Millions of vacationers across the world take a ski holiday every year. While Michael Schumacher’s unfortunate accident is a grim reminder of the dangers of off-piste skiing, this is the right time to look for the most frequented, reliable slopes to enjoy the winter sport safely.
For many people Val D’Isere remains the first choice. This area in the French Alps has become so sought after by foreign visitors that you’ll be hard pressed to find a pub or shop where the locals don’t speak English. The ski area is excellent, as are the facilities away from the slopes. Of course, it gets crowded, so if you’re looking for a quiet week away then Val D’Isere may not be right for you. Other popular ski resorts in France include Chamonix and Courchevel.
Krasnaya Polyana, a hugely popular Russian winter ski destination on the Caucasus Mountains, will be the hub of all Mountain Cluster games in the Sochi Winter Olympics this year.
Many holiday-makers tend to be put off Switzerland and Austria because of exorbitant prices. Whilst it’s undeniable that both countries have some very expensive resorts, if you shop around you can still find some bargains in terms of both getting to your chosen destination and making the most of your stay there. St Anton in Austria is less well-known but also has a wonderful ski area. This provides a great platform for both skiing and snowboarding. Scenic Kitzbühel is everything an alpine resort should be: a charming village with a medieval center, a world-famous après-ski mecca, and a ski run regularly used on the World Cup circuit. Kitzbühel offers over 145 km of trails, most parts for beginners and intermediates. There are four main mountains: the Hahnenkamm, theKitzbüheler Horn, the Bichlalm, and Pass Thurn. Kitzbühel is also home to the popular Ski Safari circuit, marked by elephant symbols. The circuit allows skiers to explore the entire area between Hahnenkamm and Pass Thurn. Whether you go to Kitzbühel to ski the Hahnenkamm or to party all night (or both), Kitzbühel doesn’t disappoint.
Set in the centre of Europe, Switzerland is of course highly accessible for Europeans, but has also been very popular with tourists from all over the world. The Zermatt resort in Switzerland is amajor contender for the title of the best ski resort in Europe, with fine Alpine scenery. There are 29 mountains surrounding Zermatt that rise over 4,000 meters (13,200 feet), of which Matterhorn is the most renowned. The Matterhorn Ski Paradise covers three ski areas: the Sunnegga-Rothorn, the Gornergrat, and the Klein Matterhorn. There are 250 km of trails, of which 70 km is for advanced skiers and the rest for beginners and intermediates. The intermediates have the advantage in Zermatt with miles of scenic runs but there are special heli-skiing trips for advanced skiers. Zermatt runs a highly efficient transport facility with high-speed cableways, mountain railways, and ski lifts. This system also provides access to Cervinia, Italy, where visitors can ski down the slopes and enjoy a tasty Italian meal.
For skiing and hiking in Northern Europe, the Sudeten Mountain Range which winds through part of southern Poland and includes popular escapes in the Tetra Mountains, and the lakeside resort of Voss in Norway offer plenty of snow.
Aspen Colorado is one of the world’s largest and most famous ski resorts. Cuddled in the higher ranges of Rocky Mountains, it is 200 miles southwest of Denver and 130 miles northeast of Grand Junction, In Aspen you will find all that you are looking for in a winter vacation – snow capped mountains, ski resorts, forests, festivals, Victorian architecture, music, arts and a historical background. Vail in Colorado is touted as America’s favorite winter resort, and offers a great variety of entertainment choices as well. While Jackson Hole is another popular North American resort, the recent avalanche-related death there is a point of concern. Whistler, with the highest vertical drop in North America and the Piccolo lift draws several advanced ski enthusiasts.
Choosing a good winter base can make your ski vacation truly awesome. You can rent a ‘ski-in, ski-out’ log cabin or a chalet, or a traditional resort, which can offer perks such as free lifts and discounted ski lessons. Do check for space for skis, parkas, snowboards and other equipment which you might be carrying.
Have a great ski vacation, and stay safe!