This year’s ski season is already underway with resorts opening early thanks to early snowfall and perfect conditions. There are also some great early ski bargains to be had as operators cut the costs of chalet accommodation, ski passes and equipment hire. Fingers crossed for a long and snowy season!
Chamonix-Mont-Blanc France is located in the Alps and is often called the best skiing site in the world. Nestled between two mountain ranges with a wildly raging river traversing through the center of the town, Chamonix offers travelers a wide assortment of winter and summer outdoors adventures, with mountain skiing, mountain climbing, ice climbing, snowboarding, paragliding and ice skating being their extremely popular activities. Taking the Montenuers Train for a short ride to La Mer de Glace Glacier or a ride in the Aiguille de Midi Cable Car/Tram for a lift of 9000+ feet into the mountains in under 20 minutes offers breath-taking beauty for the photographer. The Parc de loisirs de Chamonix Amusement Park at the base of Mont Blanc offers entertainment for families and children.
- Other recommended French ski resorts in the Rhone-Alps region includes Tignes which has a solid snow record and challenging slopes; the impossibly chic ‘place to be seen’ Val d’Isere and pretty Meribel which offers snowboarding as well as skiing.
Banff is one of Canada’s most famous and largest ski areas with extensive ski routes coupled with stunning landscapes. Advanced skiiers will appreciated the black and double black diamond ski runs on offer here with over half the routes long and steep. There is also a nursery slope and quite a few green runs so ski enthusiasts of all abilities are amply catered for. Banff has an excellent (almost guaranteed) snow record*, lower than expected prices during ski-season and a buzzing après-ski scene. The Banff National Park is home to Mt. Norquay, Lake Louise and Sunshine Village which are all considered top quality resorts with 8,000 acres collectively and a tri-lift pass available. Mt Norquay is open now and Sunshine Viollae and Lake Louise open on 9 November.
- Other top ski resorts in Canada include Mont Tremblant which offers great skiing and snowboarding in Quebec; Whistler Mountain via the Vancouver gateway and 2,500 acres of ski opportunities at Fernie in British Columbia.
*Ski season is already under way in the Banff National Park with record snowfalls already hitting the resort areas. In fact this is the earliest that Mt. Norquay has opened in its entire 87 year history! Last year the resort had 34 feet in total of snowfall and just this week there has been at least 30cm of snow coupled with perfect temperatures.
The Banff resort of Lake Louise hosts the Winterstart World Cup for the men’s events from 24-25 November and the women’s events are held on 30 November and 1 December. The quickest skiiers in the world compete in downhill and super-G events in the challenging Rocky Mountains.
St. Moritz in the Engadin Valley within the Engadin Mountains is the home of the Olypia Bobrun and the Cresta Run Bobsleigh Track. Visitors can learn to bobsleigh and can complete an ice run 3/4 mile long with a 514 foot drop! Other favourite activities offered at St. Moritz include kite skiing and surfing, air taxi hang gliding, sky diving and the Graubunden hike and bike.
Switzerland is more easily accessible this season thanks to Eurostar who have just launched a new high speed train service travelling from London St Pancras and Ashford, UK. Trains will run from 22 December 22 right through to April 2013 and will travel right into the center of the Swiss Alps and the Valais; perfect for the ski resorts of Verbier, Zermatt, Saas Fee and Gstaad.
- Switzerland has long been a favourite destination for ski enthusiasts with regions including the five mountains of Davos; Grindelwald nestled beside the stunning Jungfrau glacier; high altitude ski runs at Saas-Fee, expansive and extensive runs at Verbier and Zermatt beside the mighty Matterhorn Mountain.
Lech located in the Austrian Alps has been a world popular ski resort area since the 1920′s. Becoming known as one of the most glamorous and luxurious ski spots in the Alps, it offers a variety of winter sports opportunities to its guests besides the traditional cross-country and mountain skiing/snowboarding. A toboggan run for kids, sleigh rides, snowshoeing and white-water rafting through the canyons provide thrills and adventure to all who participate. St. Nichols Parish Church built in the 1500′s by the Valasian Mountain peasants provides a beautiful architectural example for visitors.
- Other ski destinations in Austria include quiet and laidback Ellmau in the Salzburg Province and family-friendly Mayrhofen in the Tyrol region.
