During my first year living in Switzerland, I did something every skier dreams of: I crossed an international border on skis. To an American-born skier like myself, the very idea of crossing from Zermatt’s Matterhorn Ski Paradise in Switzerland to Italy’s Breuil-Cervinia while bombing down that fresh corduroy piste embodied all the glamour and cosmopolitanism of ritzy alpine Europe. Because to do this, one must first ascend Europe’s highest ski station on a cable car that glides through clouds to Klein Matterhorn, where a staggering view of 38 creamy mountain peaks awaits. From there, it’s a cool downhill swoosh to either country. The Italian run is 10 miles down with a 5,000-foot vertical drop, while the Swiss trail is a thigh-burning 13.5 miles and a 7,000-foot drop. Having the choice is the ultimate ski privilege.
When I finally hit these border-straddling slopes with a visiting friend from Utah, we were so in awe of the sculptural, 14,692-foot-high Matterhorn ghosting in and out of the clouds that we both immediately wiped out yard-sale style—our poles, skies, and gear strewn across two countries on the Bontadini slope. Transnational wipeouts aside, spooning into birchermüsli for breakfast under the gaze of the pink, alpenglow-lit Matterhorn, followed by a pizza lunch in Italy in the umbral shadow of Cervino (the Italian name for the same mountain) and a gooey fondue dinner back in Zermatt, is an experience you won’t soon forget. And because both Italy and Switzerland are in the 26-country European Schengen Area, there’s no passport control between the two countries (though it’s wise to bring an ID along for occasional checks). While skiers and boarders are welcome to come and go, be sure not to linger too long on the opposite side because if you miss the last lift, it’s a four-hour taxi ride back.
Last February, I upped my cross-border game thanks to the newly launched ski safari excursion at Four Seasons Megève, which allowed me to ski in Megève’s Rothschild terrain under the gaze of another famously bilingual mountain, Mont Blanc—which is also Europe’s highest at 15,777 feet. After a brisk morning on Megève powder, I helicoptered for 20 minutes across the snowiest and wildest of gossamer-white peaks to Italy (no danger of hours-long taxi rides here) where views of Italy’s Monte Bianco upstaged the French grande dame. What followed was a sybaritic afternoon on the slopes of Italy’s Courmayeur ski resort with a long sun-kissed lunch fortified by mineraly Aosta Valley wines and melted Fontina cheese. And this time, there were no yard sales in sight.
Read on to discover five more cross-border skiing areas where you too can get in on the country hopping, shredding from one country’s powdery pistes to the next in the same day.