This article first appeared in the Sep/Oct 2015 issue of WGM.
Last issue we took you on a journey to some of the world’s most luxurious beach resorts where you can enjoy the unique combination of sand, sun and surf. This time we’re headed in the opposite direction – dropping the temperature and going in search of the very best ski resorts. Exactly what constitutes the perfect ski resort can vary wildly depending on who you ask. For some, it’s all about the skiing – deep, dry powder and long runs through a deserted wilderness where your skis or board are the first to break the untouched white snow. For others, the amenities are just as important as the snow itself. That means 5 star accommodation, shops, restaurants and a quality bar or two in which to ease the pain of any bruises acquired on the slopes. As for The Eagle? Personally I like a little from Column A and a little from Column B with good skiing combined with great nightlife. I’m also partial to the spectacular views only snow-capped mountains can provide! Sit back and enjoy my top 5 ski resorts.
1. Zermatt, Switzerland. For the best of both worlds, it’s pretty hard to beat the world-famous ski resort at Zermatt, Switzerland. The skiing is open to everyone with some areas for beginners and subtle slopes for intermediates, while more advanced types have no shortage of testing runs to choose from. Zermatt also offers one of the few skiing regions in the world where you can ski freely between countries with the resort linked to nearby Cervinia in Italy via Plateau Rosa.
The village itself retains all of its old world charms and the fact that combustion engines are banned from the streets means there is nothing to pollute Zermatt’s crisp mountain air. But that doesn’t mean there are no modern amenities. Instead, this is the place to come if you’re after world class shopping, boutique cafés and 5 star accommodation.
Best of all? Zermatt just happens to be located at the foot of the Matterhorn, so while there may well be dozens of top quality ski resorts in Europe, this is one of the rare few that can boast spectacular views of this iconic mountain.
2. Whistler, Canada. One of the most famous ski resorts on the planet also happens to be the largest in North America with the full Whistler-Blackcomb region comprising two separate mountain sections. With such a huge area at its disposal, it comes as no surprise that Whistler offers just about every type of terrain a skier could dream of – not to mention a total of six snowparks providing a range of family friendly snow options.
Whistler is also a favorite destination for serious skiers with the higher altitude runs benefiting from the region’s proximity to the Pacific Ocean. Regular heavy snowfall provides deep powder over an extended winter season, meaning many months of joy to be had each and every year.
And where else can you find such an array of activities off the slopes? Whistler is renowned as a brilliant party destination with dozens of restaurants and busy bars but it also boasts cinemas, an indoor climbing center, dog-sled tours and luxury spas for some much-needed pampering!
3. Ischgl, Austria. Entertainment is the name of the game in the Austrian town of Ischgl. From the annual “Top of the Mountain” concerts that open and close each ski season – featuring international artists such as Robbie Williams, Nickelback and Mariah Carey – to the town’s numerous nightclubs like Pacha, there is no shortage of things to do for those who like to live life to the full.
Even the skiing comes with some unexpected benefits. Ischgl and the nearby Swiss town of Samnaun form the Silvretta Arena among which is the aptly nicknamed “Duty Free Run”, covering eight kilometres as it gradually descends from the Austrian side into Switzerland. Samnaun happens to be exempt from Swiss customs charges so you can ski in, pick up some tax free goodies, then head back with some extra money left over to party with.
As for the skiing itself, 238 kilometres of slopes including 45 kilometres of expert black runs means this is not for the faint-hearted!
4.Hanazono Resort, Japan. If you want to ski, ski and ski some more, Hanazono is the place for you. Located on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, Hanazono is widely considered to be the snowiest resort in the word with annual snowfall of a whopping 14 metres!
The resort itself sits just 1,000 metres below the peak of Mount Niseko-Annupuri, providing a spectacular backdrop to the acres of snow on offer. Of course, there is skiing for all types here with some long, simple runs as well as two magic carpets to transport inexperienced skiiers plus some challenging powder runs for the more confident.
Perhaps its greatest asset, however, is the recently completed Hanazono 308 Snowsports Centre which boasts the largest night skiing area in the world – no need for the end of the day to end your fun!
5. Cerro Catedral, Argentina. The ideal destination for the serious skier given around 48 percent of its 120 kilometres of terrain is rated either advanced or expert, the great thing about this popular Argentinian resort is the almost endless array of stunning backcountry and largely hidden runs to explore. From steep vertical runs to long tree lines, it provides the sort of deep powder and expansive beauty skiiers dream of. The resort itself underwent a complete renovation in 2009 which added more family friendly terrain such as a cross-country area and a toboggan run.
But of more interest to the adventurous types likely to make the trek here is the fact that the lakeside town of Bariloche is just 20 kilometres away – famous for its food, wine, nightlife and bevy of beautiful Argentinian women!