The best places to ski in January
Adventurous skiers know January is one of the best times of the year to hit the slopes. The snow is all but guaranteed. January is when some of the lower resorts come into their own with the best conditions of the season. Kids are back at school so the mountains are beautifully quiet. January sees more resorts with optimum conditions and fewer people skiing, so you can find fantastic deals to snap up. We’ve picked out 7 of the best places to ski in January from our most popular resorts to some off the beaten track suggestions.
Get the low down on reasons to ski in January here.
Zell am See, Austria
408km of piste with the new link to the SkiCircuis ski area
Whilst most of Austria’s ski villages are rustic-chalet style villages, Zell am See brings a refreshing change being a proper towny resort. On the shores of the lake, which you can walk across if it’s frozen over, Zell am See is undeniably pretty. From the horseshoe-shaped Schmittenhohe mountain to the lake views it makes one very photogenic resort indeed. In January its medieval centre full of cobbled streets, funky bars and great eateries start to liven up and is an easy place to spend a lot of time off the slopes with a buzzing atmosphere. The apres scene is lively on and off the mountain or there’s plenty of hotel spas to relax in if that’s more up your street.
The skiing has become even more attractive this year. Not only do you have the snow-sure Kitzsteinhorn glacier up the road, but a new lift has also linked the town of Kaprun to the glacier by gondola halving the bus ride to get to the glacier. And this isn’t the only new link. The zellamseeXpress has created a link back to the Schmittenhohe (Zell am See ski mountain) from the Saalbach-Hinterglemm SkiCircuis creating a 408km ski area rivalling the St Anton-Lech ski area for the biggest in Austria. To get to Saalbach from Zell you can ski down to Viehofen and catch a very short bus to the connecting lift. The link back is seamless with Piste 68 linking Saalbach to the zellamseeXpress and back over to the town.
Top tip: Go for a tipple at the GinHouse which claims to have the largest collection of different gins in the world.
Explore more of Zell am See ski resort, Austria.
An absolute food haven, Austrian heartiness with Italian refinement
One of the best locations for access to the Sella Ronda ski area, right in the middle of 400km of linked skiing with 1,200km on the lift pass. Corvara is the main ski village in the Alta Badia region which excels in its mountain food. On the border with Austria, the food has both Austrian and Italian influences and they get the balance absolutely spot on. Its the heartiness of Austrian mountain dishes with none of the heaviness. Italian refinement has brought a refreshing refinement to the food and we love it. Dive into Covara’s food scene here.
The cooler nights of January means the ski areas state of the art snowmaking can create pristine slopes overnight in even the meagre-est of snow years. You definitely won’t be short of snow here in January. Ski through some of the most stunning scenery we’ve come across in the ski world, it’s a beautiful and vast ski area where you’ll get a real sense of travelling as you ski through your day.
Top tip: Head for Lagazuoi, on the outskirts of the piste map. You will have to hop on a bus to get to the gondola but you’re richly rewarded with stunning cliff top views and a winding route back down past the frozen waterfalls and to a horse and cart at the bottom which will drag you (on your skis) back to the main area (it’s called the hidden valley for a reason.
Explore more of Corvara ski resort, Italy.
La Clusaz, France
The French village that refuses to have its character ravaged by time
There’s a real sense of mystery around La Clusaz, somehow the resort has been bypassed by the English ski hoards and that is music to our ears. Just an hour from Geneva airport La Clusaz is perfect for a weekend retreat. But has more than enough going on to keep you enthralled for a week.
This pretty French village has kept plenty of charming mountain culture. Savoie style wooden chalet buildings line the streets with the 19th-century church dominating the village square. The mountain huts are wonderful and there are some tasty restaurants and great bars in town. There’s something stylish about the resort that you just don’t get in the more well known French resorts. La Clusaz has a fiercely loyal fan base because of it.
If you’re looking for the best places to ski in January, La Clusaz should be high on your list. With five interlinked mountains and 125km to explore, the ski area dispels the myths surround statistics in the ski world. Being low altitude it’s often written off by many skiers but the area gets plenty of snow. With the slopes being mainly pastureland in summer they don’t need anywhere near as much cover to be perfectly skiable as the high altitude rocky slopes elsewhere.
Top tip: La Clusaz is fast becoming a freeriding hot spot, so hire a guide to make the most of the off-piste. Home to Candide Thovex, La Clusaz has produced more than its fair share of world-class athletes and it’s not hard to see why.
Explore more of La Clusaz ski resort, France.
The most attractive ski town in Europe with the toughest ski race on the circuit
With a medieval silver-mining centre, pastel-coloured buildings and traditional hotels, Kitzbuhel deserves its title as the best looking ski village in Europe. The pedestrianised cobbled streets make up the town centre. Surrounded by the heavy old city walls with the rugged mountain peaks forming the backdrop.
