The Best Boarding in Europe


The pilot's voice, tinged with a French accent, comes over the loudspeaker, casually mentioning that the airplane is now flying over the Swiss Alps. Luckily you have a window seat, and through clouds that seem nothing more than wisps of smoke, you behold the jagged, snow-covered peaks that brought you here in the first place. The sight is enough to get even the most casual visitor excited. For you, who are soon to get intimate with the area's body-deep powder, the view is downright heart palpitating.

A visit to the mountains of central Europe for North American snowboarders is overwhelming. Overwhelming in a winning-the-lottery or my-baby's-walking kind of way. The runs are long, the resorts are large, and the locals party as hard as they ride. Places like Chamonix, France, which is boastful of its "death-sport capital of the world" status, and St. Moritz, Switzerland, which combines the glitz of Vegas with the class of Paris, attract thousands of boarders (or "surfers," according to the French) each year. Many lesser-known but no less attractive options are available to the traveler in Europe.

We've chosen seven areas we think you'll love. Most of them are in the Alps, but we couldn't skip out on someplace like Val Gardena Selva, which is nestled in the heart of Italy's Dolomites. After each resort's description, we've broken down the area's snowboarding options. They fall into three categories: freeriders, freestylers, and carvers.

Freeriders are those who seek out the ungroomed terrain. One of the beautiful aspects of European riding is the amount of fresh powder that is available to ride as nature dropped it. It doesn't take long to learn that the best snowboarders are in the backcountry. There are few out-of-bounds territories (except when riding is incredibly dangerous) and a "run" can be an entire glacier.

Freestylers are the acrobats of the mountain. They spend their time in the fun-parks or on the half-pipes, pulling jaw-dropping tricks to the delight of onlookers and fellow freestylers. Whether you fly yourself or you like to watch while sipping a beer at the end of the day, there is no shortage of options for those who like to get high.

Carvers are the speed freaks. These men and women tear it up on the steepest terrain. They carve out those perfect "S" turns, are able to hold an edge with perfect precision, and often seem to lack fear.

Whatever your preferred terrain, there are endless opportunities for fun on Europe's slopes. They're all worth the price of admission.


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