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Ask ten skiers what their favourite resort is and chances are you’ll get ten different answers. It’s not that skiers are a particularly fickle lot but rather that there are various clans within the greater ski family, and each demands different things from their dream resort. In honour of these diverse ski tribes and what’s being hailed as the best snow season in 40 years, we’ve pulled together some of our favourite places to ski around the world and thrown in the odd wildcard to get you thinking.
Well aware that skiing is just the necessary precursor for après, we’ve rounded up the best resorts for you to do just that. Whether you prefer bar-hopping through Val d’Isere’s best spots or settling in amid the glitz and glamour of James Bond’s favourite drinking den, these are the places to go to for après-ski.
YOUR GO-TO: Val d’Isere, France
At the end of the Tarentaise Valley, Val d’Isere is a popular resort among those more keen for what comes after the skiing than the skiing itself. Zip down the Grande Motte glacier or test your mettle against the back-rated pistes of Face de Bellevarde before rewarding yourself with a hard-earned trip to La Folie Douce (the only mountainside bar) or Dick’s Tea Bar for an evening filled with live music.
THE ONE YOU WISH YOU’D KNOWN ABOUT: Mont-Tremblant, Canada
From cosy corners to pumping clubs, Mont-Tremblant has you covered for all kinds of après. Largely considered the best après-ski bar in the world, Le P’tit Caribou is the place to stop by for cocktails on the terrace or drinks at one of the five bars inside. For something more warming, head to Le Shack for mulled wines perfectly paired with heaped plates of burgers and fries.
THE WILDCARD: Sölden, Austria
After a day spent competing against snowboarders and high-level skiers at Sölden’s Big 3 Rally (three 3,000m peaks), winners seek celebratory pints (and losers may search for something stronger). Head to the outdoor ice bar at Après Ski Philipp for drinks overlooking the pistes or, if you fancy yourself a bit of a James Bond on the slopes (think Daniel Craig in Spectre), head to Ice Q for a drink in settings suave enough for any secret agent.
A skiing holiday can be a daunting prospect for anyone not used to diving down icy slopes, so be sure to choose your destination wisely. These resorts pride themselves on gentle slopes and plenty of activities other than wading through soft snowy pistes.
YOUR GO-TO: Bansko, Bulgaria Bulgaria’s gentle Balkan slopes are the perfect place to learn how to ski. It’s known for drawing in unpretentious families and chilled out snow-seekers, so there’s no added pressure of watching others rocket down slopes and leaving you behind. There are plenty of green pistes, so you can get to grips with your elongated feet before trialing out Bansko’s soft blue and red runs.
THE ONE YOU WISH YOU’D KNOWN ABOUT: Pradollano, Sierra Nevada, Spain Drawing in those looking for a more chilled-out skiing experience, Sierra Nevada’s gentle slopes are perfect for beginners. Tentatively trial the resort’s 19 green runs and head on to blues as your confidence grows. Decide skiing’s not for you? The resort has plenty of cosy tapas joints in which to feast as you wait for friends to come down the slopes. Alternatively, take a day trip to Grenada, only 40 minutes ‘drive away.
THE WILDCARD: Masella, Spain With similar vibes to Sierra Nevada, Masella offers equally gentle slopes in an even more relaxed atmosphere in the Spanish Pyrenees. These scenic pistes are the perfect excuse to take a break from all the hard work and soak up the views. Better yet – Masella’s Cerdanya valley is a popular nighttime ski area, ideal for those feeling the pressure of trying not to fall in front of too many people.
Skiing just isn’t possible without a significant amount of carbs to keep you going. Home to stringy cheese fondue and wood-fired pizzas as well as Michelin-starred dishes, these destinations are best for those who spend hours gliding down slopes dreaming about their next meal.
YOUR GO TO: Zermatt, Switzerland Zermatt’s snow-capped slopes are made even more appealing by the resort’s famous culinary reputation. Reward your hard work with buckets of cheese fondue, platters of charcuterie and as much Swiss chocolate as you desire. Dine at Chez Vrony for a sophisticated lunch in the shadow of the Matterhorn, or Findlerhof for rustic Swiss charm.
THE ONE YOU WISH YOU’D KNOWN ABOUT: Sauze d’Oulx, Italy Delve into the valleys that link France and Italy to find Sauze d’Oulx. Split up your ski sessions with walks in the village’s old town in which you can wander through cobbled alleys to stumble upon charming restaurants serving traditional Italian dishes, perfect for reviving tired limbs. Try La Griglia for wood-fired pizza or Michelin-starred Naskira for an elegant lunch with views over the Dolomites.
THE WILDCARD: Megève, France For those with a refined palette, Megève is the resort for you. Break up the day with trips to restaurants in Haute-Savoie – we recommend three-Michelin-starred Flocons de Sel. Head back to the pistes with a belly full of food and one eye already searching for the next restaurant to try.
