World’s Best Ski Destinations 2013
When it comes to a winter break, the prospect of icing-sugar snow wins out over pure-white sand for many. After all, why would you want to lounge on the beach, when you could be mainlining pure adrenaline on a snowy slope somewhere? We’ve found some of the best destinations around the world for you to choose from when planning your next vertical adventure.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Without doubt, Jackson Hole in Wyoming is the United States’ ultimate skiing mountain. It offers a superior continuous fall line, unbeatable terrain, and excellent backcountry. Not to mention the $30-million thrill ride that is The Tram, a cable car that rises more than 1,200 metres in 15 minutes and gives you 360-degree views of Jackson Hole, the Snake River Valley, Grand Teton National Park, and the dramatic summit of the Grand. Jackson delivers snow when many other U.S. ski resorts don’t, and it also boasts the world’s most famous ski run – Corbet’s Couloir.
Chamonix Valley, France
The French Alps have something of a terrifying pedigree when it comes to skiing, so a resort has to be pretty special to rank among the best in the country. The Chamonix Valley is one of those resorts. Offering the best free-riding in the world, it’s the destination of choice for many snow bunnies flying into Geneva. Chamonix Mont-Blanc offers a choice of five ski resorts (Les Houches, Grands Montets, Le Tour/Balme, Le Brevent, and La Flegere), which make it ideal for any ski holiday. If you are confident skier, you really should attempt the spectacular off-piste adventure that is Vallée Blanche, Chamonix’s famous 20km ski run, which traverses glaciers and crevasses and runs through some of the most incredible mountain scenery in the Alps.
When it comes to ski resorts, Zermatt really has it all. Located about 240 km from both Zurich and Geneva airports, it rises to more than 3,800 metres (the highest skiable area in the Alps), making it the most reliable choice for snow. And, in the unlikely event that it doesn’t snow in time for your ski trip, a remarkable 63% of the pistes operate snow-making machines. When you do get out on the snow, you will discover 320 km of refreshingly varied slopes, making it ideal for all levels of expertise. Famous runs include the number 69, which virtually touches the Matterhorn, and the number 14/15, a fabulously long piste right at the edge of the ski area. For true thrill-seekers, the Triftji area has great itinerary pistes, former black runs that are left relatively untended, making for challenging bumps, moguls, and tree skiing.
Okay, so Italy might not have resorts on a par with the best France and Switzerland have to offer, but has some really interesting destinations, especially Cortina d’Ampezzo, 130 km from Bolzano Airport, in the Dolomites. Forested slopes and pastures ascend gradually from the valley floors up to about the 2,000m mark, and dramatic cliffs, crags, and towers of pink limestone add another 1,000 metres or more. This is a stunningly beautiful area, particularly around the natural amphitheatre in which Cortina is anchored. You ski in four or five sectors, only two of which are connected by piste. Whichever sector you are in, you’ll find gasp-worthy views of the peaks. Apart from the long expanse of the Forcella Staunies’ south-facing couloir, most of the skiing is gratifyingly easy.
Veteran skiers looking for challenging runs will always favour France and Switzerland, but, for the rest of us, there is Austria. Novices do not need a big resort with a linked ski area, challenging black runs, awe-inspiring couloirs, and other classic high alpine terrain, so Alpbach, 60 km from Innsbruck Airport, is ideal. With its magical atmosphere, Alpbach should convert you into a confirmed skier. Particularly popular with British skiers, it offers two quality schools and enough of a challenge for any skier for a week-plus.