It’s that time of year again – if you’re a skier or snowboarder, the alpine slopes will be calling you. From the Alps to Banff National Park, we’ve gathered together the best ski resorts and ski festivals in the world. Plus, we’ve even spoken to some of the artists playing at this year’s festivals to give you a taste of what’s to come.
Read on to get the inspiration for your next alpine adventure.
First up, here are some of the world’s best ski resorts.
Stowe has been home to skiing (of sorts) since the mid to late 1800s, when loggers used to travel through the snowy peaks on long wooden boards. Today, with 486 skiable acres and over 100 trails through the mountain, Stowe is a ski and snowboard paradise.
Here, you’ll find a mixture of beginner, intermediate and expert trails, with just over half catering for the intermediate skier or boarder. There’s also an inter-mountain transfer gondola connecting the two summits, Mt. Mansfield and Spruce Peak, along with 13 lifts to get you up to the top.While you’re there, you can sample American dishes with a Vermont twist in the collection of mountain lodges and chalets scattered at various heights up the mountain – perfect for a break from the snow, but with no break from the panoramic alpine views.
Banff/Lake Louise, Alberta
There’s a reason why this area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site – it’s stunning. Home to snow-covered mountains and Lake Louise, which is crystal blue in the summer but almost white in the winter, Banff National Park should be top of every skier and boarder’s must-visit list.
Aside from the scenery, one of the main selling points of this area is the Tri Area pass, which gives you access to 8,000 acres of ski-ready terrain in Canada’s Protected Playground™ at Mount Norquay (including night skiing), Sunshine Village, and the Lake Louise Ski Resort. If you add to this the fact that the area enjoys one of the longest ski seasons in North America, it really is a must. Nearby Banff offers plenty to keep you entertained, with amazing Canadian cuisine at places such as The Maple Leaf, which offers Alberta steak.
With stunning scenery and non-stop nightlife, Mayrhofen has been one of the most popular ski and snowboard destinations for decades. From Austria’s steepest marked run, the Harakiri, to a great range of intermediate and beginner runs, Mayrhofen has something to challenge everyone. The area is also well-known for being a great snowboarding spot, with a top-class terrain park and good off-piste boarding.
The après-ski is also a big selling point, with bars that come alive long before the sun goes down. First up, there’s the Igloo Bar, where you can relax with a drink and enjoy the stunning views of the 3,000 m peaks of the Zillertal. Further down the mountain, you can continue the party at Bruck’n Stadl, which is open from afternoon until the early hours.
Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia
This year, Whistler Blackcomb is celebrating its 50th anniversary as a resort. In its 50 years, it has hosted many great moments in snow sport history – from being one of the first resorts to allow access to snowboarders to hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in 2010. The extra TV coverage at the Olympics gave the resort a boost, as the world got to see just how beautiful the area’s rugged peaks, glaciers and forests really are. To match this striking scenery is an equally impressive ski and snowboard scene. With 8,000 acres of pistes and a reliable average snowfall of 39 feet, the area offers snow, slopes and sunshine to satisfy everyone from shaky beginners to the pros.
Whistler village itself is a great place to be – with no cars allowed in the centre, it has a relaxed alpine atmosphere that takes you away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. At night, there’s a lively après scene – from relaxed in-your-boots merriment at Merlin’s, to sampling the cocktail and chocolate menus at The Mallard, to partying all night long at Maxx Fish. Whistler also hosts the World Ski & Snowboard Festival – more information below in our ski festival guide.
If you want to combine Japanese culture with an action-packed skiing holiday, this could be the resort for you. Sapporo is Japan’s fifth largest city, and so is packed with things to see and do (not to mention plenty of bars serving the city’s Sapporo beer).
When it comes to the mountains, Sapporo doesn’t disappoint. The scenery is stunning, and you can see the city from the mountain tops. There are seven courses, with half aimed at intermediate skiers and boarders. There’s also a nearly even split between boarders and skiers, so whichever your preference, you’ll fit right in.
If you’re in search of a remote location, Revelstoke may be for you. Up until recently, this was a heli-skiing base, but the introduction of a gondola and two fast chairs have made this isolated spot a must-visit resort.
With 3,000 acres of terrain and a vertical of over 1,700 m, there’s plenty of challenging runs to explore. However, if you want to enjoy the exciting runs in this remote spot, you’ve first got to get over the challenge of getting there, which from the UK usually involves two flights and a long drive. Revelstoke itself sits between the Columbia River and the Trans-Canada Highway, and within the town you’ll find a selection of bars and restaurants.
