If you’re looking for a memorable ski holiday, you’re spoilt for choice. From unmanicured rough runs, vertigo-inducing ski areas to popular resorts, here are choices for beginners and experts, plus some family-friendly skiing. Feast your eyes on the view, this is green travel and adventure at its most thrilling.
Highest & Steepest ski area in North America: Silverton Mountain, Colorado
Surrounded by 1,819 acres of descents in every direction, there are bowls, chutes, cliffs and wonderful natural terrain to be explored in Silverton Mountain, Colorado. With a peak elevation of 13,487 feet, the mountain is left in its natural state with no cut runs. The base lies at 10,400 ft with a single lift that drops you at 12,300 ft. Once at the top, there’s easy hiking along a ridge to access terrain that can total 3,000 ft vertical drop in a single run. Not for the faint-hearted, this magnificent terrain is for advanced skiers. Steel yourself, it’s an adventure of a lifetime.
Best Unexplored Area: El Chalten, Argentina
A trekker’s paradise, this colorful, pretty village overlooks the incredible northern part of Parque Nacional Los Glaciares. Patagonia boasts of a unique setting as the Andes is the highest mountain range in the world after the Himalayas – a dream setting for green travel enthusiasts and adventurers alike. El Chaltén village lies far to the south of Patagonia, in Santa Cruz. The larger town El Calafate, and its neighbour El Chalten, are perched on the edge of the Southern Ice Field, the second largest body of ice on the planet.
Forget manicured ski resorts, this is the real deal – it’s all backcountry and ski touring. Ski season in Patagonia: June to October.
Best Lifts: Whistler, Canada
Whistler’s two linked mountains (Whistler and Blackcomb) combined make the biggest ski area in North America. Whistler is located in Canada’s coastal mountains of British Columbia along the scenic Sea to Sky Highway. Two hours from Vancouver International Airport (direction north) or a 4.5-hour drive from Seattle brings you to the most scenic ski destination.
For beginners and experts alike, the side-by-side mountains are connected by the Guinness World Record-holding Peak 2 Peak Gondola and has one of the largest networks of high-speed chairlifts in the world.
Le Grand Ski: Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, France
Tremendously long slopes, skiing through the trees, freeride and off-piste, beginners slopes: the possibilities are endless for snowriders and mountain lovers. Chamonix, in south-eastern France, was the site of the first Winter Olympics in 1924.
In winter, Chamonix Valley features four large skiing areas and more glaciers than any ski area in Europe. From the centre of Chamonix, a 20-minute ride in the Aiguille du Midi cable car takes you to the gateway to the high Alps at 3,842 m. From its height of 3,777m, the Aiguille du Midi and its laid-out terraces offer a 360 degree view of all the French, Swiss and Italian Alps. A lift brings you to the summit terrace at 3,842m, where you will have an unforgettable view of Mont Blanc.
Situated between 1235 m and 3300 m, the Grands Montets area is for skiing the greatest height losses in the world, close to a glacier. The pistes are spread over three slopes – the Argentière glacier, Lognan and the Pendant which also offer magnificent off-piste skiing.
Given its popularity, there are those dreaded queues of Chamonix to keep in mind – but with spectacular panoramic views of Mont Blanc, it’s worth the effort.
Ski and sunshine: Lienz, Austria
Lienz, the largest town in East Tirol, boasts 2,000 hours of happy sunshine per year. The two ski resorts Zettersfeld and Hochstein in the mountains above Lienz in East Tirol offer much to snow lovers. Zettersfeld is family-friendly while Hochstein throws up a challenge for advanced skiers and snowboarders.
With its pretty medieval centre, Leinz is easy on the eyes. At Zettersfeld, snowboarders and freestyle skiers congregate in the Sunsite Park with its kickers and rails. The extensive network of pistes extends all the way up to 2,278 metres above sea level. Some of the best places to enjoy the fabulous views of the Dolomites are the sunny terraces outside the huts and restaurants in the resort.
Just a few kilometres away, find Hochstein resort on the south-western edge of Lienz that hosts FIS SKi World Cup races. The network of pistes is divided into three sections which, when combined, form one of the longest runs anywhere in Tirol with 1,300 vertical metres of descent. The Hochsteinhütte hut at the top of the resort offers magnificent views. There is one lift pass covering both Zettersfeld and Hochstein.
Off the beaten path: Skiing the Family-friendly Branäs, Sysslebäck, Sweden
Värmland’s largest ski resort, Branäs, offers charming views with challenges for both beginners and experienced skiers in Sweden. This Alpine centre features 25 pists has family-friendly slopes to tougher black pistes. A height difference of 415 meters and pistes up to 2.5 km in length offers some memorable skiing. All children outdoor activities are included in the ski pass and all children under age 8 ski for free.
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