Words by Carlie Tucker
For those that love nothing more than cutting the pristine powder on a flawless downhill run, there are few things more exciting than the prospect of winter in the northern hemisphere. In some places it's only a matter of days before the first glistening snowflakes of winter's embrace, meaning now is the perfect time to start considering your ski holiday options.
While finding the perfect ski resort is a up to personal taste (in snow and accommodation), we're lining up a few world class options that are definitely worth testing out:
It's hard to find a top 10 resort list that doesn't feature Whistler. Sitting two hours north of Vancouver, it's Canada's premier ski destination. The resort is consistently hit with snow throughout the season. There are runs available for skiers of all skill levels. And a 'Peak 2 Peak' gondola links the upper slopes. Snowboarding fans will also appreciate the six different snow parks and the superpipe.
Off the slopes, the resort is just as satisfying with a diverse range of activities available. From zip-line adventures to shopping boulevards, there is plenty to choose from. For those that love a little apres ski, the Village is alive with bustling bars, late-night music venues and clubs to keep you entertained into the wee hours.
Powder lovers will relish the opportunity to test their skills at Niseko. The slopes receive heavy and constant snowfall throughout the season, creating deep powder across varied and exciting terrain. Ski hounds consistently give it top scores for off-piste terrain and easily accessible backcountry, but it also provides excellent groomed runs for families and beginners. The slopes are equipped with hooded chairlifts and gondolas, making it easy to get from run to run despite the weather.
Resort life is also pretty fantastic in Niseko, with plenty to keep you occupied when you're not swishing through the snow. Made up of four areas – An'nupuri, Niseko Village, Hirafu and Hanazono – you can plan a holiday to suit your own personal style. Those that love a vibrant nightlife should head for Hirafu, while quieter holidaymakers will enjoy the slower pace of Niseko Village or Hanazono.
Big Sky, Montana
When it comes to skiing in the USA, you may be thinking along the lines of Telluride or Mammoth, but Montana's mountains are proving it pays to get outside the box every once in awhile. Big Sky is the second largest ski area in North America with the biggest vertical drop. Plus, the crowds are minimal in comparison. There are plenty of runs for beginner to intermediate skiers, while the lofty heights of Lone Mountain will thrill the experts with heart pounding steeps, chutes and cliffs.
The focus of Big Sky is firmly on the skiing, but that doesn't mean you'll be left out in the cold off the slopes. There is a fair variety of bars and restaurants in the surrounding villages, and with Yellowstone National Park only 48 miles away, day trips discovering the state's natural bounty are well worth checking out.
Andermatt has catapulted to international recognition in recent years thanks to a massive overhaul that transformed a quaint Swiss town into a world class skiing destination. Luckily none of the charm has been lost and the slopes remain some of the best in the area with quality powder into the late Spring. There are runs to suit all skill levels, with some off piste options as well. Snowboarders are also catered to with wide, open freeriding areas and the largest half pipe in Central Switzerland.
Luxury lovers will certainly hit their stride with a sweep of new upscale establishments recently completed in the area. Whether you're looking for the convenience of ski-in, ski-out living rooms or a private butler service and full list of luxury spa treatments, it's all available. Shop and dine to your heart's content or simply cosy up in front of a log fire.
Image courtesy of skiutah.com
Deer Valley, Utah
If you're a ski purist that simply will not share the slopes with snowboarders, Deer Valley is your place. Set high in the Utah mountains in swanky Park City, this resort town beckons with six mountains and a mix of manmade and natural powder. Plenty of fall line groomed runs, gentle beginners slopes, glades, moguls and bowls are sure to pique all interests, while the well-thought lift set-up ensures efficiency across all runs.
Many visitors will agree that it's the service that makes Deer Valley so great. Known as the' DVD' (Deer Valley Difference), guests are well catered for across the board. The apres ski life is a bit quieter than others on this list due, in part, to the large number of families that visit. Though, accommodation is top notch with a good selection of other winter activities on offer. This includes bobsledding, snowmobiling, day spas and shopping.
*All images courtesy of Getty unless otherwise noted.