Ski Resorts should be a winter wonderland with plenty of snow sports on offer and a fabulous après ski scene. From Alpine chalets to Canadian log cabins, from ice rinks to black ski runs, from Jagermeister and schnapps to gluhwien and fondue to 5* cuisine, ski resorts are special places to take a vacation. Making winter sports accessible to anyone, or even just those that enjoy the off slope ambience and entertainment, ski resorts can be found all over the world and probably in places you’d never imagine. Here are just 7 Top Ski Resorts:
1. Top Ski Resort for Families – Flaine, France
If you fancy getting the whole family troop out on the slopes Flaine in France is the place to go. Offering a safe environment for the kids, Flaine is very family friendly with crèches, kids clubs and child-welcoming ski school. There’s a large central village square and a big terrain park, served by its own chairlift and a line of gentle jumps where kids can do more than just flat slope ski. Flaine’s location is also attractive; being only an hour from Geneva Airport means less time for the kids to constantly barrage you with are we there yet?
2. Top Ski Resort for Couples - St-Marcel-De-Belleville, France
If you want special time alone and an escape where there’s really only you and the sound of crisp crunchy snow, head for the gorgeous little village of St. Marcel. There’s only one hotel here so this is not the place for après ski. The hotel (La Bouitte) looks like a converted cowshed and only has 5 bedrooms. By day you can ski the vast slopes of Trois Vallées and by night you can treat your palette to the Michelin star food in the hotel restaurant. After dinner enjoy a jacuzzi or the steam room, a walk under the stars then retire to your welcoming room to make your own après ski entertainment. (Leave the flannel nightie at home!)
3. Top Ski Resort for Beginners – Soldeu, Andorra
High up in The Pyrenees, the tiny principality of Andorra is winter sport heaven. This little place sandwiched between France and Spain exists for one thing – to make tourists happy. Soldeu Ski School is perfect for beginners. The teachers are native English speakers and the class sizes are small. The nursery slopes are at a height of 2,250m which means learning on decent snow and there’s no overcrowding so you get plenty of room to practice. Even getting to the slopes is easy. Moving carpets take you up the gentle hill which saves you from having to learn how to use the drag/chair lifts until you are comfortable on your skis.
4. Top Ski Resort for All round Activities – Zell Am See, Austria
If anyone in your party is not the biggest fan of skiing or you want to enjoy more of your destination than just the slopes, Zell am See is ideal. This fairly valley large town sits on a frozen lake and caters to many tastes. There’s a wide network of hiking trails which are accessible in winter and if you want to trek up the 2,000m high Schmittenhöhe Mountain, you’ll be afford breathtaking views. Fancy living dangerously, how about paragliding off same said mountain? At the other end of the scale, there is a 40km cave system running through the limestone. There’s an extensive menu of things to do including skating on the lake, ice sailing, cross country skiing, snow kiting, horse riding, tobogganing, ice driving and shooting at the rifle range. Push your body hard then retire to the spa centre to recuperate.
5. Top Ski Resort for off-Piste – Niseko, Japan
If powder is your thing, head to Shikotsu-Toya National Park, Hokkaidō, Japan. Dominated by Mount Fuji lookalike Mount Yotei, this area is probably the only place that gets close to guaranteeing powder snow. Niseko is a fabulous resort with terrific skiing for progressive and experienced skiers. With top quality hotels, theme parks and nightlife that only the Japanese know how to deliver, this is the place for hardened winter vacationers.
6. Top Ski Resort for Food – Courmayeur, Italy
If you want your skiing sustenance to consist of more than fondue, rillete and gluhwien, there’s really only one place. The highest commune in Italy, Courmayeur sits at the foot of Mount Blanc, Europe’s highest mountain. Courmayeur is blessed with many restaurants from the top of the mountain slopes down to the village centre. A statue of Madonna will overlook you as you tuck into feasts at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Christiana’s will tempt you with frog’s legs and polenta, or opt for their famous pizza; Maison Vielle’s suckling pig will make your mouth water; Pierre Alexis wows you with regional specialties matched by the grappa and salamis at Courba Dzeleuna. A highlight has to be the 36 course blow-out at Maison de Filippo. Ignore the large menus for at least one dinner time and enjoy a thermal bath under the stars at Pré Saint Didier, 5kms from Courmayeur.
7. Top Ski Resort for Something Different – Gulmarg, India
I’m sure the last place you expected to feature in a list of top ski resorts, Gulmarg is in India’s Kashmir province, enjoying the magnificent setting of The Himalayas. Do you keep a constant eye on the snow forecasts the couple of weeks before your annual ski trip? No need to if you’re heading for Gulmarg - here you get guaranteed snow. Well you will be 4,000m above sea level! Granted this old hill station is the destination for ski lovers who want to focus on the daytime activities because the area is still under development and cannot yet be called mainstream. There are decent après ski facilities but what you do get is virtually empty slopes, breathtakingly epic scenery, fabulous quality snow and the thrill of riding the highest cable car in the world.
So there you have it. These top ski resorts have everything you could wish for if snow, ice and white landscapes get your heart racing. It’s an interesting mix that makes up my Top 7 Ski Resorts don’t you think?
Top Photo Credit: Alan B