No winter experience is complete until you’ve hit the snow-capped slopes
Skiing is very much a ritual families look forward to come the peak of winter. Much as snuggling up in a blanket sipping on hot cocoa sounds tempting, the season’s beauty is best appreciated when you step out and experience the magic of snow. Winter sports like skiing and snowboarding are undoubtedly a fun way for family and friends to bond and the best excuse to step out and get the body temperature pumping. If that’s not reason enough, skiing greatly helps with burning the calories from festive feasting! No matter which part of the world you are, these are some skiing spots to hit up within your range and the best season to visit.
Aspen, Colorado, United States
Season: December to March
Known globally as a world-class skiing destination with four mountains to choose from, Aspen is a once in a lifetime experience. Its elegance and breath-taking beauty attracts ski-heads, winter tourists and celebrities alike. Aspen offers slopes for skiers of all levels: Buttermik for beginners and Snowmass or Aspen for the more advanced. If you want a break from the slopes, go on a hike of the “Grottoes” caves along the Roaring Fork River, and if you feel like shedding the bulky winter garb, check in to the Conundrum Hot Springs. Aside from offering some of the best après skiing, Aspen indulges visitors with its classy amenities of world-elite resorts and exquisite dining options.
Niseko, Hokkaido, Japan
Season: November to May
Niseko is arguably the most famous Japanese ski resort amongst seasoned ski and board enthusiasts. Niseko is known for its constant supply of snow and for the best ski terrain in Japan, and is also the largest ski resort in Japan comprised of An-nupuri, Niseko Village, Hirafu and Hanazono. It’s also suitable for skiers of all levels, and boasts a combination of both alpine and tree skiing, a rarity among other Japanese ski resorts. Gondolas and hooded chairs let you experience Niseko’s powder snow without worrying about the cold or the sun. Niseko also rivals its counterparts with excellent after-ski nightlife and restaurants, and other activities include side-country tours, heli skiing and if you’ve the energy, a climb up Mount Yotei, with its volcanic cone.
Whistler, British Columbia, Canada
Season: December to March
A town of two mountains, Whistler and Blackcomb, Whistler affords 18,171 acres of terrain and 39 feet of snowfall on average. With its jagged peaks, lovely forests and inviting glaciers, Whistler proudly hosted the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. Whistler is also known for its European touch as compared to other North American resorts. Although the town offers more intermediate and expert trails than beginner ones, there are scenic, long and gentler trails to enjoy. Rides between Whistler and Blackcomb are a treat on the unique Peak 2 Peak gondola, making ski on both mountains possible in one day. Brace yourself for the jaw-dropping views as you ride across the valley and past the village.
Wanaka, New Zealand
Season: June to October
In the Pacific Ocean, Wanaka offers ski heads unparalleled off-piste powder skiing of the premiere Treble Cone ski fields, with the Cardrona and Nordic Snow Farm within a short reach. Treble Cone is more suited to advanced and expert skiers while Cardrona boasts great terrain trails and parks for beginner to advanced levels. If you’re keen on a spot of heli skiing, the Harris Mountains Heliski and Southern Lake Heliski provides a huge terrain amidst the mountain ranges. For some well-deserved R&R, take your pick from various day spas, wineries and even a cruise on the scenic Lake Wanaka. Unlike the touristy Queenstown, Wanaka is ideal for a low-key but sophisticated ski experience.
Season: End of October to the start of May
Also known as the place for celebrity spotting (Madonna and George Clooney are just some of the VIP holidaymakers), this Swiss village is both an enclave for the mega-rich but just as much for ski enthusiasts. Skiing here on one of the largest ski areas in the Alps, is between 1,000 to 3,000 metres above sea level, boasts 220 km of runs, and 60% of slopes with snow canons, on the heart of the smooth slops of the Bernese Oberland. Infrastructure and amenities are partial to luxury, with five-star hotels scattered throughout. Hiking and various snow and ice sports are plentiful, including night skiing on the slopes of the Wispile and Rinderberg for after-hour jaunts under floodlit lights.
Tignes, Savoie, France
Season: September to May
It may not be the prettiest ski resort but it makes up for it by being one of the most reliable resorts for skiing, almost year-round. The lofty valley is blessed with gorgeous, skiable terrain: think wide pistes, an abundant freeride terrain, and near the peaks, dipping chutes and couloirs. Its high attitude means snow is a guarantee, especially on the Grande Motte glacier. Rather than being another flashy, upmarket ski resort, Tignes is practical and prides itself on quality skiing. It’s a huge playground, with 300km of pistes and 10,000 hectares of off-pistes, especially suited to the intermediate or advanced skier.
Season: June to October
This Euro-styled ski resort is recognised as one of the premium ski resorts in Australia, with long runs, a vibrant nightlife and après ski amenities. Nestled in the Kosciuszko National Park at the foot of the Crackenback Range, the village sitting at a 1,380 metre altitude offers around 50 ski runs to over 700,000 visitors annually. There’s terrain for skiers of every level on the slopes: Friday Flat for the beginners, Merritts Spur for the intermediates, and for a varied terrain, Anton and Sponar. After a hard day on the slopes, sink in to a meal and a few drinks at a variety of restaurants and bars.
Season: December to March
Innsbruck offers more than just its nine spectacular ski areas – it is a European cultural experience. As a city that’s hosted the Olympics twice, the emblem of old-world Europe is a pro at winter sports. Surrounded by rugged mountain peaks, it’s an unforgettable experience to whiz down one of its 500 km trails in one of its 25 village ski resorts, easily accessible by a free connecting ski bus. For a taste of the Olympic run, head for Patscherkofel, and for a run through pine forests, Muttereralm. For the novice, the higher resort of Kutai boasts reliable snow, exhilarating skiing and a snowboard park.
Season: January to March
Hop off the beaten path and head to this exotic ski location in the Atlas Mountains. At a dizzying 10,738 feet, this tiny ski resort 50 miles from Marrakesh is Africa’s tallest ski resort, and adequately equipped to impress experienced skiers with its European facilities, albeit in a Moroccan way. Its four drag lifts service the slopes, and rather than shuttle buses, donkeys are the mode of transport. Pistes are reportedly bumpy and other activities include snowshoeing, sledging and ski-touring. Accommodation is available, but a day trip to Oukaimeden just for the experience is recommended.
Season: November to April
When you think of the quintessential winter experience, Russia comes to mind, and yes, offers skiing on the shore of Lake Baikal in Baikalsk city. Snow peaks frame the magnificent Lake Baikal and ski slopes with 12 routes spanning 15 km, making it one of the best ski resorts in Siberia. Trails are first-rate and there is even a spa for guests to soothe aching muscles. The relatively new ski resort established in the 1990s is also famous for Lake Baikal’s mirror effect of the surrounding frosty landscape.
Photo credits: Main, Aspen, Niseko, Whistler, Wanaka, Gstaad, Tignes, Thredbo, Innsbruck, Oukimeden, Baikalsk