Skiing holidays

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

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

‘Here in Jämtland, people will ski during their lunch break’

Champion freerider Reine Barkered on the food, ski trails – and gruff characters – of his mountainside home in northern Sweden

My first memory is being in a backpack as my Dad skied down a mountain. The whole family were skiers: my Mum crashed when she was pregnant with me. As I grew up though, here in Jämtland, I got bored with Alpine skiing – it was too serious – and moved to freeriding, where we hike up mountainsides then ski down, through forests, over cliffs. It’s definitely more fun. My first ever championship run was in California, but it ended disastrously when I got stuck in a tree after about five seconds. I did manage to get better though, and went on to win the World Tour title at Verbier a couple of years later.

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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

In awe of Åre, the Swedish ski resort now reached by budget flights

New flights to western Sweden make it easier to try out the friendly ski resort of Åre, which, our writer discovers, has plenty of non-piste activities too

One of the more curious visual illusions you can experience goes like this. Stand at the top of a hill covered in snow. You are wearing warm, well-designed clothes and superb boots. See how the gentle slope ambles slowly down through the trees? See the tranquil winter scenery? Now, strap on these skis. Whoa! How did that happen? That gentle hill is now a vertical wall of savage ice, edged by timber death traps.

Never felt that? Perhaps you are one of those fortunate souls whose parents put them on skis from the age of three, forever ensuring perfect balance and confidence. That’s not me.

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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

As Storm Angus sweeps Britain, skiers celebrate Alps snow perfection

Weather forecasts promise resorts the best pre-Christmas runs for many years

The taxi drivers at Geneva airport were doing a brisk trade early on Friday morning. “Everyone wants to go to Verbier,” one said. “Two and a half hours’ drive and then you find the snow. This morning, just after 6am, I took four guys who came in from Gatwick just for the weekend. The weather is good for business.”

Yesterday pockets of northern Britain were hit by heavy snow showers, while the south awaited the wrath of Angus, the first named storm of the season. But in European ski resorts, the falling white powder was being greeted with joy, as the continent anticipated some of the best pre-Christmas skiing for years. Verbier, one of Switzerland’s premier ski resorts, is not alone in being blessed with snow. Across the Alps, the white stuff is falling in rare abundance.

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Travel

Ski slope to open on new Copenhagen power plant

From next year, one of the world’s longest artificial ski slopes will run from the roof of the city’s new ultra-green waste-to-energy power plant

Denmark may be famous for many innovations – Lego, hygge, Noma restaurant – but skiing is not one of the things that springs to mind when you think of this fairly flat and not particularly snowy country.

There is one short natural slope – at Roskilde, west of Copenhagen – that sometimes has enough snow for skiing – but from next year locals and visitors will be able to get their downhill kicks closer to the capital.

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Travel

Ski holiday calendar: will there be snow when I go?

When splashing out on a ski trip, you need to know there’ll be plenty of white stuff. We recommend the best resorts at Christmas, half-term, Easter and more

In these troubled climatic times, skiers and snowboarders can no longer rely on adequate snow cover throughout the season. So planning is vital. In particular, anyone arranging an early or late holiday should choose somewhere at high altitude, then even if there’s insufficient natural stuff, the sub-zero temperatures – at least at night – should ensure that artificial snowmaking can take place.
Prices below are per person for one week, including half-board, flights and transfers, unless stated otherwise

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Travel

Warth, Austria: welcome to the snowiest village in the Alps

The big news for the coming ski season is a new set of lifts in Austria’s Arlberg area. They’ll link glitzy Lech and raucous St Anton but will also benefit treasures like tiny, snowy Warth

It is 3pm in the Arlberg, Austria’s premier ski area. In glitzy Lech, expensively clad skiers cosy up under sheepskin throws at the Tannbergerhof champagne bar, tucking their shiny Swarovski and Moncler shopping bags beneath the bar stools and posing at the spot where the easy pistes trickle to a halt.

On the far side of the mountain in St Anton, a different scene is unfolding: the shrieks and singing of an après ski scene that is already well under way drown out the striking of the church clock. Drinks are being necked at schussing speed, spilt beer mixes with melted snow on tabletops that bounce under the weight of the revellers dancing on them in ski boots as they celebrate a day of steep descents – or just the end of yet another hangover.

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Travel

10 of the best places to go skiing – readers’ tips

From Kazakhstan to Canada via the Cairngorms, our readers have been on the pistes, enjoying the après ski, falling off chair lifts, and marvelling at the scenery – and, sometimes, great prices

Cypress Mountain is only a 30-minute car trip from downtown Vancouver and offers an amazing variety of groomed runs, moguls and backcountry options. It’s as good a place to learn as it is to push your limits. One of the best things about the mountain is its proximity to the city. Head up in the evening for some jaw-dropping night skiing with the city lights below. There’s plenty of great après-ski in the lovely lodge bars and you have the benefit of being able to stay in Vancouver itself, not in an expensive resort. It’s also a fantastic day out for families, offering tubing, sledging and other snowy activities. Cypress also has a Nordic Area dedicated to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, again offering incredible views of the vast mountain ranges north of Vancouver. This a perfect option for those seeking the comforts of a cosmopolitan city broken up by some alpine adventure.
Day pass £23 adult, £17 junior, cypressmountain.com
Caroline King

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Travel

Right on target: skiing and shooting in the French Alps

A fear of steep slopes put Kate Carter off winter sports as a child. But skiing with a laser gun? That was another story…

I owe my existence to skiing. At least that’s what my grandparents believed. Just before the Second World War they fled Prague for England with other Czech Jews, and after travelling across the border by train, stopped at a hotel for the night. Everyone was understandably tired and most went to bed early. But my grandfather stayed at the bar and, over a few drinks, got talking to the owner.

As it turned out, they shared a love of skiing and of the emerging sport of biathlon, which combines cross-country skiing with shooting at targets. That night, there were knocks on the hotel room doors. Shouts from soldiers. The footsteps of people being led away.

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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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