2 years, 9 months ago
Whether you’re praying for early powder and monitoring the ways of El Niño like a lovesick yeti or you’re more of a few runs after lunch and a lot of après-ski type skier, the 2015 European ski season is almost upon us. France and Austria are looking very good again this year for all-round value – Austria’s just nudging ahead with best priced passes and the higher French resorts are already predicting snow. Cervinia continues its ascent to greatness on the less expensive Italian side of the Matterhorn with fantastic snowboarding and connections to Zermatt, if you need them. And quite a few Andorran resorts have upgraded to outstanding recently but are still managing to work a budget, especially for families. Can’t wait? Here are some ideas to get interested in right now.
Okay, that’s overstating it a bit. But this October, several major resorts will already have opened lifts and tidied up the mountain bars by the time you read this. Obviously they all work a close relationship with serious glaciers and you might have to share the odd run with a National Ski Team in training. But if you can cope with that and keep your envy in check, you’ll be well rewarded with lower costs and fewer crowds. Europe’s official ski season doesn’t start until the end of November so that’s when it’s more difficult to find a bargain and it’s all reliably busy. Tignes in the French Alps has the Grand Motte Glacier and pretty much guarantees early snow – it’s also one of the top all-year-round ski destinations now so won’t feel like a ghost-resort, even in October. The World Cup Races 2015 start Sölden’s season on the 24th of this month. So you can ski the legendary Rettenbach Glacier yourself, be inspired to greatness and admire the grandeur – the new James Bond movie, Spectre, is due to film on these spectacular mountains in December. And if you aren’t completely convinced about late Autumn snow, put Innsbruck on standby. The gorgeous capital of Tirol is close to Stubaier Gletscher, Austria’s highest ski area, and if they’re exaggerating about good runs in October, you can always play in the city instead.
Skiing at Christmas is high-season, so not a budget break. But as far as unforgettable magic goes, nothing comes close. Apart from the certainty of snow on the big day itself, pick the right resort this year and you can have more jingle bell, fir tree, twinkly light, sleigh ride, Santa Claus enchantment than anyone has the right to expect. And children quite like it too, we’re told. If your heart’s set on good old-fashioned gorgeousness think Haute-Savoie and specifically, Megève. It’s not short on glittery – they decorate the town tree with Swarovski crystals – but it’s piled high with quaint Christmas tradition too and couldn’t be more cutesy Alpine village. Another French Alp resort with a well-deserved reputation for charm is Les Gets. It’s now the best family ski-resort in France and really goes overboard at Christmas when it’s all about kids with everything from chocolate factories and toy workshops to several very convincing Santas in residence – grown-ups have the magic of the Portes du Soleil ski area to get over-excited about.
One thing more reliable than snow on the Matterhorn, is the high cost of skiing in Switzerland. But take a look at Interlaken this year and you might be pleasantly surprised. The lovely Swiss resort in the Jungfrau Mountains with stunning views of Eiger and a ludicrous amount of Alpine prettiness has been capitalising on its natural advantages during summer recently. The knock-on effect for skiers turns out to be better rates in winter than anyone’s used to in the land of mighty moguls and extreme off-piste. Another resort to think about in 2015 is Avoriaz. This Portes du Soleil legend is now completely car-free and getting about by snowcat, sled and horse-drawn sleigh is almost as appealing as the fabulous snow and serious skiing. And if a ski-break isn’t a ski-break without some luxe in the mix, Spain’s Baqueira Beret resort in the Pyrenees is enough hushed exclusivity to attract royalty, only without the overinflated prices of icons like Verbier and St. Moritz. But go soon, the secret’s already out.
Dedicated skiers probably don’t need to be reminded how good Garmisch-Partenkirchen is in January. But head for the Bavarian resort to play on December 31st and you wake up to the spectacular New Year Ski Jumping Tournament. Now over 60 years old, this thrilling event packs the resort and keeps celebrations going well into early 2016. Tignes in the French Alps is taking the party up the mountain for New Year with Europe’s highest Hogmanay dancefloor at 2100m. The resort’s also hosting another sensational European Snow Pride week in March – book ahead, this one just gets bigger and better every year. And Val Thorens, voted World’s Best Ski Resort 2014, is determined to hold on to the title with a packed season including Ski and Boarderweek 12th to 19th December and the annual ‘Val Tho Crazy Night’, all night, on December 31st.
All sounding good so far? Chances are you’re not alone in feeling the thrill of anticipation as late November looms ever nearer. So now’s the time to start making plans and booking accommodation – the gorgeous chalets for big groups of merrymaking skiers and Christmas focused families get snapped up fast, don’t say we didn’t tell you.