There comes a time in many skier's life when the call of the luxury ski resort can feel almost overwhelming. These skiers, more often than not, wake up one morning and discover that they don't want to sleep on bunkbeds anymore; that they don't want to ingest Pot Noodle and insulate their winter sports clothing with old newspaper cuttings. No. They want to use butlers as footstools, bathe their bodies in champagne, and live like bonafide royalty. They want designer shops, luxurious hotels, and a ski resort that knows how to look after people.
Of course, treating yourself to a luxury skiing and/or snowboarding trip isn't going to be the cheapest way of doing things. If you're going to roll with all the big-money bawlers, you'll have to start acting like one by splashing the cash about like it's Monopoly money. If that, understandably it has to be said, doesn't sound financially viable you could always try engaging in some next-level haggling and see where that gets you. Anyway, if you're still with us, here are six of the best luxury ski resorts in Europe and what it is that makes them so special.
Zermatt, in the shadow of the Matterhorn - the world's most photographed mountain, is a dream destination for anyone who's ever wanted to go skiing on the illustrated pages of a Swiss fairytale. Madonna, Nicole Kidman, Robbie Williams, Brad Pitt, and Angelina Jolie are just some of the famous names to have skied here. Former Genesis drummer and solo singer Phil Collins owns a property in Zermatt, and it's on the surrounding slopes that British music legend David Bowie learned to ski.
Fans of fine dining are in for a treat in Zermatt, as the town itself has the highest density of gourmet restaurants in the world. Foodies and all-round grub-enthusiasts, if they so wish, can even hire a guide to take them on gourmet ski tours and hikes. Chez Vrony, with its wonderful views of the Matterhorn and organic home produce, is highly recommended. In terms of luxurious accommodation in Zermatt, the Mont Cervin Palace is excellent. For more information on the area, check out the official Zermatt website.
Skiing aficionados, the ones who really know their Austria from their Australia, will often waste no time whatsoever in telling you that the slopes of Austria is where it's at for that classic ski holiday vibe. It's a country, much like Switzerland, where alpine charm combines effortlessly with first-rate snow and varied slopes. Lech, an exclusive ski resort on the bank of the River Lech, epitomises so much of that idea (even if it is a bit on the pricey side).
Two highly rated, and well reviewed, four-star hotels in the area are the Hotel Jagdhaus Monzabon and the Hotel Haldenhof. The Rud-Alpe Gastronomie is one of the region's most popular restaurants, has a great selection of wines, and comes highly recommended if you can beat the crowds and bag yourself a table.
Lech is a popular destination for Royal families and celebrities. Tom Cruise, the man who regularly proves that no mission is truly impossible, for example is just one of the famous faces to have graced the ski resort in recent years. Lech is also home to a number of world and Olympic ski champions, which should tell you all you need to know about the quality of the skiing both on and off the pistes. On a side-note, scenes for Bridget Jones Diary 2 were filmed here (we know, we know, the sequel wasn't a patch on the original).
Here at the action sports and adventure website Mpora, we have a rule. Any luxury ski resort, in Switzerland, that's good enough for bearded billionaire/adventurer Sir Richard Branson is good enough for us. That's it. That's the rule. Dickie Branson, you see, loves a bit of Verbier. He loves it so much, in fact, that he bought a luxurious seven-bedroom ski chalet there for £13 million pounds. It's called The Lodge, and it can sleep up to 18 people at any one time. Exclusive use of the chalet for a week in December could set you back as much as £130,000, so you and your 17 friends might want to start saving now.
If £130,000 sounds like it might be out of your ski holiday budget, why not check out the luxurious but relatively more affordable W Hotel Verbier or La Cordee des Alpes. In terms of good grub, and where to get it, Chez Dany is a bit of a hidden gem; offering its visitors great food in a postcard setting. La Marlenaz is the perfect restaurant for those who want to build up an appetite before eating sumptuous cuisine, as it's about a 40 minute hike from Verbier village through an idyllic mountain forest.
