It’s that time again!
As the summer shines its last warm rays, we look back on a great few months. Long days, late nights and even longer beaches; in many ways it was the perfect summer.
But with the winter comes opportunity: downhill opportunity, off-piste opportunity, freestyle opportunity; yes the winter season is here and we’ve set up the Top Ten Winter Ski Resorts to tempt you into your bindings once more…
If you want to book a ski holiday to any of these destinations then check out Crystal Ski.
Not the companion of vampire-slaying Hollywood hero ‘Blade’, this is a high-profile resort with Olympic pedigree. Based on facilities alone, this Canadian spot will again make it to the top. Already ranked as the best resort for this year by one major ski publication, Whistler Blackcomb is fully-loaded thanks to having recently hosted the Olympic Winter Games. Expect new snowmaking facilities, a 15-ft mini pipe and an Olympic-sized superpipe.
We all like a little choice when it comes to picking a skiing holiday, well here you’ll have four resorts: Snowmass, Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk. Across these four you’ll get two massive superpipes, and a further two better suited to beginners. Aspen was the setting for the X-Games so there’s no chance riders will ever get bored. Of the runs, the longest is 4 miles and overall they are best suited for advanced beginners – even so, there’s plenty of fun to be had here for the super-skilled; 29 per cent of the routes are graded for experts.
Well known for its family-friendly runs, Les Arcs is a prime-time holiday ski resort on the edge of the Vanoise National Park. Lifts are well thought-out leading the more advanced skiers to go off-piste, should they tire of the set runs. There are four individual villages, the most modern and still under construction, Arc 1950, is home to restaurants and bars and is fun for clubbers. From here the resort forms part of the Paradiski ski area as it is linked to nearby La Plagne. Expect 200km of pistes, served by 56 lifts and two snowparks: French skiing and snowboarding at its best.
A recent introduction to the team, this resort hidden away in the country’s South Alps is just eight years old. It’s already generated a good reputation and in New Zealand it’s the ski spot of choice.
Especially when it comes to the freestyle sessions, that’s because its new 22ft halfpipe complements other challenges, including a 120ft ‘mega booster’ to really push things skyward. If that all seems too advanced, just head off in the learners’ area. The top junior freestylers and snowboarders of New Zealand recently trained here, so you know it’s a good site.
For a resort aimed squarely at intermediates and families, Solden is a safe bet. Thanks to being so close to two glaciers there’s plenty of choice. Tiefenbach glacier is distinguished by gentle rolling sides, which makes for leisurely runs, while Rettenbach glacier is steeper and throws up more challenges; the two are linked by a road tunnel so it’s easy to alternate one day to the next.
As a resort, it also does away with the nightclubs, preferring to keep its partying to a minimum. Solden has three mountains and all are higher than 3,000m, and snow is guaranteed. Gaislachkogl (3,058 m), Tiefenbachkogl (3,250m) and Schwarze Schneide (3,340 m) are where you’ll find your fun.
As well as its downhill sections, this resort has the area’s longest ski trail. And when the snow is not heavy enough, the resort can make enough of its own to cover more than two-thirds of its slopes.
Neither the largest of resorts, nor the most modern, Soll is however great for partygoers. The area around Soll is known as SkiWelt (ski world) with Soll its capital. This region incorporates more than 250km of pistes and stretches towards Kitzbuhl. It’s also easily reachable from Salzburg, Innsbruck and Munich airports bringing the delights of skiing and snowboarding that much nearer. Slopes here are gentle and well-served by a ski bus; it’s great for people new to the sport.
Chamonix was where the Winter Olympic Games first began (in 1924). In this steep-sided French valley you’ll be overlooked by Mont Blanc – the highest peak in the Alps. There are five individual resorts to choose from: Le Tour/Balme, Les Houches, Grands Montets, La Flegere and Le Brevent. Le Tour and Les Houches are best for beginners; Grand Montets is the largest, and as its pistes peak at 3,300m, it gets snow even late into the season; nearest town is Le Brevent, which is connected by cable car to La Flegere.
One of the greatest things about US and Canadian ski resorts are they often offer an easy way down. Instead of leaving whole sections off-limits to beginners and intermediate skiers, Jasper adopts the same philosophy.
There are 74 pistes to choose from, and runs are often above 2,500metres meaning there is skiing all year round. And thanks to its position in a natural basin, it’s easy to ski all the way back to your accommodation. Jasper’s also located on the edge of a national park, so there’s much to see, as well as do.
So far, most of the resorts have been ‘user friendly’, but if you want to get skiing at a resort that has 69 per cent advanced routes, look at Las Lenas in Argentina.
Here it peaks at 7,400ft. Just 90 minutes from Buenos Aires you’ll find the epicentre of Argentinean extreme skiing. Here there are 40 miles of runs, and the best season is June to October offering fabulous access to the backcountry regions.
St Anton is known for being difficult. That is, it has some really testing areas. Just look to the Valluga for some ear-popping descents, it’s got a well-deserved reputation and is accessible from a lift station. St Anton is a resort with an attitude, so expect the après ski to be as full-on as some of the routes.
Despite having been developed, the mix between resort and traditional Tyrol village is still well balanced. Host of the 2001 World Alpine Championships, it’s a resort for intermediate and advanced skiers and boarders. If you like your moguls and powder, you’ve come to the right place.
- Skiing in Austria : Top 10 ski resorts
- Skiing in France: are smaller resorts better value?
- Skiing Holidays: Aspen again hosts Winter X Games
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