The Piste Monster
You know who you are: you’ve got all the latest distance and vertical descent tracking apps downloaded to your phone and love nothing more than crunching the stats to figure out how many kilometres of pistes and metres of vert you’ve smashed each day. These are the resorts that will enable you to really stretch your legs and Facebragging rights:
YOUR GO-TO: Méribel, France
At the heart of the sprawling Three Valleys, the world’s largest linked ski area, Méribel offers a jaw-dropping 600km of glorious pistes to tear up. Put your thighs to the test by lapping the entire area in a day, break it up with lunch in Courchevel or Val Thorens or simply follow the epic 3km-long red Combe Saulire piste in Courchevel – the opportunities are endless.
THE ONE YOU WISH YOU’D KNOWN ABOUT: Aspen Snowmass, Colorado
The fact that our American cousins call the art of piste preparation “grooming” rather than “bashing” speaks volumes. Picture standing at the top of a mountain with immaculate carpets of snowy corduroy stretching out beneath silver birch forests and you have Aspen Snowmass. With some 500km of piste spread across four mountains, each offers a daily “noon groomer” – a piste that’s freshly prepared at midday and perfect for squeezing in fresh turns before lunch.
THE WILDCARD: Saalbach, Austria
This Austrian beauty deserves to be better known, though fans are keen to keep it off radar and continue lording over the empty slopes. Linking four attractive towns, the ski area encompasses a generous 270km of pistes, the majority of which are blues and reds. That’s not to say it’s all easy cruising; plenty of the reds offer a decent challenge and doing a full circuit will have you covering 72km of pistes and 12,500m in altitude – not bad for a day’s skiing.
What’s not to love about a cheeky smash-and-grab ski weekend? You scan the snow forecasts for a powder weekend, seize the moment and take one day off work to be rewarded with three action-packed ski days and après-ski sessions, returning to work on Monday buzzing with energy and a cracking goggle tan. Just make sure you chose your resort wisely to maximise your day off ROI.
YOUR GO-TO: Chamonix, France
Chamonix is the classic weekend ski destination; just an hour’s transfer from Geneva, it delivers the whole package. There’s epic skiing across four mountains, including the legendary Vallée Blanche off-piste route – the world’s longest off-piste itinerary is 20km long and descends the beautiful Mer de Glace glacier from the precipitous tip of l’Aiguille du Midi – and pumping nightlife in an attractive, historical mountain town. Enough said.
THE ONE YOU WISH YOU’D KNOWN ABOUT: Mayrhofen, Austria
Reached within an hour by train from Innsbruck, Mayrhofen is the place to be for those who want a weekend of hard skiing and partying. Its diverse, if relatively modest, ski area (159km of pistes) is more than enough to keep skiers of all levels entertained over a weekend, particularly freestylers, who’ll gravitate to the Vans Penken terrain park. Home to the annual Snowbombing music festival and a winter-long party scene, a Mayrhofen weekend typically requires a quiet recovery week to follow.
THE WILDCARD: Sierra Nevada, Spain
“Que? Skiing in Spain?” you ask. Yes, you really can combine skiing, sun and sangria in one glorious weekend. Sierra Nevada, Europe’s southernmost resort, lies just 40 minutes’ drive through olive groves and fincas from Granada and offers gentle skiing on 107km of sun-drenched slopes, complete with views of the Med. And, if you feel the urge for an après-ski swim, the white-sand beaches of Costa Tropical are just an hour’s drive away.
The Freeriding Spirit
You’ve been well and truly bitten by the freeriding bug, smitten by its ability to challenge and thrill, and spend hours watching freeride movies and swotting up on the latest secret off-piste stashes. As you keep telling anybody who’ll still listen, you love it as much for the spirituality of being close to the mountains as for the excitement of scoring fresh tracks in a virgin-powder bowl. Here’s your bucket list.
YOUR GO-TO: Verbier, Switzerland
The classic Alpine off-piste destination, Verbier delivers some of the world’s best terrain. The descents are long, steep, easily reached from the lifts and diverse, ranging from skinny couloirs and cliff drops to wide valleys and open glaciers. And it’s not just the terrain around Verbier – the Four Valleys ski area opens up a world of freeriding opportunities from tree-skiing at Bruson to ridgeline skiing on Etherolla.
THE ONE YOU WISH YOU’D KNOWN ABOUT: La Grave, France
La Grave represents European freeriding in its purest form: a tiny, rustic town with La Meije, a vast hunk of granite and ice, looming above it. Its “resort” stats are somewhat underwhelming comprising two lifts – a slow-moving, rainbow-coloured gondola and a draglift – and two marked pistes. However, La Grave is simply impossible to beat for “le ski sauvage” (wild skiing), rewarding those who respect the mighty Meije with some of the world’s most challenging free riding.
THE WILDCARD: Alagna, Italy
One of three resorts linked by the Monterosa ski area, Alagna offers a homely mountain vibe, bags of barely touched off-piste terrain, one of Europe’s biggest vertical drops (over 2000m) and affordable heli-skiing. The catch? The region can be blasted by hot weather from the south. But, hit Monterosa in the right conditions and its couloirs (‘canalino’ in Italian – not to be confused with cannelloni pasta), cliff drops and powder bowls are the stuff of freeriding dreams.
