Life
William Ham Bevan 12 Dec 2018 11:38am

In the know for snow

All 10 of these winter sports resorts deserve to be on your radar. Words by William Ham Bevan

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Caption: Ten winter sports resorts to visit

Alta Badia, Italy

Alta Badia is a convenient base to explore the huge Dolomiti Superski domain from. Come also for the food: in a valley covering just 15 sq km, the chefs have won six Michelin stars.

Best for: A gastronomic blowout, with the chance to work off the calories on Sella Ronda – a 40km circuit around the great monolith of the Sella-Massif.
Where to stay: The Rosa Alpina in San Cassiano is one of the most glamorous hotels in the Alps. The St Hubertus restaurant recently earned its third Michelin star. Double rooms from around £290, B&B (rosalpina.it).
Off the slopes: Book well ahead for a table at the top restaurants. As well as St Hubertus, there’s La Siriola at the Hotel Ciasa Salares (two stars) and La Stüa de Michil at Hotel La Perla (one star).

Les Contamines, France

Crowd-free skiing during the school holidays – and in the French Alps? It can be found. Les Contamines-Montjoie is close to Chamonix and Megève, but the pretty, sprawling Savoyard village remains a backwater. Its own ski area has around 120km of pistes, and those comfortable on red runs will get the most out of it. The ski pass also entitles you to explore the Evasion Mont Blanc ski area, adding 450km of pistes.

Best for: Families on a second or third trip – and it’s close enough to Geneva Airport for a snatched snow weekend.
Where to stay: Most skiers opt for self-catering accommodation, but hotels include Le Christiania – a traditional chalet-style affair with a restaurant specialising in calorific Savoyard cuisine such as tartiflette. Double rooms from around £75, B&B (lechristiania-hotel.com).
Off the slopes: Les Contamines is quiet, save for Wednesdays when chalet staff have time off. L’Auberge du Télé is popular when pistes close, and late bars include the Breton creperie Ty Briez and Le Tétras.

Asahidake, Japan

Head to Asahidake and you’ll be able to say you’ve taken on Hokkaido’s highest mountain – and an active volcano to boot. There’s just one lift, the Asahidake Ropeway, serving a vast expanse of backcountry. Off-piste gear and a guide are recommended.

Best for: Powder hounds, tempted by a 14m yearly fall of the world’s driest and lightest snow. This is a playground for serious skiers and boarders only.
Where to stay: La Vista Daisetsuzan is the most sophisticated of the hotels near the base station. The European-style ski lodge has a cocktail bar and French restaurant. Doubles from around £100, B&B (no English-language website – search on japanican.com).
Off the slopes: A visit to an onsen, or hot spring, is a must – and it’s a magically effective way of shushing up muscles that are protesting after a serious workout.

Andermatt, Switzerland

Andermatt isn’t a name with the resonance of Zermatt or Verbier, but many would bet on that changing. Egyptian billionaire Samih Sawiris has been spearheading the biggest transformation the Swiss Alps have ever seen, including six luxury hotels, new lifts and mountain restaurants, and pistes linking Andermatt’s ski area to that of nearby Sedrun.

Best for: Experts and improvers alike. The 2,961m peak of Gemsstock is renowned for tough skiing (notably the Bernhard Russi black, snaking all the way back to town), while Nätschen has gentler terrain, including newly laid out blues and reds.
Where to stay: Gault-Millau’s hotel of the year in 2017, the Asian-styled Chedi is among the most impressive billets in the Swiss Alps – and almost certainly the only one with a Michelin-starred Japanese restaurant. Double rooms from around £430, room only (thechediandermatt.com).
Off the slopes: Away from the new glitz, more traditional après hotspots include De Prato pub, Spycher Bar and Di Alt Apothek.

Mammoth, US

California isn’t the first state that springs to mind as a ski destination. But by US standards, Mammoth’s name is appropriate, with 28 lifts serving 46 varied trails and a vertical drop of 945m. It’s popular with snowboarders and freestylers: there are seven terrain parks covering more than 100 acres, containing three half-pipes, 50 jumps and more than 100 jibs.

Best for: Boarders and skiers of all abilities. Many resorts claim to have terrain to suit everyone, but Mammoth is a place where the boast stands up to scrutiny.
Where to stay: The Village at Mammoth is the most convenient place to stay, linked by gondola to the main lifts at Canyon Lodge. Studio condos from around £230 (thevillagelodgemammoth.com).
Off the slopes: Mammoth Lakes has a reputation as a party town. Just off the slopes, Yodler offers all-American après-ski with a Bavarian twist – beer steins, pretzels and all. Later on, the Clocktower Cellar near the Village is the place to go for international beers, whiskey and a “foosball” table.

