Whether you refer to it as ‘off-piste’, ‘heading to the backcountry’ or ‘going freeriding’, the Alps is the best place in Europe – and arguably the world – if you like your skiing a little bit rough around the edges.
If you like to do things your own way and enjoy the idea of tackling fresh snows, being isolated and embracing challenging terrain, then there are numerous locations you could head to, each with its own unique charms, attributes and characteristics.
Let’s take a look at the best options available and delve into what makes them special.
1. Val d’Isère (France)
Even if you’re new to skiing, you’ve probably heard of Val d’Isère; set in a small village dominated by its ancient church, this is an area that simultaneously looks traditional and modern. The area has been designed to appeal to everyone, so there are bars, pubs, coffee shops, restaurants, spas, and basically everything else a holidaymaker could want. There is, of course, an array of off-piste slopes to head to, and any number of well-marshalled ones, so this could be the ideal location if you’re in a group that wants a mix of both.
2. Tignes (France)
This is a small hamlet specifically designed for skiers. It’s functional and has everything the seasoned skier could possibly want, but it perhaps doesn’t have the charm of other locations. While relatively close to Val d’Isère, most would regard Tignes as having superior off-piste areas, though the fact that they are practically neighbours means you can easily try them both.
3. Zermatt (Switzerland)
This is, arguably, one of the most stunning places in the Alps, so if you want your skiing to come with a side of picturesque beauty, this might well be the place for you. It is certainly worth noting that Zermatt has not been designed for those on a budget – you can’t go five minutes without seeing a helicopter escorting an intrepid skier to the higher slopes – but for those willing to spoil themselves with great food and wine, there are some superb off-piste slopes that can be taken advantage of.
4. Stuben (Austria)
This is the purist’s choice. There’s not much in terms of recreation (aside from skiing, of course), the geography of the surrounding environs means it tends to be cold and windy frequently, and it is frequently referred to as ‘the home of the quiet slopes’ because visitors tend to want to do nothing more than focus on their own skiing excursions. However, the fact that there is an off-piste area with a vertical of 1,000m means that it has well and truly earned its place on this list.
Thinking about a trip to the Alps but looking for something a little bit different to the four places listed here? Check the Piste Pro website and see what kind of slopes could suit you best.