(CNN) — What’s more Christmassy than Christmas? How about spending the festive season in a snowy ski resort decked with holly, festooned with sparkling lights and abuzz with cheer.
Most mountain resorts already score highly in the winter wonderland stakes, but some have that extra magic to jingle your yuletide bells.
CNN offers 11 of the best ski resorts for tidings of comfort and joy during the holidays and the rest of the ski season.
Travel restrictions and Covid 19 rules change quickly, especially amid the current Omicron surge, and could prevent some venues from opening.
Advent is a fun-filled time throughout the Tyrol province (in non-Covid times, anyway) and the scent of gluhwein and cinnamon, the twinkle of fairy lights on trees and townhouses, and the lilt of carols and brass bands make Kitzbühel’s Christmas market a magnet for festive fans.
By day, you can enjoy 230 kilometers of runs draped over the Kitzbühel Alps, and drop into numerous mountain huts to fill up on hearty Tyrolean classics such as dumplings, cheese spätzle, Tiroler gröstl (potatoes with bacon and egg) and kaiserschmarrn (pancake dessert).
Fortified with Christmas spirit you can attempt to ski parts of the infamous Streif race piste, an icy ribbon which plunges from the top of the Hahnenkamm mountain down to the outskirts of town.
Griesenauweg 26, 6370 Kitzbühel, Austria; +43 535663181
Hahnenkamm 11, 6370 Kitzbühel, Austria; +43 5356 71900
Zell am See, Austria
Historic old streets and chalets festooned with lights, chestnuts on fires, stalls selling seasonal delicacies such as vanillekipferl and lebkuchen Christmas cookies, warming brews, regional arts and crafts, as well as kids’ entertainment.
For a watery twist, there are giant illuminated stars floating on the lake.
The tree-lined Schmittenhöhe ski area rises above the town with links over to Saalbach-Hinterglemm and Fieberbrunn, making for extensive skiing terrain.
Nearby, high above Kaprun, is the 3,203-meter Kitzsteinhorn glacier region making the area snowsure at Christmas.
Auerspergstrasse 5, 5700 Zell am See, Austria; +43 6542 7720
Mayer’s Restaurant at Schloss Prielau, Hofmannsthalstrasse 10, 5700 Zell am See; +43 6542729110
The historic town at the foot of Mont Blanc is a foodie heaven with rustic huts and mountain restaurants strung like baubles on a Christmas tree across its 41 kilometers of ski runs.
The atmospheric center around the Viale Monte Bianco is a mix of cozy cafes, intimate bars and bistros and designer shops, and is a perfect place to promenade, sip an aperitivo and soak up the alpine ambiance.
Adventure-seekers and view-snappers can ride the Skyway Monte Bianco, the revolving glass gondola that rises to 3,466 meters on the flanks of western Europe’s highest peak. It offers a wealth of off-piste itineraries including the famous 22-kilometer Vallée Blanche down to Chamonix in France. A qualified mountain guide is a must.
Strada Statale 26, 11, 11013 Courmayeur, Italy; +39 0165848170
Via Marconi 50/a, 11013 Courmayeur, Italy; +39 0165846700
This traffic-free gem perched high above the Lauterbrunnen Valley in the Bernese Oberland was one of the earliest bases for winter sports and is a treasure trove of wooden chalets and grand old hotels under the gaze of the mighty Eiger, Jungfrau and Monch mountains.
Just across the valley is the old village of Mürren, home to Piz Gloria on the Schilthorn (2,971 meters), where the cable car station and revolving restaurant are familiar to James Bond fans as baddie Blofeld’s mountain-top hideaway in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.”
How about a Christmas Day trip to the Jungfraujoch, at 3,454 meters the highest railway station in Europe? Joining a cog railway at Kleine Scheidegg above Wengen, you travel up inside the Eiger, stopping to peer out of the gallery window at the infamous North Face, scene of many climbing epics. The mountainscape from the top, with the vast Aletschgletscher, the mighty Finsteraarhorn and the spire of the Matterhorn in the distance, is awe-inspiring.
Schonegg 1333D, 3823 Wengen; +41338560606
Auf der Burg, 3823 Wengen; +41 338553422
Val Gardena, Italy
This picturesque valley in the heart of the Dolomites is a Christmas present waiting to be unwrapped.
There are usually lavish decorations, stalls selling arts and crafts, the waft of spicy gingerbread biscuits, South Tyrolean panforte and mulled wine, nativity scenes and Advent calendar windows.
