More often than not, when planning a ski holiday people focus on the high profile French and Austrian ski resorts like Chamonix, Morzine and The 3 Valleys in France and places like St Anton, Mayrhofen and Zell am See/Kaprun in Austria. Less known skiing resorts and in fact whole countries are overlooked in favour of more popular resorts. This is a mistake as often the well known resorts offer nothing more than crowded pistes, exorbitant prices and poor quality purpose built accommodation. If you are looking for a more authentic ski holiday, what to save some money but at the same time get quality accommodation and quality skiing then you should really consider some of the less publicized resorts. One great option that is often overlooking is skiing in Italy. With alpine borders to France, Switzerland and Austria it is no surprise that Italy offers top quality skiing.
Here are seven reasons that distinguish Italian ski resorts from its counterparts located in more traditional countries like France and Austria.
Did you ever think of crossing the border and enjoying skiing at the same time? It is not a difficult task in Italy and even skiers with only a week’s experience are more than competent to “go international” and ski across borders. By the way don’t forget your passport !!!
Low key Claviere is a small commune located on the Franco-Italian border and offers an ideal environment for “cross country” skiing. If you are staying here you are lucky because the border post is just outside your chalet or apartment. The combined lift passes for Claviere and Montgenevre (in France) will help you get the most of this ski region, which is both high in terms of altitude (good for snow cover) and perfect for beginners as well as intermediates. A word of caution though – when returning from Montgenevre you will have two routes: one, involving a very reasonable piste that runs at valley level; the second, a black run with some tricky vertical drops, so before making a choice about how to head home check your level of your energy and courage.
The La Thuile lift pass also includes all the lifts and runs just across the border in La Rosiere (France). International skiing here is a matter of daily routine as the pistes are regularly interlinked across both countries, although the majority of skiers are of the view that the Italian side is the best as it faces the North and East slopes and therefore carries the best snow.
Set off on your tour early in the morning, which will give you maximum time to enjoy the red runs that are located after the Napoleonic fort just at the outskirts of La Rosiere. Don’t forget to visit one of the slope side restaurants for famous ‘dejeuner en Francais’ (breakfast) before decamping for home.
If you are staying in Cervinia you can reach Zermatt (Switzerland) within an hour and enjoy skiing on the slopes of Theodulgletscher yet at the same time evading the expensive Swiss costs and irritating queues for the cable cars.
If you are a real skiing buff, you must kick off your journey from Cervinia right on the first lift in the wee hours to get down to Zermatt village. On returning, get in one of the mountain trains going to Gornergrat for a tasty lunch before heading back to Italy in time for tea. Keep your passport with you because the Swiss authorities regularly check it on the border!
Check out this ski video from the Teodulgletscher area of Zermatt
One of my favourite ski tours was a trip up from Courmayeur to ski the Vallee Blanche ending up in the heart of Chamonix town.
The only cable car that heads to Punta Helbronner is presently out of order until 2015 because it is being re-fitted, therefore you will have to walk for around 30 minutes to reach the glacier. As well as getting you warmed up before skiing this way has the adding advantage of getting rid of long queues and the heart-stopping precipices on the French side.
If this option down the Valle Blanche is not quite to your liking you can take a 30 minute bus trip through the Mont Blanc tunnel and enjoy a day skiing in Chamonix. One day of Chamonix skiing is often included on your Courmayeur ski package. Thrill seekers love to ski on Les Grand Montets while intermediates will be happy with Flegere and Brevent. All the three can be accessed easily on the Chamonix ski bus.
If you are planning a trip to Morzine then you might be interested in a few tips on where to wine and dine after a day on the mountain. These days Morzine is as popular in summer as it is in winter, with mountain bikers and hikers invading the town much like skiers and snowboarders do in winter. Even if you are busy with all the activity on and around the mountain, dining out and having a drink or two is a good way to unwind at the end of the day. Here are a few of our favourite bars and eateries in Morzine. It’s a mixture of cheap and cheerful bistros as well as haute cuisine restaurants and a few lively bars thrown in too. Hopefully you will find something that fits the bill.
Named the best restaurant on the mountain by visitors that have eaten there, the charming chalet-style eatery offers a variety of delicious options for you to choose from. You can sink your teeth into some of the best burgers in town or opt for something a little sweeter like the crème brulee and a cup of hot chocolate.