From the chalet-style architecture and snowy woodland to the 150 km of pistes and a lively après scene, the French resort of Meribel is a real winner. Meribel was founded in 1938 by British skier Peter Lindsay, and has grown a lot since then. The area hosted the 1992 Winter Olympics, and the facilities at Olympic Centre are open daily, so you can enjoy ice skating, swimming and more.
Whether you’re looking for gentle beginner slopes to ease yourself into the sport, or you want to try the Face Run, which was created for the downhill races in the 1992 Olympics, this resort has a run to challenge you. When you’re tired of skiing, the partying begins at a range of après bars, such as The Folie Douce.
Alyeska is another remote resort, but one that rewards skiers and snowboarders who make the trip with dramatic scenery and challenging runs. The resort offers slopes that are more suited to experienced skiers and snowboarders, with intermediate piste skiing and outstanding snow cat and heli-skiing. However, there are some groomed runs for the beginner.
There’s also a terrain park for freestylers, and the North Face, which features North America’s longest continuous double black run, making it perfect for the hardened skier/boarder. Plus, due its northerly position, there’s the added benefit of a chance to see the northern lights – perhaps the best après-ski activity of them all.
Morzine is an alpine town within the 650 km of terrain that makes up the majority of the Portes du Soleil ski area. With excellent skiing for all abilities, a huge amount of snow-covered terrain to explore and a great après scene, Morzine is a popular winter holiday destination. It is a very popular alpine destination for the british, and with neighbouring towns, Les Gets and Avoriaz, you can even explore as far as the Switzerland the the famous ridge which may be for the more daring and experienced
While there’s good snow cover in winter, skiers in spring may find themselves slaloming between greener patches in the mountain. However, if the snow cover is bad you can head further up the mountain, as the ski-able terrain in this area is huge. When you’re having a rest from skiing, there are plenty of alpine lodge bars, wine bars and a range of restaurants, including the delicious haven from the snowy weather, La Païka.
La Thuille, Italy
For a quieter skiing location, you could try La Thuile, an old mining village that has expanded into a top skiing destination with surprisingly crowd-free slopes. If you want to speed down the mountain without the hassle of weaving in and out of other skiers, this could be the spot for you.
The mountain offers excellent beginner and intermediate slopes, and without the worry of crowds, this is a great spot for those who are learning and honing their skills. For experts, there’s plenty of opportunities for off-piste skiing, heli-skiing and several seriously steep black pistes. Situated on the northwest edge of Italy, La Thuile borders France, meaning that you can hop between the two countries, cultures and cuisines on a pair of skis. On the French side of the mountain is La Rosiere, one of the sunniest ski resorts in the country, and well worth exploring.
In Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, Aspen is one of America’s best skiing destinations. This stunning location offers 3,332 acres of skiable terrain, 150 miles of trails, and a longest run stretching 5.3 miles. With four ski areas inside the Aspen Snowmass resort (Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass), there’s a huge amount to explore and terrain for everyone – from beginners to experts.
The Snowmass area has 91 trails and the USA’s biggest continuous vertical drop at 1,343 metres. Plus, there’s the Big Burn area, which is a single trail that’s one mile wide. Buttermilk is regarded as the best mountain for beginners, while Aspen Mountain is where you’ll find pros flying down the slopes – and it’s also where you’ll find a selection of daring double black chutes.
The Aspen Highlands is a favourite with the locals and is known as ‘duct tape to diamonds’, which refers to the DIY aspect of this area. For instance, if you want to properly explore some of the most interesting terrain, such as the Highland Bowl, you have to hike there yourself. When it comes to Après ski, Aspen has a lot to offer, with champagne corks popping from 1pm. One of the highlights is the Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro, where you can relax in a European-style lodge, admiring stunning views and tucking into a fondue. Aspen also hosts The Ski Week – find out more in our best ski festivals section below.
Chamonix Mont Blanc is often known as ‘the capital of the skiing world’, and the challenge of conquering its many slopes is known as ‘le grande ski’. The area has a long history of snow sports and exploration, with a Genevois scientist offering a prize for the first person to climb the highest Alp in 1760, and the first winter Olympics being held here in 1924. The valley is steep, offering stunning views and challenging skiing. Plus, there are glaciers that flow through the area – leading to one of the skiing highlights: the 20 km Vallée Blanche glacier run.
