As more and more ski resorts open up their doors and groom their runs ready for the upcoming season, it seems a fitting time to return to that all important annual question: Which ski area should I head to this year? Snow-Online.com has once again taken a closer look at over 250 ski resorts worldwide, put them through their paces while testing them in ten different categories. We proudly present what we found to be the this season's ten best ski areas in the world – So, get your pen out and put those on top of your bucket list:
No. 1: Ski Arlberg
New Front-Runner: Ski Arlberg Takes over the Throne
Surprise, surprise; there is a new leader of our top 10 ranking: Ski Arlberg made its way to the throne thanks to its very high rating across all ten test categories. Investments such as the new Flexenbahn and the Trittkopfbahn I and II have obviously paid off. Due to the merger of St. Anton with Lech Zürs and Warth-Schröcken, Ski Arlberg became Austria’s largest ski area. This means that skiers have a total of 305 km of runs at their disposal. In addition, a whopping 200 km of slopes where the powder stays deep and light are available.
Ski Arlberg convinced us in all categories during our test. Beginners and families will feel just as comfortable on the numerous groomers of all levels of difficulty as professionals and freeride skiers. The most modern lifts, excellent restaurants and its legendary après-ski scene top it off. Moreover, Arlberg boasts two wonderful runs with "Run of Fame" (65 km, 18,000 m altitude difference) and "Der Weiße Ring" (22 km, 5,500 m altitude difference). Thanks to this enormous variety, Ski Arlberg is a well deserved winner in this year's ranking.
No. 2: Zermatt
A Quick Breather for Zermatt
In the shadow of the majestic Matterhorn, surrounded by numerous 4,000-metre peaks, Zermatt offers a ski experience that knows no parallel worldwide. With a whopping 365 km of runs to explore from Zermatt in Switzerland to Breuil-Cervinia over the Italian border, this resort has it all. Its altitude at almost 4,000 metres above sea level makes Zermatt the highest ski resort in the Alps and virtually guarantees great snow levels. Indeed, skiing is possible on the glacier all year round here. “Matterhorn Ski Paradise” – the name says it all. Zermatt remains one of the world's best ski resorts for us. Varied runs, state-of-the-art lifts and panoramic views that have to be seen to be believed – the ski area offers an unbeatable mountain experience. Once you get there, make sure to not miss out on a ride with the Gornergratbahn.
No. 3: Serfaus Fiss Ladis
Serfaus Keeps One of the Top Spots
The Austrian resort Serfaus Fiss Ladis is widely considered to be the most family-friendly ski resort on earth. The ski area systematically invests in improving quality year after year, spending well over 200 million euros in the last decade alone. This investment is certainly noticeable on the ground. Though families always take center stage here, Serfaus Fiss Ladis also has something for everyone on around 200 km of groomers, whether you are an intermediate or expert skier, whether you like the terrain park or the untouched powder. Customer service is also taken very seriously here: Perfectly groomed runs, modern lifts, huge ski depots, outstanding signage and lots of other details make Serfaus Fiss Ladis a ski area where you immediately feel at home. Both experienced skiers and families will find their money's worth in the Serfaus area. The varied terrain makes for an outstanding third place in our rankings.
No. 4 Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang Fieberbrunn
Its Enormous Variety Ensures Top Ranking
Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang Fieberbrunn is once again in the top group this year, after it entered the ranking in a lofty third spot last year. The second largest interconnected ski area in Austria scores with top modern lifts, a generous size and a variety of different terrain. The ski area's main selling point is the enormous variety offered with four different valley towns. Leogang is great for families, while Saalbach and Hinterglemm are popular with intermediate skiers. Après-ski fans also love the wild parties in Hinterglemm, while Fieberbrunn is known worldwide among followers of the freeride scene. Indeed, the ski resort is always worth a visit!
No. 5: Ischgl-Samnaun
Austria's Ibiza on Ice: There's More Than Just Après-Ski
Ranked No. 7 last year, the Ischgl-Samnaun ski area improves more and more. With its new Filmjochbahn, the “Ibiza of the Alps“ made an extensive investment ensuring that skiers can freely ski between Idalp and Filmjoch, which makes for a better distribution of skiers. The Silvretta Arena with its 238 kilometres of runs is a great spot for proficient skiers, yet Ischgl-Samnaun has also caught up in the area of beginners and families. We were particularly impressed by the slope conditions. What's more is that Ischgl is not by chance called “Ibiza on Ice“. Its Top of the Mountain concerts by pop stars like Robbie Williams and Elton John are obviously legendary, and the après-ski temples “Kuhstall” and “Trofana” enjoy a cult following far and wide.
No. 6: Val Gardena/Gröden
La Dolce Vita on Val Gardena's Sella Ronda
By virtue of having the second best user ranking after Zermatt, Val Gardena has again made it into our top 10 ranking. It’s hardly surprising that this ski area at the foot of the Sella group is so appreciated by Snow-Online.com users given its roughly 500 kilometres of interconnected runs. It’s hard to imagine a place that better combines the “Dolce Vita” lifestyle with sporting adventure. And there’s no better way of sampling its delights than taking on the epic Sella Ronda: This ski tour around the Sella group is quite simply legendary, and it should be on everyone’s bucket list. Other demanding challenges in Val Gardena include the Saslong, which hosts World Cup races every year, and the 10 km Seceda, the longest run in the Dolomites. Long trails like these require plenty of energy, but thankfully refuelling at one of the numerous lodges on the mountain has to be one of the best things about the ski area. Foodies will love the delicious regional specialties served here.