Get your fill of delicious gourmet sandwiches and salads as well as fresh fruit smoothies and creamy milkshakes. Dotty’s puts it personal touches on things like serving drinks to children in glass jars with colorful straws.
Known for its friendly and accommodating staff, the restaurant has something for everyone and has duck and tapas that customers rave about.
A must-have for meat lovers, you can eat chicken, steak, bacon, and as well as the ‘Meat Tree’ which is a delicacy to be devoured and shared.
Part ski shop and part coffee bar, Beanies is the perfect place to drop in when you want to warm up, have a cup of coffee and eat a slice of cake. Their milkshakes are worth trying if you can handle more cold after a long day of skiing!
Formerly known as the Buddha Bar, this café is a fusion of Indian, Pakistanian, and Asian influences. Its relaxed atmosphere and rock and roll music will make you feel right at home among its ethnic décor.
If you like cocktails and live music, you’ll find both here. The fun atmosphere and in house DJs will keep you dancing the night away.
Small but cozy, the ‘new kid on the block’ Le Barbylone offers international football matches on the big screen, tapas, and live music battles.
Live sports, DJs spinning the hottest hits, and Coyote Ugly-style dancing on the bar may be for the younger crowd but it’s what sets the bar apart from others in Morzine.
One of the longest established bars in the area and certainly one of the most entertaining, the Bar Bush offers trivia nights and theme nights where you can have fun, drink, and make some new friends.
Hopefully you enjoy
your stay in Morzine whether it’s a snow filled ski holiday or a warmer summer
break. Morzine is undoubtedly one of the top mountain resorts in France and is
filled with not only a wide range of mountain activities but also exciting
restaurants to try and an equally impressive nightlife. You’re likely to walk
away from the experience with more than just a full stomach and a nice, relaxed
feeling. If you need to book some
accommodation for your stay in Morzine you should check out our range of apartments
and chalets in Morzine. Hopefully you will find something that suits your
When thinking of skiing holidays, France, Italy and Austria are some of the countries that immediately hit our mind. And, of course, this trio has garnered unbeatable repute in the skiing hall of fame and become one of the most popular ski destinations across Europe, if not the world, thanks to its awe-inspiring landscapes, famous resorts, amiable locals, and a wide array of both on pistes and off pistes skiing.
Skiing opportunities, however, can be discovered in more countries than one could imagine. Every year new destinations, resorts and towns are explored as the next big skiing retreat. So, if you are thinking of you next winter holiday resort, why not go to an unconventional location this year? This way, you will not only enjoy new and unexpectedly exciting experience, but you can save money as well.
Slovenia, a small country situated in Central Europe, offers plenty of breathtaking landscapes, natural stunning beauty and a wildness not seen in more developed Alpine ski resorts. While providing an amazing ski holiday far away from the massive crowds of tourists, Slovenia offers great skiing against an absolutely stunning backdrop. There are over 10 main ski resorts in Slovenia. A lot of people don’t know this but the mountains here are actually part of the southern reaches of the Alps. Slovenia’s main ski resorts offer modern ski lifts and snow cannons to ensure an enjoyable ski holiday regardless of the weather conditions.
The oldest of Slovenia’s winter resorts is Kranjska Gora, a summer and winter resort in northwestern Slovenia near the borders with Austria and Italy. Kranjska Gora has some of the best skiing in the Julian Alps and attracts toursist all year round. Skiing and snowboarding are popular in winter and hiking, climbing and mountain biking take over during the summer. With 13 ski lifts and pistes rising to an altitude of 1295m the resort offers something for all skiers. The locals are well known for their ski instructor skills so this is a great resort to learn to ski in. Of the experts you can try to off piste runs through the thick forests but for safety always take a mountain guide.
The area is equally popular in summer with the Triglac National Park and the nearby Lake Bohinj attracting visitors who enjoy everything from walking and hiking to rafting, canyoning, golf or fishing. The is also a summer toboggan run that is popular with the kids.
Mariborsko Pohorje is the biggest ski resort in Slovenia with some 250 ha. of skiing area.
With excellent ski slopes, beautiful natural surroundings and first-class spa and wellness centres this resort is becoming increasing popular with both local and foreign skiers. Boasting 43km of downhill pistes, 27km of cross country trails, the longest night skiing piste in Slovenia, several new ski lifts and 95% snow cannon coverage this is certainly a good option for you next ski holiday. The resort is located close to Maribor, the second biggest city in Slovenia. Maribor is a historical town located on the banks of the Drava river. The town is well worth a visit if you can tear yourself away from the skiing.
