Top skiing and snowboarding destinations
DEOGYUSAN, SOUTH KOREA
Formerly known as Muju, Deogyusan ski resort huddles at the bottom of wildly beautiful Deogyusan mountain in the Gucheo-dong Valley. Those with stamina should hit the Silk Road slope, the resort’s longest run at 6.1km, and if you harbour a fondness for steep gradients, The Raiders Course is for you. Soaking your muscles in the resort’s soothing hot springs is an enticing way to finish the day.
Timberline Lodge, Oregon
The longest ski season in North America – it’s closed for just 2 weeks in September for maintenance – draws a steady stream of pro skiers and boarders to Timberline Lodge near Portland. Experts are enticed by the massive jumps and training parks, as well as to the Golden Rose Ski Classic race in June, the oldest-known organised ski race in the States.
For some of the best heli-skiing anywhere in the world, Girdwood in southern Alaska cannot be beaten. The picturesque Chugach mountains hold a reliably stable snow pack caked in sugar-soft powder, and while the more nervous skier or boarder will just about manage, this is the place to really challenge yourself.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
“Steep and deep” is the name of the game here in Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, located in Wyoming’s Teton Village. It’s especially famous for its expert slopes, but beginners need not be afraid: various gondolas can wing you over to the more chilled out mountain sides. Après-ski entertainment is pretty vigorous, with something – live music, open art gallery evenings, barbecues and general merriment – going on every night of the week.
San Juan, Colorado
Part of the famous Rockies mountain range, the San Juan Mountains are almost frighteningly steep, offering vast skiing terrain – from the major ski resort at Telluride and smaller Durango to Wolf Creek Pass and Silverton – that’s refreshingly free of crowds. Powder freaks are more than happy to eschew the lifts, and instead hike, snowcat or splitboard to the freshest and deepest snow.
Revelstoke, west of Calgary, proudly declares itself to be the only resort in the world to offer heli-, cat- and back-country skiing from one village base. And that village could not (currently) be cuter or quainter. The resort is still being developed, but once completed, it’s going to be up there with the most exciting and varied ski destinations in existence.
Just over an hour away from its bustling capital city of Beirut, Lebanon’s Mzaar ski resort might come as a bit of a surprise. But the beautiful mountain scenery, high elevation ensuring great snowfall and a terrain that suits all abilities will obliterate any preconceptions. Plus, après ski in the nearby village of Faraya won’t break the bank, with tasty mezze served in restaurants and friendly and fun nightclubs providing undeniably great value.
An alternative Moroccan experience, this. Titchy Oukaimeden resort, around 80km south of Marrakesh, is best visited as a day trip from the city. The longest run is 3km, and slopes aren’t the manicured beauties you see in Europe, but it’s certainly one to include if you want to say you’ve skiied beneath the African sun – an unlikely but perfectly possible claim.
Ben Lomond, Tasmania
Ben Lomond National Park, in the north of Tasmania just 50km east of Launceston, is home to the country’s premier downhill ski field. The slopes are not especially hard or fast, but the lack of crowds, wildlife and gorgeous views from the top of the mountain reaching out over to the ocean more than make up for it.
Snowboarders look away from this one – you’re not allowed: Alta, a sleepy mining town in Salt Lake County, and one of the oldest ski resorts in the States, is reserved just for skiers, and with its insanely deep powder (average annual snowfall hits 1306cm, due to excess moisture sweeping in from the Pacific) it’s a haven for experienced off-pisters.
Cerro Catedral, Argentina
Cerro Catedral in Spanish means “Mount Cathedral” – an apt name, since the imposing mountain summits 20km from Bariloche in southern Argentina, are shaped like the towers of a medieval basilica. The resort’s far-flung and flawless slopes have something for everyone – from first-timers and the not-so-bads to expert off-pisters and trick-loving boarders.
Treble Cone, Wanaka, New Zealand
As the largest ski area in New Zealand’s Southern Lakes, not to mention possessing the longest vertical slope, Treble Cone is generally acknowledged to be the best resort round these parts. Sheltered and sunny runs, excellent powder and challenging off piste terrain simply add to the appeal.
