6 winter holiday locations to satisfy skiers and non-skiers alike
Ah, the sights and sounds of the ski season. The wind rushing through your hair; the panoramic views of imperious mountain vistas; the exhilaration of nailing a tricky black run. And, of course, the terrified screams of an unwilling newbie crashing headlong into a snowdrift.
For enthusiasts, skiing feels incomparably liberating and comes almost as second nature, but for sceptics it runs counter to every human instinct they possess.
If your family or friend group straddles the divide, then your winter holiday may be in peril. So if strapping slippery slats to your feet and hurtling down a mountain doesn’t tickle your or a family member’s fancy (and when it’s put like that, fair enough), here are five skiing locations that balance their perfect powder with other, less high-octane, attractions.
1. Zermatt, Switzerland
Yes, Zermatt is a Mecca for ski nuts and infamous for its challenging downhill but there is still plenty to do here away from the slopes.
Check out the free-to-use ice rink in the main square, which hosts skaters as well as ice hockey matches and the local curling club. Snow shoeing yields the views and adventure of skiing without the risk to life and limb, while the tens of hiking trails will immerse you in scenery, sun and snow.
There is also a museum charting the history of Zermatt’s most famous feature – the Matterhorn. If you don’t have the years of climbing experience necessary to scale the 4,478m peak, you can still get closely acquainted on a 20-minute helicopter tour.
2. Avoriaz, France
Avoriaz has carved a niche as the ‘family-friendly’ ski resort, whose clientele can bring infants, grandparents, and recalcitrant partners without fear of them getting bored.
The entirely pedestrianised village has a range of cafes and shops, all accessed by horse-drawn sleigh, while more left-field entertainment includes organised snowball fights and snowy sumo wrestling.
March will herald the return of the Snowboxx music festival – a week-long blowout with DJs, an open air arena on the slopes and a host of apres-parties.
Best of all, however, is the Avoriaz water park – a mountaintop aquatic paradise filled with real tropical plants. The weather outside may be frightful, but the flumes, water jets and Jacuzzi are delightful indeed.
3. Whistler Resort, British Columbia, Canada
British Columbia is a long way to go just to ski, so it’s just as well that this idyllic resort north of Vancouver boasts plenty of entertainment away from the slopes.
A bobsleigh centre and tube park ensure that adventurous non-skiers can still career downhill at near-supersonic speed – albeit with an experienced pilot at the helm.
Otherwise, Whistler is a place to relax. Take a load off at the luxurious Scandinave Spa a short drive out of town, or sample the finest in apres-ski dining. Crystal Hut’s Belgian waffles are the epitome of decadence, or for an almost-too-authentic taste of Canada, sample some elk tartare.
4. Breckenridge, Colorado, USA
This Colorado snow spot may have five whole mountains of ski slope, but it’s an adventure playground for all kinds of visitor.
Breckenridge offers more alternative, snow-based modes of transport than you ever thought you needed: dog-sledding, snowmobiling, tubing, snowshoeing, sledding, cross-country skiing, fat biking (like mountain biking but with wide, snow-resistant tires), skating, and riding in a hot air balloon.
Make sure you’ve got decent travel insurance as most of your time at Breckenridge will be spent at speed!
5. St. Moritz, Switzerland
The birthplace of Alpine skiing, this historic, two-time Winter Olympics host city has had more than 150 years to develop its delights both on and off the piste.
There’s no mystery here: St. Moritz is simply a thriving, if lavishly expensive, mountain town. Wander down the highest shopping street in all of Europe – Via Serlas – which stocks high-end retail to match, or hop on the UNESCO-listed ‘red train’ up to Alp Grum for some evening fondue.
Offering five Michelin-starred restaurants, cricket matches on the frozen lake, and 300 days a year of sunshine – St. Moritz is luxury at 6,000 feet.
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