THE winter months are right around the corner, which can mean only one thing. Yes, the snowsports season is upon us once more – boarders, skiers, tobogganers, skaters, and the ones who just sit at the hotel bar are scrambling to book flights and ski passes at some of the world’s premier snowsports locations. But which resort is your best bet this season?
Many will have had their plans disrupted last year, but now international travel is a little less restricted, the 21/22 season could be your first chance in two years to hit the slopes. Find out where to go below:
Val D’Isere & Tignes, France
Arguably the best ski resort in Europe, Val D’Isère (formally known as Espace Killy) and neighbouring Tignes are must-visits for keen skiers. The huge expanse of skiable terrain rivals any resort on the planet, and fresh powder is pretty reliable throughout December, January, and February. Even when snow is sparse, the snow cannons can provide more than enough cover for trips right into April.
It really has everything – enough hardcore backcountry routes and black runs for the serious skiers and boarders; baby slopes and ski schools for the students; and plenty of après ski options to spend the evenings in.
Resort height: 1850/2100m
Pistes: 300km (Espace Killy)
21/22 season opening: Tignes opened October 16th, Val D’Isère due to open November 27th
Nearest airport: Geneva (180km)
The largest skiable region in southern Europe is set to open in December this season and will provide skiers with a cheaper European option that doesn’t skimp on quality. Grandvalira in the Pyrenees is less crowded than most of the big French resorts and gets a consistent amount of snow every year.
There is a new airport in Andorra, but it only has flights to and from Madrid at this stage. The next best airport is Toulouse (195km) which has a lot more international flights. Andorra is outside of the EU and therefore enjoys duty-free status, making Grandvalira one to look out for if you are trying to tighten the purse strings this year.
Resort height: 1,170m
21/22 season opening: December 3rd
Nearest airport: Andorra La Seu d’Urell International Airport (27 km)
Lying at the foot of the Matterhorn, Zermatt offers 360km of runs in four different areas: Sunnegga, Gornergrat, Klein Matterhorn and Schwarzsee. Thrill-seekers and freestylers can also hone their skills in the Snowpark Zermatt that is often used by Olympic hopefuls. Not the cheapest option on the list, but you pay for quality here.
The town of Zermatt is almost as much of an allure as the slopes themselves; the picturesque wooden chalets nestled beneath one of Europe’s most recognisable peaks is quite a sight. One thing to note – Zermatt is a car-free zone; a scheme intended to preserve the original character of the beautiful town. There is also a connection to Cervinia and Valtournenche in Italy through the Plateau Rosa glacier for further skiing options.
Resort height: 3883m
21/22 season opening: November 27th
Nearest airport: Sion (82km)
On the other side of the Matterhorn lies Cervinia, an Italian paradise for intermediate skiers. The height of this resort usually means it can open as early as October, and skiing is pretty much guaranteed on the glacier it shares with Zermatt. It has one of the best snow records in the Alps, and with the connections to Zermatt, even the keenest of skiers and boarders are unlikely to run out of runs.
Cervinia is particularly good for early/late holidays and has ample nursery slopes and ski schools for beginners. Authentic Italian food can be found throughout the town.
Resort height: 2050m
21/22 season opening: October 16th
Nearest airport: Turin (120km)
Chamonix Mont-Blanc, France – Famous hub of snowsports and mountaineering at the foot of Europe’s tallest mountain. Amazing skiing and famous après ski, but not cheap and very popular.
Val Thorens, France – Europe’s highest ski resort opens a little earlier than Tignes & Val D’Isère and stretches out the season with excellent snow-making facilities.
Austria – Several resorts here could have made the list, but the country went into full lockdown on November 22nd, so travelling here will be tricky this season.
Voted one of the best ski towns in the US, Breckenridge is the most popular resort in Colorado, boasting incredible runs and a great nightlife scene. Accommodation ranges from affordable to luxury and there are myriad activities for all types of visitors to take advantage of.
Big crowds are to be expected at Breck, but North America’s highest lift and the ski area it gets you to is a huge draw. The town is laid-back, but some Covid restrictions will be in place; masks will be required in a lot of venues and it’s safest to book when eating out.
Resort height: 2,900m
21/22 season opening: November 12th
Nearest airport: Denver (167km)
Aspen Snowmass, Colorado
Aspen is considered the ultimate après ski town certainly in the US, possibly in the world. It has endless dining and nightlife options, a lot of them quite high-end. Its stellar reputation for stylish snowsports holidays makes it popular with celebrities, and the name of the resort alone has a lot of pedigree.
As far as skiing is concerned, it has excellent intermediate and advanced ski terrain, and one lift ticket gives you access to four ski areas. Don’t assume this will save you money though as Aspen is notoriously expensive.
Resort height: 2,438m
Pistes: 237km (all our areas)
21/22 season opening: November 25th
Nearest airport: Aspen-Pitkin County Airport (4km)
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Jackson Hole is famous for its expert runs and extreme terrain. This has traditionally been one for the purists, the ones who want to challenge themselves, but in recent years there have been more intermediate and beginner slopes added. It has the most continuous vertical in the US, and frequent dumps of fluffy powder give Jackson Hole a good reputation for backcountry runs.
Three ski areas (Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Snow King Mountain and Grand Targhee Resort) give visitors plenty to explore. There are also plenty of opportunities for excursions to the nearby Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.
Resort height: 1,901m
Pistes: 116km (all four areas)
21/22 season opening: November 25th
Nearest airport: Jackson Hole Airport (15km)
The powder paradise of Niseko is a hugely popular resort in Hokkaido, Japan’s northern island. Backcountry skiing is the name of the game here, largely due to the staggering amount of fresh snow it receives on an almost daily basis at the right time of year. Niseko is made up of four areas: Grand Hirafu, Hanazono, Niseko Village and Annupuri, all with their own unique characteristics and beneficiaries of 15m+ of snow each season.
It is Japan’s number one snow resort and is famous for powder bowls, tree runs, and the stunning view of Mount Yotei. Most lifts will be running at half capacity, but the resort will be operating largely as normal this season. Après ski can be found here but it’s not the main draw, while traditional Japanese Onsen is a must.
Resort height: 1,308m
Pistes: 50km (2,191 acres of backcountry)
21/22 season opening: All four areas open by December 5th
Nearest airport: New Chitose Airport (108km)
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