When you feel the crisp, cool breeze, it’s a sign that winters are almost here, knocking on your doors. The start of the winters also means the commencement of the ski season. Skiing, one of the most daredevilry sports in the world is known to give an equal amount of high as the mountaineers and hikers experience while conquering a peak. It’s fast, it’s risky, and it’s thrilling! Though skiing is a still in its infancy in India, there is a growing number of travellers looking at skiing as an exciting adventure sport and are willing to travel to the best ski destinations in the world.
So whether you’re an amateur looking for nursery slopes to ski or a black run aficionado, we have compiled a list of world’s top skiing destinations where you can head out to for a skiing vacation. From the buzzing skiing runs to the relatively less crowded, from the posh and pricey to the ‘hidden from the world’ ski regions, this is our definitive list of the best ski destinations.
Our first skiing destination on the list comes from the northern frontier of the land of the rising sun, Japan. Niseko is a popular, emerging ski resort town and highly regarded by the Australians and Asians. Located in the state of Hokkaido, the closest airport is the New Chitose Airport in Sapporo.
Niseko has four skiing fields, namely, Hanazono, Hirafu, Niseko Village and Annupuri, with relatively harsher winter conditions. The ski run here is sober in terms of rashness, but of good quality and long stretches.
Niseko is popular with the international tourists because of the variety in skiing – apart from plain skiing, you can also enjoy cross-country skiing, telemarking, snowboarding and winter hiking in Niseko. For a snowboarder, this place is a paradise because of the soft powder that makes easy surfing and slashing possible. Telemarking is slowly catching a grip here as a newer style of snow activity though.
Niseko is counted in the top 5 resorts of Japan. Naturally, care is taken to provide the best in gondolas and cable chairs for the skiing enthusiasts and tourists frequenting this place. So, on a blizzard day, it is rare that you will be struck with a deadlock. Enough facilities and care units are available to ensure that the skiing is never halted here. And because Niseko is relatively in a lower altitude, you would barely come across whiteouts, which one normally experiences in the higher altitude of European and North American ski resorts.
And after a tiresome day of skiing, head directly to one of the Onsens. An onsen is a Japanese hot spring where you can relax and soothe your pulled muscles and aching nerves.
Aspen, Colorado (USA)
Summer or winter, Aspen has something unique to offer everyone. Aspen is a ski resort in the state of Colorado, amidst the pebbly terrains of the Rocky Mountains. The Aspen Mountain is a thorough delight in the winters for skiing prospects. Due to its nature of soil and topography, the mountain is often known as the black-diamond terrain with manifold glades, thuds and drops making skiing that much more adventurous.
In the vicinity, there are four ski mountains - the Aspen Mountain, Snowmass, Aspen Highlands, and Buttermilk – apart from skiing and related activities like sleigh rides, snowshoeing, sledding, etc. you can also enjoy mountain biking, hiking, golfing, river rafting and the likes in the summers. This makes Aspen a year round holiday destination.
Great food and breathtaking scenic views are just some of the perks of visiting Aspen. The closest major city to Aspen is Denver which is a 4 hour drive by car. You can also directly land at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport.
Whistler, British Columbia (Canada)
Whistler is a snow-clad region in the British Columbia province of Canada. To mention the history of this place in brief would mean to sum it up as the efforts of few investors, who had the vision of turning this place into a ski resort for the 1967 Olympics. Even before the Olympics dream was realized (in 2010) the place really took off with the masses and has ever since become famous for skiing in and around Canada.
The beautiful town of Whistler is at the foot of the mountains, which is peculiar for its European-style villages. From December to April, the steep landscapes are typically covered with snow, with temperatures not dipping frequently beyond 0°C. And it gets way warmer during the summers, up till 20°C. There are plenty of dining and accommodation options in Whistler to choose from.
Of course, skiing is the major activity here, but you can also go cross country hiking, mountain biking and golfing whilst here. Skiers won’t be disappointed with the Whistler-Blackcomb as the variety in terrain simultaneously offers enough doable skiing for fresher and pros. Variations in skiing could range from backcountry skiing to cross country skiing to the special Heli skiing.
The closest metropolitan area to Whistler is Vancouver. Driving to Whistler through the Sea to Sky Highway is highly recommended for a sheer driving pleasure through winding, beautiful roads. The route is one of the scenic destinations in Canada and takes around 2 to 2 ½ hours to reach Whistler.
We’ve spoken of Zermatt before as well in our blog. They say a thing of beauty is a joy forever, which perfectly translates into why Zermatt gets repeatedly mentioned here. Switzerland is known for its beautiful locales, sweeping tulip farms and the iced ridges. In those ascents, lies the Zermatt village - nothing short of a fantasy land.
Zermatt is a popular ski resort in Europe that is frequented by thousands every year, not just for the sports but to experience the sheer lavishness of the village too. Backed by the Matterhorn as its backdrop, the Zermatt is every Swiss skier’s paradise which s open to the ski enthusiast throughout the year. Mountaineers and hikers too flock to Zermatt for their adrenaline rush.
The village of Zermatt is particularly interesting for being car-free. Most of the village is accessible on foot and people mostly cycle or stroll around with the sight of occasional taxis on the road. Most vehicles driven here are on battery, with horse carriages being a major public transport.
