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Luxury Insider Tips on the Best European Ski Vacation

insider tips on the best luxury European ski vacation

Hey, Team Snow! Are any of you wondering how to have a luxury European ski vacation? And which of the dozens of European ski resorts is the best? Our correspondent Julie Chang Murphy went straight to the source to get the real deal answers. Here are our luxury insider tips on the best ski vacation in the Alps right now.

how to ski the Alps like a luxury insider

I grew up skiing on the East Coast — long weekend trips to the Poconos, Upstate NY and Vermont with family and friends. My husband, on the other hand, is a Colorado ski snob and never misses a chance to talk about his ski instructor/ski bum years at Beaver Creek, Aspen and Steamboat.

The best luxury European ski vacation destinations: Zermatt, Switzerland.

Neither of us have skied in Europe. And while guides can be useful, for the uninitiated, it often feels overwhelming trying to understand the hierarchy of desirable European ski resorts. So many countries; so little time.

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However, once you live in New York City long enough, you’re bound to become friends with some European aristocrats who are more than happy to educate you about their favorite hot spots.

The best luxury European ski vacation destinations: 4 Vallees, Switzerland. Photo Copyright: Sarah Bourne.

One such friend, a funny and charming Milanese noble who has four names (and those initials are all embroidered on his dress shirts), helped us by giving us the lay of the land. Here are his insider tips on the best luxury ski vacation in the Alps.

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Editor’s note: We should probably warn you, dear reader – in case you get triggered by things like this – that our insider expert is a bit cheeky. As European royalty can be from time to time (as you know). Trust us, his jibes are coming from a very good place. And try to roll with the jokes – ’cause the dude knows exactly what he’s talking about. Your vacation will be a great deal better for it, we promise.

Skiing in Cervinio, Italy

Luxury Insider Tips on the Best European Ski Vacation

1. When and where did you start skiing?

I started when I was about 3 years old, in Crans-Montana (Switzerland). It’s a popular spot among the elite Milanese crowd, which, I am a member of because I am so good-looking.

The best luxury European ski vacation destinations: Crans Montana Ski Resort, Switzerland.

2. For people who have never skied in Europe before, can you give a quick rundown of the best countries to ski?

Of course The Alps are considered the best place. And you’ll find the best skiing is found in four countries: France, Switzerland, Austria and Italy.

Kranjska Gora in Slovenia and Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Germany are in the Alps but I would never go there. Sorry to your Slovenian and German readers. Don’t yell at me. I can’t hear you anyway.

The best luxury European ski vacation destinations: Cortina d’Ampezzo in the Italian Alps.

People also ski in the Pyrenees (e.g., Soldeu), in Sweden (e.g., Are) and Norway (e.g, Lillehammer), but I don’t think they can compare with the Alps. Wow. I am probably offending everyone now. I’m a very nice guy – just a snob about skiing.

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3. Which resorts are considered the most upscale?

It terms of the elite crowd, the fanciest places (which are not necessarily the best places for skiing) are:

  • Switzerland: Gstaad, Klosters, St. Moritz, Verbier, Zermatt, and Crans-Montana
  • France: Courchevel and Megeve
  • Austria: St. Anton and Kitzbuhel
  • Italy: Cortina D’Ampezzo and Madonna di Campiglio

The best luxury ski vacation in the Alps: Courcheval in the French Alps.

4. What is your criteria for judging the best ski resort? Where do you actually go to ski?

For me, the best resorts are the ones that have the largest ski areas and most varied terrains. Even though I enjoy people watching with my vin brûlé apres-ski, I am there for the skiing.

How to ski the Alps like a luxury insider: Les Trois Vallees.

As you know, I go every winter and my favorite places are: 4 Vallées in Switzerland, Matterhorn, which is also in Switzerland and connected to Cervino in Italy. In France, I always visit Les 3 Vallées and Portes du Soleil.

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5. Describe your perfect day on the slopes.

I would probably go to Italy, in the Dolomites, skiing the Sella Ronda. For lunch, I would eat outside on the slopes in a “baita” or “rifugio” which are restaurants on the slopes, usually made of wood that are small and charming.

The best luxury European ski vacation destinations

The best luxury European ski vacation destinations: Sella Ronda in the Dolomites in Italy.

For dinner, I love cheese fondue and raclette, but that is more typical of France and Switzerland. Between apres-ski and dinner, I wouldn’t mind going to a spa and having an aperol spritz for ‘aperitivo.’

6. If you could only pick one place to recommend that has the entire package- great skiing, best dining, shopping, spas, what would you pick?

All of those resorts I listed have world class amenities.

The best luxury European ski vacation destinations

The best luxury European ski vacation destinations: St. Moritz, Switzerland.

But if I had to pick one, I would say St. Moritz.

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7. What is left on your bucket list? Anywhere you haven’t been but are dying to go?

Heli-skiing in Alaska or British Columbia is #1 on my bucket list. I would also like to tour all the best ski resorts in British Columbia for backcountry skiing.

best luxury European ski vacation destinations

The best luxury European ski vacation destinations: the Austrian Alps.

In the US I want to go to Big Sky in Montana. See? I am not just a Euro-centric snob.

the best European ski resorts

Thanks, Your Highness. There you have it, Team Snow. The definitive word on the best luxury European ski resorts for your next winter vacation. We hope this inspires you to head for the Alps. And if you see a really “good-looking” guy with FLGA monogrammed on his jacket, give him a shout-out!

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For access to insider ideas and information on the world of luxury, sign up for our Dandelion Chandelier newsletter hereAnd see luxury in a new light.

Crediting her training as a cultural anthropologist at Wellesley College, Julie has immersed herself in various industries in the last 15 years including fashion design, event planning, fitness and even investigating police misconduct. Julie lives in NYC where she loves trying every ramen and dumpling restaurant with her husband and three children. She finds joy in bold prints, biographies of fierce women, kickboxing and spending way too long finding the perfect polish color to express her mood.

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