Best Places To Go Skiing
The best place to ski depends on a number of important factors to consider, depending on what you are after. The most important things to consider when choosing a ski resort include snow quality, snow depth, family-friendly resorts, après-ski and ski in ski out. Each resort will have advantages and disadvantages, and its up to you to decide what to prioritise, and balance that with cost.
The world is full of beautiful mountain ranges and extraordinary scenery. Go to any corner of the world with mountains and you are bound to find a heavy blanket of the white stuff resting on top, with many chairlifts spanning the mountainsides to get you to those dizzying heights. Although there are advantages and disadvantages to skiing in different places around the world, there is often enough variation between resorts in different countries, that no matter where in the world you end up, you are guaranteed to find a resort that suits your needs. Selecting the right ski holiday can be a challenge. Even knowing what you are looking for in the first place can be difficult as there are many different things to consider when choosing a ski holiday. Ill outline the most important things to consider when discovering your favorite ski resort, and where in the world to go in search of your perfect ski holiday.
The best place to ski for you depends on many different factors. Important things to consider are how advanced at skiing you are, if you are skiing with family, the size of resort you are looking for, and how much you prioritise après ski once the slopes close. For some people, a simple few hours cruising around on the easy slopes is all they need each day, in the knowledge that when they put in their kilometers on the mountain they have a boozy afternoon of après-ski to look forward to, or maybe even a luxurious couple of hours relaxing in the spa. For others (such as myself), a ski holiday is all about the skiing! From the minute the chairlifts open at around 9am in the morning, until they close at 4pm in the afternoon, the sole aim of the day is to get as many kms of skiing under your belt as possible.
I think it is fair to assume that the majority of people go skiing for the latter option, to make the most of their holiday for what is not a cheap hobby. Do you pick a resort that offers the best quality snow on offer the world? A resort that offers a seemingly endless option of different runs to keep yourself entertained for 2 weeks? Or maybe you are only going skiing for a week, and want to seek out the most challenging resort you can, maximizing the number of red and black difficulty pistes on offer.
Without doubt, the best snow can be found in Canada, boasting the best quality power snow in the world. It is called powder skiing for a reason, and I have never come across drier, lighter, finer snow in my time skiing. With every turn you are covered in a billow of powder snow, looking forward to the next turn and the next face shot of snow.
The type of powder you find yourself skiing in the Canadian Rockies is difficult to do justice to, it’s like no other snow in the world. As I will go onto later, Japan is the place to go for sheer quantity of snow – it is dumping down non-stop! but the snow still not as light as is found in Canada. When comparing Europe to the above two big locations, it is hard to make an argument for the quality of snow being as good as Canada or the quantity even being within touching distance of Japan, but Europe has so much more to offer that is severely lacking in both Canada and Japan.
The reason Canada (and certain areas of USA) has such superior quality of snow to ski on, is due to the dryness of the snow. Dry snow is very light and powdery, and is what Canada is so famous for. As so many of Canada’s main resorts are so far inland in the region of British Colombia, this gives the storms and clouds a long way to travel before reaching the mountain fronts and dropping their load in the form of snow. Being so far inland means the snow loses some of its moisture before reaching the ski resorts compared to the likes of Whistler, which is much closer to the coast compared to Sun Peaks or Revelstoke, and therefore receives much damper and worse quality snow for much of the year. That’s not to say there isn’t fantastic skiing in Whistler, because there is. There’s a reason Whistler is one of the most popular ski destinations in the world. However, just on this detail of powder snow quality, any avid Canadian skier will tell you there is a noticeable difference, and inland BC provides better quality snow.
As with the country with the best quality of snow, there is also a clear winner for the country with the highest average amount of snow per year. Japan boasts an average of 14-15 metres of snowfall in a season for some of the main resorts such as Niseko. Compare this to the snowiest resort in Europe – Zürs which sees around 10m of snow, and you can understand why skiers and snowboarders flock from all around to the world to get a taste of Japan powder skiing.
This is not to say that there aren’t super snowy places elsewhere around the world. Mt Baker in USA for example receives on average 16m of snow per year. This resort still holds the record for the highest amount of snowfall in one year – a massive 29m in 1998/99 season!! Canada is also famous for some of the top resorts for snowfall throughout the winter season with Revelstoke averaging around 15m of snow per season.
