Ski resorts

Travel

On the slide in Germany: sledging in the Bavarian Alps

Fancy swooping down snowy Alpine slopes, but not the hassle of ski school and pricey equipment? It’s easy: all you need is a simple sledge. Sarcastic teenage daughter optional

Some human skills are best learned young. Languages, for example, and horse riding, plus of course, sarcasm. But the one that most Britons really lose out on is skiing. For example: instead of flying me regularly to St Moritz and Kitzbühel when I was a toddler, my own feckless parents insisted on piano lessons and Mablethorpe. But hold fast. Hope is at hand. Anyone can be a winter sports whizz, and in the Alps too.

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Travel

10 of the best-value family ski trips

Winter sports breaks can be seriously expensive during February half-term and the Easter holidays but there are bargains if you know where to look

Action Outdoors is the UK partner of UCPA, a French non-profit group that works to make outdoor sports holidays affordable. Its all-inclusive ski trips offer some of the best value going, with ski hire and 12 hours of tuition included in the price. Les Contamines, in the Mont Blanc region, is a friendly, quiet resort with higher than average snowfall that’s often overlooked in favour of big-hitting neighbours Chamonix and Megève. The slopes are especially suited to beginner and intermediate skiers, and the town is picturesque.
From £654pp at half-term (departing 10 February) with action-outdoors.co.uk, including 7 nights’ full-board, 6½ days’ lift pass, 12 hours’ ski instruction, 6½ days’ ski equipment hire and evening entertainment. Accommodation-only options are available and under-3s go free. Return Eurotunnel crossings from £150 per car. Tolls and fuel about £136 according to viamichelin.com

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Travel

10 of the best winter sports resorts in Europe for skiing and more

Not everyone is thrilled by the idea of a week’s skiing and little else; here are ski bases with the full St Moritz array of winter fun but without the Swiss original’s steep prices

The winter sports holiday was famously born in Switzerland in September 1864, when a canny hotelier in St Moritz wagered a party of British visitors that if they returned in winter and the sun failed to shine more than in summer, he’d foot their bill. Statistically, he was on safe ground. They returned, and the rest is history.

Today, St Moritz offers everything from golf, cricket and horse racing on the frozen lake, to the Cresta Run and bobsleigh. But it’s expensive. Here are 10 less well-known destinations that offer more than just skiing.

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Travel

Best little ski resorts in Europe: readers’ travel tips

Head to these lesser-known – and often cheaper – ski areas, some with challenging off-pistes and others with family-friendly runs and hotels, but all with breathtaking scenery

Villars is only two hours on the train from Geneva airport and it is possible to get a tram up into the village of Gryon, making the journey from airport to piste very easy for weekend skiers. Gryon and Villars have a wide range of blue and red pistes, which are excellent for families or skiers wanting to perfect their technique. However, the area’s best-kept secret is the glacier at Diablerets: incredible off-piste terrain with 2,000-metre verticals from top to bottom. The best thing is that it doesn’t attract the large numbers nearby Verbier does.
tomglancey

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Travel

Pop on the piste: Chamonix’s fun new ski hotel

Neither cute chalet nor bland concrete block, Chamonix’s Rocky Pop hotel claims to be a chilled new take on winter holidays – and makes a fine base for our beginner snowboarder

I spent the run-up to my first ever proper winter holiday – and by that I mean going somewhere where there’s snow everywhere – checking weather forecast after weather forecast, only to find them all declaring this one of the worst years for Alpine snowfall in decades. I anxiously scanned photos of muddy slopes that looked more like Alexandra Palace after the end of a school snow day than a deep-powder winter wonderland.

Fortunately, the day before I arrive, around a metre of snow is dumped on Chamonix. So there I am, high in the French Alps, bag packed with borrowed ski gear, ear warmers and assorted thick socks, ready to learn to snowboard – and there is more snow than I have ever seen in my life. It looks, and feels, like Christmas.

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Travel

To ski or not to ski? Are the Alps fun without hurtling downhill?

Is it possible to have a great time in a winter sports resort without actually strapping on the kit and going skiing or snowboarding? Our writer goes to Austria – to take it easy

I’ve never felt so out of place. We are standing in bulky, mismatched clothes we’ve never worn before, borrowed from friends. People jostle us as they squeeze inside the funicular train that will take us to the top of the mountain. Everybody wears a helmet and goggles, and carries skis and sticks. Apart from us. Welcome to our no-ski skiing holiday.

