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A team of experts is on hand to advise you

 

Which resort you should ski in is the question we are asked most and, of course, there is no straightforward answer.

There are thousands of resorts to choose from in Europe alone.

There is no one resort that is the best for family skiing, powder snow or a group of mixed ability skiers.

Every resort has good points and bad points and it's a question of balance.

All vary too depending on the time of year. Saas Fee is one of our favourite resorts but it can be pretty grim in January as it's surrounded by 4,000m peaks so you won't see much sun...

Les Gets in the Portes du Soleil is another favourite but it's a bit risky for snow in late season as it is low at 1,172m.

For a video of Les Gets from our PlanetSKI content editor see below.

 

Then of course there is luck. Pretty much every resort is good with fresh snow underfoot and a blue sky over head.

But the same resort with high winds and low visibility is a completely different story.

France is the favourite country for the British, seeing 48% of the market.

Austria comes second at 17%, followed by Italy at 11%.

There are plenty of other very good websites that offer practical advice about each resort and there is no other way to choose than looking at these and asking your friends.

If you have a specific resort question then just contact us at AskPlanetSKI.eu.

Here we offer a list of our favourite resorts by category written by our team of writers and friends.

Hopefully they give you a taster of the resorts we like and then you can research ones that sound good to you further.

FAMILY FUN

A successful family ski resort will see children confidently progressing on the snow, and parents enjoying the ski area and a good rest too.

The best ski resorts for families have all or most of the following:

  • A quick transfer time from the airport
  • Good nursery slopes and ski schools
  • A quiet, pedestrianised centre
  • Creche and kindergartens for younger children
  • Activities: swimming pools, toboggan runs

kisia_hs_382

Kisia Cove is a mother of 3 children and has skied in dozens of different resorts with them.

The perfect person to tell you the best family friendly resorts.

Alpbach, Austria

It is exactly what you would expect from an Austrian ski village and is charming, traditional and relaxed with the nursery slopes in the centre of town.

Close your eyes and try to picture the ideal Austrian family ski resort - it will look like Alpbach.

It is also reasonably priced and a way away from the expensive mega-resorts and in these tough economic times money matters!

The resort is not huge for experienced skiers and if you want to clock up vast numbers of piste miles then you may be disappointed.

Personally, when I am skiing with my children I want to be near them and to enjoy skiing with them too when they are not in ski school.

It's an Austrian gem and I reckon one of the best family resorts.

 

Les Gets, France

Now I'm really fond of Les Gets as it's where my kids learnt to ski.

Its small, pretty, with lovely gentle runs through the trees and it's only 1 hour from Geneva.

Believe me you don't want a long transfer with young kids.

I haven't been there for a few years but I only have wonderful memories of the place.

There's a great ski school with small classes, BASS, and an outdoor ice rink in the village centre to keep kids amused after skiing.

There's even a little train that chugs around town, that the children loved.

We hired our skis from a wonderful little shop where if you get chatting to them they may offer you a little drink; their own in-house frothy apple tipple using an old family method that is delicious, moreish and decidedly lethal!

 

Pal, Andorra

This resort was great not only for the skiing but for the host of other activities on offer for children.

Husky dog rides, trampolining, tobogganing and even mini snow mobiles.

Our youngest child, Max, was 3 when we used to go there and the crèche was at the bottom of the main slope so we could pop back to check he was OK without even taking our skis off.

Restaurants aren't abundant, but on sunny days picnicking out as a family was a dream.

It's not a huge ski area but is linked by cable car to Arinsal.

Pal has some great runs, though not very challenging runs, and a charm all of its own.

 

Zermatt, Switzerland.

Many people may find Zermatt a surprising choice as most guidebooks say it is not a good resort for beginners or children.

Well I disagree as the slopes on the Kleine Matterhorn are ideal, and when the weather closes in the slopes on the Gornegrat are pretty good too.

The English speaking ski-school, Stoked, gave the kids the time of their lives.

On the days we skied together we could go off for our ski adventures on manageable terrain and then find ourselves in fantastic, affordable mountain restaurants, with spectacular scenery - everyone was happy.

Zermatt also had some challenging runs for myself and my husband.

It's our holiday too!.


FAMILY FUN

A successful family ski resort will see children confidently progressing on the snow, and parents enjoying the ski area and a good rest too.

