Zermatt is the highest resort in Europe and its highest lift station tops out at just under 4,000 metres. At this height some people can suffer from altitude sickness. Altitude sickness typically occurs only above 2,500 metres, So clearly 4,000 metres is well above the comfort zone.
You can get altitude sickness if you travel to a high altitude too quickly. Breathing becomes difficult because you’re not able to take in as much oxygen. Altitude sickness can become a medical emergency if ignored. Your age, sex or physical fitness do not affect your likelihood of getting altitude sickness. Symptoms of altitude sickness usually develop between 6 and 24 hours after reaching altitudes more than 2,500m above sea level. Symptoms are similar to those of a bad hangover, feeling and being sick, dizziness, tiredness, loss of appetite.
The best way to prevent getting altitude sickness is to travel to altitudes above 2,500m slowly. It usually takes a few days for your body to get used to a change in altitude. If possible take 2 to 3 days to get used to high altitudes before going above 2,500m.
All the resorts mentioned are well below 2,500 metres. It’s also possible to ski them all as a lot of the piste is below the threshold too.
Resort altitude: 1,620 metres
Highest lift: 3,899 metres
The jewel in Switzerlands crown, Zermatt is famous for the iconic Matterhorn. If you piled all the photos taken of this majestic lump of rock, you’d likely exceed it’s height. Zermatt is truly a destination that attracts visitors from every part of the globe. Equally impressive in summer, Zermatt is a magical place, with the possibility to ski all year round on the glacier.
La Grave, France
Resort altitude: 1,450 metres
Highest lift: 3,600 metres
La Grave ski resort in France has off-piste free ride terrain with a fearsome reputation where beginners or intermediates need not apply! A distinctly non-resort style traditional village with only one groomed trail high up on a glacier, the vast majority of La Grave’s 2,100m skiable vertical is challenging off-piste free ride terrain with no boundaries.
Skiers with skill and experience will enjoy all that La Grave has to offer and should have it on their list of “Places to Ski Before I Lose my Nerve”. For those that have doubts about their skills or experience but still want to experience this amazing place, get a local guide for a private tour of the mountain.
Resort altitude: 1,800 metres
Highest lift: 3,600 metres
Saas-Fee is an all-year-round ski resort in the Valais, Switzerland. The traditional village of Saas-Fee is beautifully situated in a high valley at the base of the Fee Glacier, surrounded by quite a few 4000m+ peaks. The glacier provides the opportunity for both winter & summer skiing. Saas Fee village is ‘car free’, but unlike neighbouring Zermatt, doesn’t have the convenience of direct train line access.
Thankfully, it is still easy to get to via combination train & bus, or if you really must, by car. The village markets itself as the ‘Free Republic of Holidays’, which gives one a hint that the ski resort takes having fun and making people happy very seriously indeed!
Les 2 Alpes, France
Resort altitude: 1,280 metres
Highest lift: 3,560 metres
Les Deux Alpes is situated on a high plateau at the edge of the Ecrins National Park, south-east of Grenoble. Les Deux Alpes itself stretches between two old farming communities, with the town’s main street dominated by the sharp pyramid of La Muzelle (3465m) in the distance, standing guard over the Vénéon Valley.
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The resort is the largest in the Oisans area and, in winter, it makes up part of the Grande Galaxie ski area with Alpe d’Huez, Puy Saint Vincent and Vaujany. This is not a linked area as such, but they can all be skied with a single ski pass. Due to some challenging lower terrain but easier glacier pistes at altitude, Les Deux Alpes is sometimes called an ‘upside-down resort’. Pedestrians can ride the lifts to the viewing platform at 3400m, take photos of Mont Blanc and visit the glacial ice caves at the same time. Les Deux Alpes also boasts the largest skiable glacier in Europe, guaranteeing the winter skiing conditions, and providing snow sports action throughout the summer
Breuil Cervina, Italy
Resort altitude: 1,956 metres
Highest lift: 3,480 metres
You can ski to Cervina from Zermatt and vice versa. The 72 ski lifts in Breuil-Cervinia Valtournenche and 78 in Zermatt gives you the chance to ski the slopes without having to repeat the same run twice. In the 1930s, the number of constructions in Breuil Cervina could be counted on one hand, at least until 1934, when the Cervino Society was founded. Then, in 1936, the first cable car connecting Breuil to Plan Maison was installed, thus leading to the development of one of the principal ski hubs in Italy and Europe.
The ski resort at Breuil-Cervinia Valtournenche Zermatt is one of the largest in the Alps; it covers three valleys and two countries (Italy and Switzerland), with over 224 miles of ski slopes, so varied and incomparable that skiers can continuously change course type.
Danny Frith is Director at SkiBoutique. SkiBoutique is a luxury ski chalet agency based in Switzerland.
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