The 2019 European ski season (Dec-Apr) has been one of the best yet. Even as I write the ski conditions in the Sierra Nevada in Spain are excellent; deep snow at the base of the mountains and bright blue skies. With flights now on sale for winter 19/20 and early booking offers available where will you choose to take your next ski holiday, and which is the perfect ski resort for you?
You are never too old, or too young (+ 3 years), to learn how to ski. Skiing is not about being the fastest down a mountain, completing a challenging run or how many miles you can cover in a day. Skiing is an immersive experience through which you will discover some of the most beautiful terrain in the world. Imagine yourself atop a snow-covered mountain, the winter sun beating down on your back, breathtaking views stretching out before your eyes and a steaming hot chocolate in hand… heaven!
We all have to start somewhere and there are a few considerations to bear in mind when choosing a ski resort for your first holiday:
- Does the resort offer quality tuition for beginners? Is this tuition offered on a 1:2:1 basis or as part of a group?
- Are there a number of easy runs, and more challenging runs – as your confidence grows, on which you can practice?
- Are there other attractions on offer in the resort, should you wish to have a break from lessons?
I recommend the ski resorts of Avoriaz and Les Deux Alpes in France, Niederau in Austria and Corvara in Italy for beginner ski holidays.
I love the resort of Saas Fee in Switzerland for families. This charming, pedestrianised village oozes alpine appeal. It is also one of the highest ski areas in the Alps, with 14 peaks measuring over 4000m. The joy for families here is two-fold: firstly most of the runs are suited for beginners and intermediates – ideal for those in the early stages of their skiing journey, and secondly the resort offers a host of other activities to enjoy – walking, snowshoeing, tobogganing, a swimming pool and an ice rink.
For active couples, there is little that top an exhilarating ski holiday. Forget the mobile, forget about your email inbox and get back to basics; spending quality time together doing something you enjoy. Add into the mix a boutique hotel with a roaring fire, panoramic balconies, sauna and outdoor hot tub, a gooey fondue, a warming glass of mulled wine and a horse-drawn sleigh ride and you have all the makings for a perfect romantic escape.
Groups of friends, of all ages, can enjoy a ski holiday, and the best bit is that you do not need to be all at the same level, have the same interests or spend every waking moment together. By hiring a catered chalet for your party, you can come together every morning and evening and yet spend the days navigating the slopes independently. Catered chalets offer an all-inclusive service with three meals provided each day, cleaning and the services of a chalet host.
I’d particularly recommend the resorts of Val Thorens, Meribel and Courchevel in the Three Valleys for a group ski holiday. These three areas are interlinked by runs and lifts, offering mile-upon-mile of ski terrain for all abilities. The apres-ski is excellent here too with a host of bars, comedy clubs, restaurants and the renowned Folie Douce venues.
For experienced skiiers:
Having recently returned from Chamonix in France, I have to place this at the top of my list for challenging, yet rewarding, ski areas in Europe. This is a vibrant, year-round town with access to five ski areas: Grands Montets, Les Houches, Le Tour/Balme, La Flegere and Le Brevent, and offering long, complex and, in places, ungroomed runs. Take a guide to explore off-piste and I promise that your skills will be tested to the max.