Six ski alternatives to the Alps
Break out of the Alpine bubble this winter and try skiing somewhere new. Travel expert Sophie Pither suggests a number of snowsport destinations that you may never have considered.
1. Hemsedal, Norway
It may sound like an Ikea shelf, but Hemsedal is a collection of intermediate-friendly ski runs on three peaks in Norway’s picturesque Hallingdal Mountains. The advantages here are the friendly, civilised nature of, well, everything; the fact that everyone speaks English; and the guaranteed snow from November to April. You could also try the country’s favourite sport, cross-country skiing. To warm the cockles, why not try Aquavit - the local super-strength spirit and traditional post-ski tipple.
Nearest airport: Fagernes (1hr 30min drive)
More info: www.ski-norway.co.uk/resorts/hemsedal/
2. Saint-Lary, French Pyrenees
It’s easy to forget the Pyrenees when the Alps get Europe’s ski fanfare, but the French-Spanish border range offers 38 ski resorts. Saint-Lary village is a charming spot at the foot of the slopes, four minutes’ walk from the cable car up to Saint Lary Pla d’Adet at 1,700m, with 360° views of the Pyrenees from the very top, at 2,400m. There is more than 100km of groomed slopes for all levels, including foresty runs and a renowned freestyle snowpark, plus tasty European fare. Après ski can mean taking a dip in the rejuvenating thermal spas, as well as a glass or two of vin chaud.
Nearest airport: Tarbes-Lourdes-Pyrenees (1hr drive)
More info: www.saintlary.com/winter/domaine-skiable-english
3. Bansko, Bulgaria
Bansko is a rustic town with a pretty centre at the foot of the Pirin Mountains. In the past 15 years it has become a thriving ski resort, with new lifts and some swanky accommodation near the main gondola. The draw is its great value compared to almost everywhere in the Alps. Best for beginners and intermediates, Bansko also offers good off-piste for powder addicts. Goulash, mezze and rakia, the local fruit brandy, at a traditional mehana inn are the go-to après-ski choices.
Nearest airport: Sofia (2hr drive)
More info: www.bulgariaski.com/bansko/
4. Cairngorms, Scotland
Cairngorm Mountain, above Aviemore, is your best bet for snow in Britain, with more of the white stuff staying put for longer than elsewhere in Scotland. The funicular railway up is handy where there’s a cosy bowl for beginners, and a mix of mostly easy runs, plus a couple of intermediates, with about 30km of skiing in total. Go midweek between February and April (avoiding half-term) and you may be alone on home snow with rolling white views. Try the log fire-warmed Old Bridge Inn for après ski nosh and live Scottish music.
Nearest airport and station: Inverness (45min drive)
More info: www.cairngormmountain.org
5. Kicking Horse, Canada
A newish resort out in the wilds of British Columbia, Kicking Horse boasts four bowls offering outrageously dramatic views of the Rockies. People love North American skiing for its super-organised atmosphere, and here you also get dramatic long descents, great guides, excellent heli-skiing and a laid-back, friendly après scene at the resort. Try the excellent Eagles’ Eye restaurant, at the top of the main gondola, for lunch and dinners at the weekend.
Nearest airport: Calgary (3hr drive)
More info: http://kickinghorseresort.com
6. Park City Mountain Resort, USA
This has been America’s largest ski area since 2015, when Park City and nearby Canyons were fused into a single resort, joined by a gondola. With 300 trails you’ll not be bored, whatever your level – and it’s also great for boarders. Park City itself still has a touch of the American Wild West about it. The resort is run highly efficiently, with three bases to choose from for accommodation, plenty of all-American dining choices and, if you’re here in January, the Sundance Film Festival.
Nearest airport: Salt Lake City (45min drive)
More info: www.parkcitymountain.com
Please be aware that the recommendations expressed by the independent writers are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Benenden. Benenden is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by writers and accepts no liability. You should bear in mind that information is subject to change and what may have been accurate at the time of posting, may not necessarily remain so.
Don’t forget to make sure your travel insurance covers the activity you choose. Benenden Travel Insurance is available at a 15% discount to members. Find out more here.