My Favorite Places in Europe to Hit the Slopes

When winter hits I like to hit the slopes as often as I can and here in the US we have some fantastic skiing.  I have tried the powder at Vail, Whistler and Alta and loved it but I have to admit to having a soft spot for the skiing in Europe.  Skiing there is just a world class experience and very different from the US.  Places like Switzerland and Norway they don’t take their mountains for granted and skiing, hiking and climbing is just so ingrained in their culture.

The Alps are simply breathtaking, the areas have snow capped mountains all year long and ski resorts are nestled in village that will make you think you walked back in time.  There are castles, chalets and instead of snobby après ski there are cozy pubs to unwind in.  Here are some of my favorite places in Europe to hit the slopes.

1. Kitzbuhel, Austria

Slightly off the beaten path, Kitzhubel is outside the bigger ski town of Innsbruck. There are two mountains there Hahnenkamm and Kitzbuhler and both of these are good enough to have hosted World Cup races. The town is charming and you don’t need a huge budget to try out the powder here.  Just check out the skiing here.

2. Zermatt, Switzerland

I love this place year round, in the winter the skiing is incredible and in the summer the climbing and hiking leave you with some breathtaking views. The drawback is that it can get very crowded and it’s expensive. This is the home of the Matterhorn, and every climber wants a piece of that. The huge amounts of tourists mean that there is skiing for everyone no matter your level of favorite places in Europe to hit the slopes

You can get into the village by train and there are no cars allowed here, the locals want to protect the pristine environment and frankly I can’t blame them. If you decide to travel here during peak times finding a hotel room is expensive and hard to book. Locals will rent you their homes during peak season which may be a little better than a hotel.

3. Levi, Finland

When you think of where to ski in Europe, the major resorts in France, Switzerland and Italy all come to mind. They are great places to ski with some incredible runs but they are crowded and expensive. Levi is popular among the Finnish population it’s one of the best kept secrets for skiing in Europe. The people are friendly and because of how far north it is the ski season is amazingly long. They have slopes for everyone and with more than 25 lifts there is no waiting.

4. Chamonix, France

You can ski Europe without hitting the French Alps at some point in time. Visitors come from all over the world to hit the slopes here fortunately the area is huge and can accommodate the experienced skier along the beginners. If you’re into snowboarding you need to try the pistes here. There are enough lifts that you never have to wait despite the crowds.

If skiing Europe is new to you I would start here, although any of these destinations have incredible runs.

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Introduction to Rock Climbing

I openly admit to being an adrenaline junkie and rock climbing is one way I satisfy the craving for adventure.  It’s me against the mountain, am I strong enough to conquer the mountain and make it up to the peak?  Clinging to the side of a mountain by my fingertips, looking for the smallest ledge to boost yourself up to reach the next handhold.  Once you reach the summit the sense of accomplishment and the rush of adrenaline is the best feeling in the world.

Getting Started

You’re going to need some practice before you hang off the side of a mountain by one hand.  Rock climbing is actually something that anyone can get into, even without mountains.  Learning to climb indoors on a wall is a good introduction to rock climbing.  You won’t be able to enjoy the scenery, but for a beginner it’s a good place to start.  The walls are manmade and the hand and foot holds are clearly marked.  There is safety equipment in place so you don’t need to worry about falling.

Introduction to Rock Climbing

Even as you become experienced indoor climbing is an excellent way to keep in shape in the off season or just to practice.  Here’s another tip, if you are new at climbing to not attempt to climb after rain.  Hand and footholds become full of water and it’s slippery.  Indoor climbing facilities shouldn’t be underestimated for level of difficulty.  Manmade doesn’t have to equal easy!

Climbing Styles

The styles of rock climbing are determined by the equipment you will be using.  The exception is bouldering it doesn’t require any equipment and it is usually short routes.  This is not for the newbie it’s a highly skilled climb and not for everyone.   Top roping, is where someone is sent to the top of the peak and they will attach the anchors for the rope and belayer that you will use for the climb.  In the event you do slip and fall it will be a short fall that will leave you dangling.  This is considered the safest and where beginners start.

The next style of climbing is lead climbing where two or more people work together to climb.  The first person up the rock will attach rope to secure points called nuts and cams.  The second climber will control the belayer and only release enough rope for small progressions.  If a fall happens the distance will be short.  Then the sequence starts again with the second person taking the lead.  This process is repeated until the climbers reach the top of the mountain.  This style of climbing is not for the beginner and you need training and experience before even attempting lead climbing.

Rock climbing, aside from being tons of fun is a great excuse to travel the world and scaling peaks.  Even if you only travel throughout the US you will still see some stunning scenery.  Lastly take pride in knowing you tried and accomplished something daring and new.


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