3 Secret Alps Ski Destinations

3 Secret Alps Ski Destinations

James Schriebl
James Schriebl
These three under-the-radar European resorts—in as many different countries—are accessible, charming, and loaded with après-ski attractions.

The Resort: Grindelwald

This storybook village in the picturesque Bernese Oberland is home to the towering Wetterhorn and Eiger mountains and near the Jungfrau (now a UNESCO-protected natural World Heritage site), which have long attracted outdoor enthusiasts and form a breathtaking backdrop to the chalet-dotted hills surrounding town.

Getting There: Grindelwald is three hours from Zurich by train (sbb.ch).

Stay: Nothing captures the town’s charm like the Romantik Hotel Schweizerhof (doubles from $474), with its pitched roofs and 19th-century wood-paneled façade. The suites blend old-world details (fireplaces; carved pine headboards) with modern amenities (flat-screen TV’s; heated tile floors in the bathrooms). For impressive views at a more affordable price, try Hotel Steinbock (doubles from $250), where the wood-beamed rooms are simple but cheery.

Eat: Directly across from the train station, Grand Regina hotel’s La Pendule d’Or (dinner for two $90) serves a mix of regional and French cuisine—all prepared with ingredients from the hotel’s own farm and organic garden. For fondue, look no further than Barry’s (dinner for two $73), an authentic Swiss hut inside the Hotel Eiger that offers the perfect blend of Gruyère and Vacherin cheeses, plus a shot or two of kirsch. Rancher Bar (dinner for two $112), an atmospheric log cabin set on a slope above town, is known for its steaks and mulled wine.

Do: Need a day out of ski boots? Shop for gear (not to mention clothing from designers like Escada) at Graf Sport, or hike the wooded trail to mountain hideaway Rasthysi, where local character Rolf Schneller makes a tasty Schümli Pflümlis (Switzerland’s answer to Irish coffee). For a day trip, hop the Jungfrau Railway (tickets $26), whose tracks top out at a spectacular 11,000-foot vantage point.

The Resort: St. Anton am Arlberg

This classic Tyrolean village, considered the birthplace of modern skiing, has become a lively Alpine mecca, as renowned for its slopes (171 downhill miles with easy access to a network of 84 lifts) as it is for its nightlife.

Getting There: St. Anton is 2 1/2 hours from Zurich and 3 1/2 hours from Munich by train (oebb.at).

Stay: With its gabled architecture, traditional rooms, and popular cocktail lounge, the Hotel Alte Post (doubles from $224)—set in the heart of the pedestrian base village—harks back to skiing’s sophisticated heyday. Ideally located next to the main gondola, the hotel Bergschloessl (doubles from $226) is housed in a 100-year-old building and delivers a taste of the Austrian countryside with claw-footed tubs and ceiling frescoes in its 10 guest rooms.

Eat: In the high-altitude hamlet of St. Christoph, the ski-in, ski-out Hospiz Alm (lunch for two $58) is a rustic chalet with a cozy atmosphere and a Bordeaux-heavy wine list. Just outside of town, there’s Hotel Sonnbichl (dinner for two $95) for Tyrolean fare, and Pomodoro (dinner for two $59), which serves pitch-perfect thin-crust pizza. For adventurous diners, few experiences rival the biweekly sledding night, or Rodel Abend (gondola ticket and sled rental $44). Start at the mountaintop Rodel Huette (dinner for two $62) with a meal of local specialties (pig’s knuckle with honey-infused sauerkraut, followed by Kaiserschmarren, a crêpelike dessert) and end the night with a 2.7-mile, floodlighted sled run.

Do: No ski day here is complete without a salutary cocktail, so take your pick of the village’s two legendary bars: the Krazy Kanguruh (drinks for two $12), a nearly 40-year-old staple that lures skiers with copious helpings of Jägermeister and rock ’n’ roll, and the Mooserwirt (drinks for two $11), a lively disco where Swedish ski instructors and European vacationers down frothy steins and ski-booted table dancing is de rigueur.

The Resort: Val Gardena

At the heart of the Val Gardena valley in the Dolomites is a massive, 360-degree expanse of interconnected slopes and ski resorts known as the Sella Ronda, or carousel, referring to the merry-go-round skiing of sophisticated Italian families who flock here each winter.

Getting There: Airports in Verona, Italy, and Innsbruck, Austria, are about two to three hours away. Buses run to the valley regularly (39-0471/777-777; flytovalgardena.com).

Stay: In Selva, the highest of Val Gardena’s three villages, the minimal Hotel Alpino Plan (doubles from $180) is beloved by members of the U.S. ski team for its four-course dinners and attentive staff. Or splurge on the Alpenroyal Grand Hotel Gourmet & Spa (doubles from $487). The property has a heated outdoor pool, a two-story spa, and its own ski school.

Eat: Just below the jagged, 10,000-foot-high Sassolungo peak sits the popular lunchtime spot Rifugio Emilio Comici (lunch for two $103), which offers grilled fish and generously portioned tiramisu. At night, head to Ristorante Nives (dinner for two $131) for northern Italian cuisine made with regional ingredients such as tortelloni stuffed with chamois and wild-berry butter. Or hunker down at Ristorante Concordia (dinner for two $105), in the neighboring village of Ortisei, where south Tyrolean specialties are served in a wood-paneled stube.

Do: Ortisei is also the best place to explore Val Gardena’s famous wood-carving tradition, which dates back to the 17th century. You’ll find contemporary artisans’ work at Galaria Unika. Back in Selva, Hotel Nives’s modern wine bar welcomes stylish patrons, who cap the day with Prosecco and tales from the slopes.

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