One obvious answer to the question “What makes a really good ski holiday?” is the presence of plenty of the white powder in quantity and in quality. It also needs to be there for the whole of the ski season, enabling skiing at all times.
However, sheer snow on its’ own is by no means enough. The resort of choice has to have a wide variety of different terrain enabling skiers of all abilities, from beginner to expert, to enjoy themselves. One needs wide open runs and also twisty runs through the trees, and scary stuff for the brave.
A good acreage of skiable terrain is also a requirement for most skiers, together with a good vertical. An interesting point here is that many resorts seem to play with the figures when it comes to verticals. A website called Mountain Vertical (www.mountainvertical.com) calculates the verticals for many resorts in the US and finds this to be the case. For instance, it describes a mountain where there are three points – A, B, and C – and the vertical is described as from the highest point – A – to the lowest – C – yet it is impossible to ski from B to C. The website is worth checking out if you are planning a trip to the US.
What About Ski Lifts?
A good lift system is critical. It needs to be efficient and fast in order to get to the top of the slopes across the whole ski area quickly without any bottlenecks, and without having to use tedious drag lifts. A good staff is also very important – groomers, patrollers, instructors, and lift operators, together with ground, bar, and restaurant staff.
Another major consideration is the competence of the resort management. If there is a metre fall of snow overnight, is the management capable of having all the lifts running and the car parks cleared ready for the morning? Can the management make the best of poor snow? Are there sufficient snow cannon?
The main lifts should also be close to the accommodation, bars, and restaurants. There should also be a good supply of reasonably-priced mountain restaurants that can serve food quickly, and preferably do not become overcrowded.
Some people also consider that ski in, ski out is important, but others do not consider it so, pointing out that they don’t need to go home at mid-day: once you are on the slopes, that’s it.
What About Apres Ski?
We thought you’d never ask!
For the majority of skiers apres ski is a vital part of the jigsaw – indeed for some skiers it is the whole point of the holiday. A good selection of apres ski entertainment makes every day so much more fun. Come off piste at around 3.00 or 3.30 and drink shots until 6.00 while listening to the entertainment and dancing on the tables. Many resorts don’t offer a lot in the way of nightlife because skiers want to be on the slopes early in the morning, so they do what the chalet girls do which is apres ski, go and have some dinner, then it’s off to bed early for an early start the next day.
Can You Recommend Some Ski Resorts With Great Apres Ski?
St Anton in Austria is extremely popular and attracts some of the best skiers in the world to try their hands at the off-piste routes such as the Valluga. The apres ski bars here tend to get very crowded, but you can have some great moments at the Krazy Kangaruh where they serve shots on a shotski, or the Mooserwirt which has loud pop music getting the crowd into table dancing mood.
Verbier in Switzerland is expensive but the bars around the village have happy hours. The Pub Mont Fort is worth a visit, and so too is the Farinet Bar which has a sliding roof that they open when the going gets too hot.
In recent years Val Thorens in France has become a little more upmarket, now boasting a 5-star hotel and some top of the range chalets. Because of its height it’s a great place for early or late skiing. The Folie Douce is above the town and below is a selection of bars including the Saloon Bar which is loud and crowded. The Frog And Roast Beef is the highest pub in Europe, while Malaysia is the largest nightclub in the area and rocks on late.
Livigno in Italy is another great resort and also has quality shopping. There are about 150 bars here, so you won’t get into them all in a fortnight. There is a bar here where you can get free drinks. The Baita Del Ghet is right in the town centre and offers every customer their first drink on the house. That’s every time you visit! It has great food, and as you might guess is very popular. It’s also dog friendly.
Are There Some Good Resorts For Families With Kids?
Yes, of course there are. Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia has plenty for young kids to do while the parents are on the slopes. There are teen camps, snowmobiling, Magic Carpet’ snow rides, snowboarding, and lots more. There is also first class shopping and the widest variety of restaurants and bars that you could imagine.
Bankso in Bulgaria is ideal for beginners. It has a well-known ski school and a wide choice of beginners slopes. The town centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Over in Vermont is Smuggler’s Notch which offers day care centres for toddlers, ski schools for every age, ski programmes for kids, ski programmes for teens, and even a ski programme for children who are mentally handicapped. There are also swimming pools, ice skating rinks, a wide choice of entertainment in the evening, and first class shopping.
Are There Any Recommended Resorts For Great Food?
That’s a really difficult question because most resorts have a variety of hotels and restaurants offering an almost endless choice of different foods.
There are five Michelin-starred restaurants in and around St. Moritz. Bumanns Chesa Pirani has two stars and is known for its’ saffron menu with dishes such as lobster saffron pasta.
Aspen Mountain in the US has Cloud Nine which has a daily changing two course menu. Chef Andreas Fischbacher prepares dishes such as elk stroganoff.
San Cassiano is in Italy and has several restaurants with Michelin stars including the Rosa Alpina Hotel which has two, and offers a six course tasting menu. A mile or so away in Armentarola is the one star La Siriola which serves suckling pig in three different styles. It also has a chocolate room where you can taste some 40 different chocolates, and a tasting lounge next door for tasting wines and spirits.
One could go on at length about resorts for foodies. The best bet is to pick your resort for its’ skiing facilities and then check out the restaurants on Google before making a final decision.