Skiing and studying – 5 great universities in Europe for skiers

Students from outside mainland Europe might be surprised to learn that the best universities closest to ski areas listed below are not just small colleges in mountain ski towns. Instead they are ultra-respectable city universities with histories dating back to the Middle Ages, who just happen to have fine skiing on their doorsteps…

1. University of Innsbruck, Austria

View over the historic old town of Innsbruck to the skiing on the Nordkette

The University of Innsbruck dates back to the 17th century and is the third largest university in Austria. The university buildings are dotted over the centre of the city with, for example, the modern Faculty of Social Sciences and Economics just a stone’s throw away from the Imperial Church and Palace (and, helpfully, the bottom station of the funicular railway leading up to one of the ski areas).

The University of Innsbruck is not the only option for high-level studying in the capital of the Tyrol. The Medical University of Innsbruck is a teaching and research institution which is now separate from the main university.

Skiing near the University of Innsbruck

The closest skiing is quite literally on the doorstep. The base station of the Hungerburg funicular departs from just outside the Imperial Palace in the centre of Innsbruck. Skiers and snowboarders change at the Hungerburg onto a cable car which heads up to the Seegrube, the main ski area above the city at just under 2000 metres. Igls, a southern mountain suburb of Innsbruck reached by bus or tram, hosts another city ski area at the Patscherkofel. If all that wasn’t convenient enough, other village ski areas are close at hand, such as Mutters and the Axamer Lizum, while the better-known Austrian ski resorts such as Seefeld and St Anton can be easily reached by a regular rail service.

2. University of Turin, Italy

The city of Turin

The University of Turin is one of the oldest in Europe and dates back to the start of the 15th century. It is one of the largest and most prestigious universities in Italy and has more than 80,000 students enrolled in the different faculties.

Skiing near the University of Turin

The skiing near Turin is not as close as the ski areas just above the city of Innsbruck, but there is a fast motorway connection through to one of the biggest ski areas in the world. The first of the Milky Way ski resorts, Sauze d’Oulx, is just over an hour’s drive and 80 kilometres due west of the city. The massive interlinked ski area, which crosses the border into France, should be enough for any skier or snowboarder, but anyone looking for a change could try the ski resorts of the Monterosa region around 100 kilometres to the north of the city. Find out more about the ski resorts near Turin

3. Grenoble-Alpes University, France

The centre of Grenoble with its mountain backdrop

The University of Grenoble, as it was once known, can trace its history back to the 14th century. It is one of the largest universities in France, with around 60,000 students in various campuses around the city and in other locations. (Although one of those other locations is in the small village and ski resort of Les Houches in the Chamonix valley, this is only used by the School of Physics for summer seminars!)

Skiing near Grenoble-Alpes University

Although there are a number of smaller ski resorts in the Vercors range to the south of the city, the most accessible ski resort is Chamrousse, just over 30 kilometres from the city centre and with a vertical drop of 850 metres and a decent selection of lengthy ski runs. In the Vercors, the ski area of Villard-de-Lans is just under 40 kilometres to the south of the city with 125 kilometres of runs. Those who are looking for a challenge will find it at Alpe d’Huez or Les Deux Alpes, two of the largest and best-rated French ski resorts and both just over an hour’s drive from the city.

4. University of Lausanne, Switzerland

Looking across the waters of Lac Leman

To be honest, it is hard to choose between the Swiss universities, who all seem to have ski options within a decent day trip from the city. The university city of Lausanne is on the northern shore of Lac Leman in the western French-speaking part of the country. It is the second-oldest university in Switzerland and teaches around 14,000 students on a lake shore campus to the west of the city centre.

Skiing near the University of Lausanne

The University of Lausanne get the choice in Switzerland because of the access to a variety of skiing. To the west, in the mountains of the Swiss Jura, there are a number of small ski resorts while the ski areas of Leysin and Villars are both under an hour’s drive away on the motorway which runs along the northern side of Lac Leman. And finally the valley southwest of Monthey leads up to the villages of Morgins and Champéry and the massive expanse of the Portes de Soleil ski region.

5. Chambéry University, France

The canals in the charming historic section of Annecy

Also known as Savoie-Mont Blanc University, this institution in the French Alps has two campuses: one at the picturesque lakeside town of Annecy and two in the Chambéry region, where the airport is well-known as a destination for winter holidaymakers. It was founded in 1979 and hosts around 15,000 students, with 1,000 of them being foreigners and many members of the Erasmus programme.

Skiing near the University of Savoie-Mont Blanc

Chambéry has a number of smaller ski resorts within an easy drive to the northeast in the hills of the Massif des Bauges. The main skiing near Annecy is the underrated ski area in the Aravis range around the town of La Clusaz 30 kilometres to the east or, a little further on, the Espace Diamant-Les Saisies region.