If the words Culture and History are as effective at igniting your snowriding mojo as 'The Situation' is at forming cogent sentences, then that is understandable. Admittedly, culture and history are pretty nebulous concepts to attribute to ski resorts. You can't quantify them in the same way as snowfall or mountain statistics. They're not tactile, and you can't inhale them to achieve some transcendal state.

But their importance and effect is particularly palpable in Europe. These resorts are functioning organisms beyond merely the skiing. And it is this that is their greatest asset. People have lived and communities have thrived in these mountains long before skiers and boarders trucked in, and they will remain long after the snow has melted. American ski resorts are built largely as leisure destinations (and damn enjoyable destinations at that). But winter in the mountains is a way of life in Europe, and the infrastructure cuisine, and entertainment reflects that. It can be enjoyed in myriad ways.

Want to pay homage to the founders of extreme skiing by testing your skiills in their playground? Pack your bravado (and skis or board) and head to Chamonix. Is mingling with Europes elite in a chic and expensive playground more your scene? Tell Jeeves to land the private jet in St Moritz. Zermatt is storybook picturesque, while Cortina sits at the heart of the largest interconnected lift system in the world, and like all Italian resorts has extraordinary culinary options and is palpably cheaper than its European neighbours. And if you, like us, are partial to a healthy dose of Apres' ski revelry, St Anton will ply you with enough alcohol and partying to satisfy Robert Downey Jnr circa 1995.

Photo: Cortina, Christophe Henry