Latest Skiing News; Ski costs tumble
Ski breaks are set to cost less this season for UK travellers thanks to a variety of factors; strong UK currency against the Euro, good promotions, midweek Christmas and New Year holidays and the UK half term holiday falling favourably. Prices are said to down an average of 5.7% compared to last year with Switzerland ski trips down as much as 14%.
Macugnaga, Italy is actually comprised of two small villages, Staffa and Pecetto. Staffa is considered the heart of the resort and après-ski venues. Guiding for various itineraries around Mount Rosa is offered. There are two ski schools which offer all disciplines in various languages to their skiers. Snowboarding, night-skiing, Heli-skiing, ice climbing, ice hockey, paragliding, snow-shoeing and winter walking are some of their prominent activities for visitors to the area. The Swiss influence is visible as Macugnaga is very near the Swiss border. Historic parts of Staffa and a museum offer insight to the 13th century village.
- The three main ski regions of Italy are Cervinia; Piedmont-Northeast which as well as Macugnaga also includes Monterosa which has multiple 4,000m+ peaks and the Veneto-Dolomites region with Cortina d’Ampezzo perfect for beginners.
Andorra la Vella is located in the Pyrenees between Spain and France. Home to many spa treatment centers, the Caldea is considered the largest spa center in Southern Europe. Shopping at Andorra is where bargains are to be found on all types of items, not just souvenirs as Andorra shopping is done in tax-free zones. There is a sports court for kids, the Placa del Poble, ball games to watch, motorbike and car rallies, cross-country skiing, hiking beside rivers and lakes in the mountains and various activities available. The 12th century church, St. Stephen or Saint Esteve, is located at the junction of two mountain streams and offers Romanesque era mural paintings of the Apocalypse in the interior.
Lake Tahoe, USA
Lake Tahoe, USA offers a multitude of activities to visitors. There is skiing, snowboarding, and various mountain and lake activities to choose from as well as hiking, golfing, fishing and boating. For the more adventurous, there are whitewater rafting and horseback riding trips available through the Lake Tahoe National Forest. Night life at Lake Tahoe lasts all night at casinos with gambling, dancing and celebrity shows. Northern Lake Tahoe is located in Nevada, while Southern Lake Tahoe is in California.
Aspen, USA is found in Colorado and offers four distinct mountains for skiing, snowboarding and winter activities. The Buttermilk Mountain is the easiest and is a great mountain for beginners to traverse, while The Ajax Mountain is considered the athlete’s mountain and is for expert skiers. Skiers worldwide travel to Aspen to attempt to successfully ski The Ajas. While at Aspen, visiting the Independence Pass, the Rio Grande Trail and the Maroon Bells Lake Scenic Trail are highly recommended. Horseback riding, hiking and biking the trails at Aspen offers magnificent scenery and photography opportunities.
- The USA has a wealth of ski resorts for all budgets and abilities; try the exclusive Beaver Creek, traditional Stowe in New England and enjoy a multitude of activities at The Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania such as hiking, fishing and camping.
Pico De Orizaba, Mexico
If you’ve tried all the mainstream ski resorts then why not try a ski mountaineering adventure on the Pico De Orizaba in Mexico? The highest mountain in Mexico at 5,636m offers a challenging ascent coupled with a smooth descent, surrounded by stunning scenery. Pico de Orizaba, aka Citlaltépetl, is a volcano but hasn’t erupted since 1846.
Yabuli Ski Resort, China
For a ski resort with a difference try Yabuli in China’s northeast near the town of Harbin. Yabuli is the largest ski resort in China as well as the largest ski-jumping facilities. 10 years ago barely anybody in China had skied; today the sport is becoming much more popular, so get in quick!
Sochi Ski Resort, Russia
For a bonus eleventh ski destination, how about the luxury new 2014 Winter Olympics ski resort of Sochi on Russia’s Black Sea coast near to the border with Georgia. Prices here are said to be twice the price of even the most luxurious Swizz resorts but it’s the cost of flights that bumps up the prices. So if you can secure either a cheap flight or an alternative route in, you’ll be treated to THE newest and most exclusive ski resort to date with in-resort prices much cheaper than St Moritz, Verbier and Val d’Isere. You’ll avoid the crowds and enjoy an Olympic resort which has an incredible vertical drop and is ideal for intermediate and expert skiiers and snowboarders.
By Julie Bowman