(CNN) — Choosing the most beautiful ski resort in the Alps is like picking the prettiest diamond.
Pristine peaks and sparkling snow make for an attractive package — even with some of our man-made “creations” — but some alpine resorts just carry their beauty a little bit better.
The setting, the architecture, the atmosphere, the personality — it all somehow adds up to more than the sum of the parts.
These 10 European treasures will spark instant alpine urges.
1. Zermatt, Switzerland
Unique selling points: Famed Valais village, world-class skiing, rich mountaineering history, iconic pointy peak.
Zermatt is one part cultural throwback to one part Swiss sophistication, where century-old barns perched on stone stilts to keep out mice rub shoulders with cutting-edge creations.
A cog railway chugs up to the slopes around Gornergrat and gives stupendous views of the Monte Rosa range, while the cableways up to the Klein Matterhorn give close-up views of the icon itself, plus access to Cervinia in Italy.
2. Grimentz, Switzerland
Unique selling points: Chocolate-box chalets, unspoiled valley, geraniums.
Grimentz sits in the Val d’Anniviers, a side shoot of the great Rhone Valley. At its southern end sits the “Great Crown” of four-thousanders (summits over 4,000 meters above sea level), including the Weisshorn, Bishorn, Zinalrothorn, Obergabelhorn, Matterhorn and Dent Blanche.
Maison Bourgeoisiale, 3961 Saint-Luc, Switzerland
3. Wengen, Switzerland
Unique selling points: Classic Swiss village ringed by famous summits.
The village, which can only be reached by cog railway or cable car, gazes out across the deep Lauterbrunnen valley and up towards the famous 4,000-meter peaks of the Eiger, the Monch and the Jungfrau.
Wengen, all grand old chalets and kids sledding to school, is home to the famous Lauberhorn downhill race on the World Cup circuit. The run passes through a tunnel of another cog train up to Kleine Scheidegg at 2,061 meters, where you can eyeball climbers on the Eiger’s north face from your lunch table.
Worth the trip: A train from Kleine Scheidegg heads up through the Eiger, stopping to let riders look out a window in the rock onto the north face itself, before reaching the Jungfraujoch (3,454 meters) at the head of the vast Aletsch glacier, a UNESCO World Heritage site famous for skiing and climbing.
4. Kitzbuehel, Austria
Kitzbuehel hosts the Hahnenkamm ski race in winter and the Austrian Open tennis tournament in summer.
Kitzbuhel Tourism/Bernhard Spoettl
Unique selling points: Tyrolean charm, cobblestone streets, ski racing Mecca.
Pre-Covid, Kitzbuehel went crazy during race week. Schnapps-fueled fans roaring on their faves and later squeezing into the infamous Londoner pub to down beer served by the US and Canadian ski teams. The rest of the time Kitz is an elegant charmer with a centuries-old center surrounded by the soft summits of the Wilder Kaiser mountains.
5. Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy
Cortina hosted the Winter Olympics in 1956 and was the setting for a certain James Bond flick. When you set eyes on her, you might wish Cortina were “For Your Eyes Only.”
6. Lech, Austria
Unique selling points: Old-school elegance by royal approval.
7. Saas-Fee, Switzerland
Unique selling points: High-mountain setting, ye olde wooden granaries, in-your-face glaciers.
Fabled 4,000-meter peaks such as the Dom, the Taschhorn and the Alphubel dot the skyline, and it’s from here that the extended version of the Zermatt-Chamonix Haute Route begins. The generally intermediate ski runs flow downhill alongside glacial tongues pocked by gaping crevasses.
8. Alpbach, Austria
Unique selling points: Cute, quintessential, unassuming.
All upper floors of new buildings must be clad in wood to preserve the bygone feel. The cutesy homespun look — farming is still very much alive — has landed the prize as “Austria’s most beautiful village” — and the competition for that one is tough.
The skiing is generally gentle and low — the village only lies at 1,000 meters above sea level — but this Tyrolean treasure lives up to the name of the ski area it shares with the neighboring Wildschonau valley — Ski Jewel.
9. Megeve, France
Unique selling points: Mont Blanc views, stylish center, scent of pine.
The picturesque cobbled center gives an authentic air, while cruising the wonderfully wooded lower slopes fills your nostrils with the pleasing scent of pine.
10. Courmayeur, Italy
Unique selling points: Big-mountain scenery, historic town, restaurants, Mont Blanc.
The skiing begins from a sunny plateau above the town with stupendous views of more than a dozen of Europe’s highest peaks. Courmayeur is known for its myriad mountain restaurants offering simple Italian fare, while the historic center is a great place to hit for dinner.
Worth the trip: For the ultimate high-mountain experience, you can get a guide and take the Skyway Monte Bianco cable car to Punta Helbronner (3,462 meters) to access the famous 20-kilometer Vallee Blanche glacier run down to Chamonix in France.