FINDING THE PERFECT SKI DESTINATION
Maria Bain checks out the choices…
Adrenaline highs or relaxing sighs?
Skiing such a popular holiday activity with many different groups, families plus individual skiers all have very varied preferences.
Therefore choosing where to go for a year’s ski holiday is no mean feat but there are a certainly a few quite specific factors to consider and travel writer Maria Bain investigates.
There are two principal types of ski resort; traditional towns and purpose-built resorts, and of course there are pros and cons to both. In choosing your resort preferences, consider whether you want a pretty town centre for afternoon strolls, relaxing cafe stop-offs and pleasant surroundings or a purpose-built one for easy ski access, short walk to the amenities and guaranteed high altitude.
Of course there’s a degree of crossover here as many traditional towns offer high altitude and ski in/out access too but it’s a good place to start. What’s the priority, excitement or relaxation?
If your trip is all about breath-taking views and quaint villages, then you may be best suited to resorts such as Morzine, Chamonix, Serre Chevalier or the lower villages of Les Arcs and La Plagne.
On the other hand, if piste-side location and flawless access to the slopes and amenities of the town are the priority, Tignes, Avoriaz, Les Menuires, Val Thorens or Flaine are strong options.
Ski terrain preferences
Whilst it’s true that the major ski areas (the Three Valleys or the Espace Killy ski areas in France, for example) do offer slopes and terrain for all levels of skier, the fact is that different resorts and ski areas work best for different levels of skier or boarder so due thought must be given to the terrain you’ll be exploring.
For example many people feel the steep runs and lack of plentiful learner slopes around the Chamonix Valley make it hard for beginners, and Les Deux Alpes’ ski area is comparatively small so it’s not ideal for advanced skiers. Beginners or children will require nursery slopes within easy reach of town such as those found in the French resorts of La Rosiere or France, intermediates need a good range of blue runs to get around on and advanced adrenaline seekers may want the snow parks, steep black pistes and off-piste potential found in places like Tignes and Alpe d’Huez in France, Verbier in Switzerland or St Anton and Ischgl in Austria.
Peace and tranquillity
For more relaxing pursuits, many resorts these days offer a superb range of non-ski activities to keep all kinds of visitors happy and entertained. Snow-shoeing and hiking trails run through the forest around resorts like Meribel and Avoriaz, offering peace and tranquillity to those looking for something a little more sedate.
Spas and wellness centres are very popular now too, with beauty treatments, swimming pools and saunas available for people looking for a spot of relaxation and pampering. St Anton has a brand wellness centre which is one of the best in the Alps, and provides a beautiful slice of tranquillity for those looking to escape the hectic scramble on the slopes.(more information on the resort is available here).
For parents bringing their children to the mountains their childcare requirements are a huge priority, and will often dictate the kinds of resort and property they are willing to consider.
Is it better to book a chalet or hotel with in-house childcare laid on, research external nanny companies and the services they could offer, or just bring the grandparents?
Ski resorts these days are falling over themselves to appear as family-friendly as possible spending huge amounts of money on lifts to learner slopes and children’s facilities.
Those wanting a family friendly break can look at resorts like Les Gets, Courchevel and Les Arcs in France or Obergurgl and St Anton in Austria – these resorts all offer child-friendly facilities such as tobogganing, ice skating, sports centres and good childcare options if needed.