Hemsedal, Norway

To get the most from a winter break in Scandinavia, it’s usually best to approach it as a holiday with skiing rather than a skiing holiday per se: most resorts have such limited vertical drop that descents can be measured in seconds. However, Hemsedal – Norway’s biggest ski area – is a bit more extensive, with 20 lifts, around 45km of varied runs and a respectable vertical of 830m.

Best for: Families and first-timers: you can even get from summit to resort entirely on runs graded green. All the usual Nordic pursuits are available, such as snowmobiling, dog-sledding and cross-country skiing.
Where to stay: Skarsnuten Hotel is a paean to sharp Scandinavian design, with amazing views across the slopes from its picture windows. Double rooms from about £162, room only (skarsnutenhotell.no).
Off the slopes: Built in the style of a Nordic stave church, Stavkroa is a complex of bars with a vast club under the eaves. For sheer raucous exuberance, it’s the equal of famous Alpine spots like La Folie Douce and the Krazy Kanguruh.

Treble Cone, New Zealand

As well as being the biggest ski area on the South Island, Treble Cone has the greatest proportion of challenging terrain: around 45% of its landscape is rated as difficult. There are only two proper lifts, but they grant access to a wealth of varied slopes. Some runs more than deserve their black rating.

Best for: Adventurous skiers and boarders, and backcountry buffs who are not averse to putting on climbing skins or split boards.
Where to stay: There’s no accommodation at the ski area itself. Wanaka is the most convenient base, and Edgewater is the only resort directly on the shores of its beautiful lake. Double rooms from £126, room only (edgewater.co.nz).
Off the slopes: Wanaka’s main drag, Ardmore Street, has great bars such as LaLaLand: a groovy lounge with a daily cocktail hour and lake views from the deck.

Portillo, Chile

This is a ski experience unlike any other. The resort, at 2,880m in the high Andes, amounts to just one hotel, where everyone stays all-inclusive. The lakeside scenery is beautiful, the skiing is legendary – it’s where World Cup teams come to train during the Northern Hemisphere summer – and quirks include unique slingshot drag lifts that can catapult five people up the hill side by side.

Best for: Anyone with a sense of adventure, from families taking advantage of the excellent ski school and kids’ clubs to off-piste junkies seeking out steep and deep challenges.
Where to stay: There’s only one option. Ski Portillo has accommodation spread throughout the main hotel, adjacent chalets and nearby lodges. Seven-night ski weeks in the hotel from around £1,810pp, full board (skiportillo.com).
Off the slopes: Stopping at Tio Bob’s on the mountain for a pisco sour (and the amazing views) is an afternoon ritual. There’s a nightly programme of entertainment at the hotel – plus a famous hot tub.

Gerlos, Austria

Unknown to the British market, Gerlos is big in the Netherlands. There’s even a “Dutchweek” in late March when half of Rotterdam descends to gyrate to cheesy house music. From a boarding and skiing perspective, the main attractions are that it’s high, snow-sure and linked to the sizeable Zillertal Arena ski area (52 lifts, serving 143km of runs).

Best for: Endless cruising runs in a valley that gets unexpectedly lively at night, plus access to three other major ski areas, including Mayrhofen and the Zillertal 3000 glacier: 530km of pistes in all.
Where to stay: The Schönruh is a friendly, family-run hotel with a spa and indoor pool near the main gondola lift. Double rooms with dinner, B&B from around £115 (schoenruh.com).
Off the slopes: If you’ve a soft spot for Austrian après-ski kitsch, you won’t go wrong here: to quote the slogan of Luigi’s Turbo Bar, “just take off your skis and let’s party!”. Other hotspots include Almstadl, as well as Cin-Cin (early) and Country Club (late) at Hotel Platzer.

Barèges/La Mongie, France

La Mongie and its sister resort of Barèges seemed to fall out of favour in the 1980s. The two are chalk and cheese. Barèges is a charming Pyrenean village serving forested trails, while La Mongie is a 1970s architectural time warp with skiing in an open, treeless bowl. Together they add up to an impressive 43 lifts and 240km of marked runs.

Best for: An economical family trip in a resort with reliable snow cover and plenty of confidence-building runs for beginners.
Where to stay: La Crête Blanche in La Mongie is friendly, cosy and good value. Double rooms from around £82, room only (la-crete-blanche.fr).
Off the slopes: La Mongie isn’t party central in the evenings, but Le Schuss and L’Igloo are worth a look. Alternatively, you can take the cable car to the 2,877m Pic du Midi observatory for an unforgettable sunset and slap-up dinner.