toddlers, and even babysitting services.
Here's our pick of the slopes, as well as expert advice for driving in snowy conditions.
Les Arcs, France
Encompassing five resorts in one, Les Arcs offers skiing, snowboarding, snow-shoeing, and has a Snowpark. There's good snow on the high nursery slopes, a free beginners' lift, and even a children's area at Arc 1800, with magic carpet lifts and a secure toboggan run.
Les Gets, France
The village offers good skiing for all levels and is a quieter resort than many counterparts. It lies in the Les Portes du Soleil region of the Alps, and consists mainly of runs for beginner and intermediate skiiers. Les Gets offers award-winning childcare services and is ideal for families.
Although this Alpine resort is famous for its après-ski, Méribel is also great for families. Along with Courchevel and Val Thorens, it forms the largest, busiest ski resort in the world. Méribel is the only single resort to offer 15 high-capacity gondola lifts, and it has 685 snow canons to boost coverage. For non-skiers the resort boasts a new fitness and wellbeing centre, offering a gym, spa and massage area.
Serre Chevalier, France
Suitable for beginners and expert skiers alike, Serre Chevalier is a South-facing resort in the Hautes-Alpes area of France. It's quieter than many ski resorts with a less frenetic nightlife scene, making it ideal for those with children. It also boasts natural hot springs that service a naturally heated swimming pool.
It's not just the piste that attracts skiiers and snowboarders to the best ski resorts. Many go as much for the fun that starts when the lifts stop.
St Anton, Austria
This lively resort has a legendary party scene and offers challenging slopes to boot. The motto here is "ski hard, play hard". It attracts expert off-piste skiers, thrill-seekers and a glamorous crowd happy to ski through their hangovers.
This large resort offers countless bars, nightclubs and eateries, as well as 101km of runs and excellent off-piste skiing, and is a big hit with young Brits. The bars start to get lively in the afternoon and stay open until the early hours. Mayrhofen is also home to Snowbombing – a major music festival every April. Headline acts in the past have included Fatboy Slim, The Prodigy, and Pendulum. Besides boarding and boozing, there are igloo parties, an outdoor forest area, snow discos, mountain stages, fancy-dress street parties, and an arctic hotel with an outdoor snow spa.
This compact resort is largely undiscovered by British skiers but has a thriving party scene boasting a good variety of bars and nightclubs. For fun while the sun's up, there's great off-piste skiing, a 7km toboggan run, sleigh rides, spas, and more than 40 slick lifts in operation. And Ischgl attracts big names after dark – Rihanna, Elton John, the Scissor Sisters, Peter Gabriel, Rod Stewart, Sting, Bob Dylan and Tina Turner have played there.
Val d’Isere, France
As well as two snow parks, an ice-rink, more than 300km of runs, and two glaciers, Val d'Isère is home to an array of bars and clubs. Happy hours run at some venues from 4pm until 7pm and many offer live music. Try the hotel bars for a more upmarket alternative to some of the more boisterous hostelries on the main drag.
St Mortiz, Switzerland
Arguably the world’s most famous skiing destination, this stunning resort benefits from more than 300 days of sunshine every year. With more 5-star hotels than you can shake a stick at, St Mortiz offers luxury and great skiing in equal measure. Oh, and you can also enjoy a little celeb-spotting while you’re at it. Just don’t forget to bring your wallet.
Live bands and DJs entice a stylish young crowd into the many bars, pubs and clubs at Verbier, although late-night entry fees can be as steep as the nearby runs. There are places to suit all, with pubs offering après-ski shots, bars for pre-and-post-dinner drinks, and plenty of late-night dancing spots. During daylight hours, why not try tobogganing, snowshoeing, or even paraskiing?
Plan your entire journey with our free European route planner, and make sure you don't get stranded somewhere unfamiliar. Check out our expert advice on driving abroad and make sure you've got European Breakdown Cover – save up to 30 per cent when you book online and enjoy peace of mind with our 24-hour English-speaking assistance.
And don't forget travel insurance.
Check out other inspirational ideas for days out and weekend breaks.
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Updated October 2012