The best ski resorts for families have all or most of the following:

  • A quick transfer time from the airport
  • Good nursery slopes and ski schools
  • A quiet, pedestrianised centre
  • Creche and kindergartens for younger children
  • Activities: swimming pools, toboggan runs

kisia_hs_382

Kisia Cove is a mother of 3 children and has skied in dozens of different resorts with them.

The perfect person to tell you the best family friendly resorts.

Alpbach, Austria

It is exactly what you would expect from an Austrian ski village and is charming, traditional and relaxed with the nursery slopes in the centre of town.

Close your eyes and try to picture the ideal Austrian family ski resort - it will look like Alpbach.

It is also reasonably priced and a way away from the expensive mega-resorts and in these tough economic times money matters!

The resort is not huge for experienced skiers and if you want to clock up vast numbers of piste miles then you may be disappointed.

Personally, when I am skiing with my children I want to be near them and to enjoy skiing with them too when they are not in ski school.

It's an Austrian gem and I reckon one of the best family resorts.

 

Les Gets, France

Now I'm really fond of Les Gets as it's where my kids learnt to ski.

Its small, pretty, with lovely gentle runs through the trees and it's only 1 hour from Geneva.

Believe me you don't want a long transfer with young kids.

I haven't been there for a few years but I only have wonderful memories of the place.

There's a great ski school with small classes, BASS, and an outdoor ice rink in the village centre to keep kids amused after skiing.

There's even a little train that chugs around town, that the children loved.

We hired our skis from a wonderful little shop where if you get chatting to them they may offer you a little drink; their own in-house frothy apple tipple using an old family method that is delicious, moreish and decidedly lethal!

 

Pal, Andorra

This resort was great not only for the skiing but for the host of other activities on offer for children.

Husky dog rides, trampolining, tobogganing and even mini snow mobiles.

Our youngest child, Max, was 3 when we used to go there and the crèche was at the bottom of the main slope so we could pop back to check he was OK without even taking our skis off.

Restaurants aren't abundant, but on sunny days picnicking out as a family was a dream.

It's not a huge ski area but is linked by cable car to Arinsal.

Pal has some great runs, though not very challenging runs, and a charm all of its own.

 

Zermatt, Switzerland.

Many people may find Zermatt a surprising choice as most guidebooks say it is not a good resort for beginners or children.

Well I disagree as the slopes on the Kleine Matterhorn are ideal, and when the weather closes in the slopes on the Gornegrat are pretty good too.

The English speaking ski-school, Stoked, gave the kids the time of their lives.

On the days we skied together we could go off for our ski adventures on manageable terrain and then find ourselves in fantastic, affordable mountain restaurants, with spectacular scenery - everyone was happy.

Zermatt also had some challenging runs for myself and my husband.

It's our holiday too!.


CHEAP & CHEERFUL

The different parts of a ski holiday add up and the overall trip can be expensive, but there are ways to spend less on travel and your time in resort.

A cheap ski resort might not have the title of 'world's best ski resort' or 'world's biggest ski area' but it will have skiing, which is the most important thing!

To find a good value ski resort, check out the cost of:

  • Lift passes compared to the size of ski area they cover
  • Eating out on the mountain and in resort
  • Travel to the resort if you haven't booked a package
  • Buying food in resort - sometimes it can work out costlier than a half-board or chalet package where food is pre-paid for
  • Buying drinks in resort
  • Ski lessons

marion_telsnig_hs_559

With worries about the economy and the effects of Brexit, Marion Telsnig, the former marketing manager for Crystal gives us the inside information on her best budget destinations.

She's an expert at making your skiing money go further.

 

Bansko, Bulgaria

Alpine quality at Bulgarian prices!

It's a traditional Bulgarian town that has recently developed into a decent sized ski centre. It has a mixture of old world charm, some fantastic modern hotels and breathtaking views, as well as 75km of runs.

It won't give you the same skiing as Zermatt, St Anton or Val d'Isere, but I love the place especially as a bottle of beer is under £2.

 

Vars, the Southern French Alps

If I want to save money and have a big ski area then I head to Vars. It's part of one of the largest ski areas in the Southern French Alps including of La Forêt Blanche and Risoul.

It has a pretty decent snow and sunshine record too.

But what I really like about the place, apart from the prices, is the chance to visit the historic town of Briançon with its medieval fortress and cobbled streets.

