February 3, 2015
Snow…a word that makes us think of gloves, hats, scarves, sledging, snowmen and hot chocolate. But for me, it’s a word I immediately associate with skiing. Once an elite sport, accessible only to the wealthy, it’s now available to a far wider audience. However, with over 1,000 resorts to choose from, where do you start? Here are just a few suggestions for:
Skiing or snowboarding for the first time can be a daunting experience, especially when the pistes are packed with people making it seem effortless. Lessons with an instructor can definitely help, but picking the right resort is crucial. Alpe-d’Huez in France, Cervinia in Italy and Aspen in Colorado, USA are all prized for their beginner slopes, top tuition and easy-to-catch lifts: you won’t find yourself on a difficult drag or leg-whacking chairlift in these parts.
It’s hard enough locating that missing glove, or remembering to apply factor 50 sun-cream before setting off for the slopes, without having to coordinate two children at the same time. Luckily, resorts such as Avoriaz and La Plagne in France have thought of this and operate kids’ clubs and extra activities (including tobogganing, ice-climbing and swimming) on and off the snow. Plus, the car-free village of Saas-Fee in Switzerland gives you extra peace of mind when manoeuvring multiple skis, and kids, to and from the lifts.
Even with the best intentions of sticking together, inevitably – due to varying skill levels and different wants and needs – the group will divide. Therefore you need a resort that ticks an assortment of boxes: good off-piste skiing, a wide mixture of runs, delicious alpine food, a top night-clubbing scene, relaxing spa treatments… the list goes on. To solve these issues, head further afield to Whistler in Canada, or try two resorts closer to home: Laax in Switzerland and Méribel in France both offer an all-encompassing trip.
So, you’ve bought some big fat powder skis and want to put them to good use? All resorts have a variety of off-piste slopes but there are some areas better than others. St Anton in Austria, Chamonix and Val-d’Isère in France and Snowbird and Jackson Hole in the USA all compete for the affections of experts. St Anton especially has some incredible bowls below the Valluga cable car, and Snowbird certainly lives up to its name with some gullies often reported to contain neck-deep powder.
For many, skiing is not just about enjoyment and exercise, but also about enjoying good food. Whether you’re after Michelin-starred restaurants or traditional Savoyard-style cuisine, resorts are continually striving to offer it all. St Moritz in Switzerland certainly has a broad range, from the rustic retreat of La Baracca to the elaborate experience in El Paradiso. If you fancy an Italian treat, head to Las Vegas Lodge in Alta Badia. Or, if you don’t mind splurging, visit the five-star Koh-I Nor in Val Thorens, France – it doesn’t translate as the ‘jewel’ for nothing.