Snow in the Alps
Unlike the last couple of winters, this year will be brilliantly white across the Alps. Snow storms and low ground temperatures in November gave ski resorts a strong base, setting them up to welcome excited skiers and snowboarders over what looks like an excellent start to the season.
Val Thorens, always
Winning World’s Best Ski Resort for the fourth year running (and Best French Resort for the fifth) is just reward for ambitiously spending £740 million transforming a low rent, ski bums’ hangout into the world’s favourite snow-sure resort. Innovations include free wifi across the whole ski area, six new 4* and 5* hotels (the 4* Fahrenheit Seven just scooped World’s Best New Ski Hotel), Michelin star restaurants, multiple ski lift upgrades – not to mention the world’s highest zip line, which reaches speeds of 100kmh. Now catering for all ski budgets, Val Thorens is not just the pride of the world’s largest interconnected ski area, it’s a blueprint for all competitors to follow.
Michelin in the mountains
Italians don’t need cooking lessons, but when a crack squad of British chefs armed with 11 Michelin stars come to the Aostan resort of Courmayeur, even Mama might discreetly check if her centuries’ old ragu recipe could benefit from a tweak or two. Heston Blumenthal, Jason Atherton, Claude Bossi and Sat Bains will be serving up gourmet dinners, including some Aostan fusion at rustic mountain refugios, which are accessed by lantern-lit walking paths or chauffeured snowmobile rides. Skiing ability is not a prerequisite to savour this culinary carnival in March.
A palatial chalet in Canada
British brothers, Michael and Chris Kirkland, created a whirlwind when they built Bighorn Lodge in British Columbia. Revelstoke already boasted the longest vertical drop of any lift-served resort in North America, as well as globally envied snow-cat and heli-skiing operations. What it missed was a palatial chalet, with its own helipad, so guests could be whisked direct from breakfast to bountiful powder. As well as that, Bighorn Lodge has an indoor pool, outdoor hot tub, sauna, steam room, massage, cinema suites and first-rate chef.
The new Chalet Fiat
The Chalet Fiat boasts beautiful views of the UNESCO-protected Brenta Dolomites, as well as seven double ensuite bedrooms, two public restaurants and a bar. The hotel’s gleaming example of contemporary, sustainable architecture, with its superb food and Monte Spinale location, is just another jewel in the Madonna di Campiglio ski resort crown.
Hyatt hits Europe
This first Hyatt Centric hotel to grace the slopes of a European ski resort offers welcome spa and comfort after a day heliskiing above La Rosière. Heliskiing is illegal in France, but due to the lift and piste link with La Thuile in Italy, you can ski over the border into Aosta, where it’s legal (and good value) on the vast terrain of Italy’s Rutor glacier.
A popping LGBT party
The 10th anniversary of European Gay Ski Week intends to be the biggest LGBT party ever staged on snow, attracting up to 1,200 people from all over Europe, Russia, Canada, Japan and USA. All budgets are catered for in Les Trois Vallées, the biggest interconnected ski area in the World.
Sports beyond the ski
The Swiss resort of St Moritz is the original home of winter sports. As well as skiing, there are cricket matches on a frozen lake, the Cresta Run (sliding head first on a metal tray down a terrifyingly steep ice track) and ski joring (being dragged, at speed, on skis behind wild horses). Guests of the Kulm hotel can try the latter two. Beginners will be pleased to hear that they can have a go behind highly trained horses ridden by skilled jockeys.
Breathe Yourself Better
Ski, life and mindfulness coach, John Arnold, offers a range of specialist, week-long ski courses that cater to different abilities. He believes that if you work on breathing and meditation alongside learning new techniques, then extra progress can be made.