Plane-free ski holidays

Published on: Monday, November 30, 2009
Plane-free ski holidays - skiing beginners


If spending hours stuck queuing at the airport with two six-foot planks stuck to your back doesn’t sound like the perfect start to your ski holiday, swap the plane for a train for a hassle-free journey.

Whichever European resort you choose to visit, your journey will probably begin with a high-speed connection from Ebbsfleet, Ashford or London St Pancras. Just make sure that when you’re watching the European countryside roll by with a glass of bubbly in hand, spare a thought for the unlucky folks eating cardboard food with knees around their head thousands of feet above you.

Culture rich: Innsbruck, Austria

Any ski destination that has hosted the Winter Olympics (as Innsbruck did in 1964 and 1976) obviously has some powdery pedigree, but there’s much more to be done in Innsbruck than simply gliding around on a pair of skis. Innsbruck offers miles of ski runs for different levels of ability, and 25 of the surrounding village sites are easily accessible by bus. Aside from the slopes, the city itself is well worth a visit. The Tyrolean capital boasts stunning architecture and wonderful Christmas markets that light up the old town or Marktplatz. Anyone who feels like venturing into the surrounding countryside on foot rather than by ski can enjoy the 96km (60 miles) of hiking trails surrounding the city.

Party time: St Anton, Austria

The perfect destination for people who want to spend as much time in the bar as on the slopes, St Anton has become a prime destination for skiers who want to burn the candle at both ends. There are a huge number of bars and clubs, such as the Krazy Kangeruh and Mooserwirt. You don’t even have to wait until the evening to get the party started; things get going here in the mid-afternoon and don’t stop until the early hours. If the late nights start to wear you down and you need a little help traversing the slopes in the early morning, a horse drawn sleigh ride into the stunning Ferwall valley may be the perfect tonic (just skip the gin).

Extreme ski: Chamonix, France

Chamonix’s reputation as a world class resort is well warranted. The five resorts of Brevent, Flegere, Grands Montets/Argentiere, Les Houches and Le Tour each have their own characteristics, and experienced skiers looking for exciting drops and swooping curves will not be disappointed. Chamonix’s lenient ski patrol pretty much allows you to ski anything you can find, so once you have shared the lifts with the crowds, if you’re willing and confident to venture forward alone, before long you’ll find a thrilling stretch of snow to call your own. Alternatively, if you want the experience without running the risk of being stuck on a mountain top overnight, then off-piste guides can be easily hired in Chamonix.

Ski zen: Bardonecchia, Italy

Italy’s Bardonecchia ski resort is perfect for skiers looking for a more laid-back experience. The terrain will generally suit beginner and intermediate skiers, but Bardonecchia is close to a host of different resorts in both Italy and France for the best of both worlds. Hire a car and immerse yourself in the stunning surrounding scenery, knowing that whenever you decide to return, a gentle skiing challenge and a quiet evening of contemplation await. There are rarely queues for lifts during the week, but be warned, the resort attracts many weekenders from Turin.

Snow fun: St Moritz, Switzerland

St Moritz is a resort as much about image as it is about skiing. Glitzy and glamorous, it offers a range of weird and wonderful activities that you won’t find at your average ski destination. If the skiing becomes a little routine, test your skills in a relaxing round of winter golf. Or perhaps you’ve always wanted a game of cricket in the snow, or even a game of polo? Make sure you put on the skis regularly or you might forget why you’re here. Even if it does slip you mind, the stunning array of gourmet food and regular music festivals will more than make up for it.