Plan your piste for the 2015 ski season
A new year means new plans and new pistes.
We show you where to carve up the best terrain for this snowy season.
Chamonix Mont-Blanc, France
Every seasoned snow lover’s paradise nestled in the French Alps; Chamonix is going to sit comfortably at the top of every Ski Season list. With the pearly white flanks of Mont Blanc massif – the tallest mountain in Western Europe, as your dramatic backdrop, you can’t go wrong with this spectacular wintertime playground.
Whether you are an off-piste aficionado of epic proportions, or more of an après-ski reveller, you can fully enjoy Chamonix Mont-Blanc this ski season, as well as any other:
Pick of the pistes…
The main resort slopes are super busy in high season, so take the free 15 minute bus down the valley from Chamonix to little Les Houches, well-suited to beginners and intermediates with some excellent tree runs. For mixed abilities from beginner to black run seekers, head for the Brevent-Flegere skiing area, offering some exhilarating descents down the mountain face.
Step into snowshoeing
Try something new and tread merrily over fine powder and frosty plains on a snowshoe walk. These shoes distribute your weight and stop you sinking into the snow, keeping you upright to enjoy the expanses of rolling mountains without looking like you’ve got tennis rackets strapped to your feet. It’s not only a fantastic workout, but The French Alps is the perfect spot for it.
Idyllic log cabin escape
For the shoestring skier, we have a beautiful timber chalet in Chamonix Mont-Blanc. Located next to a small, peaceful forest, this crash pad also sits at the foot of the magnificent ‘Bossons’ Glacier and offers two, four and six bedded rooms, with bar and a café where you can thaw out and relax:
When a Peak2Peak gondola opened in 2008, linking the mountains of Whistler and Blackcomb across a vast valley, this ski destination started turning heads internationally. Then, hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics, Whistler was showcased in all its glory and broadcasted to the world. Still holding hidden gems, its varied landscapes of jagged peaks, tumbling glaciers and deep, beautiful forests make Whistler the star of the North American snow show.
Pick of the pistes …
It’s generally sunnier on Whistler in the morning, so head there first and then ride the Peak2Peak over to Blackcomb for the afternoon. If you’re in pursuit of wonder, this network of ski routes will certainly help you to discover where to find it, no matter how long your trip is.
Partying with the locals
Powder snow with partying is not normally associated with budget travel, but following the locals is a good idea for some bargains – Dusty’s is a popular choice for cheap but charming après ski thrills
HI Whistler, the biggest hostel in the area, has plenty of luxurious touches to spoil you after a weary day on the slopes, too, with a roaring fire to keep you toasty and a club crawl organised by the hostel to really get your seasonal spirits going. If the busy day has taken its toll and you fancy staying in, you can soak up the slick lounge area, dark wood furniture, 52 inch screen TV, along with free dinners and hotdog nights on the terrace.
A firm favourite among well-seasoned skiers and boarders, and new alpine travellers, Swiss glacier village Saas-Fee has been described as a sort of miniature Zermatt, without the conspicuous consumption. Laid back, relaxed and a timeless, untouched beauty, this is an unforgettable slice of Switzerland that you probably won’t want to leave.
Pick of the pistes…
High peaks, HI quality
Soaring at great altitude – between 2500 and 3500 metres – you have both the benefits of the kind of super-reliable powder snow which will make you sing with joy, and dramatic peak panoramas. Runs here for skiers and boarders are exceptionally high, and are great for early intermediates.
Carefree and car-free
As a traditional mountain village of narrow streets lined by old chalets, you would be forgiven for thinking you had been transported into another world. Saas-Fee has no general traffic – although electric minibuses can drop you from A to B – and the unpretentious rural idyll works like a charm.
Ski & spa at a swanky new hostel
A first in this traditional village, and a stark contrast, our spa hostel, Saas-Fee Wellness 4000, opened this September and sports a sleek, pristine architectural build with every eco-friendly relaxation facility you can imagine. Engineered to leave you feeling pampered, fit and healthy, you couldn’t really find a more perfect place to base yourself for a ski trip this season.
Zell am See, Austria
Postcard perfect Zell am See could melt your heart this winter with its dreamy and varied landscapes: from the lapis blue lake, Zeller See, to its little town centre studded with brightly coloured chalets, your gaze will ultimately be distracted by the snow-capped peaks of Hohe Tauern. The best part for those chasing the snow this winter? You’ll find around 80 miles of local slopes for skier and boarder beginners, advanced and everything in-between, along with 125 miles of gorgeous cross-country trails.
Pick of the pistes…
Schmittenhohe and Kitzsteinhorn
Here, you have these two alpine giants on your doorstep. 3000m Kitzsteinhorn and 2000m Schmittenhöhe offer powdery slopes, and snow heights of nearly 2 metres on the glacier plateau. Kitzsteinhorn has been praised for being one of the best and most varied freeriding areas of the time, whilst the formidable ‘black mamba’ run challenges the most fearless of winter sport adrenaline junkies
Soaring at the summit station
The Kitzsteinhorn summit station sits at a dizzying over 3000 metres above sea level. You can scale the sheer endlessness of the summit chain of central and limestone Alps on Salzburg’s highest panorama platform, or drop into a 360 metre mineshaft into the mountain’s peak to explore info stations and dive into the summit’s mystic inner world.
It may be on the cold side of refreshing for a swim, but icy Zeller See is a lake worth sticking with whether you’re appreciating its beauty, or perhaps enjoying the warmer Zell am See Lido on its shores. On the south bank of the lake lies our hostel, and with its own private beach and breakfast included in the room price – which starts at no more than €20 – you might want winter to last forever.