E UROPE IS BRIMMING WITH SKI RESORTS like nowhere else on earth. Mountains throughout France, Switzerland, Austria, Italy (and beyond) have for centuries been crossed on skis and there’s barely a pitch now untouched by a lift. But while the well- known resorts offer incredible skiing, masses of non-ski activities and buzzy nightlife, many are a victim of their own success. And if you’re in search of powder, crowds are no good. While you can freeride anywhere, and let’s face it who doesn’t like lift-served powder runs, the steeper and deeper resorts of Chamonix, St Anton and Verbier are awesome ski areas that really take some beating — but you need to sharpen your elbows on a powder morning and be up at the crack of dawn to beat the rush. If you’re after a more laid-back vibe, where the snow isn’t tracked out within an hour, along with more intimate and authentic side to European mountains, there are some real hidden gems that offer that authentic ambience, lower prices and just as much (if not more) pow. SWITZERLAND ENGELBERG This isn’t a place for beginners, as there’s not a lot of piste skiing, but Engelberg — with its “big give” off-piste routes of Galtiberg, Sulz, Steinberg, Laub and Steintäli, is mighty for adventure-hungry experts. The resort, just over an hour’s journey from Zurich, sits on the northern edge of the Alps with an excellent snow record. While the town sits at 1050m, and can be prone to rain, the highest peak, Titlis, towers at 3040m, so there’s more than 2000m vertical to devour. Just make sure to take a mountain guide. Top tip: Stay at Ski Lodge Engelberg for the full backcountry vibe.
BEST-KEPT BACKCOUNTRY SECRETS
If you’re after a more laid-back vibe, where the snow isn’t tracked out within an hour, along with a more intimate side to European mountains, there are some real hidden gems that offer that authentic ambience, lower prices and just as much (if not more) pow.
BY ABIGAIL BUTCHER
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