- Written by: Maxine Clarke
What makes a great ski holiday? For many, it's simply a day out on the slopes in the crisp, clean air finished off with gluhwein around the fire. Little ones may love the thrill of tobogganing and making snow angels in a magical winter wonderland. Adrenaline junkies want to carve up the slopes all day long and raise après hell through the night. In our round-up of the world's best skiing destinations, we've found resorts for everyone, from families and beginners to adventurers, experts and VIPs.
Best Skiing Destinations For Families
Sainte Foy, French Alps
A trip to Sainte Foy gives the whole family a chance to enjoy the magic of the French Alps. With a desirable mixture of mountainous landscape for all levels, the gentle flowing slopes make it easy to keep an eye on adventurous little ones. Red and black runs are available for more experienced skiers, making it one of the best ski resorts for families of all abilities. The resort sits some 1,500 meters above sea level, and the surrounding landscape could not be more flawless. Parents can treat themselves to some down time at the resort spa, Spa Ô Des Cimes, while children are well looked after at creches and various ski schools.
Other activities on offer for non-skiers, or if you fancy a break from the skis, are ice climbing, snowshoe walking, winter climbing, bobsleigh and panoramic helicopter flights.
Sainte Foy ski resort has been built in the traditional alpine style, with wooden chalets nestling attractively amongst trees. A range of accommodation is available in Sainte Foy itself and in the surrounding farming hamlets including La Thuile, Le Miroir and La Mazure. There's a free shuttle bus connecting the hamlets to the main resort.
Best Destinations For Skiing
Chamonix Mont Blanc, France
Home of the first winter Olympics back in 1924, Chamonix is widely regarded as the skier's mecca and one of the best ski resorts in the world. This classic ski resort lies at the base of Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps, and at the point where France, Switzerland and Italy meet.
There is an outstanding selection of on and off-piste skiing options, spread out across a number of skiing areas. Each area offers slopes for all levels, such as: the Grands Montets area is for the hardcore amongst you, with pistes spread over three slopes: the Argentière glacier, Lognan and the Pendant.
Brévent Flégère area is suited to skiers of all abilities, from beginners at the bottom to speed demons tackling the speed piste, as well as off-piste explorers. Les Houches is a varied area with a happy mix of black, red, blue and green runs, many of them long, revitalising runs through forest.
Beginning around December and lasting until May, the French Alps become decorated in layers of powdery white snow, just begging to be carved up. Naturally Chamonix has plenty more to offer, once you've hung up your skis for the day. There's the full range of snow activities, from ice climbing and sledding to winter hikes, and a great choice of cultural events, health and well-being sessions. Then there's all that eating and drinking to be done too.
The views, facilities and atmosphere are all part of the grand package that makes Chamonix such a thrilling location for experienced skiers.
Best Skiing Destinations For Snowboarding
A combination of near year-round snow, a crazy board park and incredible on and off-piste runs make Saas-Fee a snowboarders dream location. Situated in the Swiss Alps near the Italian border, Saas-Fee is the gateway to 150km of pistes, plus sledding and toboggan runs. There are an incredible 18 peaks at 4,000 metres above sea level. Every year the resort hosts some of the world's best riders for pre-season training - the glacier in Saas-Fee ensures snow fall from as early as October.
Saas-Fee is one of the best European ski resorts for snowboarders, with all ability levels catered for. The main terrain park is in the Morenia area at 2,600m, while small beginners' parks are located in the Stafelwald and Saas-Grund areas. Head for the park on the glacier during summer.
The welcoming locals, great nightlife, wide range of accommodation (it's an old resort with a few more modern, less appealing apartment blocks) and the fact that it is a car-free town, make for a fantastic all-round snowboarding holiday.
Best Skiing Destinations For Beginners
Telluride, Colorado, USA
The charming old gold and silver mining town of Telluride in Colorado's Rocky Mountains has the beautiful San Juan Mountains as its backdrop. One of the best ski resorts for beginners, almost 60% of the terrain is suited to beginner and intermediate skiers and snowboarders, with advanced trails available for more seasoned mountain-lovers.
Telluride is well set-up for learners, providing ski schools and lessons for all ages with attentive instructors and a lovely set of picturesque trails to try out those new found skills. Meadows is ideal for beginner skiers and riders, children and adults alike; with Sunshine the next stage on, offering a wider variety of beginner runs. Prospect Bowl at the foot of Palmyra Peak has three trails suitable for beginners and intermediates: Madison, Magnolia and Sandia. Telluride's longest ski run is the 4.6mile Galloping Goose Trail, which meanders down through the gorgeous landscape to the Mountain Village.
There are also three terrain parks at the resort, with Ute Park suiting kids and grown-ups who are beginner and intermediate skiers or snowboarders.
Guests can choose from a selection of accommodation options in Mountain Village or Telluride old-town, ranging from cosy to downright swish. Although Telluride isn't the cheap or close-to-home option, it's one of the best ski resorts for kids and beginners and could be the perfect starting point for a lifetime of skiing.
Best Skiing Destinations For Experts
St Anton am Arlberg, Austria
The St Anton resort is ideally placed at the base of the Arlberg Pass in the Tyrolean Alps - home to some of Europe's best and most challenging runs. For experienced skiers looking to show off their skills on fast and difficult slopes, this is one of the best ski resorts in Austria. The resort boasts 350km of pistes, and 200km of off-piste and challenging terrain. St Anton also features snowboard fun parks, carving areas and permanent racing circuits.