If you want to catch an ice hockey game then the town has a great team and rink.

Eating out won't break the bank in Vars as you can get a decent main meal for around £10.

 

Pila, the Aosta Valley, Italy

pila

The drive up to Pila from the Aosta Valley has to be one of the most spectacular in the Alps.

As the road climbs and the valley drops away below, the imposing mountains of both the Monte Rosa and Mont Blanc come into sight.

It's a good-sized ski area and where the British ski tests used to be held so there's a wide variety of terrain too.

It's not bargain basement here, but it is good value.

A 3-course meal will set you back just £15 and you can get a good pizza for around £5.

Like Vars you can get to an interesting and historic valley town if that's your thing.

It is mine.

The beautiful town of Aosta is a 45-minute cable car ride away and well worth a visit.

 

Pas de la Casa, Andorra

Now Andorra's reputation as a cheap destination has taken a bit of a bettering lately as prices have gone up and the budget conscious have moved to Eastern Europe.

However, there are still some great prices here and I love Andorra.

It has an excellent snow record, a modern lift system and a really good English speaking ski school with loads of BASI trained instructors.

I'm afraid I'm getting on a bit for a wild après ski time, but I'm told that hasn't changed here and the duty free alcohol prices help move things along!

A typical 3-course meal costs around £15.

 

St Johann, Austria.

This is one of my personal favourites as it has all the charm of a traditional Tirolean village with its 'picture postcard' centre, great skiing and a truly international clientele.

A stay here doesn't break the bank either with a good pizza at under £5 and a 3-course meal for around £20.

Not that many British skiers and boarders come here and I can't understand why.

I thoroughly recommend St Johann if you want a true Alpine experience at a good price.

The local bus service is free with the lift pass too.

 

Kranjska Gora, Slovenia

kranjska_gora_400

Interest in skiing and boarding in Slovenia has gone up in recent years with people attracted by the price.

But I like Krajska Gora for more than just for its prices.

It nestles in the foothills of the Julian Alps, just a few miles from both the Italian and Austrian borders.

The view of the mountains that surround the village centre is simply stunning.

Snow cannons have been recently installed on the lower slopes and the resort regularly hosts the FIS World Cup races (normally held in early March).

It's a proper ski resort at a really good price.

Pizzas cost from £5, with a three course meal costing around £20.


APRÈS SKI

For some skiers, the après ski enjoyed after a day on the slopes is as important as the skiing itself.

Every resort will have some form of watering hole, but some really push the boat out when it comes to après ski and nightlife.

A good après ski resort will have:

  • A range of slopeside bars to suit different types of après skiers
  • Bars and nightclubs in town for after the mountain bars close
  • Live bands and DJ's
  • Activities to enjoy after skiing, from snowmobile rides to swimming pools
  • Events like pub quizzes and karaoke nights
  • Big parties for Christmas, New Year, St Patricks day

lynsey_devon_hs_408

Lynsey Devon works for Heaven Publicity and is a bit of a legend in the après ski world.

You have been warned!

 

Ischgl, Austria.

Ischgl used to be a traditional farming village but not anymore.

It’s one of the top party resorts, whether you want to dance on tables in your ski boots at the Trofana Alm or prefer the more sophisticated scene at the bar that sells the most champagne in the Alps, the Romantik Hutte.

ischgl_girl_400

I quite like both so a quick glass of champers at the RH, followed by a boogie on the balcony of the TA comes recommended.

My favourite chill bar is the jazz and cigar bar that entices the more sophisticated Euro crowd.

Then it's time to sample the nightlife back at the Trofana Arena for a live band; last year I saw a Lordi impersonation that was fantastic.

The Pacha at the 4* Madlein is great if you like the new wave trance.

Otherwise Ischgl seems to have a bar on pretty much every corner and each one is full.

 

Whistler, Canada.

Whistler is a sentimental one for me as I worked there meeting a great bunch of friends and a husband.

If you're after a lively après ski then the Longhorn is the spot, I've been known to dance on one of the many loud speakers around this venue.

The sophisticated set slink into one of the numerous wine bars.

A pleasant place is the Mallard Bar in the Chateau Whistler for a bit of Mixology cocktail action.

At the Bear Foot Bistro you'll find a champagne/oyster bar that is very romantic.

