Asian vs. European Ski Resorts
When it comes to snow fun, from skiing and snowboarding to racing downhill on a plastic toboggan, nowhere does winter sports better than Europe.
From the pampered resorts of Les Gets to the world cup slopes of Austria, everyone has their personal favourite. But what of those hidden European gems where pristine powder glistens on forested slopes in lesser-skied European winter wonderlands?
What happens when all the snow has melted and long since turned to lush pastures? Perhaps it’s time to head even further afield to some of the world’s strangest spots in which to find a ski resort…
The Usual Suspects
LES GETS, FRANCE
There’s more to a beginner’s ski holiday than house-trained ski instructors, gentle slopes and sore legs. Finding yourself in a picture-postcard resort is a real bonus and Les Gets in France’s most ski resort and is as beautiful a ski village as you’re ever likely to find. Fantastic snow, hot tubs and chalets galore and great instructors make this a can’t beat snow destination.
Courchevel has a reputation for being the world’s best ski resort. It is made up of four villages on different levels, Courchevel being the highest. They are all linked by ski lifts and a ski bus. Courchevel does has everything, but at a price. Great beginners’ slopes, more challenging runs higher up in the mountains and a dedicated snowboarding park. You can also ice skate, toboggan, ice climb and drink yourself silly in the evenings in the fantastic bars…just be prepared to flex that plastic.
The Hotel Schloss Lebenberg is the perfect pampering getaway. The award-winning Polly Hillbrunner Beauty Spa in the Vitalturm tower next to the castle is rated as one of the best in Austria and hotel guests can indulge in first class health, fitness and beauty treatments. This magical 16th-century castle, straight out of a fairy-tale is located in the highly fashionable resort of Kitzbühel, the home of the infamous Hahnenkamm world cup downhill race.
Off the Beaten European Track
If budget is an issue then why not head to a less expensive destination where you probably won’t bump into members of the royal family on their holidays, but where the snow is the same colour and the skiing is just as good. Borovets in Bulgaria has crèches, ski schools for children and free lift passes for kids aged 8-12. In the evenings there are folk nights, barbecues and wine tasting, oh, and very good skiing.
Krvavec in Slovenia wins hands-down for having one of the world’s shortest transfer times from any city airport, at only 15 minutes by taxi, followed by a seven-minute gondola ride on to the mountain. So, you can get off the plane and be on the slopes within half an hour! Fantastic snow and wide-open, varied terrain will keep most people happy for at least a long weekend.
SELVA VAL GARDENA, ITALY
With over 98kms of trails, including some fairly testing terrain, Selva is a brilliant destination for cross-country skiers. Part of Sud Tyrol; Selva combines all that is best of Italian and Austrian traditions. Guided winter walks amid some stunning scenery are there for those who need a break from the slopes. Ares ski comes in the form of the Laurin Keller and Miravalle where you can drink and eat delicious pizzas as the sun goes down.
Want to combine skiing with a visit to see Santa Claus? Now you can with optional excursions to Santa’s Secret Home for around £30 per adult and £26 per child. It’s also a great place for children to learn to ski, with quiet slopes, good English-speaking ski instructors, a warm friendly atmosphere, husky and reindeer safaris to make a magical time of the short days.
Even further Off the Beaten Track
SKY RESORT, MONGOLIA
If the European snows have melted why not try Mongolia’s first fully fledged ski resort. Towering 1,570m above sea level, all of the resort’s nine runs are covered by artificial snow as the area is insanely dry. You won’t find any black diamond slopes here, but you do have a few alternatives to contend with if you’re up for a challenge. The experienced can tear down Zalaat and Zaisan, 1,050m and 1,020m respectively. If that doesn’t set your heart racing, then there is always the 1,070m slope of Khurkhereet. Plus, you have the added thrill of seeing the stunning landscapes of Mongolia.
GULAMRG SKI RESORT, HIMALAYAS
If you have an aversion to heights, this may be one to avoid. If you don’t however, this will make the long haul flight to India worthwhile. Dangling over Gulmarg’s legendary beauty is the world’s highest gondola that whisks skiers and boarders up to the resort’s 2,213m summit. You’d be hard-pressed to find better runs anywhere else in the world. Due to Gulmarg’s geography and its extreme amounts of snowfall, this is often regarded as the best ski resort in the Himalayas. Go on, snowboard the Himalayas, you know you want to!
KIRORO RESORT, JAPAN
Kiroro has pretty much all you could ask for from a ski resort. It’s situated 40km west of Sapporo, near the picture-perfect seaside town of Otaru, and the resort’s high-speed lift system is one of Japan’s best, helping you get up those slopes in record time. With Sapporo close by for sightseeing and dining, you can take your pick on where to stay for the night. Both Mountain Hotel and Hotel Piano are two of the best, offering luxurious accommodation, entertainment facilities and great ski rental shops.