If you want to head to Europe and experience a magical winter wonderland but you aren’t into skiing, or you’re planning a trip with a mixed group of travelers with both skiers and non-skiers, there are some great resorts to consider. Many offer opportunities for gliding down the slopes along with all sorts of activities like sledding, horse-drawn sleigh rides and snowshoeing. At the same time, you’ll be able to enjoy especially breathtaking mountain scenery, from the Matterhorn in Switzerland to the Dolomites in the Italian Alps.
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Zermatt, Switzerland (Hotel Prices & Photos)
The car-free village of Zermatt with the Matterhorn looming larger than life in the background offers an especially tranquil atmosphere. During the day, enjoy shopping chic boutiques, tandem paragliding, snowshoeing, ice climbing, ice skating, ice hockey and sledding, including the toboggan run on the Gornergrat, considered one of the finest in the Alps. Look forward to sipping mulled red wine at the Igloo Bar, made almost entirely out of ice after it’s all said and done.
There’s a throwback feel to car-free Zermatt, which started life as a base for early Matterhorn climbing expeditions – and is mightily proud of the fact. It’s gone as far as to dedicate an annual “mountain film festival” to the peak and based a surprisingly gripping museum on the tragedy of the first climb, holding tonnes of walking tours to recreate early expeditions. Ascents aren’t half as rare these days, and you don’t have to pack rope and crampons to get to the top- the highest cable car in Europe takes you up the Klein Matterhorn to a view across 100 miles. Not that Zermatt is stuck in the shadow of the mountain – an international spotlight.
Seefeld, Tirol, Austria (Hotel Prices & Photos)
While hard-core skiers won’t be won over by Seefeld, everyone else likely will. This especially scenic village offers all sorts of opportunities in the snow like ice skating, Nordic walking, tobogganing and paragliding. You can also enjoy a relaxing dip in one of the swimming pools surrounded by snow. Seefeld is renowned as a winter walker’s paradise with more than 88 miles of cleared and salted walking paths, featuring plenty of traditional huts for refreshment along the way.
Avoriaz, France (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Ideal for families who want to split their time between the slopes and non-skiing activities, Avoriaz was awarded Best Family Resort at the 2013 World Ski Awards. This car-free resort is the only one of its kind in France, providing a relaxed, safe village with lots of restaurants, cafes and shops that are accessed on foot or by horse-drawn sleigh. It’s also home to the sub-tropical Aquariaz water park for some indoor fun, with a series of pools, slides and water jets with currents at various speeds. You can even enjoy a few unique activities too, like organized snowball fights and sumo wrestling in the snow.
Breuil-Cervinia, Italy (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Breuil-Cervinia is ideal for families who have both skiing and non-skiing members, and it’s quite a bit more affordable than what you’ll find just across the border in Switzerland. It features snowparks and playgrounds as well as a natural ice rink that hosts a bar and sun terrace. Don’t miss the chance to enjoy lunch at the traditional Riguio Guide del Cervinio on the Plateau Rosa glacier. Breuil-Cervinia also ranks high with non-skiers for its close proximity to some notable attractions like the highest ice caves in Europe and the ancient village of Chamois – accessed by cable car, it’s like a trip back in time, with stone pedestrian streets and renovated homes that help to preserve the allure of the remote location.
Cortina, Italy (Hotel Prices & Photos)
While there may be plenty of snow and lifts in Cortina, there are so many other things to do that skiing often gets left by the wayside, which makes it ideal for the non-skier. You’ll be perfectly situated for an adventure in one of the best areas of the breathtaking Dolomites known as Faloria which offers a bird’s-eye view of the snowy landscape via cable car to the summit. There are also beautiful churches to visit like La Parrocchiale SS. Filippo e Giacomo, museums to explore, castles to tour, boutiques to shop and plenty of eateries to enjoy Prosecco and espresso.
Bansko, Bulgaria (Hotel Prices & Photos)
While Bansko is a skier’s delight, with over 40 miles of runs for beginners and intermediates, non-skiers will find lots to do as well, like ice skating, snowshoeing, tobogganing, cross-country skiing, warming up in the saunas and indulging in decadent treatments at one of the spas. There are fun day trips to embark on too, including the mountain village of Kovachevitsa with its nearby hot springs and the magnificent UNESCO listed 11-century monastery of Rila.
Ellmau, Austria (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Traditional Ellmau is Austria’s largest ski area and one of the world’s best, with lots of opportunities for beginners to learn on gentle slopes at the valley level, but non-skiers will find lots to enjoy as well. Hop on the Hartkaiserbahn mountain railway for lunch at one of the charming snow bars or ski huts, and glide across the snow in a horse-drawn sleigh. You may want to make the short drive to Kitzbuhel too, a medieval town with its pedestrian-friendly streets lined with boutiques. After dark, take in the views of the dazzling lights in the valley from the floodlit toboggan run.
St. Moritz, Switzerland (Hotel Prices & Photos)
While St. Moritz is famous for its skiing, most visitors come here for the glitz and glamour, which includes plenty of upscale restaurants for savoring truffles and caviar as well as the highest shopping street in Europe. No one will bat an eye if you come in the winter and don’t plan to take a spin down the slopes. You can watch sports on the ice, including cricket and the Cartier Polo World Cup, warm up with afternoon tea in one of the luxury hotels, take an unforgettable train ride on the UNESCO listed Rhaetian Railway and tour the national park too. When it’s time to unwind, take advantage of one of the many mud and mineral baths.