Leonardo DiCaprio, Jamie Oliver, Jude Law, The Beckhams, Diana Ross, Princess Andrew and the Duchess of York, to name just a few of the ski resort's famous fans, have all been known to tear it up on the slopes around Verbier. It's worth mentioning that there has been some interesting attempts in recent years to illustrate the more affordable side of skiing in Verbier. However, with so many A-Listers rocking up on an annual basis it does seem unlikely that the resort will ever be able to fully shake off that VIP tag.
Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy
Known as the "Queen of the Dolomites", skiing in Italy doesn't get much more luxurious than it does at Cortina d'Ampezzo. Commonly known as Cortina, the town is situated in the Veneto region of Northern Italy. It offers excellent ski trails, stunning scenery, shops that scream fashion, and an all-round emphasis on delicious wine and late nights. With this information swirling round inside your brain, it'll come as no surprise that Cortina attracts a high-rolling crowd.
The town contains excellent accommodation options and, with this being Italy, some of the finest dining that Europe has to offer. The Hotel Cristallo, for example, is a luxurious five-star hotel well-reviewed by the people privileged enough to have stayed there. In terms of food, Al Camin and Ristorante Ospitale are two restaurants with glowing reputations.
Anyone who's been skiing, climbing, or hiking in the Dolomites can testify to precisely how magnificent these mountains are to look at. One visit to this place, and you'll see exactly what we mean. Who knows? You might be so busy surveying the landscape with wide-eyed wonder that you completely forget to actually clip your planks on and do some skiing. Oh, and before we forget, Cortina hosted the Winter Olympics in 1956.
St Moritz, Switzerland
The extremely luxurious ski resort of St Moritz, close to the Italian border in the south of Switzerland, has hosted the Winter Olympics twice; in 1928 and 1948. Every year, the big frozen lake in St Moritz is the setting for polo, horse racing, show jumping, skating, curling, golf and even cricket. When you consider all that and then throw into the mix the skiing opportunities and the fact that the resort's bob run is now the only natural course in the world, it's easy to see why St Moritz is considered by many to be the best winter sports resort on the planet.
If St Moritz was a person, its middle name would be 'Luxury'. The resort has some of the nicest, and priciest, restaurants in the whole of Switzerland. In terms of accommodation, the spectacular Carlton Hotel is well worth a look if you can somehow afford to pay £726 a night on your accommodation. If you thought however that St Moritz was all show and no go, all walk and no talk, the resort's position at 1,856 metres up and general proximity to Italy means it has excellent snow reliability and 300 sunshine days every year.
The historians out there will no doubt be enthralled by the fact that the birth of the Alps' winter tourism industry can be traced back to 19th century St Moritz. In 1864, to be exact, St Moritz businessman Caspar Badrutt made a wager with four British summer guests that if they returned in winter and did not like what they saw he would reimburse their travel costs. If, however, they returned and were impressed by snowy St Moritz he would invite them to stay as guests for as long as they wanted to. No prizes for guessing the outcome. Word quickly spread amongst Europe's elite, and St Moritz has been wowing visitors ever since.
Courchevel 1850, France
If you're a wealthy Russian oligarch, or a Parisian with more money than you know what to do with, Courchevel 1850 is the ski resort for you. Courchevel 1850 is the ultimate place to be "seen." The powerful people who go to this resort village, high in the French Alps, don't have blood coursing through their veins; they have some sort of liquid gold. This is one of those elite mountain locations where exclusivity, prestige, and luxury walk hand in hand.
Up in Courchevel 1850, not to be mistaken with central Courchevel where the costs are more reasonable, the prices for pretty much everything are high. When you consider the wealthy clientele and the fact that Courchevel 1850 has more swanky hotels than any city in France other than Paris (three of the hotels here have the maximum "Palace" rating, and 16 have five-star status) the picture starts to become clear. Throw in five restaurants with two Michelin stars, and you've got yourself a recipe for a luxury ski trip casserole.
The Palace of Les Airelles, pictured above, is considered by many to be one of the world's most beautiful alpine hotels. It costs roughly £1,000 per night, per person, so it's certainly not cheap by any stretch of the imagination. However, if you're looking for unrivalled luxury on your skiing holiday and are lucky enough to be able to afford this...go for it! If food is what floats your boat, there's a restaurant at Les Airelles with not one but two Michelin stars.