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Skiing in The Alps

Chamonix Mont Blanc.
Chamonix-Mont-Blanc. Picture: Ski Paradise

The Alps are one of the oldest and most important tourist destinations in the world. Mountain tourism originated in the Alps in the 19th century. Nowadays, the ski resorts in the Alps are a true Ski Paradise and the ultimate aspirational destination for ski fans from all over the World.

The Alps are the most important mountain range in Europe. Sixty-seven of the alpine summits are over 4,000 meters high and spread over more than 1,000 kilometers, from the Tenda Pass near Nice to the outskirts of Vienna. Mont Blanc is at the top of the list of the main peaks, with its 4,805 meters, and is considered to be the rooftop of Europe. In addition to the Matterhorn (4,478) and the Jungfrau (4.158), the Mönch (4,099) and the Eiger (3970) form part of the Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn range, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Today, the Alps form part of a territory that covers seven countries: France, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Italy, Slovenia and Liechtenstein.

With its spectacular mountain landscape, including some of the most spectacular glaciers - Mer de Glace, and the Aletschgletscher - and mountains - the Dolomites, the Zugspitze, the Grossglockner, the Stelvio, the Matterhorn, the Jungfrau, the Mönch and the Eiger, and the Mont Blanc -, large ski areas, and reliable snow conditions, the Alps offer some of the best skiing in the world.

Zermatt Matterhorn.
Zermatt Matterhorn. Picture: Ski Paradise

In the Alps, there are the most remarkable ski destinations in the World: Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, Zermatt, St. Moritz, Cortina d’Ampezzo, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Kitzbühel, St. Anton am Arlberg, Val d'Isère, Wengen, Val Gardena, Alta Badia, Bormio, or Madonna di Campiglio.

The ski market

The global ski market consists of 2,133 ski resorts and 36% of them are located in the Alpine countries. 84 % of the “large” resorts in the world (a resort is considered to be "large" when it exceeds one million ski days per season) are located in the Alps (Laurent Vanat, 2018 International Report on Snow & Mountain Tourism).

The Alps are the largest skiing destination in the world, with 43 % of ski days in 2018 -France (53.9 million), Austria (51.6 million), Italy (25.8 million), Switzerland (23.9), and Germany (14.9 million).

The evolution of ski resorts

The first ski resorts were born in Europe in the interwar period. At the time, skiing was already a reality in many of the traditional winter destinations of the Alps. Henry Lunn was one of the first to perceive the enormous potential that the Alpine winter presented for the tourist development of many Alpine destinations. Lunn opened winter sports centers in Adelboden, Mürren, Wengen, Montana, Villars, Morgins, Lenzerheide, and Klosters.

Until the 1930s, very few resorts in the Alps had ski lifts so they were obliged to use the rack railways that some resorts such as Davos, Zermatt, or Wengen in Switzerland had developed to transport summer tourists on their mountain visits.

After World War II, ski resorts began to proliferate, permanently changing the landscape of the Alpine mountains.

The popularity of winter sports, the development of new slopes, the improvement of ski lifts, the appearance of additional accommodation, restaurants, bars, and après-ski activities, the development of safer and more comfortable technical equipment, improved access and transportation systems - the expansion of ski tourism was dramatically influenced by the invention of cars – and better living standards contributed to the increase in demand that led to the emergence of new ski resorts such as Courchevel, and Meribel in the French Alps or Sestrire in Italy.

The 1960s marked the beginning of the golden age for ski tourism with the emergence of a new generation of ski resorts in the Alps. This third generation of ski resorts is associated with the concept of "fully integrated ski resorts". In addition to providing a first-class skiable domain – located high enough and with a suitable orientation to guarantee and prolong the winter season – these resorts offer a wide range of accommodation, catering, and leisure facilities, as well as collective equipment that plays a fundamental part in responding to visitors’ expectations. The third generation was mainly developed by the Western Alps (France, Italy, and Francophone Switzerland). Examples of this generation are the French resorts of Les Menuires, Val Thorens, Tignes, Les Arcs, and Avoriaz.

Since the first half of the 1980s, the ski industry went through a consolidation period. The sector’s most significant response to the ski market changes was to develop and focus on particular skiing domains. This trend began in the late 1960s, with the creation of the Franco-Swiss domain of the Portes de Soleil, followed by the Espace Killy (Tignes-Val d'Isere), Les 3 Vallées (Les Menuires, Val Thorens, Meribel, and Courchevel) or more recently Paradiski (Les Arcs-La Plagne), Adelboden-Lenk, Arosa Lenzerheide, Davos-Klosters, Zermatt Matterhorn Ski Paradise, Ski Arlberg (the largest connected ski area in Austria), Kitzski, Ischgl-Samnaun Silvretta Arena, Skicircus Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang Fieberbrun, and Dolomiti Superski area in the Dolomites.

St. Anton. Run of Fame. Ski Arlberg. Ski Paradise
St. Anton. Run of Fame. Ski Arlberg. Picture: Ski Paradise

If you are looking for a ski holiday surrounded by breathtaking landscapes, great snow, endless ski slopes, modern lifts, an après-ski atmosphere or family-friendly resorts, delicious food, and friendly hospitality the Alps are your destination.

On the Ski Paradise web, you will find all the information about the best destinations to enjoy skiing.

When Titan's first rays turn the snowy peak to gold

And his transfigured gaze contains the fog,

Nature's splendor is seen with renewed vigor

from high above, on a mountaintop.

Through the dissipating mist 

of a faint cloud,

a scene from another world emerges (...)

The Alps

Albrecht von Haller, 1729 (Die Alpen)

Swiss anatomist, physiologist, naturalist, encyclopedist, bibliographer and poet.

The poem Die Alpen is one of the earliest signs of the awakening appreciation of the mountains.


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