With an endless number of settings for shredding the slopes, deciding on one location for your ski getaway can feel like an impossible task. While the mountains of Europe may be calling your name, there are just as many great options that don’t even require you to leave the continent or country. (Hey, some are just down the road!)
To alleviate your off-piste puzzle, we’ve outlined some snowy suggestions for every kind of skier, breaking down the ideal trip for beginners, big trip-takers, daredevils and diversifiers looking past a pair of poles. Whether you’re seeking out double black runs or just double rum and Cokes at the bar, we’ve got the destination for you.
Aspen & Telluride, Colorado
For the ultimate ski vacation
Colorado is practically synonymous with skiing – and for good reason. The state boasts 300 days of sunshine and, on average, 762 cm of snowfall per year. If those aren’t perfect conditions for hitting the slopes, what are? Did we mention that the incredibly lengthy ski season in Colorado lasts from mid November all the way through to mid April? And best of all, the range in runs allows for every skill level skier to relish the five months of optimal skiing.
As the name suggests, Buttermilk is a smooth, uncrowded hill that’s a great option for beginners and families; and a top spot for tearing up the terrain park. For two miles, a series of parks stretches from the top of Little Teaser to the bottom of the mountain, including jumps, logs, rails and a super pipe.
With 70 years of skiing history, Aspen Mountain is a tried and true staple for black diamond runs. Looking for something a little out of the ordinary? Aspen Mountain Powder Tours will take you to the backside to carve through plenty of fresh pow.
Those well-versed in the world of skiing and snowboarding can head to Aspen Highlands for the steep, big-mountain and bowl-skiing experience. At Snowmass, there are enough trails to never ski the same one twice, but if you do get through them, there’s also a skating rink in the village.
After a long day (or morning) of hitting the slopes, the après ski scene starts as early as 2 p.m. There are a number of ski-in-ski-out restaurants and bars right on the slopes, like Cloud Nine on Aspen Highlands. Down at the base of the mountains there’s even more on offer. At the W Hotel’s rooftop Wet Deck, guests can warm up in the heated pool or hot tub with a cocktail.
If your goal is to get away from the crowds and enjoy serene, scenic skiing, minus the lift lines, Telluride is the place for you. Nestled at the end of a towering canyon in the San Juan Mountains and part of the eclectic Rockies, this charming, remote ski town looks like it’s straight out of a Quentin Tarantino western – and it is. The Hateful Eight was actually filmed in Telluride.
A once famous mining village – where Butch Cassidy robbed his first bank – Telluride is surrounded by the highest concentration of 13,000 and 14,000 ft peaks in the United States. With 280 inches of annual snowfall and 2,000 acres of skiable area, Telluride provides all the guts and glory of a backcountry adventure without leaving the resort.
A free gondola connects the town’s two major areas: historic Telluride lined with clapboard storefronts to the more contemporary, luxe Mountain Village. So you can get the best of old wild-west without sacrificing your heated outdoor swimming pool.
Not content with being rated #1 ski resort in North America in 2018 by Conde Nast Traveler Readers Choice Awards, Telluride Ski recently added even more elements to make the experience unforgettable. Starting this winter, guests can enjoy 40 new acres of north-facing glade terrain through the trees for advanced and expert skiers, in addition to new natural features like steep chutes and rock drops.
St. Anton, Austria
For the après-skier
If you’re the type of winter sport enthusiast that shows up at the hills just to join in for the party afterwards, St. Anton is your ski destination. Located in the eastern Austrian portion of the Alps, St. Anton has been known for its lively nightlife scene since the 1960s when the region first became known as the après capital of the Alps.
Some of St. Anton’s most notable bars date back to its heydays. Krazy Kangaruh, which opened in 1965, was taken over by Austrian skier Mario Matt in 2009 and he has updated the bar for a newer generation of skiers. Just across the way, MooserWirt starts the party at 3 p.m. with Europop dance tunes and pints of beer (apparently the bar pumps out 5,000 litres of brew a day). These bars are located at the base of the Galzig lift so you can go from slalom to stein in a matter of minutes.
For a lower-key night out, head to Underground on the Piste. While a free shot of schnapps accompanies each drink purchase during Happy Hour, things quiet down for dinner hour (which is only open to those staying for a meal). Settle down and enjoy fondue and an à la carte menu accompanied by live music.
Evening entertainment aside, St. Anton is still a worthwhile place to challenge hardy skiers, with 340 kilometres of slopes and some of the snowiest weather in all of Europe. The region continually invests in its ski infrastructure, installing lifts to link neighbouring slopes and opening a resort and concert hall, the Arlberg1800, in 2018.
Blue Mountain, Ont.
For the beginner
Those dipping their toes into the snow for the first time can head just a few hours north to Collingwood to test their skills on Blue Mountain. Among the relatively flat terrain of Ontario, this 1,480-foot hill is the best skiing you’ll find in the province. Among its 12 lifts and 42 trails, there are excellent routes and programs for budding bunnies to practice.
