The best winter European destinations with snow
Sunrise over the snow-covered forest at Ruka, Finland.
The 2022/23 winter ski season has seen some of the worst conditions ever to hit the slopes. From France to Italy and Switzerland, pistes ran bare and subsequently the normal influx of tourists quickly dried up. While many European resorts such as Gstaad and Cortina d’Ampezzo resorted to using artificial snow, or in the case of the former, flew snow in by helicopter, this is a temporary solution, with artificial snow being extremely expensive to produce, as well as detrimental to the environment.
The most revered European resorts all sit at an altitude where a lack of snow was never anticipated to be an issue, however, an unusually warm winter saw even the highest peaks dried up with mud or a thin wash of ice. Although within the last week, all of these areas have finally been blessed with extremely heavy snowfall, the question remains as to what they will do if this continues to occur each year. Even the heavy snow has had repercussions, as it has all fallen at once, causing roads and passes to be blocked and giving resorts little time to react. In the meantime, many under-the-radar winter destinations have seen their business flourish due to having plenty of snow for visitors to take advantage of.
This year, quite contrary to the drought suffered by other European countries, had some of the heaviest snowfall it has ever seen. Unsurprisingly this is less to do with Norway having high peaks and more to do with its strategic location on the Arctic Circle. Norway has always been a classic winter wonderland destination, particularly in the northern areas such as Bergen and Tromso, which offer cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, husky rides and more.
Skiing is a popular activity for Norwegians, but despite the deep, fresh powder, many people don’t consider it for a ski holiday. Some of Norway’s best resorts include Hemsedal and Trysil, which are both located in the north, as well as Kvjitfell, which is around three hours from Oslo. All of these resorts have numerous lifts, miles of pistes suited to all experience levels and great shops and hotels. Norway, along with the rest of Scandinavia, also offers far more than just skiing, but also the previously mentioned husky rides, ice-fishing and snowmobiling which makes it attractive as an all-round winter destination.
Anyone considering Finland for a winter escape has nothing to worry about when it comes to snow. From Lakeland in the south to Lapland in the north, the country regularly gets a heavy blanket of snow which is continuously replenished throughout the winter. Most of Finland’s ski resorts lie in the north, as the country is relatively flat elsewhere and the snow slightly shallower. Popular resorts such as Ruka, Iso-Syöte and Ylläs are all located in Lapland. The latter has more than 500km of trails, although these are mainly for cross-country skiing.
Ruka, on the other hand, has 39 slopes, alongside cross-country trails and other winter activities like snowshoeing and cycling. If you’re searching for somewhere within easy reach of Helsinki, which has direct flight routes to much of Europe, Himos is just three hour’s drive away in the region of Lakeland, has twenty-six slops, miles of cross-country trails, and as the name suggests, plenty of frozen lakes for skating, sledding and more.
Kanin is Slovenia’s highest ski resort, and it’s for this lucky reason that the area has had heavy snow this year. The resort is connected on one side with Italy, so with the right pass, visitors can make the most of both sides of the mountain.
The remainder of the country’s ski resorts, along with most Eastern European winter destinations such as Romania and Bulgaria, have suffered the same fate as their western neighbours in having virtually no snow. Kanin sits at 2,300 meters and has a huge range of slopes for both beginners and experts. Visitors can reach the summit of the mountain via cable car, from where both skiers and snowboarders can head back down or alternatively take part in ski touring, sledding, mountaineering or even paragliding.
Sweden is firmly on the skiing radar thanks to the highly popular resort of Åre, but the country has many more to offer for those looking for a winter destination with guaranteed powder. Sweden has over 100 ski resorts, from family-friendly areas to those favoured by experts, and many are just a stone’s throw from Stockholm.
Åre meets everyone’s requirements, with miles of slopes combined with areas for children, alternative winter activities and over fifty restaurants. Sälen in Western Sweden borders Norway and is Northern Europe’s largest ski resort, spanning six different resort areas, while Branäs is regularly voted as the country’s most family-friendly resort, featuring free activities for kids and a “Nintendo Land”.
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