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10 Great European Ski Resorts You've Probably Never Heard of

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10 Great European Ski Resorts You've Probably Never Heard of
Europe is not only the home of modern skiing, but it is also home to the world’s largest, fanciest, and flashiest mega-resorts. They deliver hundreds of miles of velvety-groomed slopes and perfect infrastructure, from high-tech gondolas to glamorous spas. Yet a number of low-key ski areas also combine exceptionally good skiing with spectacular scenery—you just have to know where to find them. Compared to the big-name resorts, they are less congested, less pricey, and blissfully laid-back. Ski in the wild Catalonian mountains or with a Mediterranean view; enjoy overlooked high-altitude spots in the Alps or venture into the adventurous North. These 10 underrated European ski resorts are perfect for anyone looking to go off the beaten slopes.
By Sissi Pärsch
Klienwalsertal photo by Oliver Farys
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    1. Myrkdalen, Norway
    For fjord freeriders

    Norway is hit by thick snow, which makes the family-friendly Myrkdalen Ski Resort in west Norway (just two hours from the scenic city of Bergen) one of the most reliable fresh powder spots in Europe. The resort is equipped with terrain for skiers of all ages and levels, but it offers a truly special experience for adventurous freeriders: You can cruise up the Nærøy Fjord on a boat, take a train up the mountain, and then backcountry ski down through breathtaking scenery.
    Photo by Sverre F. Hjørnevik
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    2. Kleinwalsertal, Austria/Germany
    For border-crossers

    The cozy and picturesque valley of Kleinwalsertal, known for its rustic mountain huts and gourmet take on traditional cuisine, is cut off from the rest of Austria by the same mountains that make it so beautiful. Situated at the bottom of Bavaria on the Austrian side of the border, it is only accessible via Germany. The resort is linked with the German resort Oberstdorf, making the area perfect for “cross-country skiing”: You can go back and forth across the border and ski vast tracts of trails in both countries. The area gets huge amounts of snow, which delivers plenty of backcountry pleasures (including true cross-country skiing).
    Photo by Guenther Fritz
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    3. Obergurgl, Austria
    For those who always wish ski season was longer

    The long, pretty Ötztal valley is best known as the home to Solden, a ski resort that famously hosted both James Bond and the World Cup. But pass by the resort’s superlative lift system (the fastest in the world), leave the crowds behind, and head south to Obergurgl-Hochgurgl. The relaxed, queue-free, high-altitude (6,330 feet) resort on the Italian border boasts a super-long season with an astonishing 160 days of skiing. It has a wide range of slopes for all skill levels and offers backcountry skiing that is highly praised among powder cognoscenti.
    Photo by Philipp Horak
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    4. Livigno, Italy
    For off-piste snorkelers and duty-free shoppers

    Livigno is a wide-open, high-altitude valley (5,958 feet to 9,800 feet) nestled in the Alps on the Swiss-Italian border. It’s remote, but that’s only one reason the resort is worth visiting: It also holds a special tax-free status with a mile of shops in the resort’s pedestrian center. Wrapped in a blanket of snow from November to April, Livigno is great for beginners, intermediates, and experts alike and caters to freeriders with managed off-piste (or off-trail) zones. The food is fantastic, too, from the gourmet plates at the mountaintop Stüvetta to the traditional Swiss-Italian dishes served in the many mountain huts. It even boasts Europe’s highest microbrewery, Birrificio.
    Photo by Fabio Borga
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    5. Engelberg-Titlis, Switzerland
    For powder hunters

    Despite being situated in the heart of Switzerland, Engelberg-Titlis is less known than glitzy St. Moritz or smart Davos. Why the little town with its medieval monastery remains overlooked is a mystery to the ski connoisseurs who have fallen in love with the deep snow around majestic Mount Titlis. One big group is already in on the secret, though: Swedish freeriders discovered this powder haven years ago and now invade Engelberg each winter with their fat skis. Some stay for the entire season; some stay forever.
    Courtesy of Engelberg-Titlis
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    6. Le Grand Bornand, France

    For laid-back cruisers

    With 55 miles of ski trails, Le Grand Bornand is far from tiny. Yet, located between Lake Annecy, Chamonix, and Geneva, it has kept its authentic farming village charm, refusing to grow into another titanic French ski resort. It is a calm, traditional winter sport spot, perfect for families and backcountry lovers who prefer soft powder to challenging couloirs. Because you can circle all 360 degrees of the mountain, you can spend the day following the sun or staying in the shade for crisp powder. Or you can simply cruise from one culinary spot to the next, savoring as much melted cheese as you can, from fondue to raclette to tartiflette.

    Photo by G. Lansard-Aravis
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    7. Abetone, Italy

    For those who ski with gusto

    Tuscany usually conjures up images of vineyards, rolling hills, and Pisa’s Leaning Tower. But in the Apennine Mountains and only 55 miles from Florence is the Tuscan ski resort Abetone. You can't always count on fresh powder, but the peaks reach nearly 6,560 feet, and on a clear day you can see all the way to the sea and Elba Island. Most of the 26 slopes were designed for beginners and intermediates, making Abetone the perfect place for families and relaxed skiers who enjoy the typical Mediterranean “gusto” lifestyle.

    Photo by Damiano Petrucci
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    8. Baqueira-Beret, Spain

    For those who love the wine and the wild

    Baqueira-Beret may sound like a full-bodied red wine, but it’s actually a ski resort high in the Pyrenees Mountains of northwestern Catalonia, surrounded by stunning mountain scenery. The resort sits in a secluded valley, the Val d’Aran, where locals speak their own language and the area’s unique character is evident in the distinct medieval architecture and delicious traditional dishes. Although secluded, Baqueira-Beret is Spain’s largest ski area, offering 95 miles of groomed runs and plenty of off-piste variations. The Pyrenees form the natural border between Spain and France, and the nearest airport is actually in Toulouse, France.

    Courtesy of Baqueira-Beret
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    9. Pamporovo, Bulgaria

    For the price-conscious, sun-seeking skier

    Bansko is Bulgaria’s top ski resort, but the smaller area of Pamporovo is a great option for those who aren’t looking to splurge and who love goggle tans. Located 150 miles from the Bulgarian capital of Sofia and 62 miles from the Greek border, the enchanting village looks on the sunny side of ski life with 120 days of sunshine each winter. (Don’t worry, great skiing conditions are ensured by snowmaking technology from December to April.) Pamporovo is now also linked to the neighboring resort of Mechi Chal, making it bigger than ever.

    Courtesy of Pamporovo–Mechi Chal
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    10. Parnassos, Greece

    For smart travelers who want it all

    During summertime, Greece is a powerful magnet for crowds. In winter, you’ll have it all to yourself. And you can do it all, too. Chill with a bowl of marinated olives and fresh grilled octopus at the seaside, enjoy moussaka near an ancient temple, take a bite of sweet baklava near a mythological site—and then set out on a ski trip. The mountain of Parnassos is only a two-hour drive from Athens, and the ski resort has 19 ski runs at an elevation of up to 7,380 feet.

    Photo by Kostas Limitsios
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