The winter snow falls thick and deep on Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, attracting skiers and boarders to its many well-regarded resorts. Niseko United is the biggest, overlooked by the dramatic cone-shaped Mount Yotei. Every February, the town of Sapporo puts on a magnificent snow festival, and it’s also a key spot on the FIS Ski Jumping World Cup circuit.
As the host of the Winter Olympics 2014 (and the FIS Ski Jumping World Cup in 2012/13), Sochi in Russia has certainly proved its credentials in the snow department, and in the year before the crowds start arriving in earnest, the slopes are due to be relatively quiet. Advanced skiers and boarders are best catered for here, though it you’d certainly get kudos for saying you learnt to ski in an Olympic resort.
The passage of time has transformed Lech in western Austria from a little farming village, often cut off from the rest of the world by snowfall, to an exclusive and expensive ski resort, made up of Alpine-kitsch hotels, smart restaurants, bars and lively clubs. Mostly all the pistes are above the treeline and there’s a dismal number of challenging slopes, but it’s the place to come if you like your chairlifts heated, your runs manageable and your après ski quaffing champagne in classy hotel bars.
If you are put off by the high prices in Western European ski resorts, then Jasna in Slovakia (a 40minute transfer from Poprad) is an absolute winner. While the skiing might not be as varied as the terrain in France or Austria, for instance, Jasna still offers plenty of scope and will test most levels. Plus, there are none of the crowds or queuing for lifts so typical of the west, and lift passes, ski rental, lodging and food are laughably good value.
With no less than four huge snow parks, Laax is the largest base for Freestyle skiing and boarding, and along with the biggest ski pipe in Europe, it also has an indoor “Freestyle Academy” where you can practise your jumps and kicks all year round. The resort isn’t just for tricksters, though, as families and beginners can learn to ski on wide, forgiving slopes or in the excellent ski school, The Snow Wonderland.
Spain’s largest ski resort, Baqueira-Beret in the Pyrenees enjoys the caché of being a favourite among the Spanish royal family. The majority of runs are blues and reds, with a smattering of greens and blacks, but there is also plenty of off piste excitement. You won’t need so many layers up here as an extra hour of daylight (compared to the Alps) means the sun beats down for longer.
SAINTE-FOY TARENTAISE, FRANCE
Sainte-Foy sits in the Tarentaise valley in the Savoie, not far from the giants of the ski world, Val d’Isère, Tignes and Les Arcs. If you prefer a quiet, idyllic mountain scene with uncluttered slopes – great for beginners – and a serene après ski, Sainte-Foy is your kind of place. Boarders are particularly well catered for, as the mountain provides lots of drop offs, cliffs and natural jumps, and the powder-filled off piste terrain is irresistible.
San Cassiano, Dolomites, Italy
A quintessential Italian ski resort exuding elegance and luxury, San Cassiano resides at the foot of Mount Lavarela, in the Alta Badia valley. Fancy restaurants, expensive spas and deluxe hotels guarantee pampering and indulgence after a hard day on the slopes. Leave the baggy ski pants and hoodies at home – it’s diamante and fur round here, dahling.
Buns of steel will be the end result of a ski holiday here, as Norway’s Sogndal (on an inlet of Sognefjord) is the place to trek uphill in your touring skis. As well as a toned bod, the upside here is that you can also enjoy the downside…through the snow-licked trees right to the bottom of the mighty mountains.
Poiana Brasov, Romania
Poiana Brasov, in Romania’s stunning Carpathian mountains, is not just ideal for beginners (not so great for the advanced lot), with plenty of gentle nursery slopes and confidence-boosting red and blue runs, it’s also down-to-earth and great value for money, escaping the usual trappings of luxurious ski resorts elsewhere.
The quaint and quiet larch wood ski resort of Zinal sits in the Val d’Anniviers, not far from Geneva, surrounded by dramatic peaks reaching up to 2895m high, like the Matterhorn. With its typically deep powder, it’s a great choice for off-piste skiers and boarders; brave souls might want to attempt a run by the side of the mighty Moiry Dam.