Monday, 14 May 2012 3:13 PM
If you're thinking about taking a skiing holiday, you really can't go wrong by heading to Europe. Although amazing resorts are to be found all across the continent, it is in France and Austria where you will discover some of the best. Whether you're an experienced skier or embarking on a winter sports break for the first time, you ought to discover somewhere right for you.
France has long been a popular destination for skiers and snowboarders of all ability levels, although for a truly iconic winter sports break it's worth heading to Courchevel. As the country's first purpose-built ski resort, here you can carve along an extensive network of well-maintained pistes set in stunning surroundings.
Beginners will find 27 green grade pistes that feature gentle slopes to allow them to get to grips with the basics of skiing and snowboarding, while those who are more experienced can put their skills to the test on the 48 black and red grade runs. The resort has hosted a number of prestigious sporting events over the years, including the 1992 Winter Olympics, so you can rest assured the conditions here are of the highest quality.
In total, Courchevel has 150 km of pistes, but if you fancy a quick change of scenery you can easily do so. The resort is situated in the Trois Vallees, one of the biggest linked skiing areas in the entire world, putting a total of 600 km of runs – including those in Meribel and Val Thorens – within reachable distance.
Of course, you don't have to spend your entire break skiing or snowboarding. While in Courchevel you can also have a go at snowmobiling, tobogganing or explore the 17 km network of hiking trails.
Courchevel certainly isn't the only top-class ski resort to be found in France though. Les Arcs also makes for an amazing break, and – as it's located in the Paradiski linked ski area – you can easily access up to 425 km of pistes.
It's not just the top-class skiing and snowboarding facilities that make Les Arcs an exciting destination to visit, there are also plenty of other sports and activities to try. These include, among others, speed riding and ski joering, with the latter seeing you pulled along on a pair of skis by a horse.
The Austrian resort of St Anton also offers plenty for snowboarders and skiers searching for an exciting active getaway. In addition to containing 440 km of well-maintained ski runs, St Anton is one of the most snowsure resorts on the continent and after an enthralling day on the slopes you can relax in one of the dozens of top-quality ski chalets.
Freestyle enthusiasts should head to either of the two parks for the chance to practice tricks, with the Funpark containing tables that measure up to 17 m, as well as an array of kinked and straight boxes. The Stanton Park, meanwhile, has three separate sections catering for riders of all ability levels, including the Proline area that contains a number of kickers and tables.
Alternatively, you can enjoy cross-country skiing along the 40 km network of trails. Among the routes you can explore is Loipe Verwall, a 10 km route that features gentle ascents and gives you the chance to take in amazing views of the Verwalltal valley.