As the sun burns across crystal clear skies, babes in fur and men in spandex (and vice versa) swish and zoom down trails of fresh powder. At the end of the day, a pit stop at the lodge for microbrews, hot toddies or Champagne, before retreating to some quaint village for unwinding and romance by the fireplace. And then you wake up the next morning to do it all over.
These 10 mountains and resorts are where you need to spend your winter. From November through April – even into May – the world’s best mountains are alive with snow. Go to them now! OK, book your flight and pack first.
ASPEN COLORADO, USA
Aspen is its own world, where billionaires and ski bums live harmoniously. The town is the requisite quaint but also jetsetter sophisticated, with world-class food and wine lists, and full of the beautiful people. Kevin Costner loves Aspen so much he told Vanity Fair he wants to be buried there. So, you know, there’s that.
The fresh powder, about 175 inches per year of it, tends to fall overnight, so early risers ride the gondola with the locals to race down untouched snow under gorgeous blue skies.
“Aspen’s 700 acres is like skiing down a multi-flavored ice cream cone,” says John Clendenin, a two-time world freestyle champion who now teaches skiing in Aspen. He prefers Ridge of Bell. “It’s one of the most famous runs in America because it’s one of the longest, biggest, roundest bumps and it’s right under a chairlift. If you’re an advanced skier, it’s a great run to show off.”
When you hang up the skis for the day, go spend a small fortune at any of the art galleries, designer boutiques or fantastic restaurants. The busiest time of year is during Christmas when the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport is rumored to have nearly 200 private jets in its hanger.
Aspen isn’t ideal for families, it’s better for singles looking for new friends, and couples wanting to ski hard by day and party harder by night.
Little Nell: Located at the base of the gondola, Aspen’s only true ski-in, ski-out property is also the town’s only AAA 5-Diamond hotel and has been attracting the world’s most elite of the eliterati since 1989. That’s very elite. thelittlenell.com
The Aspen Grand Hyatt: With full kitchens, outdoor hot tubs, and a fire pit, why even leave? But if you do, it’s just a quick walk to the gondola. aspen.hyatt.com
Shlomo’s Deli & Grill: At the base of Ajax Mountain where locals chill with the rich, over potato latkes and matzah ball soup. Oy yeah! shlomosaspen.com
L’Hostaria: Hearty Northern Italian food (like risotto with truffle butter and Parmesan) will go down well after a long day skiing. hostaria.com
WHISTLER BLACKCOMB BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA
As Mark Twain once said about England, Whistler lives by the saying: “If you don’t like the weather, wait a few minutes.” Being near the Pacific Ocean makes Whistler’s weather unpredictable, but this joint still receives an average of 456 inches of snow per year! While you wait, grab a pint of Faceplant Winter Ale and mingle with the locals in the village. British freestyle skier and Olympian Rowan Cheshire says, “With Whistler you can always mooch around and relax. Canadians are really nice and welcoming so it’s always a good time.”
The Rockies have diverse terrain and double black runs, massive bowls and challenging verticals for the most experienced thrill-seeker. Whistler Blackcomb is the single largest resort in North America and with over 200 trails, there is a run for every skill level. “It’s a good year-round place. It’s beautiful!” says Cheshire. “It’s peaceful.”
Whistler boasts the second highest and steepest vertical in North America after Revelstoke, British Columbia, and with 50 degree elevation runs with names like Exhilaration and Excitation, you better not imbibe too much otherwise you’ll be experiencing your own faceplants. A new gondola now connects peak-to-peak – Whistler and Blackcomb resorts – a nearly three-mile ride over mountains, the longest in the world.
Fairmont Chateaux Whistler: North America’s largest ski-in, ski-out resort believes “the world is not flat, ski it” so you should; then return from the slopes to this five-star hotel, which also offers glacier skiing. fairmont.com/whistler
Bearfoot Bistro: Any place that promotes the sport of Champagne bottle sabering – along with a menu combining Canadian with international delicacies – is worth checking out. bearfootbistro.com
SUMMIT COUNTY COLORADO (Breckenridge, Copper, Keystone), USA
“Colorado is the epicenter of park skiing,” says Nick Goepper, who won bronze in freeski slopestyle at the 2014 Sochi Games. “Breckenridge has one of the best parks in the world. It’s consistently world-class every single year.”
Summit County, Colorado is made up of five mountains, but Breckenridge, Copper and Keystone mountains and it’s 353 inches of snow are where you want to head. The steepest drop is a gut-wrenching 3,400 feet in Breckenridge, aka Brecken-fridge for its Arctic temperatures, and boasts the highest ski resort high-speed chairlift in the world taking you to the gateway of more than 2,900 acres of skiable mountain, but there are options for skiers who are just learning to use the towrope. Keystone is the largest of the three and possibly the most fun with night skiing and tubing. Copper is a smaller resort and is often hailed as Colorado’s perfect ski mountain, with beginner to expert runs.
