Seasoned skiers will be familiar with big names of the resort world: the Swiss village of Zermatt, the Tyrol region in Austria, and the swanky style of Aspen, Colorado. But if you’re keen to move beyond the big names and tick some lesser-known slopes and scenic vistas off your list, here are a few suggestions to fill your calendar this winter.
The Banff-Lake Louise skiing area in the Canadian Rockies is home to a trio of well-connected resorts, nearly 8,000 acres of ski terrain and an almost ever-present covering of perfect powdery snow. Mount Norquay is one of the most desirable ski villages around, presenting slopes for all abilities, fir-lined descents and postcard-worthy views in every direction. Neighbouring Sunshine Village also gives skiers the chance to visit the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia in the same downhill trip.
Choosing from the countless excellent ski resorts in the French Alps is always tricky, but if you’ve yet to try the Three Valleys, make it your next stop. Boasting the largest ski area in the world, with eight smaller resorts within its boundaries, this region on France’s south-eastern border with Italy is a must for any ski enthusiast. From the heights of Val Thorens and its huge areas of pristine snow, to the family-oriented Les Menuires and the 6-starred Michelin restaurants of Courchevel, this is a ski experience which can suit any taste and skill.
The hidden charm of Kitzbuhel, Austria has recently been discovered by the greater public, and is drawing many more visitors than years past. With its confectionary-coloured chalets, good value passes, and the added bonus of the exhilarating Hahnenkamm mountain, it’s not hard to see why. The seven ski areas are generally gentle in comparison to the big peak, which is famous for the annual January ski races and stomach-turning verticals. Though the historic centre is unspoilt and largely pedestrian, Kitzbuhel is a town rather than a village so there’s plenty to entertain and a warm ‘après-ski’ atmosphere to enjoy – definitely one to visit before it becomes too crowded.
Only the most ambitious skier would attempt all twelve resorts in Italy’s Dolomiti Superski in a single trip, although the ski passes here allow you to. Cortina and Val Gardena warrant special mention, if you are short on time; Val Gardena is frequently credited for its beauty, located amongst the iconic pink-tinged jagged peaks of the UNESCO-recognized Dolomite Alps region. Cortina remains popular with all ages for its abundant activities off and on the slopes – including snow-kiting – as well as mountain scenery to compete with the best in Switzerland.
It’s always worth investigating the lesser-known gems and quieter villages as the large resorts grow more crowded every year, particularly in the Alpine regions. If your idea of paradise is a winter sports trip, these highlights will at ensure you’ve tried the best of the snows, photo opportunities and exhilarating slopes without the crowds and high prices of more famous resorts.