Dancing Shoes? Tommy Africa's on a Monday night surfs the retro wave, and the fun bunch are often spotted on the speakers, head over after 23.00 and then onto Maxx Fish over the way.

Garfinkel's is a Thursday night institution.

Whistler - what a place!

 

Verbier, Switzerland.

There are a plethora of bars and clubs here.

A serious après skier is spoilt for choice.

0n_the_bar_400

At the end of a hard day head to the Chalet Carlsberg on the slopes for a pay as you go hot tub experience.

A swifty at the Pub Mont Fort near Medran is a must and later in the evening this becomes Verbier's shots bar where you may get into trouble if you don't watch what you are doing.

Not that I speak from personal experience of course!

If you want to bump into the content editor of planetSKI.eu you'll find James in the Fer à Cheval straight after skiing and then either dancing on the bar of the Farinet or sipping a quiet beer in the T-bar.

Be warned though it gets dangerous when the 2 of us meet up!

For nightclubs I love the North African themed Casbah with two dance floors playing a great mix of tunes.

King's appeals more to the 30-somethings (hip crowd) down in the cellar bar while the pricey Farm Club still draws the rich Geneva crowd.

 

Furano, Japan.

Now apres ski does not have to involve alcohol.

Well, not straight away anyway.

Nearby at Asahidake, there's a bubbling live volcano and the highest mountain in Hokkaido.

A cable car runs up the side of the mountain giving spectacular views across the Tokachi Range & some unique skiing.

So the après ski starts at the Tokachidake Onsen out in the forest, secluded and relaxed.

The Japanese take beer with them to this great outdoor site and enjoy the heat of the volcano to reduce the aches in your limbs.

My favourite spot in Furano Robata a unique traditional Japanese restaurant with warm sake heated on an open fire and over the road a bar that has no name but has live music with Japanese favourites and a bit of Beetles classic.

Karaoke is available with booths for 5 people all the way through to an experience where you are on stage at a venue which holds 300 people!

Karaoke, you either love it or hate it.

I love it!

 

Levi, Lapland.

girl_drinking_400

Not well known by the après ski crowd but this resort is full of Finns who like nothing more in the winter than to have saunas, party and have fun.

I had my wedding here.

Straight off the slopes I advise you to head for a hot chocolate mintu drink at the base of the ski area.

The sauna out at Taivaanvalkealt located in Kongas, has a lovely old fashioned smoke sauna worth experiencing.

The Areena nightclub is the largest nightclub in Finland holding up to 1,700 people, so lots of dancing action.

The Finn's are also big Karaoke lovers and this happens at the Levitunturi whilst the more chic and sophisticated bar The Arran is good for a chill at the end of the night.

 

Bansko, Bulgaria

Probably Bansko’s strongest feature after the skiing is the small and lively pub choice and you won’t break the Bansko here.

Restaurants, clubs and cafes are all found in the old town and this will make your going-to-bed early virtually impossible.

bansko_400_02

The traditional Bansko taverns (called "Mehana"), with their exceptional charm and style offer local atmosphere with great cuisine and a good selection of Bulgarian wines which is a good start.

Most of the local "Mehanas" even offer live folk music.

B4 & Amigos are good for straight off the slope action but music is cheesy.

Discos and night-clubs work without time limit, and usually close early in the morning.

Amnesia is one that can either rock all night or be as quiet as a church, but who needs crowds when you love to dance.

 

St Anton, Austria

kids_boozing_400

Now I was only asked to write about 6 resorts but you can't talk about après ski without a mention of St Anton.

If you want to get in early stop off in one of the on-mountain après-ski bars.

The Krazy Kangaruh is the most famous for full-on après ski, with sun terrace and party atmosphere from 3pm onwards.

Or try the mighty Mooserwirt, rumoured to sell more beer than any other bar in Austria and where a willingness to dance on tables is practically an entrance requirement.

The place to get those hips moving is the Heustadl for a dance in the Tirolean style.

Underground on the piste is fun with live music most nights and if you want to get away from the rowdy club head to the brilliant bar at the old train station.

Be warned though - St Anton is a dangerous place and you don't want to do so much après that you miss out on the skiing!

 


ON PISTE HEAVEN

A ski resort isn't a ski resort if it doesn't have pistes!

But the number, length and quality of the slopes can make a considerable difference.

