Warm beaches in the summer peak season, cozy ski resorts in the winter off-season--the Mediterranean offers visitors unique travel experiences no matter the season. While the high-altitude skiing in Switzerland and Austria may attract hard-core winter sports practitioners, the Mediterranean countries may be better suited to a casual ski vacation with easier access, more luxurious accommodations and proximity to some of Europe's top cities.
When you think about skiing "Mediterranean style," your focus may be on destinations in France and Italy. While these areas are renowned for good reason, there are also great ski vacations to be had throughout the Mediterranean region. Here are our top Mediterranean ski destinations in not only the ski hotspots of France and Italy, but also for the gems in Spain, Portugal and Greece.
Site of the first modern Winter Olympics in 1924, Chamonix has long been known as a destination for winter sports. Trails, or pistes, are best suited to more advanced skiers, though a few beginner options are available. Every skilled skier should go on the famous Vallée Blanche glacier run at least once. Hire a local guide if you have any doubts about your abilities in the back country.
For amazing views of Mont Blanc, the tallest mountain in western Europe, queue up in the morning for the Aiguille du Midi cable car trip to the Plan de l'Aiguille. You can also opt for a second gondola over to Mont Blanc; costs a bit steep but the experience is worth it.
All levels of skiers and snowboarders can find something to enjoy at the upscale resort of Courchevel, though highly advanced athletes can test themselves at some of the world's most infamous black diamond runs that are located here. Four villages are designated with numbers that correspond to their altitudes; they're connected by heated walkways.
Courchevel's glittering environment encompasses more than ski runs. You'll also be able to eat at Michelin restaurants, shop in upscale boutiques and indulge in luxurious spa treatments.
Les Arcs/La Plagne, France
Les Arcs and La Plagne -- two of the world's most popular ski resorts -- are linked by a double-decker cable car that moves over the Tarentaise Valley. Skiers with intermediate or above skills can take advantage of the varied slopes that are both on and off piste. If the weather's questionable, the resort boasts several woodland runs partially protected by trees. Les Arcs has four villages identified by altitude while La Plagne incorporates 11.
La Thuile, France/Italy
Nestled into the Aosta Valley on the border of France and Italy, La Thuile was host to three events for the women's Alpine Ski World Cup last year. But that doesn't mean it's off limits to beginners; in fact, the resort has several areas ideal for newer skiers in addition to its reds and blacks. You can easily reach nearby La Rosière for even more miles of runs.
With its roots in mining, La Thuile claims a quieter, less pretentious atmosphere than other top resorts. You're likely to find a wider range of accommodations and eating options here, too.
Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy
Cortina d'Ampezzo is centrally located -- a mere two hours' drive from Venice, but also in the shadow of the Dolomites that provide great winter sports opportunities. Like La Thuile, the resort has a low-key vibe that will attract a variety of skiers.
Known as Cortina to most guests, the 1,000-year-old town has served as the backdrop for several movies, including the James Bond flick, For Your Eyes Only. The town has much more than snow to offer with museums, historic churches and a thriving artisan community.
Beginners and intermediate skiers most interested in a good time will enjoy Cervinia, a resort that connects with Valtournenche and Zermatt in Switzerland for a nearly unlimited variety of runs. Located in the lee of the Matterhorn, its snow conditions are unusually good even in dry winters. What's more, it has an interesting nightlife with plenty of restaurants, wine bars and shops.
Bormio is our favorite Mediterranean ski resort for a reason: It's got several great runs for all levels, all on one side of the mountain and easily accessible. The beautiful mountain resort has hosted Alpine Ski World Cup events for years and is phenomenally groomed. And the charming town itself boasts three hot springs with thermal baths that you can soak in after a long day on the slopes.
Baqueira Beret, Spain
In the heart of the Pyrenees, Baqueira Beret has more than 90 miles of marked pistes for skiers of all levels. Its cover rivals that of more famous resorts in the Alps, partly due to its location on the high Bonaigua Pass in the Aran Valley.
Several medieval villages dotted around the base of the resort as well as nearby Vielha offer accommodations, a great meal and some of Spain's best wines. Remember that the typical Spaniard dines much later than you may be used to; restaurants open around 8 p.m. and nightlife continues into the wee hours.
Serra da Estrela, Portugal
Central Portugal may not be the first place you think of for great skiing, but the Serra da Estrela, or Star Mountain range, is home to the lovely Vodafone Ski Resort. If you're looking for an intimate experience on a less-crowded slope, this is your destination. Just four ski lift service nine pistes -- tiny compared to the resorts in France and Italy -- but the atmosphere is relaxed and well-suited for all but the most advanced skiers. Don't leave the region without sampling Serra da Estrela cheese and some of Portugal's renowned wines.
Just a couple hours' drive from Athens, Parnassos is at the highest altitude in Greece and maintains 19 main runs and three beginners-only runs. The resorts of Kellaria and Fterolaka have cafés for a small meal or drink, but there are no accommodations. That's no problem; you can stay in nearby Aráchova with its several fine-dining restaurants, many with beautiful views of the mountains and good wine lists.
If you dream of the perfect Mediterranean ski getaway, we can help you plan where to go, what else to see and where to stay and dine. Call us to get started with your custom itinerary.
For a complete list of our top offseason destinations, things to see and do, and restaurant recommendations, download our Best Offseason Destinations in the Mediterranean guidebook.