The skiing, 175 kilometers of mostly intermediate cruising, takes place below the towering Sassolungo mountain but the area also links into the sprawling Dolomiti Superski region.
Val Gardena is also a gateway into the famous Sella Ronda circuit, a 40-kilometer lap of the Sella massif taking in some of the most breathtaking scenery in the Dolomites. It can be done in one day by capable intermediates, depending on the length of lunch at one of myriad mountain huts.
Str. Nives 11, 39048 Selva di Val Gardena, Italy; +39 0471795210
Plan de Gralba 24, 39048 Selva di Val Gardena; +39 4711930388
Val Thorens, France
Christmas comes early in the alpine season so for mileage-hungry skiers hankering for plenty of the white stuff, heading high is a decent rule of yuletide thumb.
A four-time winner of the “World’s Best Ski Resort” award, it combines high-class hospitality with more skiing than most can handle, at a starting altitude of 2,300 meters, stretching through the renowned resorts of Les Menuires, Méribel and Courchevel.
It’s more functional than chocolate-box but with fireworks, torchlit descents, vin chaud and all the usual Christmas trimmings it is sure to deliver a joyeux Noël.
Place du Slalom, 73440, Val Thorens; +33 479000999
The terrace has stunning views over the slopes of Val Thorens and the flanks of La Masse above Les Menuires.
Piste de la Chasse, 73440 Val Thorens, France; +33 609452835
It’s often considered Austria’s prettiest village, all wooden chalets and quintessential alpine quaintness, making for a magical festive scene.
The village is low at 1,000 meters so may not always have snow on the ground but it’s still a sparkler at the heart of the Ski Juwel region, linked with the Wildschönau valley in the heart of the Tyrol.
There are 91 kilometers of slopes stretching up to 2,025 meters with a decent spread of mountain huts, such as the rustic Böglalm in Inneralpbach.
Dorf 166, 6236 Alpbach, Austria; +43 5336 5227
Alpbach 184b, Alpbach 6236 Austria; +43 699 12755926
It’s the biggest ski resort in Finland with 39 kilometers of gentle forested runs, many of which are illuminated in the dark months.
The off-slope activities are as plentiful as mince pies at Christmas, from husky sled safaris and reindeer sleigh rides — with sausage cookouts and hot chocolate stops in remote huts — to snowmobile safaris, visits to traditional Sami tents and sleeping in glass igloos under the dancing Northern Lights.
Unelmarakka 34, Sirkka, Lappi, Finland; +358 44 5164101
Torikuja 4, Levi 99130 Finland; +358 40 6651865
The atmospheric, traffic-free streets are lined with traditional Swiss wooden chalets and hotels, with plenty of welcoming shops, bars and restaurants, and a veritable Christmas list of non-skiing activities such as fondues in gondolas, glacier excursions, night sledging and torchlit winter walks.
Saas-Fee is overlooked by some of the Alps’ highest peaks, including the Dom, the loftiest summit entirely in Switzerland. And with 150 kilometers of pistes, including some on the Fee glacier, reaching up to 3,600 meters it is guaranteed to deliver a white Christmas.
It’s fitting, then, that Wham! filmed much of the video for “Last Christmas” here.
Lomattenstrasse 6, CH-3906, Saas-Fee; +41 279581358
Panoramastrasse 42CH-3906 Saas-Fee; +41 27 957 20 75
Stowe: A Vermont classic.
Stowe Mountain Resort of Vail Resorts
It’s a classic Vermont town, with clapboard general stores and a homespun, Main Street, USA feel. Christmas decorations and activities will be out in full force, while bespoke boutiques and art galleries rub shoulders with cool cafes, country stores and craft breweries.
The skiing, up the road at Stowe Mountain Resort, offers options for all levels on the garlands of trails that descend through forests from Mount Mansfield, the highest peak in Vermont.
18 S Main Street, Stowe, VT 05672; 802-253-7301
14 Barrows Rd, Stowe, VT 05672; +1 8022536838
Armed with a glass of glogg (hot, spicy mulled wine with blanched almonds and raisins) and nibbling on Kanelbullar (Swedish cinnamon buns) or Pepparkakor (gingerbread), it’s well worth a stroll in the decorated streets by the side of icy lake Åresjön.
Åre is one of Scandinavia’s biggest linked ski areas with 91 kilometers of runs winding down into forested lower slopes from near the peak of Åreskutan mountain at 1,420 meters.
Box 6, Åre Torg, 830 13 Åre, Sweden; +46 64717800
Björnänge 841, Åre, Sweden; +46 647 320 90
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