If pistes are a primary priority, look for a resort with:

  • A big, linked ski area, or other ski areas nearby
  • A good modern lift system
  • Snow sure slopes above 2,000m
  • Thorough snow cannon coverage
  • Good ski schools to show you how to best ski the pistes!

 

richard_critch_hs

Richard Critchlow is someone we don't normally hear from in the world of ski journalism.

He's just a regular holiday skier who likes cruising pistes, a decent lunch and a relaxing holiday.

He's not a sponsored rider, instructor, guide, tour operator or self-appointed expert.

He just loves skiing and the mountains.

 

La Tania, France

I'm a classic British family skier and a holiday out in the mountains with my wife and children is my idea of heaven.

It's definitely our holiday of choice.

Nowhere more so than La Tania where you get access to the fabulous 3 Valleys without the outrageous cost of Courchevel 1850 or, to a lesser extent, Méribel.

I'd love to pretend I can ski backwards in waist deep powder on one ski but I can't and I never will.

So we tend to look for resorts that offer a rounded package for a family holiday and La Tania fits the bill for us.

It's a very pretty resort with most of the accommodation being chalet based.

It's relatively quiet and, with the exception of The Ski Lodge has a fairly quiet nightlife when compared to some of its neighbours.

My kids love the ski school and the slopes while La Tania gives my wife and I access to the fabulous 3 Valleys.

The area comes in for some criticism from the hard-core skiers and cool dudes but I make no excuse for loving the 3 Valleys.

It's an incredible ski area.

 

Val d’Isere, France

A simply fantastic, beautiful, resort with a world class ski area.

It's a few years since I've been, as it was our resort of choice before we had our family.

The reason we've not taken our family is simply economic.

Clearly, when you're considering a family skiing holiday cost plays a big part and it's fair to say that you pay for the quality in Val d'Isere.

I bought the most expensive round of drinks in my life in one of Val d'Isere's many nightclubs.

It was a great night though!

For those who like a challenge Le Face is a black run back into Val d'Isere that was the 1992 Olympic Downhill.

I simply struggle to understand how people can point their skis down a run like that and go.

I once skied it with a friend who fell and dropped a ski which didn't stop for about 200m.

 

Méribel, France

Another beautiful resort where all development is in keeping with the existing buildings, so no ugly tower blocks here.

It's quite big so you can end up being quite a walk from the centre, and more importantly the slopes, but for me it's a perfect blend between size, liveliness and Alpine charm.

It couldn't be better located for skiing.

It's in the middle of one of the largest ski areas in the world so, for want of a better description it's the M62 of the 3 Valleys, if you will, and although the view is better, at peak times the lift queues can feel a bit like the M62 as well.

Turn right and you're on your way to the heights of Val Thorens.

Straight on up to Mottaret and some of the best skiing in the 3 Valleys and a fun park that's a skiers and snowboarders delight.

Turn left for Courchevel - but only if you are wearing this year's fashion and speak fluent Russian!

 

Park City, Utah, USA

Now here's a contrast to Europe.

We stayed in a Marriott apartment which was massive and had 6 hot tubs the size of swimming pools and a pool bigger than Lake Geneva.

Quite what carbon footprint it is leaving to heat them I shudder to think, but it didn't stop it being simply divine.

The odd thing about Utah generally is that it's dry so you have to join a bar in order to buy a drink.

You are then not allowed to have two drinks at once so there's no 'getting one in' there.

The skiing is great with some of the best groomed runs I have ever skied on and there are other resorts close on hand to visit.

We hired what the Americans called a car but I would call a bus and drove to Deer Valley and Snowbird.

They are so well set up for people doing that with Valet parking and people to help with your kit (who all then want tipping of course).

All the runs are beautifully groomed and the emphasis is very much on safety.

Each resort is an individual company that makes eating there odd as you tend to find that all the restaurants offer the same food.

It's a real contrast to Europe and the amount of snow they get is simply amazing.

 

Courchevel 1650, France

Yep - another 3 Valleys resort.

This time it's the far left extremity of the 3 Valleys as you look at the Piste Map.

This is a quieter and considerably cheaper alternative to its cousin 200m up the hill.

Not the most attractive town but it's got good access to the 3 Valleys.

The ski area in 1650 is lovely.

It's full of red and blue cruisers that are generally much quieter than elsewhere in the 3 Valleys.

It's a great place for beginners to improve or intermediates to get to grips with just exactly what carving really is.