Of non-skiing Brits in the Alps 8% went walking, 20% shopped, 19% spent their time eating and 10% stayed in bed

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Travel

‘The mountains around Verbier are great for flying down – and off’

Snowboarder and basejumper Géraldine Fasnacht says the Swiss Alps provide all the thrills she needs, though she’s not averse to launching herself off the odd skyscraper

The first time I did a sky dive with a wingsuit was in Verbier, and I was so scared. Everyone had been telling me how difficult it would be and how I had to be careful about this and that – but when I took off I was like a child. I opened my wings and I started to fly really quickly. But I was having too much fun and flew straight past the landing area. When I landed I was lost, and it took me two hours to get back. But I was the happiest girl on Earth. That was 1998 – I was 18. After that I bought a wingsuit and started to fly and fly and fly.

When I saw the eagle’s eye view of the Alps on Planet Earth II recently, I thought that’s exactly how I feel when I’m wingsuiting. When you’re up high and see the ground moving so quickly below you, it’s like the world’s on fast-forward.

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Travel

Fatbiking in California: could the cycling trend be as big as snowboarding?

Fatbiking is booming, with more and more ski resorts introducing the sport, including Tahoe Donner in the Sierra Nevada where our writer tries it out

Fatbikes – so named because of their comically thick tyres – are the latest trend in cycling. They look like the monster trucks of the biking world and are designed for riding on surfaces you’d think would be impossible to cycle on, such as sand and, in particular, snow.

Which is not to say they make the whole thing effortless – as I found to my cost during a weekend at Tahoe Donner, a downhill and cross-country ski resort in California which, in response to increased demand, recently opened some of its trails to fatbiking.

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Travel

‘I feel freer here’ – high times on Iran’s ski slopes

The growth of tourism in Iran is bound to see visitors heading to ski resorts such as Dizin, which enjoys plentiful dry snow. Just don’t expect any aprés-ski

• Skiing in Iran – in pictures

For experienced skiers who have ticked off many of the resorts in the Alps, exotic skiing destinations renowned for their powder hold a special allure. Kashmir, Japan, Russia and Chile are among dream destinations but the ultimate edgy ski trip has to be to Iran. Tourism is growing at a stupendous rate, especially since FCO advice was relaxed for the country last summer.

Overnight snowfalls in excess of 50cm are not uncommon at its two main resorts, in the Alborz mountains north of Tehran. Shemshak is 2,550 metres high, and Dizin 2,650 metres, with slopes up to 3,500 metres, making it the highest resort in the country, with views of Iran’s tallest mountain: 5,610-metre Damavand.

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Travel

The best of Switzerland’s city sights: readers’ tips

With Alpine backdrops, sparkling lakes and medieval hearts, these Swiss cities rank among some of the most picturesque destinations in Europe

Dramatically positioned on a glittering blue lake with mountains towering around, Lugano is a stunner. If arriving by train, take the little funicular down into the centre and soak up the rarefied air of the wealthy Italianate streets. Head 500 metres east through the elegant Giardini Pubblici to Castagnola, to pick up the Sentiero dell’olivo path, which leads 3.5km through shoreline olive groves to Gandria, a pretty cluster of houses clinging to the hillside just shy of the Italian border. It’s an enchanting walk (though beware Lycra-clad high-achieving Luganesi pounding past on their lunch break power jog) to a timewarp village with good lunch options and a convenient, scenic ferry ride back into town.
marthah

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Travel

Great little ski resorts you may never have heard of

Small resorts with superb, hassle-free skiing, traditional architecture and après frolics to suit all are still out there – and usually cheaper than the big names, too
More small resorts: Poland, France, Switzerland

St Johann, Tyrol, Austria
Where Most people have heard of St Johann’s more famous neighbour, Kitzbühel. What they don’t know is that this Tyrolean town has a similar medieval centre, with frescoed buildings and old coaching inns, but lower prices. It has 43km of pistes and 17 lifts.
Why This is a good destination for beginners and intermediates, with nursery slopes on the gentle meadows behind the station. There’s a good choice of ski schools and those who fancy a day off the slopes can try hot-air-ballooning.
Book A week at Pension Mair costs £469pp B&B including flights from Gatwick: crystalski.co.uk.

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Travel

White Christmas guaranteed: festive season skiing breaks

Celebrate Christmas and New Year in the snow. We round up some of the best ski deals to book now – from £98 per person

In swanky Val d’Isere, France, Christmas means live music, parades, carol concerts and festive menus, plus a visit from Father Christmas. Prices at Chalet La Vieille Maison, a three-star catered chalet, have been reduced by £400pp. So a stay from 19-26 December is now £645pp with chalet board (breakfast, afternoon tea and dinner) based on 12 sharing, including flights from Gatwick, with igluski.com. There’s also free ski guiding or coaching for all guests, and lift pass and ski hire for one. The chalet is a converted farmhouse, with beams and exposed stone.

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