Other popular Slovenian ski resorts include Krvavec which is close to Kranj and Ljubljana. This smaller resort is good fun for a day’s skiing and the new high speed gondola can take you to the top of the mountain in under seven minutes. New investment in snow cannons has helped to improve the snow conditions here.
The important point about skiing in Slovenia is that you take what you like from it. Whether you go for the skiing, the amazing wild nature or enjoy the local cuisine and culture this is an emerging ski country not to be missed. For hardcore skiers who want to pound out the miles of pistes every day then maybe it’s best to skip Slovenia but for more relaxed or beginner skiers it is definitely worth a visit.
Bulgaria, another hot skiing destination, has grown in popularity over the years because of great slopes and affordable prices; however, you can still enjoy some of its off-the-beaten skiing areas. Borovets, Bansko and Pamporovo are the internationally known ski resorts and are most suited for skiers of all expertise levels. Borovets is the closest resort to the main international airport in Sofia. With a transfer time of just over an hour you are barely off the flight by the time you hit the slopes. Borovets is the oldest resort in Bulgaria and offers a wide range of pistes for all levels. The resort had a beautiful location in the middle of the pine forests lining the north side of the Rila mountains. As a value of money ski destination Borovets comes out on top. Accommodation and food is cheap when compared to more mainstream European ski resorts and private ski lessons are affordable. One of the big advantages of skiing in Bulgaria is the quality of ski tuition provided and the ability to take private ski lessons at an affordable price.
If you would like to try a ski holiday or even a summer break in Borovets check out the accommodation options on this page. The Chamkoria Chalets complex has some of the best chalets in Borovets ski resort. Try here for more details about ski chalets in Borovets.
I have always considered myself pretty good on skis, but Jurgen disagrees. You move your body and your hips too much, and you stand much too far back on your heels, he says. Jurgen is my ski instructor and for the next six days, he will be teaching our group of four how to free ride in the mountains around St. Anton. Freeriding sounds like something new and trendy, but in fact it has been around for centuries from the time when mountain herders used planks of wood to glide down the alpine slopes. The great thing about skiing in the back country is that you get to ski on deep snow and down pristine slopes. Often there is no one else around, and you can absorb the beauty and the solitude of the mountain landscape. I have been skiing since I was a kid and while I am pretty comfortable on groomed pistes but learned to control my movement in deep powder is something new for me.
Technique is important, so Jurgen gives us some practice exercises immediately. The group is quite mixed with John from Ireland, Tanya and Nikolai from Moscow and myself from London. We start on the Pfannenbach run just as the snow starts to fall from the heavens. Jurgen suggest a variety of learning techniques; skiing without poles, skiing with your hands on your knees, placing the poles behind our knees and even doing little jumps as we are skiing downhill. He tells us that all these steps are designed to improve our skiing technique and rid us of any bad habits. Over lunch at Griabli restaurant he explains that self-taught bad habits are one of the biggest problems he sees in intermediate level skiers. While tucking into a delicious Tyrolean grostl and some fresh dumplings he goes on to tell us that it is often more difficult to teach adults than children as you first have to break down the bad habits and get back to a classic style. With children the process is easier has they have less a less in grained style and are naturally more adventurous and open to change than there grown up parents.
After lunch we hit the slopes again. With over 300 km for groomed pistes and 540km of descents St Anton is a mecca for off piste skiing. Always carry a shovel, probe and an avalanche transceiver and new free riders should always take an off piste course before venturing back country. There is nothing quite like the experience of skiing on fresh powder and the silence of the mountain as you glide through deep snow, but it pays to be prepared as this can be a dangerous landscape if you are not careful. Jurgen’s advice is that beginners should always go off piste with a guide who has proper training. Each year across the Alps up to 100 people die in mountain accidents, varying from avalanche deaths to hypothermia when people get lost off piste. For beginners there are lots of off pistes areas just off the edges of the marked pistes and this is some of the safest places to start. Other runs require you to hike for several minutes or even hours to get to remote gullies and valleys. For this type of free riding you should be experienced and have full avalanche protection gear.
As the snow eases off and the sun starts to peep out from behind the snow clouds Jurgen guides us out into the mountain terrain, across soft deep powder. He goes first and moves with short controlled swings. I’m next up so I point my skies downhill and start to move through the deep snow. As I move my speeds picks up, I hear Jurgen shouting something but I am concentrating too hard on staying upright. Controlled is not a word that could be used to describe my descent. I make it down in one piece and at the bottom get a cheer from Jurgen who then proceeds to ask why I didn’t follow what he was saying. Looking back up the hill side I can see that my tracks look more like some crazed animal than the smooth brush strokes made by Jurgen. But who cares – it was fun.