Rochers and Bel Air are a couple of fantastic red runs and while you're there have lunch at Le Bel Air.

It has one of the best views I have ever seen and food to match so you'll need to book.

It's always a good challenge to ski from 1650 to Cime de Caron in Val Thorens and back in a day. 

It's a big day out and you'll only have time for a quick lunch but you'll have a great sense of achievement if you do it.

 

Les Arc, France

Les Arcs was the first resort I skied in, so I have a certain affection for the place.

At that time we were on a real budget staying in self-catering accommodation that we'd come back to for lunch to keep the costs down.

This did nothing to spoil a fantastic holiday in a resort that has much to offer everybody.

We stayed in 1800 but there are other options including a new village at 1950.

It's a high resort so the snow is generally great.

But don't go for the architecture, and the nightlife is on the quiet side.

For me, it was all about value and it had that in spades.

If you're brave, give the flying kilometre a go.

If you are like me it makes a fantastic watch while others risk life and limb.

It's a 70 degree slope down which people on big skis in odd suits and helmets go as fast as they can.

It's quite a thing to see.

 


UNDER-RATED GEMS

Lesser known ski resorts don't necessarily mean lesser quality ski resorts.

They might be part of the same ski area as a more popular resort, or belong to the same region.

Or they might have a dedicated following of visitors who keep schtum to preserve the quietness of the resort.

jc_hs_514

James Cove has skied in over 200 different resorts and selects the ones that he reckons are much better than their reputation may have you believe.

You don't have to go to one of the big, famous 'A' lists resorts to have a good time.

 

Davos/Klosters, Switzerland

I can't understand why this one isn't in the premier league as it has great piste skiing, wonderful powder and a huge variety of terrain.

It essentially occupies a whole valley with some smaller satellite resorts you can get to for a morning or afternoon excursion.

There are great mountain restaurants, slope side bars on Jacobshorn and for party animals there's a selection of good nightclubs/bars in Davos Platz.

Try the EX-bar!

In my book it ranks with Verbier, Val d'Isere and the rest of the so-called premier league.

At 12km the run down to Kublis is the longest run in The Alps.

There's more skiing than you can shake a stick at.

Samoëns, France

It's a beautiful French village and the only ski resort officially classified as an "historic monument".

If you're after history and charm then look no further.

A few years ago a massive lift was put in that will whisk you straight up to the heart of the Grand Massive ski domain giving you access to 78 lifts and 265km of slopes.

It's a sort of back way in and is far more interesting and a fraction of the cost than staying in Flaine.

Few people ski off piste so you can have fresh tracks for hours on end too.

 

Les Gets, France

This is a personal favourite.

I went there for the first time about a decade ago with a view to using it as a base to explore the rest of the Portes du Soleil.

In the whole week I never bothered leaving as there was more than enough to keep me occupied.

The town is a pretty alpine village and nothing like some of the architectural eyesores in the French Alps.

My kids learnt to ski here with the superb British ski school, BASS, while I learnt to tree ski.

The run off Chamossiere is one of my favourite red runs in the Alps.

A gem.

 

Arcalis, Andorra

arcalis_400

On paper Arcalis in Andorra doesn’t sound too promising.

A handful of lifts, a dozen or so runs and it rarely gets a mention in most guide books.

There’s no accommodation so you have to stay down the valley.

For me though it’s in my personal top 10 with the biggest variety of terrain in a given geographical area that I know.

There is tree skiing, motorway pistes, couloirs, cliffs, nursery slopes, reds and blacks all in its relatively small area.

Give me variety over size any day.

It’s also north facing and the highest resort in the Pyrenees.

The massive off piste run down to Llorts when the snow allows is an all-time favourite of mine.

There’s also loads of off piste and the chance to ski down a frozen waterfall if you’ve got the balls.

It has 2 great mountain restaurants and few British, just locals, in the know.

Heaven.

 

Sundance, USA

sundance_400

Ok it's another small resort, this time very small, and you certainly wouldn't travel all the way to the USA for a visit to Robert Redford's ski hill, but if you are in Utah then you ignore Sundance at your loss.

It has a unique atmosphere and it feels like you are stepping back in time.

Skiing how it used to be; empty pistes, no pressure, wonderful scenery and time just sort of slips away here.

I have been several times and on each occasion there was great snow.

There's a respectable vertical drop too.