The ski area is low with the town at 760m and all the skiing below 2,000m. This means the snow can be inconsistent outside the months of January and February. Making January an ideal time to visit when the wonderful artificial snow-making is in full flow overnight: Conditions are at their best. The proof is indeed in the pudding as the World Cup Downhill racers come to town each January for the infamous Hahnenkamm race. If you’re in town whilst the race is on you’re in for a real treat with a festival atmosphere around town taking apres up a notch or three.
For the rest of the month, Kitzbuhel’s 215km of piste gives extensive skiing particularly suited to intermediates. The terrain seemingly goes on forever. But there’s certainly some challenging terrain as well including the Hahnenkamm race run; The Strief. With over 50 mountain huts to choose from for lunch you’ll be spoilt for choice. All tucked away in the wooded slopes, it’s easy to fall into long lunch territory here.
Top tip: With so many mountain restaurants it can often be cheaper to eat on the mountain than down in town. Do you need another excuse for a mountainside lunch?
Explore more of Kitzbuhel ski resort, Austria.
Dramatic scenery, the town is dwarfed by the surrounding peaks and views are impossible to beat
Though it has no links to the wizard Grindelwald from Harry Potter, the ski resort still has a magical charm to it. Beneath the breathtaking might of the North Face of the Eiger mountain (well known to Clint Eastwood fans), the town is rich in history and old-world charm.
The cog railway system is a particular highlight and novelty. The train is actually the easiest way to get to the resort from Zurich airport but its use doesn’t stop there. You can Climb the mountain on the train, use it as one of the ski lifts to access the slopes directly from town. Carry on past the piste limit and you’ll reach the UNESCO-protected Jungfraujoch, the highest railway station in Europe and some pretty spectacular views from the Sphynx Observatory. Well worth the trip.
The ski area has 210km of slopes with 170 directly accessible from Grindelwald and a further 40km over in Murren (one for Bond fans). Intermediates will love it here and the new lift system makes it far easier to get up the mountain. Non-skiers will also be in there element with zip lines above the ski slopes as well as 150km of tobogganing runs with one of the longest trails in Europe (15km).
Top tip: Take some time off from skiing to visit the highest train station in Europe at 3,454 metres. You’ll travel through a 7km tunnel and see the longest Alpine glacier around at 23km. It’s well worth the time and outlay.
Explore more of Grindelwald ski resort, Switzerland.
Buzzing village atmosphere surrounded by chalet-style buildings poking through the trees
Easily the best known and most popular ski resort on the list. Meribel is well known to the English market and there are plenty of reasons why this is so. From being part of the largest linked ski area in the world (over 600km) to the bustling apres ski scene with live music seemingly bursting out of every bar in town.
Looking for the best places to ski in January? It’s pretty hard to discount Meribel. In the quietest of ski months, you can get around the huge ski area even quicker. Fewer queues and fewer people on the slopes only makes this heavyweight ski resort all the better. The valley with the most trees makes perfect sense during January. Forget the high bleak bowls of Val Thorens and enjoy the character of Meribel.
You’ll find plenty of chalet discounts due to the vast array of chalets in town. It’s definitely the best value time to enjoy the three valleys. Pretty chalet-style architecture, wooded slopes and friendly village atmosphere you won’t be disappointed.
Top tip: The Olympic Centre built for the 1992 Winter Olympics is a great place to spend some post-ski time. With a 25 metre pool, water slide, fitness centre, climbing wall, spa and ice rink you’ll find something to entertain your group.
Explore more of Meribel ski resort, France.
The ancient walled city of Briancon is well worth a visit if you’re not staying there
Unlike any other French ski resorts, Serre Chevalier consists of a string of old villages along the valley floor. The whole area has an undiscovered feel to it, unassuming and rural. The old villages are beautifully rustic with narrow cobbled streets and small shops, bars and restaurants lining the main squares.
The town of Briancon is the highlight of the village bases. With the ancient walled city rising above the modern buildings below. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and utterly stunning. Far removed from what we’ve come to expect from a ski resort.
Split into four main sections the ski area gives you a real sense of travelling around. A great playground for intermediate skiers. With 250km of piste to explore there’s no shortage of slopes. More than enough for a week’s ski holiday.
There’s the usual mix of non-ski activities such as husky sledging, mountain karting and tobogganing. But every January and the Trophee Andros ice racing championships come to town. There are also thermal spas up at the top-of-the-valley village of Le Monetier with indoor and outdoor pools, steam rooms, saunas, a waterfall and oddly a music cave.
Top tip: If you’re looking for something a little challenging, try the Luc Alphand Olympic black run. Or some of the extensive off-piste available.
Explore more of Serre Chevalier ski resort, France.
That’s our pick of the best places to ski in January.
If you fancy a trip to the mountains pick up the phone and get in touch with our ski specialists. Or browse our huge selection of ski accommodation online.