It's winter, which means it’s time to don your woolly hat and wax your skis, as we share the best ski resorts to visit this year
With the mercury falling, eager winter sports enthusiasts are already sizing up the best slopes. But if you’re looking to get in on the action, you need to know where you should be setting your sights. Here are some of the hottest ski destinations in the world right now.
Winter never ends on Austria’s Hintertux Glacier in Tirol (website: hintertuxergletscher.at). Although it offers skiing 365 days a year, it enjoys a great snow depth now so why wait?
You could also try Tignes, France (website: tignes.net), where a funicular train lifts skiers through the mountain to La Grande Motte glacier, sitting at a lofty and snow-sure 3,456m (11,339ft). Tignes also shares the same skiing space as Val d’Isere, so expect world-class skiing for a fraction of the price.
Alternatively, sneak in some early turns in Switzerland. Saas Fee (website: saas-fee.ch) sits at an impressive height of 3573m (11,722ft), making it a popular spot for winter sport enthusiasts who flock here for reliable, powdery snow.
In the US, the gods have been smiling on Colorado as it received a strong snowfall at the start of this season. Copper Mountain (website: coppercolorado.com) and Breckenridge (website: breckenridge.snow.com) are the two most popular resorts to check out.
The Portes du Soleil region (website: portesdusoleil.com) has 650km (404 miles) of runs and over 200 lifts among 14 linked resorts, so you’ve got more chance of getting lost than getting bored. It’s heaven for freestyle junkies too – there are seven parks and three halfpipes to play in, including The Stash, Avoriaz’s all-wood natural terrain park (website: snowparkavoriaz.com).
If you’re looking for a bit of space, Utah’s Powder Mountain (website: powdermountain.com) has enough for you and a thousand of your closest friends. With over 8,464 acres of terrain, it’s the largest resort in North America. Ticket sales are limited to 1,500 per day to ensure that you get the slopes virtually to yourself.
Silverton, Colorado (website: silvertonmountain.com) may not have a fancy restaurant or slope-side condos, but it does have phenomenal powder, near-vertical chutes and challenging tree runs – and most days there are less than 80 people at any one time. Perfection. The mountain is fast building a reputation as a mecca for expert and advanced skiers. From January to April, all skiers and riders must join a guided group, kitted out with avalanche beacons, probes and shovels.
If the après ski matters as much to you as the snow, Val d’Isère in France (website: valdisere.com) has no shortage of lively bars and restaurants.
La Folie Douce (website: www.lafoliedouce.com) is a good stop-off on the way down where you can sip hot wine. If you’ve got the energy, join the Brits in Dick’s Tea Bar where the party pumps until 5 AM.
Go with the kids
After a multimillion-dollar investment, the picturesque town of Bansko (website: banskoski.com) in Bulgaria’s Pirin Mountains is the place for families to ski in Eastern Europe. It also has a dedicated children’s learning area, while the main slopes are perfect for wobbly intermediates. Spend the evening sampling Bulgarian cuisine (at a reasonable price) in one of Bansko’s numerous traditional restaurants.
Another family-friendly resort is Sun Peaks (website: sunpeaksresort.com) in British Columbia, Canada. The compact, pedestrian-friendly village is surrounded by intermediate, uncrowded slopes – plus, there are also plenty of activities that the whole family can enjoy, like a magical horse-drawn sleigh ride.
Go for style
Laax (website: laax.com) in Switzerland is fast becoming one of Europe’s most popular snowboarding destinations. The resort plays host to the Laax Open in January, allowing snowboarders from all over the world to test themselves on the world’s biggest halfpipe.
Young Swiss boarders love to test their skills at the Riders Palace hotel (website: riderspalace.ch). This trendy resort features colourful glass and exposed concrete design with big TVs in most rooms and regular live music playing in the bar. For après, take the postbus to Therme Vals (website: therme-vals.ch), a beautifully designed spa crafted from local quartzite. Soothe your aches in the 36°C (97°F) outdoor pool or plunge into the ice pool.
Switzerland also wins the prize for the most stylish mode of mountain transport. The futuristic Tschuggen Express in Arosa (website: tschuggen.ch) is a cross between a mini funicular railway and a rollercoaster. The super-sleek cabins whisk guests from the Tschuggen Grand Hotel 500m (1,640ft) up to the slopes, twelve at a time.
Perhaps the most adventurous ski destination is Gulmarg (website: skigulmarg.com) in the Pir Panjal mountains of Indian Kashmir. It has long been a hidden gem, with tourists driven away by nearby civil unrest. But with tensions falling, Gulmarg has put itself back on the map.
If that sounds too extreme, try the Japanese resorts of Rusutsu (website: rusutsu.co.jp) or Niseko (website: niseko.ne.jp) on the northern island of Hokkaido. The best time to visit is during the Sapporo Snow Festival (website: snowfes.com), from 31st January – 11th February.