Last week, Part 1 of our winter sports series, we spoke about money saving tips and winter sports planning. This week, we take a look at some of the accommodation options and popular destinations.
Choose a resort best suited to you (Image by Rennet Stowe)
There is huge diversity in the different types of ski resorts, while some lay on a well balanced portfolio for all abilities, other resorts lean towards a particular market including intermediate, advanced or powder skiers (we mention these later on). For starters, here’s a quick run-down of the holiday durations available.
The Weekend Ski Break
Perfect for those who just want to give it a go.
Weekend ski breaks can be hectic to say the least, but they are the perfect answer for those that aren’t yet ready to commit to a longer holiday on the snowy peaks. Typically, prices start at £199 for coach packages with weekend flight packages available from £300.
Longer duration Ski Holidays
When any other holiday just isn’t an option.
Although some are happy to stay in one place for the entire duration of their ski break, one alternative for longer duration ski holidays is to spend half your stay in one resort before transferring to another, giving a wider variety of slopes. This plan also offers more options for shopping and après-ski, if those are an important part of your holiday.
There is an unsurprisingly vast range of accommodation offered by ski resorts. Of course, the actual location of your hotel or apartment – both in terms of the resort you choose and its proximity to ski lifts and other facilities, may be more important to you than the type of accommodation you choose.
Apartment or Chalet? There's a few different types of accomodation to choose from
Just the Basics – Clean and Comfy
Apartments often offer the best value, with self-catering apartments offering accommodation for groups of 2 to 12 people. In the US, this sort of ski accommodation is often referred to as ‘condominiums’ or ‘condos’. Many apartments are purpose-built close to the ski slopes, so offer maximum convenience.
The Picture Postcard Snow-covered Chalet
Strangely enough, chalets are largely a British phenomenon and are generally run by Brits across the Alps, particularly in Switzerland, Austria and France.
Chalets generally provide a full-board experience with three good meals a day, plus high tea when the lifts close, and often with local beers and wines on offer. Staff usually get a day off each week, when you will need to plan a meal out.
Up-market chalets often provide a greater level of comfort and facilities that may include hot tubs, steam rooms, games rooms, private ski guides and tours.
From Bed and Breakfast to 5 Star Luxury
Hotels usually offer a variety of stay options from bed and breakfast to half or full board. As with any hotel, ski hotels usually work on a star rating basis from zero to five-star. In France, the highest rating is four-star.
- Basic ski hotels are commonly offered by British tour operators in most mid-range resorts in the Alps and the Pyrenees and are ideal if you are on a budget.
- If budget isn’t an issue, there are some serious high-end ski hotels that provide everything you could possibly need, including swimming pools, gyms and health spas.
- As a compromise, traditional hotels may not be as convenient for slope access as many of the apartments and chalets, so it’s always worth investigating this if access to the slopes is a top priority.
- Also, look out for variants on the standard hotel, including Chalet and Club Hotels, which are run to a chalet style, and ApartHotels, which are apartment complexes with optional hotel facilities and services.
Match a Resort to Your Ability
As with any type of holiday, it’s all about location, location, location. Depending on what you’re looking for in the perfect winter break, you can guarantee that there will be a resort that offers everything you desire. Here are just a few of the ‘closer to home’ possibilities that might be worth checking out.
For the Beginner
Nice and easy!
Choose the right resort for your budding little skier
1. Les Arcs | France
Les Arcs has nursery slopes directly above each of the resort’s main villages, of which Arc 1800 has the most variety. It also has a free beginner’s lift, plus a good range of more advanced slopes as you progress. The best ski school is the award winning Brit-run New Generation in Vallandry. Their friendly instructors will instil confidence in the most timid of beginners.
2. Soldeu | Andorra
One of Europe’s best beginner resorts, Soldeu has two extensive nursery areas and excellent ski instructors who are native English speakers. When you progress, there’s also a good range of slightly harder runs. The weather is usually good (Soldeu translates as ‘Sun God’), the nightlife is pretty messy and, of course, Andorra is a duty-free zone so it’s cheap.
Ready and raring to go
Woah, that guy over there is busting out some crazy moves!
1. Chamonix | France
Avid skiers, snowboarders, and partiers flock to this popular resort, and they are not disappointed. The scenic Chamonix Valley is nestled among some of the highest mountain peaks in the Alps, including the famous Mont Blanc massif.
There are 145 trails weaving throughout the area, adding up to 140 kilometers (87.5 miles). The favorite runs in the area are Le Brevent, Vallée-Blanche, and the Grands Montets. Chamonix is known for its fantastic off-trail skiing and snowboarding opportunities, as well. Including the off-trail slopes, the area offers up to 30,000 acres of skiable terrain.
2. La Plagne | France
La Plagne is a great resort for intermediates, particularly now that the link to Les Arcs gives you more options for day tours.
As many of the connecting runs are scenic blues, even early intermediates can explore most of the mountains, but there is enough challenging and varied terrain to keep stronger skiers entertained; the wide expanse and different expositions guarantee a good sense of travelling through the mountains. The slopes of La Grande Rochette offer some of the most challenging intermediate skiing, though all the reds off the back of Les Verdons are great, particularly the wonderfully long Mont de la Guerre.
Are you brave enough?
Are you brave enough to do this!? Check out advanced skier resorts
1. St. Anton | Austria
With intense terrain to satisfy the more experienced skier, St. Anton attracts extreme skiers looking for the ultimate challenge. Only the most advanced skiers should attempt Valluga’s notoriously difficult north face. After the breathtaking and terrifying descent, you will discover beautiful powder slopes as you head towards Zürs. As well as the 276km of groomed piste, skiers in St. Anton can enjoy miles of off-piste.
2. Verbier | Switzerland
Verbier is considered by many to be the home of extreme skiing and hosts several competitions each year, bringing in the best Big Mountain skiers in Europe. With short hikes from the cable cars you can get to legendary runs like Stairway to Heaven or Rock Garden. A tour over the back side of Mont Fort will really get the adrenaline flowing. From the top of Mont Fort you can also see the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc, so be sure to take a camera.
As you can imagine, there are thousands of ski resorts all around the world including New Zealand, China, Japan, Argentina, India and, of course, the US, Canada and Europe.
To end Part 2 of our 6-part series on everything to do with winter sports, winter holidays and travel, here is possibly one of the most remarkable ski destinations anywhere in the world.
Strange but True!
Is that a Mirage in the Desert?
It may be boiling outside, but it's nice and chilly in here! (Image by Doudlers)
Ski Dubai is the first indoor ski resort in the Middle East. This amazing construction covers a massive 22,500 square meters, is open all year round and covered with real snow.
Ski Dubai has 5 runs that vary in difficulty, height and steepness. The longest run is 400 meters, with a fall of over 60 meters, making it the world’s first indoor black run. Skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels can enjoy the variety of slopes and practice stunts on the 90-metre long quarter pipe. There is also an interactive Snow Park for children and families, which is the largest indoor snow park in the world, covering over 3000 square meters.
In Part 3 of our Winter Sport Holiday series, we’ll look at what to do before you hit the ski slopes alongside some useful advice for when you arrive at your resort.