Sloping Off: Ten Suggestions for an Exciting Winter Break
By Richard Jones
The temperatures are falling, the dark nights are drawing in, and the supermarket shelves are filling up with Christmas stock.
Yes, winter is coming, and for many people that means the countdown is on until ski resorts get their lifts back up and running.
Whether you are a skier, snowboarder, or prefer something even more high-octane, we take a look at 10 resorts that you should consider this winter.
Innsbruck, the Austrian Tirol
During summer, the alpine meadows and mountains around Innsbruck are a playground for paragliders, mountain bikers and hikers, but when the temperatures plummet, it becomes one of Europe’s winter sports capitals. This year, guests can go skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing, swimming, shopping and sightseeing, with just one ticket: the six-day SKI plus CITY Pass, costing from £278 per adult and £139 per child.
A week’s stay at Stage 12, in Innsbruck, costs from £1,541 for two people sharing. See visittirol.co.uk
Ski sustainably in Morzine-Avoriaz
Morzine and Avoriaz are part of a UNESCO Global Geopark, while three Pierre & Vacances Residences in Avoriaz have been awarded the Clef Verte label for environmentally friendly accommodation. The AlpinExpress Pass was launched year, giving skiers and snowboarders up to 10 per cent off Morzine-Les Gets ski passes, ski hire, transfers, accommodation and eating out.
Learn how to pilot a Bobsleigh in La Plagne, France
Along with 225 km of pistes, guests in La Plagne can also try the Olympic bobsleigh, luge and skeleton track. In addition, you can alight a horse-drawn sleigh, board a sled pulled by huskies, jump off the mountain in a tandem paraglide, sink into a hot tub at the spa, or give Nordic skiing a go. La Plagne is part of the renowned Paradiski area, with Les Arcs and Peisey-Vallandry.
Vibrant Val d’Isère, France
The popular resort of Val d’Isère, linked to Tignes, offers 300 km of pistes, a top beginner area, first-class restaurants and lively après-ski. After an exhilarating day on the slopes, join the locals at La Baraque, which provides excellent food and drink. Party animals can dance the night away at well-known Dick’s Tea Bar, or the zany Doudoune.
A week’s stay at VIP SKI’s 200-year-old refurbished Farmhouse, from January 7, 2024, costs from £1,653pp (two sharing), including a transfer from Geneva Airport.
La Tzoumaz, the smaller, secret, sister resort of Verbier, Switzerland
Voted Best Ski Resort in the World at the 2022 World Ski Awards, Verbier draws in Hollywood legends, royalty and pop stars, as well as ordinary people. Part of the Four Valleys ski area, slopes cater for all levels of skiers and boarders. La Tzoumaz is one of the growing band of ‘back door’ resorts; smaller, good-value places that connect directly to bigger ski villages.
Make the most of two new chairlifts in Kitzbühel, in the Austrian Tirol
Situated at an altitude between 762m to 2,000m, holidaymakers in Kitzbühel can find some of the best snow conditions anywhere in the Alps. This winter, two modern chairlifts will replace the outdated lifts in the KitzSki area. For even more excitement, you can’t beat the Hahnenkamm festival which takes place from January 15-21, 2024.
Make new friends in Bormio, Italy
As one of the classic venues on the Alpine Skiing World Cup circuit, Bormio has a bustling atmosphere, Italian Alpine ambiance, stunning scenery and a fantastic range of intermediate skiing. The Bormio Skipass allows you to ski in three different ski areas – Santa Caterina, Bormio and Cima Piazzi-San Colombano. After a day on the slopes, you can explore the beautiful piazzas, browse the boutique stores or relax in a spa.
A room for sole use at Hotel Baita Clementi from January 7, 2024, costs from £1,895pp per week and includes flights and transfers. Go to: solosholidays.co.uk
Say ‘yes’ to Saariselkä in Finland
Less than 30 km from Ivalo Airport, Saariselkä Ski & Sport Resort is the northernmost ski centre in Europe. Since opening in 1970, it now offers 15 runs (10 of which are floodlit) including a beginner’s area, freestyle park, and six intermediate/advanced pistes. As well as exploring Saariselkä on skis or snowboards, a knowledgeable guide will organise several Northern Lights hunts.
A four-night Downhill Skiing and Aurora Après Ski trip to Saariselkä costs from £2,435pp (two sharing) and includes return flights, breakfasts and four dinners, plus two-day lift passes to Saariselkä and ski/snowboard hire. See: theaurorazone.com
Not forgetting the underrated Andorra
The tiny principality in the heart of the Pyrenees offers a high-quality ski experience with an affordable price tag. Andorra’s ski resorts are some of the best in Europe for learners, while the varied slopes of the Grandvalira ski area, high-quality accommodation and cheap prices make it a good option for families. Groups also flock here for the lively nightlife – which costs a lot less than in the Alps.
A week’s stay at Pierre & Vacances’ 3* Hotel Austria from January 6, 2024, costs from £1,373 (total, for two adults and two children on a half-board basis). Go to: pierreetvacances.com
For the WOW factor, head to Whistler, Canada
North America’s largest ski resort is home to incredible skiing, connected with a high-speed lift system, and plenty of après ski and non-ski, alternatives. Whistler is ideal for all levels – choose between long-cruisy blues, high-Alpine bowls, powder-filled forests and plenty of terrain parks. If you’re up for a challenge, drop in on the super steep Pakalolo on Blackcomb.
A 10-night stay at Crystal Lodge & Suites costs from £1,573 pp, for up to four people sharing, and includes return flights from London Heathrow to Vancouver. See: sno.co.uk