I had one of my best ever powder days here topped off by meeting Robert Redford in the bar after skiing.

Magical.

 

Leukerbad, Switzerland

Never heard of it?

Well, you're not alone.

It sits half way along the Rhone valley high up on a plateau in the most spectacular scenery.

It has a World Cup Downhill course, 55km of runs and plenty of varied skiing.

Despite its size and location you'll hardly hear an English voice all day long.

But its real claim to fame is the natural hot springs that have been used since Roman times.

Après skiing here is lazing around in a steaming pool being regenerated by natural minerals.

There are 22 different spas to choose from and if it starts snowing when you're in an outdoor one then you are in for a treat.

You'll find a few of the saisonaires from Zermatt come here for a bit of r & r and to get some fresh powder.

 


SNOWBOARDING

Some ski resorts in the USA don't even allow snowboarders!

But luckily the majority of resorts worldwide do.

Some resorts especially go out of their way to make sure snowboarders can enjoy their ski areas as much as possible.

The best of them will have some or all of the following:

  • Snow park with lines for different levels
  • Powder terrain for freeriding
  • Specialist snowboard schools
  • Not too many drag lifts
  • Not too many flat parts or cat tracks

 

matt_barr_hs_411

Matt Barr runs the ACM Writing Group(www.acmwriting.com),and has been fortunate to ride all over the world.

From the hectic slopes of Vail in the States, to the deserted environs of Shemshak in Iran.

 

Baqueira-Beret, Spain

The mountain might not be as hard hitting as some of its Alpine counterparts, but the uniqueness of the Val d'Aran (the valley in which the resort sits) make this a great resort to visit.

Its unique aspect (north facing, and within spitting distance of the Atlantic) means is gets plenty of sun and snow, and there is some surprisingly tricky in-bounds freeriding terrain on offer.

But what really makes the place special is the town of Baqueira itself.

Most European resorts offer their own take on a tried and tested theme: rowdy après, packed slopes and cheesy nightclubs.

Things are slightly laidback in Baqueira, with the best food you'll eat in a European ski resort, friendly locals and, thanks to the in-town Pacha, a surprisingly credible nightclub.

Snow Park, New Zealand

This small hill is only marginally bigger than Hillend dryslope in Edinburgh but has managed to position itself in the epicentre of the snowboarding universe by turning itself into the world's most exclusive fun park.

There is only one lift here, but more jumps, rails, hips, quarters, pipes and berms than any snowboarder could ever hope to conquer.

As such it attracts every big name pro in the world during the summer months who come to film, learn and ride with the all the other riders to make the pilgrimage.

With the attractions of Wanaka and Queenstown nearby, and some of the friendliest locals on the planet to party with, every passionate snowboarder should check out Snow Park at least once in their shredding life.

 

Chamonix, France

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First time visitors often wonder what the fuss is about.

You need a car, the place gets tracked within an hour and some of the slopes are intimidatingly steep.

And then you experience a classic Chamonix powder day and it all clicks into place.

Maybe you head to trees behind Le Tour when the light is bad, and experience some of France's best tree riding.

It could be a late season day spent lapping the Index chair on Flegere in the sun.

Or it could be your first real session on Grands Montets top tickets, terrified by the exposure but exhilarated by the powder.

Whatever gets you hooked, you'll never look at another resort in the same way again.

 

Shemshak, Iran

I was lucky enough to visit this resort in February 2005 with a group of five friends.

We were the only western snowboarders in the resort, and experienced a welcome unlike any other from the comically friendly local riders.

Even better, the terrain was unexplored, untracked and beyond anything we'd expected to find.

The result was three fantastic days exploring every nook and powder filled cranny of this resort with our new friends.

It still counts as my favourite snowboarding experience: riding in its purest form, with a group of friends old and new, in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

 

Niseko, Japan

For years, the rumours had been rife about the incredible powder of Japan's Hokkaido prefecture.

Perfectly spaced trees, grey skies literally teeming with the best snow on earth, and a generally otherwordly landscape had helped give this place a cult following among adventurous snowboarders.

There really is nowhere like this place.

Our tip? Go riding at night.

They put the floodlights on to illuminate key runs. Hell, they put em on in the day if the light is bad.

You don't get that in Méribel.

 

Les Arcs, France

Another French resort?

Les Arcs has a special place in the heart of snowboarders, thanks to the fact that the sport really took root here in the early eighties.