Tanya and Nikolai come next and manage to get tangled in each other half way down. We laugh at the bottom while they spend 10 minutes trying to dig themselves out of the snow. There is one thing I have learned about off piste free riding. If you fall in deep snow it is very difficult to get back on your skies. Jurgens advice was not to fall but that is much easier said than done. After a quick hot chocolate in a little café at the side of a piste we head off again. We cut across a wooded area where I have to do my very best to avoid colliding with the sturdy pine trees and then emerge into a large open powder bowl. Jurgen stops to let us catch our breath and points out the various surrounding mountains; Rendl, Gampen, Kapall, Valuga. It is like we are lost in a winter wonderland.
It is approaching 4pm and my body is starting to feel the effects of the days exertions. It is getting harder to find my rhythm and the techniques I learnt in the morning seem more difficult now. My muscles say it is time to hit the hot tub. Down below us I can see the lights of St. Antons pedestrian zone starting to twinkle as the skiers leave the slopes and fill the après ski spots. The Mooserwirt and Krazy Kanguruh are rocking by the time we reach town as St Anton begins to morph into it nighttime persona with lively après ski and nightclubs.
Our group stops at the Mooserwirt for a beer and to recap the days activites. Jurgen joins us and has a warm schnapps. He kindly says that we have all made progress today (I’m not sure that is true) but follows up that we have much more to learn. After a couple of beers the tiredness really starts to hit me so I make my excuses and head back to my chalet for a relaxing soak in the hot tub.
Next day I am up at 8am and down a hearty Tyrolean breakfast in my chalet before joining the group at the bottom of the Galzig cable car. Jurgen is there and we start our adventure’s all over again. And so it continued for my week skiing in St Anton. Long hard days on the slopes and in the powder, and evenings in the bars and restaurants or back in the comfort of my ski chalet. It snowed mid week making the off piste conditions even better and giving lots of opportunities for fresh tracks.
At the end I was tired but sad to leave. I am pretty sure I will be back to savour the hospitality and excellent skiing in St Anton am Arlberg.
Thanks to Eric for his excellent report on a week off piste skiing in St Anton. If you fancy following in his footsteps and need to book some accommodation in St Anton then take a look at these links: St Anton chalets, St Anton apartments, Catered chalets in St Anton
This weekend saw several more ski resorts open and with plenty of early season snow, there was lots of good skiing to be had across the Alps, Pyrenees and Rockies.
Quite a few of the American resorts have opened for Thanksgiving weekend with fresh powder in Aspen and also across the Canadian ski resorts.
In Europe one of the big opening of the weekend was in the southern Alpine resort of Les Deux Alpes. For the opening Saturday the weather didn't really cooperate with high winds and fog restricting the skiing. Luckily on Sunday the weather cleared and blue skies and sunshine allowed the skiers to enjoy the conditions with 33 slopes open and 15 lifts running. Snow cover in Les 2 Alpes is currently around 1.5m at 3,000m and 40cm on the lower slopes. It is still very early in the season for powder skiing but if you looked hard there was even some fresh white stuff just above La Toura.
In Italy both Courmayeur and Livigno opened, while in Andorra the resort of Grand Valira joined the already open resorts of Pas de la Casa and Soldeu. Pas de la Casa currently has a base in excess of 1.5m and neighbouring Soldeu just over a meter of snow.
The Pyrenees ski resorts are starting this season like the finished the 2012-13 season with very good early season skiing conditions. The French Pyrenees resorts of Peyragues, Gran Touralet and Cauterets all opened this weekend. Cauterets is hoping to match last years record as the snowiest resort in the world.
Some fresh snow showers mid week helped to top up the already good conditions and as we move towards the big Christmas ski holiday period it looks like there will be plenty of good skiing and boarding to enjoy.
So you had to wait all summer long but finally winter is here and ski resorts across Europe and North America are opening again. Checkout the schedule for some of the early season ski resorts in Europe.
Tignes is already open with the Grande Motte glacier skiable from the 12th October. By mid November over 40% of the Tignes runs are open for skiing. The Stubai Glacier in the Austrian Tyrol also opened on the 12th October, ringing in the new season in style with the Stubai Glacier Oktoberfest.