No. 7: Whistler Blackcomb
Over 200 Trails to Explore
With Whistler Blackcomb, Canada has once again made it back into our top 10 ranking of the world’s best ski areas. With over 200 runs, this ski area close to Vancouver came out top of the class in Canada. From Whistler itself, skiers can either explore Whistler Mountain or make their way up to Blackcomb peak. The impressive Peak2Peak Gondola allows skiers to hop from one peak to other – hanging some 400 metres above the ground in the process. Whistler Blackcomb is a particularly great destination for intermediate and advanced skiers, though the wide range of simple runs and special beginner’s areas also make it a good choice for families and beginners. Whistler Blackcomb is an absolute paradise for freestyle skiers and snowboarders, and its terrain parks are truly among the world’s best.
No. 8: Sölden
Sölden Boasts Endless Fun Both on and off the Slopes
Speaking of the world's ten best ski resorts, Sölden entered our ranking last year in a still lofty ninth spot and made it further up the ladder. Being the “Alp's Hotspot“, the ski resort features the new cable car Gigijochbahn, which is a 10-person single-rope cable car with a capacity of up to 4,500 pessengers per hour. So, what meant “waiting in line“ again? This hotspot in the Ötz Valley traditionally kicks off the Ski World Cup every year and is also well-known for its après-ski parties. Yet, the ski area has a lot more to offer than just pro races and party: Its 142 km of trails are always immaculately groomed, the lifts are constantly being modernized and the altitude range between 1,350 and 3,250 metres makes Sölden a safe bet for good snow conditions throughout the season. The ski area also enjoys a long season stretching from mid-September to the start of May.
The World's Greatest Champagne Powder
In the heart of the Rocky Mountains nestles one of the most exclusive ski resorts in the world. Ski enthusiasts of all skills, yet advances skiers in particular, can let their skis do the talking across almost 2,000 hectares. Being a popular ski resort for more than 50 years now, Vail boasts long and wide downhill runs which are perfect for extensive carving sessions. Moreover, the ski resort is famous for its Champagne Powder. The legendary Back Bowls are a true paradise for powder lovers. Apart from the excellent snow conditions, Vail scores with its snow conditions, as the season here usually lasts from mid-November to mid-April. Freestyle skiers and snowboarders have three different terrain parks to choose from and thus definitely get their money's worth here. Yet, the ski area is less suitable for beginners and families with younger children and ski novices - especially as skiing in Vail is not the cheapest pleasure.
No. 10: Tignes – Val d'Isère
Le Savoir Vivre in the French Alps
Thanks to the Solaise 10-passenger gondola lift, newly built for the 2016/2017 season, the French ski resort of Tignes - Val d'Isère has also made the leap into our ranking. With 300 km of slopes, two glaciers and two terrain parks, Val d'Isère offers pure skiing pleasure, especially for advanced skiers. However, the extensive ski area also features downhill runs for skiers on the more less experienced side; hence, beginners can also make their way up the mountain as there are designated areas for less experienced skiers. Still, Val d'Isère is highly recommended for advanced skiers, who should not miss the legendary "Germain Mattis" descent. Val d'Isère is also a dream come true for freeride skiers. The French ski resort boasts plenty of possibilities to explore off-piste areas and untouched snow.
Summary: Extremely Tight Decisions
Again, all ski resorts in the World's Top 10 Ski Resorts ranking are of highest quality. Which ski area ends up on which rank is ultimately decided by mere details - in addition to large and groundbreaking investments. With the merger of St. Anton, Lech-Zürs and Warth-Schröcken ski resorts, Ski Arlberg has set a milestone in its own history, thus it certainly deserves to be at the top of this year's ranking.
However, the other nine ski resorts also put their best feet forward, which means that changes in ranking are very likely next year. For instance, it will be quite interesting to see what is going to happen in Ischgl and Sölden, and whether or not the US and Canadian ski resorts will be replenishing their infrastructure with some more investments next season. High-speed chairlifts with effective weather protection and heated seats are still the exception rather than the rule. What's more is the certain investment backlog that is to be observed in Switzerland and France. Depending on what happens here in the next few years, other ski resorts such as Les 3 Vallees, Aspen, Park City, Alta Badia, Laax, or St. Moritz can also quickly climb into the top 10.
It is particularly striking that Austria boasts an above-average ranking of five ski resorts, which is mainly due to the fact that Austrians are continuously investing a lot of money in the modernization of their ski resorts. Even when it comes to the launch of innovations on the market, such as new technologies of lifts and snowmaking equipment, Austrians are always at the forefront, which clearly pays off in the ranking.
The Test Criteria
Since 2004, the Snow-Online.com team has been visiting ski regions around the globe and testing them according to set criteria. Initially, the ski areas were examined based on six categories. In 2015, the criteria were expanded to include the ten categories “Beginners”, “Advanced skiers”, “Freeride”, “Freestyle”, “Families”, “Après-ski”, “Service”, “Snow reliability”, “Value for money” and “On-mountain dining”. Ski areas can receive up to 10 points in each category, and therefore a maximum of 100 points overall. The final result is the total of all individual categories added together. Snow-Online.com has tested over 250 ski areas worldwide to date.
The Top 10 at a Glance
|Ranking||Ski Resort||Score||User Rating||Skiable Terrain|
|No. 1||Ski Arlberg||90||4,03||305 km|
|No. 2||Zermatt||89||4,77||360 km|
|No. 3||Serfaus Fiss Ladis||89||4,60||198 km|
|No. 4||Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang Fieberbrunn||88||4,50||270 km|
|No. 5||Ischgl||88||4,38||238 km|
|No. 6||Gröden||87||4,76||175 km|
|No. 7||Whistler Blackcomb||87||4,71||3,306 ha|
|No. 8||Sölden||85||4,06||144 km|
|No. 9||Vail||85||4,00||2,140 ha|
|No. 10||Tignes - Val d'Isère||85||3,88||300 km|