Yes, Chamonix, Verbier and St Anton will give you varied terrain, cracking après-ski and classic Alpine vistas. But there comes a time in every skier’s life when it all begins to feel a little homogenous.

These seven unique ski resorts that do things a little differently. Some are wildly remote, others are tucked away but still within easy striking distance of regular air or rail hubs. Either way, they all offer unforgettable off-the-beaten-piste winter sports adventures.

Editor's note: check local travel restrictions before booking any trip and always follow government health advice.

Riksgränsen, Sweden

At 200km above the Arctic Circle, Riksgränsen’s season runs late, kicking off in February and lasting until late late June. Compact but popular, this little resort retains a frontier feel befitting its far northern location – who wouldn’t want to try its late winter powder or take on rolling pistes under the midnight sun come May?

Six lifts and 28 runs are nothing compared 13 marked off-piste areas with vast, cliffy back-country. Heli-skiing here is surprisingly affordable and from mid-May can be done at night, setting you loose in an otherworldly landscape of pastel-tinged hills.

Week's lift pass: 2240SEK (US$252)
Getting there: fly from Stockholm to Kiruna, it’s a 90-minute transfer from there (buses are available). But nothing beats the 18-hour northbound train which delivers you directly into town the next day.  You can also get a bus from Narvik, just across the border in Norway, and flying there from Oslo can be cheaper.

Romsdalen, Norway

A vertical picture of a skiier going down a very steep snowy mountain
Store Venjetind is in Romsdalen © Brynjar Tvedt / 500px

The best way to guarantee no lift queues? Ski up, ski down, Norwegian style. Romsdalen, in the northeast of the fjords district, is one of Europe’s best ski touring areas, known for its unfailing and enduring snow, long verts and spectacular views. While this is adrenaline junkie territory, snow guides will cater for a variety of skill levels with short trips or long climbs, easy or technical summits, a cruise down the easy terrain or ultra steep skiing.

Kirketaket (1439m) has over 1000m of downhill, while Blånebba (1320m) has continuous views of Trollveggen and the Romsdalen fjords. Gateway town Åndalsnes is sports-mad and friendly, with several excellent year-round campgrounds, hostels and hotels.

Week's lift pass: ski guide prices vary
Getting there: fly to Molde or Ålesund, but taking the train from Oslo or Trondheim to Dombås then onto Åndalsnes is a more scenic route.

Le Mont-Dore, France

mountainous and volcanic snowy landscape in Auvergne
Massif of the Mont d'or with Puy de Sancy © Jpr03/Getty

The Parc Naturel Régional des Volcans d'Auvergne harbours some delightfully stress-free ski slopes, set against a backdrop of wild peaks, glacial craters and rural valleys. Le Mont-Dore, a once-glamorous Belle Époque spa town, is watched over by the 1886m Puy de Sancy. 

The slopes are around five minutes via free shuttle from the centre, and combined with the modern resort of Super-Besse they offer 33 trails, some excellent off-piste options, as well as cross-country, snowshoeing, skijoring and dog sledding. It’s also worth noting that the Auvergne produces what might be some of the country’s best cheeses, including Salers, Cantal and St Nectaire. The cheesemaker’s alpine workshops, or burons, have their own mapped trail (but check ahead, as some close for winter).

Week's lift pass: Six-day pass €182.40 (US$214)
Getting there: trains run to Le Mont-Dore from Paris Gare de Bercy via Clermont-Ferrand. There’s an airport at Clermont-Ferrand or another three hours away at Rodez.

Vals, Switzerland

Single male back country skier climbing a mountain near Wildhaus in the Churfirsten mountains in the Alps in Switzerland in winter on a beautiful clear day.
The Swiss Alps are a playground for high-altitude adventures © makasana/Getty Images

Vals slumbered in its remote Graubünden side valley until 20 years ago, with the opening of the spectacular 7132 Therme. If ski-in accommodation is not your be-all, Vals’ traditional streetscapes of quartzite-roofed houses make for a particularly character-filled place to stay.

A central gondola deposits skiers at the high-altitude resort of Vals3000 - Dachberg. Its charms (and snow guarantee) make it popular with weekend visitors from Zürich, but queues are rare and its 25km of slopes and good backcountry terrain remain as serene as they are spectacular.

Week's lift pass: CHF231 (US$253)
Getting there: Trains run to Chur, from there the Vals-Illanz bus takes you along the valley.

Val di Solda, Italy

Ski tourers ascending Mt Hintere Schoentaufspitze or Punta Beltovo di Dentro, Mt Koenigsspitze or Grand Zebru, Mt Ortler
Ski tourers on the Ortler Alps © imageBROKER / Alamy Stock Photo

Südtirol (Alto-Adige), Italy’s German-speaking alpine enclave, has a staggering number of ski resorts catering for everyone from pro-skiers to those that never quite make it beyond their hotel. Nestled up a deep, densely wooded side valley, the village of Solda (1900m) is dwarfed by the Ortler peaks, some 2000m further above.

These slopes drew some of Alpinism’s most revered pioneers and it remains one of Italy’s most pristine. Snow-sure from November to May, it has 44km of ski slopes and a good snowboard park, serviced by a number of comfortable, cosy hotels. Legendary mountaineer Reinhold Messner gives it his stamp of approval: it’s home to his snow and ice themed museum, along with his restaurant, Yak & Yeti.

Week’s lift pass: €234.50 (US$275) for a six-day pass
Getting there: closest airports are Bolzano, then Innsbruck.

Sella Nevea–Kanin, Italy/Slovenia

The Julian Alps towering above Slovenia's Kanin ski area. Image by Steve Ogle / Getty Images

Tracing a line along Italy’s far northeastern border, the Julian Alps are brooding and icily cold: there’s often deep snow from November until early June (a micro-climate quirk rather than lofty elevation). Passes for Sella Nevea allow you to ski cross-border, over to Kanin on the Slovenian side of the mountain or head into Austria via nearby Tarvisio.

There are 10 interesting runs for beginners and intermediates and although only one black, there’s a lot of very steep off-piste terrain, plus the option to explore the Montasio plateau on snowshoes or dog sled. First timers come here for straight up alpine action, but return for the Friulian hospitality, including its earthy, bountiful dining and brilliant white wines.

Week's lift pass: €205(US$239)
Getting there: nearest airports are Trieste or Venice, with a one or two to three hour bus transfer respectively. Flying into Ljubljana is also an option if you hire a car.

Jasná, Slovakia

View with blue sky, snowing peaks on the Chopok mountain
Jasna resort, Slovakia. © dragunoff/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Slovakia’s Low Tatras’ ski resort sits on either side of the not-so-low jagged peaks of the Chopok Mountains. With a well-maintained snowpark, five official off-piste zones, cheap food and ridiculously cheap beer, it attracts a go-hard, adventurous crowd. There are 23 lifts and 50km of piste. Well over half that 40km is fast, protected and tree-lined: in a word, atmospheric. There's also superb off-piste options.

Week's lift pass: six-day pass for €199 (US$236)
Getting there: nearest airportis Poprad-Tatry with bus connections from there taking 45-60min. Krakow airport is 3 hours away.

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This article was first published in November 2014 and last updated September 2020.

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This article was first published November 2014 and updated September 2020

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