It's an ever-changing landscape out there in the world of snow sports and luxury. The burgeoning apres-ski scene is accompanied by a growing list of alternative adventure sports.
From ice hotels and blood-pumping activities, to all-night parties and gourmet offerings, here are the latest and greatest happenings around the ski resort circuit.
The Latest Snow Thrills
Think it’s all about skiing or boarding when it comes to the snow? These wintry adventures will change your mind.
1. Fat biking
Designed for cycling in the snow, fat bikes have been around since at least the early 20th century. Recently, these special bikes (they feature extra-large tyres on wide rims) have been making a mark for the masses.
Where to try fat biking:
- SilverStar Mountain Resort in British Columbia, Canada, offers fat biking as a free activity available as part of the all-inclusive My1Pass day ticket and season pass. The resort has over 15 kilometres of biking trails for adventurers to negotiate, as well as group rides on Thursday evenings and even ladies’ night rides on Tuesdays.
- At Jackson Hole, Teton Mountain Bike Tours offers winter bike tours in Grand Teton National Park.
- Alaska is where fat biking originated. Take a tour with Seward Adventure Company and explore incredible terrain like the locals.
Snowmobiling is an adventurous winter pastime on small open vehicles – so it’s a bit like driving or motorbiking, but on snow instead of a road.
Where to try snowmobiling:
- Bridger-Teton National Forest in Northwest Wyoming has plenty of varied terrain and groomed snowmobile trails. Togwotee Mountain Lodge is one of the best resorts for the sport, with guided tours, trail rides and off-trail rides all on offer.
- Snowmobiling is a way of life in Greenland – they are even subject to local traffic laws. But traffic in the town of Sisimiut is a relative term, so expect a fun run through incredible snowscapes.
- You can rent a snowmobile at Club Med Val Thorens ... if you can get away from the amazingly designed grounds. There’s a neon bar, a dining tepee and even a climbing wall in the foyer!
3. Uphill skiing
Uphill skiing (also known as alpine touring, backcountry skiing and skinning) is growing in popularity. Using climbing skins and binding attached to the base of skis, enthusiasts half slide, half tread uphill before skiing downward.
Where to try uphill skiing:
- At Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colorado, around 120 people per day ski up the mountain. An Uphill Use Pass is $10 for the day or $100 for the season. You can rent skis, boots and skins plus book uphill skiing lessons.
- Together with the Aspen Snowmass Ski and Snowboard Schools, Limelight Hotel has introduced a monthly uphill skiing program that’s free for hotel guests.
- Uphill skiing is popular at both Killington Resort and Pico Mountain in Vermont, with routes indicated by uphill travel icons and designated car spots for fans.
More ski holiday inspiration
Ice, Ice Baby
Staying in an ice hotel is kind of cool … okay, staying in an ice hotel is as cool as it gets in every sense of the word.
1. Jukkasjarvi Icehotel, Sweden
Jukkasjarvi Icehotel in Sweden is the biggest ice hotel around and the first of its kind. It’s rebuilt every winter with 2,500 tonnes of ice harvested from the Torne River.
2. Kirkenes Snow Hotel, Norway
Intricate snow art adorns the walls of the ice suites at Kirkenes Snow Hotel, which opened back in 2006. The super-cool (excuse the pun) place to sip vodka and hang out is in the Icebar.
3. Kakslauttanen, Finnish Lapland
Set amid snow-drenched forests, the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort feels like an Eskimo’s playground. The snug glass igloos can accommodate two to four people.
You know you’re in America’s ski fields when bars battle it out for the best apres-ski Bloody Mary with outlandish garnishes from bacon to caviar, celery salt, mini burgers and beer chasers.
You know you’re still there when offered two graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate to roast over a fire. Together they create the gooey sweet s'mores found at ski resorts across the USA.
What is skiing in Europe without cheese, and lots of it – dip crusty bread into pots of melted gooey cheese fondue in Switzerland or dine on slabs of charcuterie meats with a side order of melted Raclette cheese in France’s Savoy Region.
In Germany and Austria expect gluhwein, a spicy warm red wine drink to get your bones glowing, and in Italy it’s all about Bombardino, a wicked mix of advocate, brandy and eggnog.
Expect katsu don on the slopes of Japan, a delicious dish of rice with pork schnitzel, egg, condiments and sauce, or try the traditional Ramen noodles in a broth-style soup.
But no matter where you choose to ski there are two temptations you’ll find at every resort: hot chocolate and marshmallows.
The Four Seasons in Vail pours hot chocolate from a copper pot through a fine lace doily made of chocolate and The Little Nell in Aspen makes its own marshmallows to serve up with coverture melted chocolate in hot milk.
Ski, Party, Repeat
Every ski town has an apres-ski scene, an integral part of any ski holiday, but some apres bars are internationally revered. The Krazy Kangaruh in the capital of apres mayhem, St Anton, is one of the most well-known bars on the scene. But be warned, you may ski in sober but you’ll stumble back down the hill after dancing in ski boots on the bar.
The Farinet Apres Bar in Verbier has a retractable roof for when things get too steamy. Traditional apres starts here at 5pm and is all done by 9pm. If you need to ask why, then you clearly haven’t been.
In Jackson Hole Wyoming it’s all about the Mangy Moose, a Western-style bar with yes, you guessed it, a life-sized moose. Cocktails are lethal, so enter the saloon at your own risk.
Cloud Nine on Aspen Highlands has a certain reputation. Skiers and boarders hike the 45 minutes up the Highlands Bowl to score some inbound backcountry-style terrain before skiing down and straight into the mid-mountain chalet. Will Ferrell has been spotted dancing on the tables at lunch time. You get the drift.
If you’re in Whistler this winter then you’ll no doubt find yourself in prime position in Garibaldi’s above the gondola ready to imbibe the array of Bloody Caesars (Canada’s Bloody Mary made with clamato juice) on offer.