Chris Moss slopes off to enjoy dramatic skylines, bargain beers, ice-sculpting festivals and bathing in hot springs with macaque monkeys.
Banff, Canadian Rockies
The spectacular views of the lakes from Banff in the Canadian Rockies alone would be worth the trip. There are 11 square miles of pistes popular with skiers and boarders of all levels. You can also try a dizzying range of adventures from dog-sledding to heli-skiing. For more information, visit www.banff.ca.
Bulgarians may confuse the rest of Europe by nodding when they mean ‘no’, but their recently developed ski resorts have left budget-conscious skiers in no doubt. With 70 kilometres of marked pistes, modern lifts and cannons, Bansko is suited to skiers of all levels as well as boarders, who can build their own jumps at the fun park.
The generally gentle pistes of Romania will not give experienced skiers the shivers, though they are a respectable 12 kilometres long at the resort of Brasov. But beer is only 50p a bottle, and away from the slopes in the medieval town lies Dracula’s castle, where you can bravely have lunch.
Film stars, adrenaline junkies and families after no-nonsense all-inclusive resorts will find their niche in the Dolomites, the Italian Alps. The Dolomite superski pass includes more than 1000 kilometres of pistes under the dramatic skyline of jagged peaks up to three kilometres high.
Ice-sculpting festivals, bathing in hot springs with macaque monkeys and more than 700 resorts to choose from – Japan is an exotic and rewarding (if expensive) choice. The peaks may not be as high as you’re used to, but there is plenty of snow and space. Still a novel destination for Westerners, you’ll miss the lifestyle as much as the slopes when you get home. Find out more from Ski Japan (+81 136 22 4611/www.skijapan.com).
All-day pink twilights have long drawn romantics to Lapland, and now skiers have reason to go as well. Levi offers more than 40 crowd-free pistes, ice-fishing, husky safaris and snowmobiling. There is also a vibrant (and tasty) nightlife with open-fire reindeer feasts, cocktails and dancing. Santa visits can be arranged for children.
There’s a reason everyone goes skiing in France, and La Plagne is one of the country’s most popular and emblematic resorts. Its ideal for families and beginners, with more than 100 easy-to-intermediate runs spread over 220 kilometres. Thrillseekers can head to Bellecôte Glacier’s black pistes or brave the Olympic bobsleigh run.
Daredevils should head to St Anton in Austria, famed for the table dancing, hardcore drinking and even harder off-piste action the morning after. Those still on their feet at midnight are rewarded with the chance to hit the slopes under the stars. There are 260 kilometres of pistes, best suited to intermediate to advanced skiers and, of course, boarders.
Some of the best-value pistes in Europe are to be found in Slovenia, overlooking the Julian Alps. There are 65 kilometres of pistes in Kranjska Gora, and, with Ljubljana airport only 90 minutes away, they’re accessible enough to make for an exciting weekend break. Alternatively, try a week’s adventure cross-country skiing through the forests and rivers of Triglav National Park.
If you’re going to do luxury, let the Swiss take care of it. In Zermatt, as well as 245 kilometres of pistes, there are gourmet restaurants, Europe’s highest cable car and a frontier with Italy that you can ski through. Serious about après-ski, the clubs are packed with youngsters at night, while more refined visitors opt for the casino and glamorous hotels.