However, what do you do when the Black Runs no longer thrill you and you’re keen to hone your skiing skills even further on virgin slopes away from the crowds? It’s time to go off-piste!
And Europe offers enough off-piste diversity to occupy even the most demanding and adventurous skier, as these five off-piste resorts demonstrate…
1. Verbier, Switzerland
With an estimated 400 kilometres of easily-accessed off-piste skiing it’s unsurprising that the Swiss resort of Verbier, situated on a high plateau overlooking the ‘Val de Bagnes’ has been popular with skiers since 1925 and is often thought of as the birthplace of modern off-piste skiing. At the heart of Europe’s largest skiing area – the Four Valleys – Verbier offers daring off-piste adrenaline junkies the thrill of white-knuckle runs such as the Stairway to Heaven and the Rock Garden along with the ultimate challenge of skiing down the far side of the legendary Mount Fort.
2. Chamonix, France
World famous and patronised by the most proficient skiers the resort of Chamonix, which comprises sixteen villages and hamlets, clings to the French side of the mighty Mont Blanc and provides access to some of the most challenging off-piste skiing terrain on earth. Les Grands Montets is immensely popular and offers every off-piste challenge a mountain can, but there are enough exhilarating bowls, chutes, powder runs and canyons scattered throughout Chamonix’s valleys to amuse even the most ardent off-piste aficionado.
3. St Anton, Austria
Set in Western Austria’s self-styled ‘cradle of Alpine skiing’ popular St Anton am Alberg retains the ambience of a typical Tyrolean village whilst attracting a global skiing audience. Off-piste action is abundant from the famous but stomach churning descent from the summit of Valluga to the tricky challenges of Rendl Mountain’s bowls and cliffs. Rossfall and the secluded Malfon Valley are slightly less daunting but still need to be handled with care and offer off-piste fans spectacular scenery and mountain solitude.
4. La Grave, France
Not for the faint hearted or anything less than the most experienced off-piste skier, La Grave is not a ski resort in the traditional sense; it’s a no-nonsense mountain village which caters for hardened skiers. There are no pistes here, just La Meije – a formidable mountain served by a gondola cable car. La Grave is dangerous; here you’re skiing on a glacier and crevasses are invisible so no matter how proficient a skier you are the accompaniment of an experienced guide is essential. Properly prepared though, La Grave is an off-piste skier’s paradise giving freedom of choice as to how you make your way down from the 3,200 metre summit of the mountain.
5. Andermatt, Switzerland
Andermatt’s Gemstock Mountain has been likened in part to Les Grands Montets in Chamonix, but lacks the crowds of its famous counterpart. Nevertheless this small Swiss resort offers almost limitless off-piste opportunities. One ski lift gives access to five separate off-piste areas offering as many varied challenges and terrains as you could wish for, and from which you can end your day by skiing 1,600 metres downhill into the beautiful village of Andermatt itself, ready for that all important après-ski.