The overseas ski holiday

The alternative to local snow is to wait until summer for the winter wonderlands of the northern hemisphere. Flip Byrnes reports.

It’s tempting — as much as we love the unique flavour of our home-grown ski resorts, skiing at home can cost a few gold bars. And while skiing overseas still won’t be a total bargain (there’s no cheap way around airfares except booking early), it’s seductive when considering you not only get to ski, but simultaneously experience a different culture and receive a more definite snow guarantee than on local slopes.

Here are three of the best schuss beyond our shores. The world is your snowflake.

Europe

A cultural melting pot where every new ski day can mean an entire new country; different runs, different food, different languages. If you like to play the field, this is the place to frolic.

Embrace touring and head to the Portes du Soleil, consisting of 13 interlink resorts straddling the Swiss/French border. Or head to Les Trois Vallées (The Three Valleys) of Courchevel, Meribel and Val Thorens ­— the high altitude of Val Thorens makes it one of the most reliable snow villages in Europe.

And of course, there is the chocolate box of a country, Switzerland, with over
4,000 peaks. Zermatt is one of the most beautiful (and expensive) resorts in the world. If you’re looking to save a few dollars (or euros), head to the smaller resorts in Andorra — the Spanish recession is doing travellers a lot of favours.

Canada

It’s big. It’s cold. It’s Canada. From the former Olympic venues of Whistler Blackcomb in the west, to the east where skiing is with a French Quebecois accent, there is snow to be tracked.

The biggest ski resort in all North America is Whistler Blackcomb, BC. It’s not a town: it’s a metropolis with a mountain attached. And what mountains! Both ski areas have glaciers at their higher reaches and runs moving down from open slopes into the forests.

But for a step up, British Columbia is also home to CMH heli-skiing, the largest heli-ski operation in the world. Fly into one of their 12 lodges for the best powder week you’ll ever have, guaranteed.

If you’re craving a small town with more heart and soul, seek Revelstoke or Fernie. Revelstoke is for the cool kids, and new in the ski world as the mountain area only opened in 2008. The only resort in North American to offer lift, cat, heli and backcountry skiing from one village base. If you’re after the backcountry style skiing, then this 1,263ha offers it all.

Japan

Japowder! What Japan lacks in bluebird ski days it makes up for in metres of powder.

There are some great advantages to skiing in Japan: a relatively short nine-hour flight, budget air carriers, minimal jet lag and fabulously good and impeccably polite people. It doesn’t boast the infrastructure of the USA or Canada or the diversity of Europe, but it’s become a firm Australian favourite.

Most Australians bee-line for Niseko, and while it has some of the best services, it doesn’t rate highly for culture immersion (although the nightlife in Hirafu is worth a mention).

Head off the beaten track to Furano or the historic Nozawa Onsen. Take a dip in their 13 onsens and stay in a traditional ryokan for the real Japanese deal.

Of course, if you did want to stay local, check out our Australia and New Zealand ski guide for this season. 


Flip Byrnes
You’re just as likely to find travel writer Flip Byrnes climbing in Iceland, snowboarding in Kashmir or trekking in Mongolia. For over 15 years she’s been going extra yards to provide unusual and off the beaten track pieces for media in Australia, Europe and the USA, hoping to inspire her readers to never stop exploring.