Instead of picking a name from a hat, choose a resort that suits your needs with our guide to the winter playgrounds of Europe. WORDS Amy Adams

Best for après-ski

St Anton’s nightlife scene is what après-ski is all about. The Austrian resorts’s two legendary bars, Krazy Kangaruh and Moosewirt, are both ski-in bars so seductively hedonistic you’ll be dancing on tables in your boots before you know it. And if that sounds dangerous, bear in mind that you still have 500m of piste to tackle before you reach dry land. Other bars worth trying in town include Platzl, Bar Cuba and The Funky Chicken for starters.

Also try: Chamonix, France; Ischgl, Austria; Verbier, Switzerland.

Best for food

For a ski resort with good food at reasonable prices you need to head to Italy. There’s nothing like a pizza at lunch to keep you going until last lifts. Try Courmayeur in the Aosta Valley, where each restaurant is a gem and most bars along the pedestrianised Via Roma put on a free buffet with apres-ski drinks.

Also try: Cortina d’Ampezzo and Cervinia, Italy.

Best for budget skiing

In the past couple of years Bulgaria has stolen the budget skiing crown from Andorra thanks to price hikes in the latter, and some big spending in the former. Bansko, after an £18m cash injection, is the country’s most developed resort, with good beginner and intermediate skiing and quality accommodation. Though expert skiers and snowboarders might find the slopes a bit limiting, it’s hard to argue with a ski holiday for as little as £350.

Also try: Kranjska Gora, Slovenia; Soldeu, Andorra and Poiana Brasov, Romania.

Best for off-piste

Chamonix’s La Vallée Blanche is probably Europe’s, if not the world’s, most famous off-piste run. This may be because it’s also the longest run in Europe at 22km, but the fact that it combines perilous terrain with stunning scenery (including views of Mont Blanc) might have something to do with it. From the lofty heights of the Aiguille du Midi cable car, brave the climb down a snow-covered ridge to be rewarded with powder fields and mogul hills before you hit the gentler slopes of the Mer du Glace, and eventually Chamonix (where there’s plenty more off-piste to try if you’re keen). It’s a good idea to take a guide to help you dodge the crevasses — the run claims lives each year. To avoid the ridge walk, start from Helbronner in Italy.

Also try: Verbier, Switzerland; Val d’Isère and La Grave (for the truly extreme), France.

Best snow-sure resort

With its clusters of unattractive buildings thrown up in the 1960s, Tignes is not heavy on Alpine charm. Despite this it’s one of Europe’s top resorts thanks to sharing Espace Killy — a fantastically varied ski area with 300km of runs — with the neighbouring Val d’Isère. What Tignes has over its more upmarket sister resort is the Grand Motte glacier, which at 3656m offers year-round skiing. For this reason Tignes has longer seasons than most other resorts and is a safe bet even in snow-poor times.

Also try: Val Thorens, France; Saas Fee and Zermatt, Switzerland.

Best for first-timers

Like Tignes, Flaine isn’t the prettiest of resorts — but what the French town lacks in charm it more than makes up for in ease. It’s a ski-in ski-out resort, which means less lugging heavy equipment or walking in strange boots; there are plenty of nursery slopes and gentle blue runs; a good snow record makes for a softer landing; and a choice of five ski schools means lots of English-speaking instructors.

Also try: Soldeu, Andorra; Les Arcs, France.

Best for snow parks

Morzine is a good base to explore the Portes Du Soleil, a huge region that covers 14 resorts across the French and Swiss Alps. As one of the first areas to take snowboarding seriously, the Portes Du Soleil has built up nine snowparks, including two superparks (in Les Crosets and Avoriaz — one of Europe’s first parks) and a beginners’ park. For this reason plenty of pros head to Morzine, so if you’re looking for inspiration on the kickers and rails then this is the place.

Also try: Les Deux Alps and Les 7 Laux, France; Zermatt, Switzerland.

Best for never skiing the same run twice

Look no further than Les Trois Vallées (the Three Valleys) in France, the largest ski area in the world where you’d be hard pressed to cover the piste map in a week. The main resorts of Courchevel, Méribel and Val Thorens are all great bases with good nightlife, restaurants and accommodation. However, if you want access to endless pistes but are on a strict budget, it might be worth trying one of the quieter linking towns such as Brides-les Bains or Orelle.

Also try: Sauze d’Oulx for The Milky Way, Italy; Tignes for the Espace Killy ski area, France.

Best for Christmas

With horses and carts clattering around a car-free town of traditional Swiss wooden chalets, there are few ski resorts that would provide a better second home for Santa than Zermatt. Throw in views of the elegant Matterhorn, along with a lively drinking and dining scene and excellent skiing, and you’ve got the perfect Christmas ski break.

Also try: Serre Chevalier, France; Kitzbühel, Austria.