Top 10 ski resorts
Looking to hit the slopes this winter, but not quite sure where to go? In London has some suggestions.
By Simon West
1. Chamonix Mont Blanc (France)
If you’d like to ski next to Prince William or Sienna Miller, Chamonix is the place for you. Not only is it a winter haven for the celebrity A-list, the iconic resort also features the worlds longest ski run at over 13 miles. It has a beautiful array of off-piste options and is probably best suited for the more experienced campaigner. Oh, and those not short of a few pounds.
Top Tip: Back your skills by checking out the famous Valley Blanche off-piste descent. The high mountain glacial route is dangerous and subject to avalanches, but if you consider yourself elite the challenge awaits.
2. Aspen (USA)
Another haunt of the rich, famous and pretty much anyone in between is Colorado’s legendary Aspen resort. As the town’s real estate hits massive figures, so too do the tourist numbers, but it’s not without reason – 4 mountains, 5303 acres and plenty of things to do out of the powder. With off-piste, terrain parks and stunning views, there really is little wonder Aspen hosts ESPN’s Winter X Games each year.
Top Tip: Aspen features over 100 bars, clubs and restaurants, so make sure you sample as many as possible. If you need a warming glass of something strong, check Eric’s Bar, home to over 50 single malt scotches.
3. St Anton (Austria)
What makes St Anton an attractive destination is its small village feel and proximity to neighbouring towns – St Christoph, Zürs and Lech. A trip between the different villages gives the flexibility of a true skiing holiday. But, if you feel like laying low in St Anton alone, you shouldn’t be disappointed, as it features total piste of over 260 km and a long run of 10.2 km.
Top Tip: Despite a status among Europe’s elite resorts, St Anton actually features some very affordable packages for the budget skier or snowboarder. Check www.stantonchalets.co.uk for more information.
4. Verbier (Switzerland)
Verbier is arguably the most complete resort in the Swiss Alps. Not only are there variable ski runs, the location is making a name for itself for other activities such as airboarding, glacier walking, ice climbing, paragliding, husky sledding and snowshoe strolling. Verbier is a vast expanse of four valleys and features an ample combination of quiet pistes and unmarked sections to explore.
Top Tip: Rest those aching limbs and take a panoramic helicopter ride over the Alps’ inaccessible areas. The daily trips allow visitors to witness the stunning mountain tops, glaciers and rich alpine forests.
5. Zermatt (Switzerland)
The world’s most picturesque and oddly familiar ski resort is probably Zermatt, due to the multi-faceted Matterhorn always being in visitors’ sight. The omnipresent landmark certainly gives Zermatt its wide appeal, but the people that have been will say the ski runs are up there with Europe’s best. The resort features three popular ski areas and the rugged terrain means each one reaches over 3100m.
Top Tip: If you plan to take your holiday slightly out of season then this resort may be the one for you. Zermatt has the longest winter season in the Alps with all three skiing areas open from late November to the start of May.
6. Val d’Isere (France)
Situated right near France’s boarder with Italy, Val d’Isere and its neighbouring resort of Tignes feature 300km worth of slopes ranging from beginner to advanced. That said, its major attractions tend not to be the slopes but the range of accommodation for the budget skier and rocking nightlife for those wanting to have a bit of fun out of the snow boots. If skiing is your thing, the Tignes side tends to be less packed and is home to snow of a higher quality.
Top Tip: Think you can drive? Well, try testing your skills on ice at Val D’Isere’s ice driving circuit. Not cheap, but fun at 20€ for 8 minutes in a go-kart or 50€ for a 25 minute driving lesson in an Audi.
7. Soldeu (Andorra)
Cheap, different and perfect for beginners, Soldeu is very much a gem in the Pyrenees. What sets this resort apart from some of the Swiss and French options is its focus on ski and snowboard schools, so if you’re a little rusty or a complete novice you’ll be able to hone the craft with one of 450 multilingual instructors. The only blemish in Soldeu’s excellent reputation is a penchant for attracting young families – not the best if kids irritate you.
Top Tip: Spend a chilly evening in the toasty warm Fat Albert’s bar. Set in a 300 year old building, Fat Albert’s is renowned for its upstairs gothic bar and live music.
8. Bohinj (Slovenia)
Heading to Eastern Europe and avoiding the costly signature resorts of France and Switzerland is becoming the trend for budget skiers. Bohinj in Slovenia is relatively unknown but boasts some excellent slopes and other activities for those looking to go hard for less dosh. Perfect for beginners, Bohinj has 18 lifts and close to 100km of piste.
Top Tip: Slide down the Bohinj Valley in snow rafts built for 2 or 3 people. The exercise becomes a little more fun and daring with torches at special evening sessions.
9. Morzine (France)
Morzine is an increasingly popular French resort blessed with beautiful peaks and steep gulleys. The location right near the Swiss boarder means a Mont Blanc weather system and thick snow coverage is close to guaranteed, but the most pleasant aspect of Morzine is its ability to keep a small town feel while catering to its seasonal influx of anxious skiers.
Top Tip: Ladies should check out the ‘Girls Only!’ ski clinic. Each session runs for a four day period and helps female skiers rise to an advanced level while keeping a social vibe to make friends.
10. Whistler (Canada)
This hugely popular resort’s stock just keeps rising. Whistler is North America’s largest ski resort and seems to attract people from all over the world without ever earning an ‘overrated’ tag. Actually, the expansive Canadian resort has consistently earned gold medals in top ski destination lists for years, including the Telegraph’s 2008 tally. With the Winter Olympics staged there in 2010 it’s safe to say Whistler will only continue to grow in status and prestige over the next few years.
Top Tip: Whistler has long been the home of expatriates looking to earn some cash while working in a ski/snowboarding environment. If you head there for a ski break, perhaps test the waters to see what jobs might be available.