“Everyone goes there from all over the world and bases themselves there,” says Goepper. “There’s always a cool international presence of pros and amateurs.”
Rowan Cheshire, while training for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, says she loves the relaxed atmosphere of Colorado. “You can go into Denver [90 minutes] to shop and stay in Frisco [15 minutes], a really chill town near the parks. Get a bunch of people and rent a house and just get into it.”
One Ski Hill Place: This is the one place to ski on the hill with luxury condos at the base of Peak 8 and a quick gondola ride away from town. oneskihill.rockresorts.com
HearthStone: It’s game time inside the 125-year-old Kaiser House! Feast on elk, duck, Colorado lamb with a side of sunsets over the mountain you just skied. hearthstonebreck.com
The Himalayan Mountains have been around for about half a billion years, but Manali is a cool throwback ski town in northern India that few skiers know about. And the best way to tackle these mountains, according to Brad Vancour, principal skier for the immortal Warren Miller ski films, is by helicopter.
“Any great skier that has not skied the Himalayas by helicopter needs to put this on their bucket list to say they lived a complete life,” says Vancour. “Nothing compares to heli-skiing in the Himalayas. The mountains dwarf anything you see in North America.”
Skiing takes place between high-valley floors around 8,800 feet and ridges at over 15,000 feet, so high, you are at the limit of the helicopter’s threshold.
Manali is the spot for deep reflection both on and off the mountain. Hot springs, temples, art galleries, Tibetan monasteries, the Manali bazaar and many other fantastic cultural delights are there to add a very exotic touch to what is genuinely the ski experience of a lifetime.
Span Resort & Spa: Thirty-six cottages offer stunning views of the mountains in a serene setting including the Span Suite, whose ceilings are made of wood, giving you that true chalet feeling. spanresorts.com
Il Forno: So what if you’re 3,500 miles from Italy. We all love Italian food and wood-fired pizza. And this restaurant, set in a lodge circa 1860, is accessible via rickshaw. You gotta amore that! ilforno.co.in
VAL D’ISÈRE FRANCE
“When you go to the top of Val, you can ski 20 miles in both directions and you don’t have to be a great skier to do it,” exclaims Clendenin. “They have all types of runs.”
Some consider it the greatest ski resort in the world. Val d’Isère is situated in the heart of the French Alps and received 252 inches of snow in 2016. It’s two hours from the Geneva airport and the village stands at a respectable 6,000 feet, with top slopes at an altitude of nearly 11,000 feet, beneath the summit of the Pointe du Montet. Linked to neighboring Tignes to form a ski area of 186 miles of pistes and 94 lifts, the French resort offers high-quality, snow-sure slopes for all skill levels.
The state-of-the-art Solaise gondola, with 91 roomy cabins, complete with heated seats and Wi-Fi makes the mountain more accessible in just seven minutes An elegant winter town, Val d’Isère has a strictly-enforced no parking policy on the town’s roads and mature trees line the main street where cars once parked.
“It’s the most badass Alps mountains you can possibly be on,” says Clendenin.
Hotel Avenue Lodge: Relax in style in this beautifully designed boutique hotel situated in the center of the French Alps, complete with antlers floating over the pool. You read that correctly, although we don’t know why antlers float over the pool. hotelavenuelodge.com
Auberge Saint Hubert: For the best regional Savoie delicacies, including the best raclette (cheese fondu). auberge-sthubert.com
CORTINA D’AMPEZZO ITALY
Ernest Hemingway lived here and the Bond film For Your Eyes Only was shot here. Cortina, known as the Queen of the Dolomites – or Dolomiti as the Italians call this range of pinkish-orange exposed rocky crags – also hosted the 1956 Winter Olympics. As if you needed inspiration to visit the Southern Alps.
The only way in and out is by car and if you are famed World Cup Alpine skier Alberto Tomba, affectionately known as “La Bomba”, you can drive your Ferrari into town every morning at 5 a.m. and take a private helicopter to the slopes when you arrive.
One-hundred-thirty inches of snow falls on Cortina’s 70 miles of trails and 6,624-foot vertical drop. For you ski fanatics who want to traverse the entire Dolomiti range, opt for the Dolomiti Super Ski Pass, which gives you access to over 740 miles of trails.
Hotel De La Poste: Live la dolce vita in a hotel that rents out the perfectly preserved Hemingway room, where the author slept during his visits in the 1950s. delaposte.it
El Brite de Larieto: You won’t be able to select the cow where your beef comes from, but it was nearby, as all of the ingredients for every elegant dish can be found right outside, truly epitomizing farm-to-table. elbritedelarieto.it
ST. ANTON AM ARLBERG AUSTRIA
Dating back to the 14th century, the sport is said to have been born in the Cradle of Alpine skiing. Between Zurich and Innsbruck, the village of St. Anton is in the Tyrolean Alps and its 433 inches of snow and dramatic terrain makes these mountains perfect. St. Anton has hosted the World Alpine Skiing World Championships and is a huge space for endless skiing: 335 miles of marked runs and 124 miles off-piste accessed by 94 lifts.
