Europe's best wintersports escapes
Take this season’s skiing or snowboarding holiday to the next level with a trip that goes way beyond pistes and pints…
Swap après ski for fat biking in La Plagne, France
Fat biking has made a name for itself on the dunes of the desert, but hurtling down a snowy slope comes with the benefit of not having to wash sand out of your eyes, ears, nose and – ahem – other places. Après ski isn’t a huge deal in La Plagne, so after a day on the slopes you’re best off whizzing down them in another format – namely on a bike with giant tyres. You’ll be kitted out with a helmet and gear, and take on the slopes in a whole new way.
If speeding down mountains is your kind of fun, along with the area’s 225km of marked runs you’ll also find yourself in the home of one of the most famous bobsleigh tracks in the entire world. With 19 turns and a top speed of 90mph, it’s just another way to make a speedy descent down the mountain. Last one to the bottom’s a big fat, er… bike?
Travel details: Peak Retreats offers a range of trips from around £200 per person, peakretreats.com
Snow kite in St Moritz, Switzerland
If glitzy and glamorous skiing is what does it for you then you’ll probably be well briefed on St Moritz, Switzerland, once favoured by Charlie Chaplin, Brigitte Bardot and Liz Taylor. The luxed-up living still exists, but if you’re keener to try out the more adventurous side of the destination then consider giving snowkiting a shot. It’s about as difficult as it sounds – kitesurfing (and that ain’t easy) but on skis or a snowboard.
Your stage is the glistening, frozen Lake Silvaplana, which sits at the base of 3,000m-high mountains. Of course, you can’t abandon the finer things on a visit to St Moritz. Book via the five-star Grand Hotel Kronenhof Pontresina and you’ll enjoy one-on-one tuition, fine dining on return, spa treatments to soothe those screaming muscles and heavy-curtained rooms. Don’t rest too long – there are 58 lifts and 350km of pistes to explore in this area, and the last remaining natural bob run in the world. A must, if you ask us.
Save some cash in Vogel, Slovenia
Need your ski fix but don’t have the funds to drop on spraying Cristal over the crowds in Courchevel? Do it on the cheap and head to Vogel in Slovenia. Here, you can combine the epic scenery of Triglav National Park (which sits above the pretty Lake Bohinj) with huge cash savings.
Skiing takes place between two bowls and it’s best suited to beginners and intermediates, although there is a black run if you’re feeling crazy. Expect cosy inns with awesome lake views (complete with mountains reflected in the water) and somewhat limited nightlife – hey, this is about saving money, remember.
Great-value après ski in Andorra
Great hospitality, great bars, great savings – it’s a skiing dream come true if you’re looking to save some funds but also travel on the party train. If that’s the journey for you then you can’t got wrong with Arinsal, located towards Andorra’s western border with Spain. There are 95km of runs, long sunny days and a lively après-ski scene, concentrated around the small bars that are open until the early hours. Keen to hone your snowboarding skills? Try the resort’s ‘freestyle area’.
Travel details: Inghams offers a range of trips from low-key budget hotels to more glammed-up options complete with jacuzzi. Prices from £439pp including flights, inghams.co.uk
Large it up in Austria (sort of)
If you’re all about going big or going home, then Austria’s Arlberg region might just be for you. We’re not talking boozy sessions – although there’s probably plenty of that too – but about big investment, namely the £35m that’s been spent on the area. And what do you get for your 35m big ones? The largest interconnected ski area in Austria, and what will be one of the largest ski areas in the whole world, that’s what.
At the heart of it all are big infrastructure improvements – forget bumping along in a bus, instead there are four new lifts helping to link the resorts of St Anton and Lech, opening up 306km of downhill runs accessed with 87 lifts (all covered by a single pass). That’s one way to live it large.
Travel details: Crystal Ski offers a seven-night package including flights and accommodation from £655pp, crystalski.co.uk
Ski and sail in Norway
Can’t decide whether to splash your cash on a skiing adventure or a sailing adventure? It’s a tough life. Or is it? With Another World Adventures you can combine both on one epic, seven-night jaunt through the Lyngen Alps, northern Norway’s top ski destination.
During the day you’ll be taking on the region’s natural surroundings, while evenings will be spent recuperating on deck, tucking into Norwegian cuisine and getting your nude on in the hot tub. Maybe. When you’re not soaking in hot water you’ll be exploring the harbour towns of Koppangen, Norlenangen, and Lyngseidet before a night in Tromsö, aka the ‘Paris of the north’.
Head back to the boat and you’ll be rocked to sleep by the waves, ready to climb to the summits and ski down to the snow-covered beaches the next day. Nice.
Travel details: Another World Adventures offers the seven-night ski and sail trip from £2,220pp, anotherworldadventures.com
Learn to snowboard with Olympian Jenny Jones in the French Alps
The Summer Olympics are long gone, so it’s time to start obsessing about the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. Get into the mood with a new week-long snowboarding workshop, taking place from 11-18 March, with Olympic bronze medalist Jenny Jones.
Designed to help adventurous boarders take their riding to the next level, the sessions will be led by Jenny and her stellar team of coaches, sports psychologists and mountain yogi, who will help you improve your technique and confidence, getting you clued up on the physical and mental tools that’ll advance your riding. You’ll be kipping in a chalet in the small but well-formed resorted of Sainte Foy, and learning (and maybe partying) with an Olympian in the process. Golden.
Travel details: Seven nights from £1,800pp including accommodation, some meals and coaching in various forms. Flights and lift passes are not included, workshopbyjennyjones.com
Take the family to Vemdalen, Sweden
It’s the age-old problem: keeping the entire family happy on holiday. Well, now you can. Head to Vemdalen, west Sweden, and you’ll find reliable snow and quiet slopes that are perfect for families and nervous newbies, as well as tougher runs that will also work for the more advanced. Three ski areas are covered by one lift pass and linked by an easy ski bus ride, keeping everything simple and, hopefully, relatively seamless.
New for this season is a ski school specifically for three to nine year olds, while Sameland is a new family friendly experience that teaches children – and their parents – about the role played by the Sami people, the indigenous Finno-Ugric group who live in the area. It’s a chance to pat some reindeer, learn all about the Sami way of life and try a home-cooked meal in one of their houses. As learning goes, it sure beats algebra in our book.
Travel details: Ski Safari offers a seven-night stay for £3,700 based on a family of four (two children under 11) sharing a two-bedroom apartment. Includes flights and car hire but not ski passes/hire, skisafari.com
Take the food as seriously as the slopes in Italy
If you look forward to your next meal more than your next descent, then Italy’s Dolomites may be for you. Even better, the Alta Badia region’s Gourmet Ski Safari (which starts from 11 December) is a great chance to sample the fantastic flavours of the Michelin-starred chefs who are whipping up haute slope-side dishes (and you may even get the chance to chat to them). In a similar vein, Sommeliers on the Slopes (which runs between February and March 2017) includes wine-tasting with a ski guide and a sommelier.
Travel details: Carrier offers seven nights at Ciasa Salares from £1,080pp, based on two sharing, including breakfast and flights, carrier.co.uk
Like these but looking for a something a little more far flung? Check out our guide to the best long-haul wintersports breaks in the world here