Top 10 Ski Regions
Chris’ personal picks from places in the world that he has visited.
There are my ten personal favourite ski regions that I have enjoyed in my long life as an enthusiastic but hopelessly perennial intermediate skier. I have many more ski regions on my bucket list such as the Colorado Rockies and the Southern Hemisphere ski destinations, but for now these snow spots are my top choice:
French Alps: This is the finest skiing in the world in my view. Les Deux Alpes, Val D’Isere, La Plagne, Avoriaz, Les 3 Vallées…Each one of these ski destinations offers a huge array of runs and terrain. Les 3 Vallées, for instance, comprise the resorts of Courchevel, Méribel, Les Menuires and Val Thorens and is the largest ski area in the world, linked together by ski runs and ski lifts, with 600 kms of interconnected slopes and 180 ski lifts.
The many New England ski resorts have a unique ambiance and offer wonderfully varied skiing. It’s the scenery at these ski resorts that sets them apart – this is your chance to get out amongst dramatic, steep mountains that are above the tree line in some places. And the ski resorts are close together – so it is possible to add variety by skiing several different resorts from one lodging home base.
Canadian Rockies: Stunning scenery, great ski conditions and a home-from-home feel for Canadians. My favourite for pure skiing exhilaration is Sunshine Village near Banff, whilst for pure scenic, take-your-breath-away mountain vista, head for Lake Louise. Further north up the Icefields Parkway is the much underrated Marmot Basin outside of Jasper: uncrowded slopes, challenging terrain and an authentic village to come home to.
Swiss Alps: Perhaps the most picturesque and iconic of all ski destinations. I learnt to ski in Grindelwald in the Bernese Oberland beneath the North Face of the mighty Eiger. My most memorable week of Swiss skiing was in Saas-Fee, next door to Zermatt, where the snow kept coming down in such quantity that every day’s skiing was an adventure…and eventually we had to be airlifted out of the resort by helicopter as the only road was cut by the snowfall!
Tremblant: Even the Europeans are discovering this family-friendly jewel in the Laurentians, less than two hours north of Montreal. With nearly one hundred pistes on four distinct slopes and just about the best snow-making capability in North America, the skiing here is very reliable. Add some Alpine-like ski accommodations and a pretty and bustling ski village and you have the complete package for a memorable ski vacation.
Austrian Tyrol: The fact that we returned year after year to Ischgl-Galtur is a mark of how much I recommend this less glitzy near neighbor of St. Anton. These are two twin Tyrolean villages in the remote Paznauntal featuring one of the biggest interconnected ski areas in the Tyrol. One special treat is to ski the highest slopes above Ischgl and then take the cable car ride down to the village of Samnaun in Switzerland for a Swiss fondue lunch.
Collingwood: This was my introduction to Canadian skiing and so I have a soft spot for the slopes of Blue Mountain. It’s an easy 2 hour drive from Toronto and acknowledged widely as Ontario's best skiing and boarding. You can ski on breathtaking Niagara Escarpment terrain with 35 trails ranging from beginner to Double Black Diamond and extensive night skiing. Blue Mountain Village at the base is reminiscent of an Alpine ski village.
Pyrenees: Sunny and sometimes forgotten, this mountain range that divides northern Spain from southern France boasts over thirty ski resorts. My experience in Masella, which has 64 trails and the longest runs in the eastern Pyrenees, is that this region is ideal for skiers who believe that eating and drinking the local fare is an integral part of a day on the slopes and who feel no pressing urge to hit the slopes before 10am after a leisurely breakfast!
Italian Alps: My most perfect powder experience came one cloudless morning in Cervinia on the Italian side of the magnificent Matterhorn. Three feet of powder lay lightly upon hard packed pistes and for a couple of hours I was in true skiers heaven as I drifted, silent and floating, down the slopes beneath the pyramid peak with waves of powder breaking away from my waist and the whole world beneath my snowy domain. Bliss!
Bulgaria: : Bulgaria? Yes, this Eastern European country has some fine skiing; I went to Borovets, the biggest international mountain resort in Bulgaria. It is located at 1350m (with the highest pistes at 2600 m), on the northern slopes of Rila Mountain among age-old pine woods, at the foot of Mousala peak (2925 m). And as an added bonus, the delights of the capital city of Sofia and the glories of Rila Monastery are close by.