The Les Deux Alpes glacier officialy opens on 30th Nov but if you can’t wait that long there is a sneak preview on the weekend of 26th Oct as part of the "Ski and Test & Rock 'n Roll" event where you can try out all the latest ski gear.
Zell am See - Kaprun kicks off with the White Start Games on the weekend of Nov. 9-10. Early season skiing is always good on the Kitzsteinhorn glacier.
With one of the best snow records in Austria Obergurgl is always an early opener. With 13 lifts already open the ski conditions are good for this tie of the year and you can even ski down to the village on certain run. A good spot for some early season skiing !!
Obertauren's official ski season opening is 28th Nov but the resort is opening briefly on 20th Nov with an open air concert from Austrian electro pop band Parov Stelar Band.
Always an early one, Ischgl opens with a reduced lift pass between 28th Nov and 20th Dec. The Canadian rockers, Nickleback, are playing on the 30th as part of the legendary Top of the Mountain opening concert.
The weekend of the 30th see the first bunch of non glacier resorts open. Val Thorens opens on 23rd November with the annual ski testing 'Ski Force Winter Tour' but the main action starts on the 30th. Val d'Isere, Les 2 Alpes, Mayrhofen, Montgenevre and Schladming all kick off their season on the 30th as do several of the Pyrenees ski resorts such as Cauterets, Pyrénées 2000, Angles and Piau Engaly.
The weekend of 6-7th Dec is when the 2013/14 ski season really gets underway with the opening of over 30 ski resorts in France, including Alpe d'Huez, Courchevel, Les Orres, La Clusaz, La Plagne, Chamonix and Isola 2000 as well as lots of the big Austrian resorts such as St. Anton am Arlberg.
The other ski resorts around Europe gradually open from 14th Dec through to 21st Dec just in time for some Christmas skiing.
The last few days has seen lots more snow arrive in the Alps. With 20-30cm of fresh powder falling since the weekend. France , Switzerland and Austria all received a nice top up as the storm moved from west to east across the alpine regions.
Several of the high altitude resorts are open for skiing with some of the best early season conditions in several years.
In Austria some of the best conditions can be had in Hintertux (140cm base) and Obergurgl. The Pitztal Glacier has already seen an impressive 3 meters of snowfall this season.
With nice top up in all resorts this week the conditions are improving daily and looks good for the main batch of resorts opening in 2 weeks time. We will be back in a few days with details of the 2013-2014 ski season opening dates for the main Alpine ski resorts.
With the Sochi Winter Olympics fast approaching, let’s have a look at ten of the most famous Olympic skiers and how many Olympic medals they’ve won! You will see some old and new faces in the list below with the likes of Lindsey Vonn expected to do well in the 2014 Winter Olympics. Since the very first winter games in Chamonix, the sport has expanded from just plain skiing to include a whole variety of alpine sports from downhill and cross country skiing to skating, ice hockey, ski jumping, speed skating and recent modern additions such as free style skiing and snow boarding.
This year will mark the first time that the winter games have visited Russia, having been hosting previously by the USA (4 times), 3 times by France and twice each by the following nations, Austria, Switzerland, Canada, Japan, Italy and Norway.
Take a look at our infographic to see who has been winning the most medals and check out the locations of the recent winter Olympics below.
With this years' games scheduled to run from 7th to 22nd February 2014 there is sure to be plenty of excitement for skiers and snowboarders around the world. We will be back in February to update on the progress of the games.
Ok so it is not quite winter yet but there have been big falls of snow across the Alps this week which means lots of people are spending the weeked skiing and snowboarding. 60-70 cm has fallen in places with some of the best conditions in Tignes, France. With 20cm of fresh powder falling on Friday the resort has some good early season skiing conditions.
Check out the pics below.
Austria also say some of fresh snow on Thursday and Friday with Seefeld and Hintertux having some of the best coverage with 40-50 cm falling over the village. Right across the Tirol the ski resorts are kicking into action with piste bashers out in several resorts making to most of the early season snow.
Over in Zermatt Switzerland the weather has turned too. Spot the difference below
Of course don't get too excited and go rushing off to book a ski holiday for next week. Most of this snow will melt again as overall temperatures are still high. Of course some will stay on the higher slopes and start building the base for this years ski season. We can't wait to get out there on the slopes again. Just a few weeks now until the resorts start to open for the new season.