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Top Universities for Snowsports Lovers

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As the world gets ready for the opening of the 2014 Winter Olympics, here’s a blog post in celebration of snowsports – a look at some of the top universities around the world for students addicted to skiing or snowboarding, who also want to graduate from a high-ranking institution. Each of these universities combines a strong international ranking and reputation with opportunities for regular winter sports fun!


University of British Columbia (UBC), Canada

Let’s start in Vancouver, Canada, where the last Winter Olympics was held in 2010. Olympic events were held in several locations around the city, but particularly in the famous Whistler Blackcomb resort. Among the largest ski resorts in the world, Whistler Blackcomb boasts more than 200 trails, almost 40 lifts and a total area of more than 8,000 acres. It’s about 125km north of Vancouver, making it a realistic day trip for students in the city. But there are also lots of closer options, including Cypress Mountain (about half an hour’s journey to the west of the city), Grouse Mountain (just 15 minutes to the north), Mount Seymour (half an hour to the north) and Mount Washington (a large resort on neighboring Vancouver Island).

Of course the University of British Columbia (UBC) isn’t just a handy place to leave your ski gear! It’s also ranked among the 50 top universities in the world (49th in the 2013/14 QS World University Rankings®). Other internationally reputed universities in and around Vancouver include Simon Fraser University (ranked 244=) and the University of Victoria (321=).

Dartmouth College, US

Of course there are lots of other great places to combine study and snowsports in Canada, and the same is true of the US. However, I’ve chosen one to highlight: Dartmouth College. A member of the prestigious Ivy League group, Dartmouth is ranked 119th in the 2013/14 QS World University Rankings and has a firmly established global reputation in the academic arena. It’s also one of very few universities to own its very own ski resort, Dartmouth Skiway, about a 20 minutes journey from the college and offering 30 trails and more than 100 skiable acres. Keen ski and snowboard students at Dartmouth can also travel further afield to resorts including Attitash, Killington and Okemo, all within two hours.

Other major US universities with a reputation for both high-quality slopes and academics include UC Berkeley (ranked 25th in the world), the University of Washington (59th), the University of Southern California (125th), the University of Colorado at Boulder (160th) and the University of Utah (271st).

Université Joseph Fourier – Grenoble 1, France

Over in Europe, the obvious place to head for is Grenoble – the so-called ‘capital of the Alps’ and another past Winter Olympics host (1968). The city is surrounded by ski resorts, including many of the best-known resorts in the French Alps, as well as lots of smaller resorts more commonly patronized by locals than tourists. From Grenoble, it’s less than an hour’s drive to the likes of Chamrousse and Autrans, and during peak season there are regular buses running to large resorts such as Deux Alpes and Alpe d'Huez.

As well as its striking mountain backdrop, Grenoble is also known for its large student community and universities, of which the most prestigious is the science and technology-focused Université Joseph Fourier – Grenoble 1 (also known just as Université Joseph Fourier or UJF). At 220= in the 2013/14 QS World University Rankings, Université Joseph Fourier is France’s second-highest ranked university outside of Paris. Other universities in Grenoble which feature in the international rankings include the Pierre Mendès-France University – Grenoble 2 (focusing on social sciences) and Université Stendhal – Grenoble 3 (focusing on humanities).

Universität Innsbruck, Austria

Innsbruck is also a contender for the title ‘capital of the Alps’ – and with good reason. The western Austrian city is well known as a snowsports hub, and has hosted the Winter Olympics not just once but twice (1964 and 1976), as well as two Winter Paralympics (1984 and 1988) and the first Winter Youth Olympics (2012). Nearby resorts include Axamer Lizum, Igls, Neustift Nordkette, Obergurgl and Sölden – some served by a free bus service and others a short drive away.

The city’s Universität Innsbruck is one of the top universities in Austria, ranked 289= in the 2013/14 QS World University Rankings. A little further to the west, Salzburg also offers easy access to the slopes and an internationally ranked university (Paris Lodron Universität Salzburg), while just over the border in Germany, Munich similarly allows students to get to many of the same mountains in about an hour’s journey, perhaps while studying at Technishe Universität München or Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, two of the top universities in Germany.

Lomonosov Moscow State University, Russia

Finally, it seems only right to feature a university in this year’s Winter Olympics host country, Russia. While the Olympics is actually being held in Sochi, way down in the south of Russia, my pick is in the capital city, Moscow. Lomonosov Moscow State University is Russia’s highest ranked institution, at 120th in the 2013/14 QS World University Rankings. It’s based in the Vorobyovy Gory (‘Sparrow Hills’) area in the southwest of the city, within walking distance of the Vorobyovy Gory ski slopes – there are only three slopes, but they really couldn’t be much closer to the university!

Other slopes in and around Moscow include Krylatskoye, Novo-Peredelkino and Bitsevsky Park, or you can go cross-country skiing in the parks and countryside around the city. There’s also a large indoor ski center, the first of its kind in Russia. Beyond Moscow State University, other high-ranking universities in Moscow include Bauman Moscow State Technical University, Moscow State Institute of International Relations, Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, RUDN University, and the National Research University – Higher School of Economics.

These are my top selections, but I know there are plenty of other places where you can combine studying at one of the world’s top universities with practicing for the next Winter Olympics on some of the world’s best slopes. Where would be your dream study-ski location? Share in the comments below.

Written by Laura Bridgestock
The former editor of TopUniversities.com, Laura oversaw the site's editorial content and student forums. She also edited the QS Top Grad School Guide and contributed to market research reports, including 'How Do Students Use Rankings?'

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1 Comment

I liked the selection of your top universities . These are really good universities wherein you can really learn a lot about skiing & its other types. I personally enjoy skiing in France at very beautiful ski resort places like Avoriaz & Saint Lary.