Yes, Verbier is stylish and Aspen is fun but, when you’re on your tenth ski holiday in the same resort, even the most thrilling black run can begin to feel a little, well, boring. Especially when there’s a wealth of under-the-radar-resorts waiting to be discovered. So, if you’re tired of the same crowded runs, endless ski schools queuing for the T-bars and overpriced apres-ski establishments, take your pick from our edit of the best alternative ski resorts just waiting to quench your thirst for adventure.
Sainte Foy, France
Nestled between the resorts of Les Arcs, La Rosiere, Tignes and Val d’Isere, Sainte Foy is a relative new face among its more established neighbours. There’s no denying it’s a small resort and, while modern, most of the village has been rebuilt using traditional materials so it retains the classic Alpine charm of the area. The ski area offers around 800 hectares of forests and slopes, with 26 runs for all abilities ranging from 1550 metres to 2620 metres. You’ll also find enough heli-skiing and off-piste tracks to keep the adrenaline pumping while its naturally sheltered position creates a microclimate which means the season in Sainte-Foy often starts as early as mid-November.
To relax, visit one of the villages two spas before returning to Chalet Merlo, which comes with six ensuite bedrooms spread over two floors, a fully-equipped gym, hot tub and sauna facilities. Now how’s that for aprés-ski?
Situated in the Val d’Anniviers, between Verbier and Zermatt, and only two hours from Geneva, this welcoming chocolate box locale contains everything you’d expect from a traditional Swiss resort. With an abundance of hillside chalets, restaurants and a choice of hotels and lodges, it’s a buzzing little enclave of sociable locals and tourists looking for all-abilities skiing without the queues.
Pistes go from 3,000 metres to 1,600 metres and the mountain’s north and east-facing slopes ensure a perfect layer of snow all season. Good links to the neighbouring Zinal, St Luc and Chandolin resorts mean there are plenty of runs suitable for beginners and intermediates while the area’s off-piste offering is about as good as it gets for more advanced skiers. The nightlife might be slightly lacking (only two bars are open past 12am), but it’s not something you’ll worry about when you’re tearing down another mountainside.
Crested Butte, Colorado, USA
While Aspen can play the celebrity card, Crested Butte can easily match it as a destination for thrill seekers and ski die-hards. This former mining town maintains an air of exclusivity akin to Notting Hill, with its independent boutiques, art galleries, craft breweries and locavore restaurants, but the runs and winter sport experiences are the real talking point here.
If you’re looking to really have the mountain to yourself, book Scarp Ridge Lodge – a converted Croatian saloon – which grants you access to 1,000-acres of exclusive terrain in nearby Irwin. That’s 10,000 feet of virgin powder that’s all yours. Combining the best in rarefied and heart-racing runs, you can choose to zip down the Red Lady bowl or perfect those epic turns with some fierce Snowcat skiing before warming up in one of the two on-mountain cabins complete with fireplace, dining area and lounge.
As for the six-star lodge itself? Unwind at the end of a hard day on the slopes with a dip in the indoor salt-water pool before visiting the massage room, steam, sauna and hot tub or chilling with a cold beer in the cinema.
Those in the new have been recommending Japan as one of the leading ski destinations for a few years now so, if you’re looking to combine sushi with well maintained and attractive slopes, then you could do much worse than Niseko on Japan’s northernmost island, Hokkaido. With an airport located nearby, it’s an hour from Tokyo’s transport hub, so getting there doesn’t require an undertaking of Phileas Fogg-esque proportions.
Resort-wise, you’ll be looking at skiing or boarding on the finest, particle-size snow and a wide variety of pistes spread across Mount Niseko-Annupuri’s four ski areas, meaning you can experience the rush of powder bowls, tree runs, half-pipes and exhilarating mogul fields all day long.
Accommodation-wise, you’re spoilt for choice with a number of high class hotels in the area, but we’d recommend the luxe Hakuchozan chalet, which comes complete with four staff and its own chef. You’ll also have access to a private driver for pick-up and drop-off to the pistes, as well as seven ensuite bedrooms, an 80-inch flat screen TV, game room, massage room and outdoor Jacuzzi deck with fire pit. It sure beats Aviemore.
Sierra Nevada, Spain
Southern Spain isn’t immediately obvious as a destination for world-class skiing – especially when its main resorts lie just 40 minutes from the popular summer holiday hotspot of Granada – but, thanks to the 3,200 metre+ height of its Penibético Mountains, its becoming an increasingly popular destination.
Lying at 2,100 metres, Sierra Nevada is home to six ski areas, 30 lifts and 124 pistes meaning there’s plenty to keep you occupied. As with most European ski resorts, the best snow is to be found from January to March and it’s important to note that Sierra Nevada is best suited to more experienced skiers with nearly 90% of the slopes rated either blue or red. Check in to El Lodge Ski & Spa, the resort’s only ski-in, ski-out hotel, for boutique luxury, indulgent dining and a spot of pampering.
Mammoth Lakes, California
Forget your ingrained ideas of California as a land of sun, sea and sand – there is some incredible skiing to be had in America’s starriest state. Mammoth Lakes – so named for the size of its mountains and the numerous crystal clear lakes that dot them – is the ideal alternative for those who usually head east to Colorado’s more famous resorts. Comprised of two ski areas – Mammoth Mountain and the more family-friendly June Mountain – Mammoth Lakes offers 3,500 acres of skiable terrain and, at over 11,000 feet, the state’s highest chair lift accessible runs.
Off the slopes, Mammoth village boasts fine dining restaurants, plenty of bars for the traditional apes ski as well as a host of ski holiday essentials, including spas, shopping and even a cinema. It’s also bursting with luxury hotels and quaint B&B’s but, for the true Mammoth Lakes experience, we’d recommend booking a mountain chalet. Board the vintage snowcat shuttle to be whisked 9,000 feet up the mountain to a cosy Alpine-style chalet that offers the ultimate in ski-in, ski-out convenience.
Already booked your holiday? Here’s what to wear on the slopes…
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