Can’t stand the heat? Swap an Aussie summer for a northern winter at some of the world’s top snow resorts, reports ski writer Penny Lequertier.
Steep ‘n deep
Jackson Hole, Wyoming USA
If you go to Jackson to be seen, you’ve taken a wrong turn. Situated in the western reaches of Wyoming, four hours from Salt Lake City, it doesn’t normally get day-trippers (but it does have its own airport).
What you will get in this part of the wild west is room to roam and some serious stats: 2,500 acres of inbound riding, 116 trails, summit elevation of 3,185m plus average annual snowfall of over 11m. With 50% of the terrain rated expert (only 10% for beginners), if that’s not enough, the backcountry gate system accesses an additional 3,000 acres of territory to explore. That’s a lot of free riding! No wonder it attracts pros like snowboarder Travis Rice and female ski ripper Lynsey Dyer. Up for the challenge? You’ll never know if you never go. jacksonhole.com
Although you miss that on-slope feel with the valley-based town, Innsbruck has enough to keep you entertained without ever hitting the slopes. To get that true alpine feel, jump on the Nordkettenbahnen gondola to Seegrubenbahn and watch the world go by in a 180° view restaurant. innsbruck.info/en
Les Trois Vallees, France
If you travel across oceans, you might want to do a bit more than just ski. Les Trois Vallees are a firm favourite for snow bunnies and shoppers — landing in Lyon conveniently gives you the perfect reason to sample one of the gastronomic capitals of the world. les3vallees.com/en
Aspen Snowmass, Colorado, USA
If you say “I’m heading downhill”, do you mean the hangover is setting in or you’re about to start a ski run? For the après skier, the Aspen Snowmass is currently cooling your champagne bottle. Yes, it’s synonymous with glitz and glamour, epic skiing across four mountains (including the second largest ski area in the USA) and parties (don’t miss the Cloud 9 dances amid showers of Veuve Clicquot), but it’s also much more than that. The original silver mining town is saturated in fascinating history and is home to a thriving local population, giving it a more authentic vibe than many purpose-made resorts. You don’t have to ski to enjoy the 100 bars and restaurants such as the Nobu Los Angeles offshoot Matsuhisa, and resort ambassador Neil Perry’s favourite, The White House. Top tip: eat at fancy restaurants but sit at the bar like the locals do and score almost 50% off the price. aspensnowmass.com
Sierra Nevada, Spain
If champion freestyle skier Danielle Scott had to choose the one ski resort she really loves, it would have to be Sierra Nevada. While she trains and competes at some of the world’s top resorts, this mountain range in Andalucia, Spain has won the title of her favourite.
One reason for the honour is that the snow is often pink, she told us. “The Sahara Desert deposits sand on the mountain in the storms that come through, and the snow is this pinky-brown colour,” a delighted Danielle said. “It’s quite strange, when you head straight up the mountain you expect white snow but, there’s pink snow.”
And there’s a lot more than just pink snow to Sierra Nevada. The lifestyle is what Danielle loves. “There’s little villages on the mountains with great restaurants. It’s such an incredible vibe. You go skiing and then you eat great food and relax.” sierranevada.co.uk
When it comes to the beauty pageant parade of ski resorts, it becomes clear that not all were created equal. If it’s the quintessential chocolate-box ski resort dripping in charm that you’re after, you can’t go past Zermatt. This is the place to ponder that five figure Vacheron watch while meandering the ancient spiral streets and car-free Bahnhofstrasse shopping street. At every turn the Matterhorn looms, beckoning like a crooked granite finger. A big appeal is that you don’t have to be an expert to appreciate the alpine air, with all the slopes accessed by gondolas and cable cars from town. Bunny slopes aren’t relegated to the foothills either — novices can enjoy the real alpine country of the Klein Matterhorn. The more experienced can cross a ridge (and the border) and ski down Italy’s Cervinia. Switzerland for breakfast, Italy for lunch… so James Bond. zermatt.ch/en
Telluride, Colorado, USA
Located at the end of a box canyon in the tall San Juan mountains, hippy Telluride is one of the prettiest locations on earth. The people here live slow and enjoy the simple things, like skiing in their lunch break — wouldn’t you if you lived in a town like this? visittelluride.com