The slopes are fairly crowded during the ski season, but this is converted into a festive and unified atmosphere off the slopes. St Anton played an impressive role in European ski heritage - it was here that après ski was born in the legendary Krazy Kanguruh and MooserWirt bars.
In recent years, the attractive resort has developed with an increasing number of stylish chalets, hotels and spas, bars, restaurants and arts venues. Although there still isn't much in the way of shopping, St Anton is within arm's reach of Innsbruck and other more tourist-friendly resorts.
Best Budget Skiing Destinations
Fancy a long weekend away in the French Alps without having to pay outrageous last-minute prices? Surprisingly, the traditional Alpine resort of Megève, Mont Blanc, works out to be very reasonable by all accounts. Megève was the one of the original purpose-built French ski resorts created to compete with St Moritz in the 1920s. Unlike many others, it was built around an existing medieval village with well-preserved cobbled streets and an idyllic traditional Alpine feel.
There are three main ski areas (Mont D'arbois, Rochebrune and Le Jaillet) providing a huge 445km of pistes, downhill runs, snow parks and cross-country trails, complete with magnificent views.
The resort has all the facilities you'd expect from one of the best ski resorts in France - upmarket chalets, hotels, restaurants (the only three-Michelin starred chef in the Alps works here), boutiques and entertainment. Happily there are also budget chalets and hostels; and J2Ski sells cheap ski and snowboard holidays to Megève. So it's not just the well-heeled French who get to enjoy the top quality snow and great atmosphere!
Most Glamorous Skiing Destinations
St Moritz, Switzerland
Located in the southern Swiss Alps, on the Upper Engadin lakes, St. Moritz is one of the most glamorous and best skiing destinations in the world. Winter holidays were born here, and it's probably the classiest ski resort in the world. With 322 days of sunshine and bling in every direction, it positively shimmers - the resort's classic sun logo is wonderfully appropriate.
St Moritz has hosted two Winter Olympics and offers adventurous skiing with outstanding off-piste skiing. The resort has 350km of pistes in total, the largest ski areas being Corviglia, Corvatsch, Diavolezza and Zuoz. On the whole this is a resort for accomplished skiers; Corviglia and Zuoz being the most child and beginner-friendly.
As you would expect of an Olympic standard skiing destination, in addition to skiing and snowboarding, the full range of winter sports is on offer including bob and skeleton, curling, sledding, ski jumping, ice skating and ice hockey.
Along with the exceptional skiing and sports facilities, St Moritz is proud of its first rate après scene, super-luxury hotels and spas, award-winning restaurants, bars, clubs, casino, exclusive boutiques, arts events and top entertainment. The resort's impressive ski heritage and first class facilities attract an annual influx of the Who's Who in celebrity, royalty and sport circles. Think high standards and deep pockets!
Best Ski Resort For Gap Year Students
Cerro Catedral, Argentina
It's not hard to see why Argentina tops the gap year destination list: it's the home of the tango, speciality steak, great wines, football, awesome scenery and, of course, the Cerro Catedral or Bariloche ski resort.
Argentina may not be a familiar ski resort to many yet the Catedral resort, overlooking the impressive Nahuel Huapi lake, is one of the largest ski centres in the Southern Hemisphere. With the ski season running from early June to early October, you can enjoy over 2,965 acres of ski terrain with fantastic skiing and snowboarding for all abilities. Half of the terrain is off-piste (offering breathtaking views of the Andes mountains) and there's also a terrain park. Bariloche is the gateway to other ski resorts Cerro Bayo, Perito Moreno and Cerro Chapelco.
The town has a party culture and it's not rare to mix ski and fun with resident Argentinians. Don't expect any early nights around the fire, as the locals party late and hard.
Best Skiing Destinations for Adventure
Definitely not what you'd expect from a holiday that starts in Delhi! Gulmarg ski resort takes you 4,000 metres high into the Kashmiri Himalayas, where heavy annual snowfall produces world class powder runs. Known widely as Asia's most breathtaking ski resort, advanced skiers can explore the seemingly endless stretch of off-piste runs.
Gulmarg is only suitable for extremely thrill-seeking skiers and riders. Even then, you are advised to hire a ski guide to keep you safer and help you make the most of your time on the snow. Ski areas include Looker's Left, Looker's Right, The Back, Monkey Hill, Far Far Side and Babarishi. There are more.
If skiing the Himalayan slopes isn't thrilling enough, then a trek to the Mount Everest Base Camp will literally be the icing on the cake. Extreme to the max.
Best All Round Ski Destination
Arinsal is part of the stunning ski area in the Pyrenees, located between Spain and France. Perfect for families and beginners, Arinsal has safe enclosed slopes, award-winning tuition and a variety of childcare options. It connects to intermediate and off-piste ski area Pal by cable car. Less well-known Arcalis is included in your lift pass too and is suited to intermediate and advanced skiers.
Overall Arinsal offers something for everyone, making it one of the best ski resorts in the Pyrenees. There's a lively après scene and plenty of family-friendly activities. A wide and varied selection of accommodation means it's accessible for almost any budget, from low-cost apartments to 5* luxury hotels. Tax-free shopping in Andorra La Vella and the nearby Caldea Thermal Spa (Europe's largest) are also a bonus.
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