But this fantastical little snowy village has a downside to it as well – its an expensive destination that can blow a big hole in your pocket. Accommodation, dining and skiing are all expensively priced in Zermatt.
Cortina d’Ampezzo is Italy’s oldest skiing hotspot and one of the most stylish and frequently visited towns as well. This widely popularized ski resort caters as a second home to some of Italy’s most affluent families. With all the glitz and glamour of highlife in Cortina, this place is a pricey combination of a fashionable, petite village with the backdrop of scenic views
Cortina has some of the world’s best known skiing locales and topographies with breathtaking views. The extensiveness of Cortina lies in the fact that there is something great in store for every level of skier. 90% of the snow here is well groomed by the officials, and as such offers a fabulous treat for entry-level and intermediate skiers. For the expert ones, you will find a host of ski runs full of challenges.
Apart from skiing, another major attraction that makes Cortina famous is its food. The place is packed with posh restaurants and cafes serving cuisines of every type. And after satiating your appetite, head to one of the many happening nightspots and clubs. Cortina has become a year round destination as there is a lot of things to do for the non-skiers as well.
Kitzbühel is a small town in the picturesque country of Austria, near the famed capital Innsbruck. The backdrop of gorgeous Kitzbühel Alps has made this little, medieval township into a world renowned ski resort. And that’s not all. Kitzbühel has the most difficult ski run in the world in its kitty to brag about.
An area covering over 230 square kilometers, Kitzbühel offers some 32 kilometers of ski routes. Around 60 well-groomed ski routes of varied topography and expertise levels can be experienced here, classified into easy, intermediate and difficult levels of skiing. What makes Kitzbühel a world renowned ski resort is the fact that it sports world-class cableway and lift facilities for the skiers. The high number of ski runs and well groomed ski routes make this skier’s paradise.
Compared to the neighbouring Swiss and French Alps, temperatures here are moderate and not so cold. Yet, the place sees consistent snowing for most parts of the year, and that’s why a relatively higher density of tourists and skiers are seen here in comparison to the other European ski resorts. Another attraction of Kitzbühel is the high number of global and local celebrities and sports personalities it welcomes every year.
When not skiing, Kitzbühel offers you ample choices with snowboarding, winter hiking, ice skating, sledging etc. to choose from. Typical to this place, you can savor culinary delights in fifty six different idyllic huts and mountain restaurants, en route your skiing runs to relish in authentic Tyrolean cuisine.
Queenstown, New Zealand
There is no particular time of the year when you should go to Queenstown in New Zealand. This place is buzzing with activities all round the year, with some of the most scenic and quaint locales to be found in New Zealand.
Queenstown is flanked by two natural entities, Lake Wakatipu and the Southern Alps on the periphery of Queenstown. These snowcapped mountains become a playground for the skiing buffs during winter. From snowboarding to skiing, Queenstown has excellent winter sports opportunities through four fantastic, well-groomed ski fields where the slopes are gentle and gradual which is great for first-timers and amateur skiers . You can ice-skate, snowshoe, or take a spin with the snowmobile when not skiing. For the pro adventurous skiers, off-piste skiing and heli-skiing are two options available – the city boasts the biggest heli-ski landscape outside of North America.
As mentioned earlier, Queenstown is New Zealand’s major adventure destination with a gamut of sports and entertainment activities round the year. You can enjoy fly fishing and cruising on Lake Wakatipu. Cycling, hiking, jet skiing, mountaineering, river boarding, and horseback riding are some of the other activities here. For the not so faint-hearted, you can choose from bungee jumping, parasailing, skydiving and white water rafting to experience sheer adrenaline rush.
One of the best-hidden spots for extreme skiing, Gulmarg is the finest, unsoiled, and most acute topography-wise for skiing. Gulmarg is delightfully nestled between the Himalayas, very close to the Line of Control that runs between the two countries, India and Pakistan. The skiing season is from December to March.
At 4000 meters above sea level, Gulmarg has the world’s highest Gondola lift in the world which itself explains why this place is an ultimate destination for a skiing fanatic. At such higher altitudes, the skiers get is a lethal combination of varied intense skiing terrains plus, endless ski runs. Only 1% of the entire area is groomed for amateurish skiing, rest 99% is left unpatrolled and should only be given a try if you are extreme ski junkie.
The USP of Gulmarg is that its less touristy when compared to the ski destinations in Europe. The slopes are not crowded and there are hardly any queues for the skiing activities. But since Gulmarg hasn’t turned into a full-fledged ski resort, you will find less groomed and marked ski runs.
The professional skiing experts may not find top quality skiing equipments here, so it’s best advised to bring your own. To keep the non-local skiers educated on avalanches, a non-profit organization puts up daily bulletins and conducts avalanche courses.
About Odyssey Travels
Odyssey Travels is a leading IATA accredited Travel Company, established in 1992. We specialize in planning customized holidays in India and abroad for our clients which includes air ticketing, worldwide hotel reservations, inclusive tours, sightseeing activities, visa assistance & travel insurance services. For further information or to make a booking contact 020-66442929 or visit http://www.odysseytravels.net/