“It’s a gigantic ski area connected to a variety of other towns and resorts and you can ski from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and then take a bus home,” says Podborski who represented Canada in the FIS World Cup in 1981 and returns often. “They have a superb interconnect above the tree line. You can’t possibly do it all.”
Ski halfway down the mountain to have coffee or grappa with a sheepherder and then fly down to the village to your cozy pensione or hotel suite.
“There are crazy on-mountain clubs or you can have a fine dinner with only four tables or go to places with people dancing on tables,” says Podborski of the lively après-ski scene.
Himmlhof: It’s cozy. It’s homey. It’s the best hotel in town. himmlhof.com
Mooserwirt: For dancing on tabletops and endless beer, this is the best après-ski experience you are going to find in Austria. Plus they claim their spare ribs are cultish. Where do we sign up? mooserwirt.at
VERBIER SWITZERLAND & CHAMONIX FRANCE
This is one hair-raising ski area. The slopes of Verbier in Switzerland are only an hour and a half from Chamonix in France, and you can get the Mont Blanc Unlimited lift pass, which will let you ski both.
Verbier, located two hours from Geneva, is in Switzerland’s largest ski area and gets about 330 inches of snow a year. It is a sunny, scenic location with exciting terrain and a lively nightlife, which has long attracted youthful, sporty travelers.
“The skiing is unbelievable,” says Podborski. “You have super steep runs and lots of small narrow areas with chutes with deep snow and after you have a typical Swiss village complete with nightclubs that pound all night long – it’s really superior.”
While there are many beginner and intermediate runs, there is also extreme skiing. “You can literally jump off the edges of cliffs and [glide] down in Verbier.”
Chamonix, the birthplace of modern and perhaps extreme skiing, is part of the Mont Blanc mountain range, Europe’s highest, and it’s just massive. It is not one ski area but five regions, spread along both north and south sides of the valley with steep verticals. Hopefully you make it down from the 12,678-foot summit (one trail is 13 miles long and has a vertical drop of over 9,000 feet) in one piece to participate in the legendary après-ski scene, and take in the absolute majesty of Mont Blanc.
Verbier: La Cordée des Alpes, a mix of vintage ski design and the latest Swiss chic at the foot of the mountain: hotelcordee.com
Chamonix: Hameau Albert, at the foot of the mountain with a killer indoor/outdoor pool: hameaualbert.fr
Verbier: La Grange is fine if you’ve got the time. We hear it’s tight almost ev’ry night! No word however if they have a lot of nice girls. lagrange.ch
Chamonix: Le Vagabond bar where the fire roars warmly and the buzz from ski day and that third beer last long into the night: gitevagabond.com
KITZBÜHEL AUSTRIA (The Hahnenkamm)
“The most famous downhill in the world is Hahnenkamm,” says Clendenin.
Since opening the mountain in 1893, skiing has taken place here at the foot of the Hahnenkamm in the Kitzbühel Alps, 60 miles from Innsbruck.
“It feels like running a rapids in a river,” continues Clendenin. “It’s steep and long and on the world downhill racing tour, the Hahnenkamm downhill is considered the most badass – it just feels like a great skiing.”
With 111 miles of perfectly groomed slopes beginners and experts alike can explore this fantasy European ski trip destination.
“It’s not only about the skiing, it’s about the town,” says Podborski, who won two World Cup downhill races at the Hahnenkamm (1981–82).
The town of Kitzbühel is a medieval village where modern day debauchery abounds. “It is a walled town and within the walled town the casinos, the bars, the clubs, do not need to close. I’ve seen guys come out of clubs in their ski boots from the night before.”
Weisses Roessl: Sleep and eat at the 5-star hotel at the edge of the old town then pamper yourself at its 10,000-square-foot spa. roesslkitz.at
The Londoner Pub: Eat and drink where the athletes who win the races all go. londoner.at
FERNIE BRITISH COLUMBIA
Fernie Alpine Resort, near the town of Fernie, is in interior British Columbia, three-and-a-half hours from the Calgary airport. Being in the heart of Canada means special powder and consistently good skiing.
Laid-back and rural, Fernie features five large bowls and a terrain park where die hards can ski off-piste including steep bowls and various backcountry options. At Island Lake Lodge next door, you can sign up for Caterpillar skiing. Day trips on the backs of CATS daring you and your skis up impossible steeps and tree skiing.
Steep and full of powder with annual average of 350 inches of snowfall, Fernie is very inexpensive and has a hippie vibe. Discover polite and chill Canadians (there really isn’t another kind) just enjoying the beauty of their home here.
Island Lake Lodge: For CAT-skiers this is the place: islandlakecatskiing.com
Lizard Creek Lodge: Experience mountain chic at the foot of the resort which offers vodka tastings at its ice bar. lizardcreek.com
Yamagoya: Perfect fusion sushi and hot sake to warm skier’s bellies. yamagoya.ca