Blue Mountain’s Newbie Program is made with complete beginners in mind, along with those that have been away from the slopes for a long time and require a refresher. All-day drop-in lessons, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., take the pressure off your vacation schedule and let you pick up the basics on your own time. Programs for both youth (13 to 17) and adults is reassuring for grown-ups that might be deterred by the prospect of skiing alongside pee-wee learners.
Once you’ve got into the swing of things, amp up your game on one of 30 night-lit trails (the slopes will be significantly quieter after dark) or catch some air in a freestyle program which includes jumping, a half-pipe, rails and slope-style skills.
Otherwise, if you’ve concluded that skiing isn’t your jam, worry not. There are plenty of activities here that won’t require traversing inclines. If you prefer ice to snow, the newly opened Woodview Mountaintop skating circuit is a 1.1-kilometre loop with great views over the Niagara Escarpment. Or head to Blue Mountain Village for shops, bars and restaurants to dine and imbibe. And if winter pampering is more your style, visit the nearby Scandinave Spa for its hot-cold-relax hydrotherapy cycle to re-energize and rest.
Big White, B.C.
For the multi-sport lover
While the idea of shoop-shooping down white snow mountains is the ultimate goal for most ski-bums, some of us want to take part in a pursuit that doesn’t involve poles. If you’re looking for something more wow than snow plough, this is the ideal location to engage in some alternative activities like snowshoeing or ice skating.
About an hour’s drive outside of Kelowna B.C. (which is a scenic adventure in itself), sits Canadian ski mecca, Big White. The resort, which opened in 1963, has a mountain summit of 7,608 ft. Plus, with over 38 acres of night skiing, it’s western Canada’s largest resort night skiing area – meaning that there’s more than one way to hit the slopes.
Head to the Happy Valley Adventure Park, where you’ll find the Big White Tubing Park, with six specially groomed lanes for sliding down the hill. Gentle slopes for families in addition to faster lanes for thrill seekers ensure that everyone can get involved – plus it’s fully lit for night tubing.
For those looking to gain some distance, snowmobiling is a great way to fly through British Columbia’s backcountry, either on your own or doubled-up with a friend. With an engine to power you through the forest across all that “champagne powder,” it’s a great way to experience everything Big White has to offer without the subsequent aching limbs. Prefer a more rustic mode of transport? Horse-drawn sleighs and dog-sledding options are available.
If you’re looking for more of a workout, the resort has plenty of activities to get your heart pumping. Big White is home to the only ice climbing tower in North America, so don a pair of crampons and try to pick your way to the top of the 60-foot ice summit.
Aomori Spring Ski Resort, Japan
For the halfpipe hero
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For some snow enthusiasts, the rush of racing down a challenging run with the wind in your face and a puff of powder flying up behind you is enough to get the blood pumping – but for others it can be, well, a bit pedestrian. Anyone can get from the top of the hill to the bottom, but the terrain park is where the real style and skill comes into play. It’s where snowboarding and skiing becomes an art form.
There are plenty of places to get some air, but our pick is Aomori Spring Ski Resort on Mount Iwaki. Japan might seem an unlikely spot to find world class ski and snowboard conditions, but the country is home to mountains aplenty and has become known for its perfect powder.
From beginner boxes to giant jumps, Aomori’s terrain park has everything you need to start your shredding journey, advance your skills or just get creative and have some fun. The small-medium jump line offers an opportunity to get just a taste of air time while larger jumps and both left and right handed hip jumps are there for a challenge. But the main event is the 22-foot super pipe.
If you’re travelling with those a little less park-inclined, or if you simply need a break from the terrain, there are more than enough downhill ski trails to keep you occupied. Mt. Iwaki’s highest run starts at 921 metres and you can choose between gentle slopes or steep courses to make your way down.
The Alps, Switzerland
For the bucket list big trip
You’ve saved up, emptied out your piggy bank and maybe even hit some dry slopes in preparation for that ‘Big Trip’. But with so many great places to get your shred on, how do you choose? There’s no wrong place to ski in the Alps (Cortina d’Ampezzo in Italy and Chamonix in France are both equally desirable), but if you’re looking for twee chalets, snow-capped mountains and rolling meadows that Julie Andrews would be proud to sing her lungs out in, Switzerland is definitely your best bet.
The interconnected resorts of Grindelwald, Wengen and Murren offer skiers 200 kilometers of piste to play with and something for all abilities. While there’s no ski slope in Interlaken, it’s a great base from which you can go skiing (with cross-country options) and snowboarding. Plus, if you’re looking for charm, the Jungfrau Railway is a stunning way to travel around the area. The route runs for nine kilometres between the Bernese Highlands and the Valais in Switzerland and includes Europe’s highest railway station as well as windows carved into a rock face.
If you’re seeking luxury, St. Moritz – a historic winter sport resort that’s credited as the birthplace of winter tourism – is the powdery plot you crave. Located in Switzerland’s Engadin valley, the alpine resort town has hosted the Winter Olympics twice and boasts a frozen lake for polo, cricket and horse racing on ice. Plus, its picturesque streets will make you swoon with its Beauty and the Beast vibes.
Don’t forget to reward all that physical exercise by gorging on fondue – the local Swiss specialty cheese, vacherin, pairs perfectly with all those hard-earned carbs.