The Mont Blanc Unlimited lift pass gives you access to several areas: Brévent-Flégère, Aiguille du Midi, Argentière/Les Grands Montets and Le Tour/Vallorcine. From Chamonix’s original ski hill, Brévent, and its 1,500 m drop to the snow park in Les Houches, there’s plenty to explore. For those interested in après ski, you won’t be disappointed. There’s the Mix Bar serving cocktails, the lively Moo Bar and more. The area is also host to the The Ski Week – more information below.
With 100 lifts giving you access to more than 400 km of runs, it’s easy to get the most out of what is Switzerland’s largest ski area. From Mont Fort (the highest peak in the ski area), you can see Matterhorn and Mont Blanc – and the fantastic scenery continues all the way down the mountain. Verbier is best suited to confident skiers and boarders who want a challenge. The Savoleyres area is where you’ll find the main pistes and some of the best views, but those looking for an adventure should also allow a few days to explore the four valleys.
For après ski, you’re spoilt for choice, with Les Ruinettes offering breath-taking views, Le Rouge Restaurant & Club offering delicious cuisine and a well-earned drink in a ski-to location, and Étoile Rouge Supper Club offering dinner and late night dancing. This area is also host to the Momentum Ski Festival, incorporating the City Ski Championships.
With 5,289 acres of lift-linked slopes to explore, Vail is one of the largest ski areas in the USA. The mountainside can be divided into three bowls, with mid-Vail in the centre, Game Creek to the southwest and Two Elk Lodge to the northeast. You can reach these any of these three points by lift, and then travel down through the treeless back bowls to the wooded Blue Sky Basin. The area offers something for all abilities, with great variety for experts, nursery slopes for beginners and great choice for intermediates, as most of the mountain is well-suited for those who know a thing or two.
If you’re as much about the après ski as the skiing itself, you’ll love the nightlife that Vail has to offer. Enjoy traditional American cuisine at The Lodge or Bully Ranch, sample craft beers at Vail Ale House, or listen to live music at the Shake Down Bar. Vail is also host to Spring Back to Vail – more information below.
If you want to get more out of a region, try visiting one of the resorts above while a famous ski festival is taking over the area. Here are six of the best:
Europe’s top alpine comedy festival allows you to ski the days away, and then laugh all night. This year’s festival features Sean Lock, John Bishop and more.
What do comedians say about the festival? We asked a few of them to sum up the festival in three words:
Joel Dommett: “BEST WEEK EVER”
Daniel Sloss: “Greatest festival ever”
Sofie Hagen: “Highlight of year”
Phil Nichol: “Hottest cold festival”
Kai Humphries: “Unparalleled winter utopia”
Matt Reed: “Mountains of joy”
Amy Howerska: “Snowy beer lolz”
The tagline this year is ‘Not everyone can ski, but everyone can après ski’, and that is certainly true at The Ski Week. Held at a series of mountains across the world, this ski festival celebrates every aspect of alpine lifestyle – including yoga in the morning, off-piste skiing by day, and Jacuzzis, mountain dining and craft beer in the evening.
Combining racing, comedy clubs, ski clinics and live music, this is a weekend for skiing fanatics who want to experience Verbier at its liveliest. Now in its 17th year, the festival is designed to be a platform for Europe‘s business and financial community to network and entertain clients, whilst enjoying skiing and, of course, après ski.
One of the highlights of the ski festival season, Snowbombing is a music festival on the slopes, or, as Dizzee Rascal put it, “It’s like Ibiza on ice.” This year’s festival features The Prodigy, Fat Boy Slim, Bastille and many more from the electronic music scene. The line-up combines musical pioneers and up-and-coming artists to create a festival of familiar tunes and a few surprises.
What do artists say about the festival? We asked Groove Armada to sum up the festival in three words: “Cold and rawkus”.
The World Ski & Snowboard Festival (WSSF) offers a winning blend of adrenaline-fueled snow sports, arts, music and nightlife. Whistler comes alive with a series of free outdoor concerts, silent discos, and a series of club nights, live comedy and film screenings.
On the slopes, there’s the World Skiing Invitational, featuring big air, slopestyle and more. For those looking for a fast-paced spectator sport, there’s The Silence of the Slams roller derby, and for daring stunts, there’s The Shred Show, a freestyle motocross event.
For an action-packed day of music and snow sports, Spring Back to Vail is well worth the trip. Highlights include the World Pond Skimming Championships, where contestants jump and skim across a pond on skis (and often in fancy dress), an on-mountain luau (Hawaiian party), and live music – all to celebrate the end of the ski season in style.