Depending on where in the world you are, there are a plenty of options if sheer quantity and bottomless powder is what you are after. Your best bet for the most consistent ridiculously deep snow is Japan. With plenty of different resorts offering exceptional snowfall each winter, you won’t go wrong booking a trip to Japan – and that’s before you even consider how amazing the culture over there is!
If you are planning a ski holiday with your family and you have kids or you are beginner skiers, a family friendly resort is essential to look out for. This can make or break a holiday. If the ski runs are too difficult and you are limited to a couple of basic beginner runs at the foot of the mountain (which every resort has) you are going to have a tough time getting the most out of your holiday. If your family do not have a lot of experience skiing – let’s say less than 3 weeks, you are going to want to look out for resorts that have predominantly green and blue ski runs, with a few reds and black runs for the end of the week when you are feeling a bit more comfortable and confident, or you’ve got to the stage where you don’t care if you break your leg because you’ve almost finished your holiday anyway. Different types of people.
There are a whole range of resorts on offer, some resorts pride themselves on their suitability for being family-friendly, right up to resorts such as Kicking-Horse in BC Canada which, as you might deduce from its name is not a resort of the feint-hearted. Have a look at the piste map for Kicking-Horse and you will see immediately the prominence of black runs throughout the resort, with a few greens at the base of the mountain. The reason this resort is so difficult is due to the overwhelming number of off-piste and powder runs available at the top of the mountain. Word of warning - don’t take a group of beginner skiers or snowboarders here.
A huge attraction for some people looking for a ski holiday is the availability of places to party and drink once the lifts have closed for the day, or often even starting much before the lifts have closed. This isn’t necessarily on offer in every resort. The resorts with a large emphasis on partying will often be found in more accessible locations ie. close to airports and major motorways, for the simple reason that often these resorts are flocked by a younger generation of skier, who can’t be bothered travelling into the depths of the mountains! As for the situation with family-friendly resorts, there are resorts which pride themselves on après-ski and nightlife.
There are quite a few of these resorts in France, with the major ones being Tignes, Alpes d’Huez & Val d’Isère. All these resorts offer fantastic skiing in their own right, but of you fancy a good session of après-ski afterwards, you should prioritise these resorts in particular! If you venture into Austria, another superb ski resort which offers a mixture of beginner skiing right up to advanced black runs, you will also find another hotspot for après-ski.
Travelling slightly further afield to BC in Canada, Whistler offers a huge opportunity to party, with a resort equally matched in splendor and magnitude. This resort is conveniently located within a few hours drive of Vancouver. This makes for a hugely popular and busy resort. With its location, its size, its wow factor and the quality of skiing, as you can imagine this resort is up there with some of the most expensive places to ski in the world.
A very popular ski destination in the Southern Hemisphere is that of Queenstown, New Zealand. Although not a massive ski resort by European standards, Queenstown offers two different ski resorts within a 45-minute drive of the town. For a town as bustling and as popular as Queenstown, this really is an ideal location for 2 fun ski resorts, offering some of the best skiing in New Zealand and best skiing in that area of the world. The popularity of Queenstown itself stems from how lively a town it is both during the winter and during the summer. Queenstown has countless pubs, bars and restaurants to you keep you and your family entertained once the ski lifts have closed for the day. Because Queenstown is a fully functioning town all year round and does not necessarily rely on the winter season for its survival, this means there is plenty to do even if you fancy a day off from the slopes.
For any ski resort you visit there will be bars, restaurants and cafes to keep you amused, so there are always options, however the smaller the resort is, the fewer the options there will be for a drink or a place to relax.
Ski In Ski Out
Another important factor to keep in mind when choosing your holiday is whether ski in ski out is an option. There is something special about being able to roll out of bed into the ski lifts in the morning, without having to walk more than a few metres! Speaking from experience, it makes everything that bit less stressful in the mornings knowing that you don’t have to lug your skis across the resort or to catch a shuttle to get to the foot of the mountain. This is especially important to look out for if you have young kids to look out for.
Just because a hotel or a holiday home you are looking into renting out says ski in ski out, this DOES NOT necessarily mean it is close to the lifts, or at least as close as you may expect it to be. Be sure to do your own research on google maps or at least find out from the accommodation owners how far it is to the main lifts. The other thing to look out for, is that the ski in ski out the accommodation is referring to is miles away from all the fun and the main skiing, meaning it either may not actually be connected to the main lifts at all, or else you may have to spend an hour taking minor lifts and skiing down continuously to get across the mountain to where you actually want to ski, and to where you had initially though ski in ski out implied.