Today it is the best of the large French resorts.

There's a great park, fun tree, epic freeriding, great cruising glades and some good nightlife.

The links to La Plagne have further extended the appeal of the place, meaning there is more terrain here than you could possibly explore during the course of the average season, let alone the usual week or fortnight.

 


STEEP & DEEP

Most resorts will have off piste terrain to some degree or other, but some are in a league of their own.

Weather permitting, you could spend full weeks there without touching a groomed run.

The best resorts have:

  • Off piste between the slopes
  • Backcountry you can skin up to
  • Ski patrollers who perform regular avalanche control practices
  • Good mountain guides who provide avalanche safety gear
  • Ski schools offering off piste courses

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Andy David is one of Britain's leading Freeskiers and is the founder of Storm Skis www.stormskis.com a young and dynamic Freeskiing production company based in Switzerland and the UK.

 

Verbier, Switzerland

My number one resort would have to be Verbier Switzerland. I have been fortunate enough to call this home for nearly 11 years now.

It has a magical mix of relaxed Swiss village feel combined with the most amazing and challenging off piste skiing one can find anywhere in the world.

The higher your skiing level the more the resort has to offer.

It is an epic area with so much easily accessible off piste terrain most of which can be accessed directly from the main lifts.

Long after the last snow fall providing you know the area and are willing to walk a bit one can always find fresh tracks and new areas to go and explore and push your limits.

Peaks like the Bec De Rosse and Mont Gele will awaken the senses of even the most hardcore Freeskiers.

Chamonix, France

Another obvious choice has to be Chamonix.

The terrain in the various lifted areas just has so much to offer.

With all the glacial terrain, it just has a very dramatic and imposing feel to it for shooting and filming.

Engelberg, Switzerland

I was over there a few times in the last few years shooting and it is a fascinating place with some of the sickest cliffed lines you will see anywhere.

It seems to be rapidly emerging as a new freeskiing Mecca with throngs of film crews competing out on the hill to get the best lines with the biggest hits.

The town of Engelberg however for me lets the place down a bit.

It is getting done up very quickly now but it still has a bit of an Eastern Block feel to it.

 
Kicking Horse and the Golden area of Canada

There are some amazing place to ski steeps and deeps.

The terrain is just so different to anything we tend to get in Europe.

The mountains are much smaller in height and don't seem as intimidating as many of the steep European resorts... however the pillow line features there coupled with their amazing snow falls make it a great bet for powder revellers.

If you get into that area you must also make the effort to check out some of the Heli Skiing Terrain in the surrounding areas... they are just mind blowing.

If you have even more time on your hands continue along the highway via Rogers Pass to the Revelstoke area.

This is fast becoming the Cat and Heli skiing Mecca of Canada.

Mustang Powder cat skiing operation near Revelstoke is one of the most memorable places I have ever skied.

 

Espace Killy, France

Like Verbier, Tignes and Val d'Isere have so much serious terrain to access and play in.

The only down side to them is that the village of Tignes is pretty grim and Val, while being much prettier still is stuck in the valley floor and is in the shade for so long making it feel a bit cold and dark.

But hey... the skiing is what is important and there is no denying they have got that.

 

St Luc Chandoline and Zinal, Switzerland

They have so much untapped potential it's ridiculous.

These tiny resorts just up the road from Sion are a Freeskiers dream.

They have seemingly endless drops and lines and interesting features to the terrain.

Couple this with the fact that they are tiny family resorts where the people just do not ski off piste make them very special places to go and visit.

You will always get a warm welcome in the tiny mountain huts and restaurants.... although some of the locals will look at you like you have just arrived from out of space when you arrive with your fat skis and full face skiing helmet.

I have had so many other amazing skiing experiences over my years competing but just have not had the time to go back there and do them justice.

Bovec Kannin in Slovenia and the whole Dolomite areas hold loads of fond memories for me also from all the times I passed through there while competing on the Europa Cup Moguls Tour.

I just wish I had my fat skis along for the ride and the time to go and play in-between the serious business of competing.

 

Other resorts that we at planetSKI.eu think punch well above their weight – Engleberg, Soldeu, Les Arcs, Pila, Ischgl, Crans-Montana.

If none of our favourites listed here float your boat, we would recommend browsing a more comprehensive list of ski resorts here.

 



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