Words by India Dowley
Craving pristine pistes without hordes of other skiers this season? We’ve done our homework to uncover Europe’s best under-the-radar winter wonderlands – destinations that few know about but deliver crowd-free adventure and spectacular scenery. From charming Spanish villages to dramatic Norwegian fjords and even Greece (who knew?), ditch the crowded flagship resorts this year and carve fresh tracks at these five lesser-known ski spots across Europe.
We’re also recommending some rather swish ski hotels to check out while you’re at it. These ski trips will give you serious smug points as an in-the-know traveller. Get in on the action first.
1. Sierra Nevada, Spain
Rising high above Andalusia in southern Spain, the Sierra Nevada mountain range boasts the sun-kissed slopes of the Iberian south along with the country’s highest peak. The whitewashed village of Pradollano clings to the mountainside, beckoning adventure seekers just 30 minutes from Granada. Sierra Nevada’s ski area sprawls across 124 trails spanning over 50 miles. Options range from gentle green runs perfect for beginners to challenging chutes for adrenaline junkies. Wide intermediate pistes make up the bulk of the terrain, ideal for cruising. With such expansive and varied topography, lift queues stay blissfully short and visitors can enjoy sunny alpine conditions late into the spring.
Where to stay: With a prime ski-in, ski-out location, Maribel features sleek, modern interiors, an indoor pool and excellent Spanish fare at its lively tapas bar and grill. Also right on the slopes, El Lodge offers sophisticated mountain décor and a luxury spa, ski concierge and farm-to-table restaurant.
2. Allgäu, Germany
Germany might not be top of mind for skiing but Allgäu’s rugged landscape in the Bavarian Alps lures in-the-know travellers seeking pristine pistes without the crowds. Allgäu’s Oberstdorf and Kleinwalsertal ski areas may only have 15 runs each, but their plentiful wide groomers and snowy back bowls are perfect for a long weekend. Ski the tree-lined Oberstdorf runs while gazing upon the sparkling Alpsee Lake or embrace the panoramic Kleinwalsertal views while descending through fresh powder. And for après, a beer hall sounds ideal.
Where to stay: Exuding alpine charm, HUBERTUS Mountain Refugio houses wood-clad interiors and cosy nooks. Unwind at the indoor pool and spa and look forward to hearty German meals at the welcoming restaurant and bar.
3. Vallnord, Andorra
The tiny country of Andorra, wedged between Spain and France in the Pyrenees, boasts extensive ski terrain which you’ll mostly have to yourself. At the heart of the country, the Vallnord ski area spans three interconnected resorts – Pal, Arinsal and Ordino Arcalís – offering over 180 trails stretching for nearly 100 miles. This varied landscape provides everything from relaxed green runs for beginners to demanding couloirs for experts. Cruise wide boulevards groomed to perfection or ride the rails at the Arinsal snow park. The seemingly endless options ensure little waiting even at the most popular lifts, while sun decks at almost every station are ideal for a restorative drink.
Where to stay: At the foot of the slopes in Soldeu, The Blackpine is a chic hotel with a spa, pool, ski valet service and exceptional Catalan dining at its restaurant opening in 2024.
4. Storfjellet, Norway
On Norway’s Sunnmøre coast in Western Fjord Norway, the dramatic Sunnmøre Alps plunge steeply into Storfjorden’s waters. This breath-taking intersection of mountains and sea provides the backdrop for the Storfjellet ski area. It may only offer 17 runs over 20 miles but the real appeal lies in the location, hugging the stunning fjord. Gaze out at peaks rising straight from the water as you fly down empty pistes. Most of the terrain comprises gentle groomers and wide boulevards perfect for leisurely cruising with friends, though there are a couple of black diamond runs and a snowpark if you’re up for a challenge.
Where to stay: Tucked in the stunning Sunnmøre Alps, Storfjord offers Scandi design, an indoor pool with killer views, ski-in ski-out access and top-notch Norwegian fare at the lodge restaurant.
5. Metsovo, Greece
Many might not realise Greece offers skiing, but tucked into the country’s striking Pindus Mountains, the tiny alpine village of Metsovo beckons with peaceful slopes. Local favourite Karakoli provides 36 runs covering nearly 25 miles across two peaks. While not vast, most of the terrain caters to intermediate and advanced skiers, with options like long cruisy groomers, rocky chutes and gladed areas with feather-light powder. Feel your knees burn working turns down the black diamond run as the valley unfurls below, or relax with leisurely laps taking in the scenery. Après-ski, wander Metsovo’s fairy-tale stone village dotted with tavernas, pâtisseries and shops.
Where to stay: The gorgeous mountain bolthole Grand Forest Metsovo features traditional stone and wood interiors, an indoor pool and spa, ski shuttle service and superb Greek cuisine at the on-site taverna. You can also join Olympic ski athletes for alpine expeditions.