Your little rays of sunshine demand recalibration of your winter playtime routines – your favourite ski resorts become too steep, too noisy and too remote as your priorities become the proximity of nursery slopes, availability of nannies and choice of kids’ clubs. Fortunately, it’s possible to blend the needs of your angels with some grown-up perks, if you find the right resort.
YOUR GO-TO: Les Gets, France
The preferred winter bolthole of well-heeled families from around the world, Les Gets is located just over an hour’s drive from Geneva and delivers an endless supply of nannies, patient ski instructors and family-friendly chalets and hotels. Furthermore, its position within the vast Portes du Soleil ski area – 600km of pistes, encompassing 12 villages in France and Switzerland – means there’s more than enough terrain to keep adults happy while the little ones are being looked after.
THE ONE YOU WISH YOU’D KNOWN ABOUT: Breckenridge, Colorado
Granted, a transatlantic flight isn’t a child-friendly transfer but if your kids are already veteran travellers, a trip across the Pond could be a family winter holiday game-changer. American resorts are incredibly well set up for children with dedicated kiddie ski trails, mini terrain parks, friendly (English-speaking) instructors, go-safe slow zones and teen-specific ski classes. Add to that affordable self-catered accommodation and great advance booking deals and it starts to look rather appealing.
THE WILDCARD: LAAX, Switzerland
Still relatively unknown outside of Switzerland, LAAX is a youthful resort that’s perfect for families with slightly older children, and just an hour-long hop from Zürich. Budding freestylers will thrive in its four excellent terrain parks and pioneering indoor freestyle academy while little rippers (and their parents) can make the most of the 224km of pistes and seriously impressive freeride terrain.
The Posh Spice of the ski world, you fully embrace the old-school glamour of skiing, lapping up the excuse to wear fur on fur, pout at nut-brown instructors from behind oversized sunglasses and sip magnums of Cristal in the hot tub. After all, what other sport enables you to dazzle diamanté from your helmet, goggles, ski suit AND skis?
YOUR GO-TO: St Moritz, Switzerland
Resorts like Courchevel and Kitzbühel might have their luxury moments but St Moritz is the mothership of Alpine hedonism. This is where winter tourism started, complete with ice-skating waiters in tuxedos delivering champagne and caviar to fur-clad guests on silver trays. It’s still a fabulously heady mix of five-star hotels, exclusive private members’ clubs, shopping to rival Bond Street and flash events like White Turf (polo on snow) and the Cresta Run. Oh, and there are 350km of scenic, diverse pistes if you’ve got time left over for skiing.
THE ONE YOU WISH YOU’D KNOWN ABOUT EARLIER: Zürs, Austria
Zürs is a picturesque smattering of ultra-luxe hotels and chalets hunkered beneath thick snow blankets deep in the Austrian Alps. Although it feels a million miles away from the humdrum of everyday life, Zürs is actually part of Austria’s largest ski area, Ski Arlberg, a whopping 305km of pistes stretching to neighbouring Lech, St Anton and beyond. Brilliantly, the resort limits the number of lift tickets sold each day to keep lift queues at bay and ensure guests enjoy crowd-free skiing.
THE WILDCARD: Deer Valley, Utah
Deer Valley prides itself on pampering its guests to the point of spoiling, even banning snowboarders from the resort to ensure the pistes are kept in prime condition for skiers. It’s a world of luxury hotels, sprawling chalets and complimentary ski ambassadors to usher you around the mountain. Somewhat refreshingly, people do actually come to Deer Valley to ski and they’re handsomely rewarded with 101 manicured pistes, 800 acres of tree-skiing, six powder bowls and Utah’s steepest couloirs.
Everyone loves a bargain and saving pennies on a ski trip is an extremely worthwhile endeavour – if only to secure more funds to spend on fondue and Jägerbombs. But a cheap deal is not such a beautiful thing if you find yourself in a rabbit hutch without a snowflake in sight. To save you from disappointment, we’ve picked out some truly snowy steals.
YOUR GO-TO: Baqueira Beret, Spain
Those in the know joined the Spanish royal family years ago and made Baqueira Beret their winter bolthole, not only because the resort serves up awesome tapas but because it’s a stylish with inexpensive accommodation, low lift pass prices and Europe’s cheapest heli-skiing. Stay in a quaint B&Bs in one of the medieval hamlets dotted around the main town and you’ll have change for heli-skiing, which costs from €290 per person for two drops.
THE ONE YOU WISH YOU’D KNOWN ABOUT: Whistler Blackcomb, Canada
It might seem counter-intuitive to suggest crossing the Atlantic to save money but Whistler Blackcomb offers exceptional advance booking deals. For the price of a week’s skiing in Europe, you could find yourself playing in North America’s largest single resort (think 200 pistes, 16 powder bowls and three glaciers) for a fortnight. As they say over there, it’s a snow brainer.
THE WILDCARD: Söll, Austria
This small but lively Tyrolean resort is the skiing bargain-hunter’s dream. It provides direct access to the vast SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser – Brixental area (one of Europe’s largest with 284km of pistes spanning nine villages), inexpensive yet quality accommodation, great value dining and suitably rowdy après-ski. It’s also a good option for families, thanks to free skiing weeks for children, special lift prices for teenagers and short transfer times from Innsbruck and Salzburg.
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