Best Ski Destinations in the World
Take a second and close your eyes. Now, imagine you’re gliding down a glorious mountain of fresh powder, the crisp air hugging your cheeks. You’re making your way through the moguls to a group of seasoned snow bunnies lounging in the ski lodge, where an endless supply of irish coffee or hot chocolate awaits you. What are you waiting for? It’s prime time for ski season, so pack your bags and head to one of the best ski destinations in the world! From classic Colorado to newbie New Zealand, here are the top ten peaks you should be descending.
Slopes: These generally boast a spot on the top of skiers lists; Aspen summons “The Power of Four” and offers over 5,300 acres of powder packed land between its four destinations, Snowmass, Buttermilk, Aspen Mountain (Ajax) and Aspen Highlands. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, Aspen offers a perfectly groomed slope for all abilities.
Scene: If Hollywood had a residence in the snow, Aspen would be it. Home to some of the priciest real estate on earth, Aspen is peerless for its top of the line dining, boutique shopping and noteworthy nightlife. You’ll have plenty to do even if you’re not a skier, just be sure to dress the part.
Save: The Aspen Meadows Resort is the perfect place to relax and recharge while surrounded by stunning views of the Colorado Rockies.
Savor: Opened in December, The Grey Lady, a trendy New England seafood style restaurant serves up delicious surf ‘n turf along with innovative cocktails with names like “The Master Cleanse.” Perhaps one of Aspen’s best-kept secrets, Annette’s Bake Shop is simply not to be missed. This local hole in the wall is super cozy and the homemade soups, sandwiches, and specials will surely hit the spot after a long day of skiing.
Taos, New Mexico
Slopes: Taos Ski Valley’s new owner, billionaire Louis Bacon happens to be an avid outdoorsman and dedicated conservationist, and he’s making more than sure his mountain offers a top-notch experience for top-notch skiers. Taos operates one of the finest ski schools in the country, and its students have more than one double black diamond option on the way down. When clear blue skies shine down on the rest of the southwest, Kachina Peak, at 12,481 feet, is often experiencing a snowstorm.
Scene: A bit bohemian with a dash of European, smothered in green chile. Nightlife might not be the main event in Taos, but there are plenty of art galleries to explore along with interesting individuals to chat with by the fire.
Save: Rooms at the American Artists Gallery House start at around $100 and offer an unforgettable and authentic New Mexican experience.
Savor: Many on-mountain restaurants in the area try the European classic ski-town thing, like the Bavarian Lodge and Restaurant, which offers ski-in/ski-out convenience while serving up old world specialties like Sauerbraten and Wienerschnitzel amidst the backdrop of Kachina. If you’re looking for something more authentic, try the Stray Dog Cantina, which serves up green chili cheeseburgers and other northern New Mexican staples. Be sure to head to Cafe Naranja at the Edelweiss for breakfast.
Park City, Utah
Slopes: The U.S. Ski Team doesn’t call Park City home for nothing. Park City Mountain Resort receives fresh powder almost daily and the nearby Solitude Mountain Resort offers 1200 acres with 66 runs and an incredible off-piste terrain. Whether you’re a skier or boarder, expert or beginner, there’s a slope in Park City with your name on it.
Scene: Want a little cinema with your ski? When January hits, the hipsters and movie stars head out for The Sundance Film Festival that’s exactly what you’ll get. With plenty of options and local favorites, the bar scene is vibrant and perfect for sophisticated couples while there are also plenty of options for families.
Save: Chateau Apres is a great choice with a homey feel. Choose from dormitory style accommodations or book your own apartment. If you’re headed to Solitude, the 4th day/night of skiing and accommodation is free if you book 3 days.
Savor: Chimayo, a local favorite since 1996, serves a savory Southwestern menu. Zoom is worth a visit, the celebrity favorite serves up down-home American comfort foods in a renovated train station. Silver is a delicious option with a focus on local ingredients served in an East Coast atmosphere complete with a DJ spinning in the lounge.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Slopes: In 2014, Jackson Hole received 500 inches of snow. We can’t wait to see what 2015 will bring. It’s considered one of the “last of the Old West” and the snow is known by some as “cowboy” powder. The combination of perfect mountain conditions and 2500 acres of diverse runs for all levels make Jackson Hole one of the world’s favorite skiing destinations.
Scene: From hiking, biking and fishing activities in the great outdoors to the spicy après-ski margaritas at the Mangy Moose Saloon, Jackson Hole is full of microbreweries, live music, hearty food and cocktails, and an authentic down home American good time. The resort also hosts an admission free lifestyle and music festival Jackson Hole Rendezvous that will commence March 20-22nd this year.
Splurge: The Four Seasons is an obvious choice. The hotel recently announced a 3 million dollar renovation complete with new Four Season beds, new wallpaper, paint, and carpet and signature Cache Creek Apothecary products for the sparkling new bathrooms.
Save: There are plenty of hostels available and the Inn at Jackson Hole is a great moderate choice. The Chamber of Commerce also offers plenty of assistance in helping guests find their perfect place.
Savor: Chef Ryan Brogan has been serving up a selection of delicious pub food at local favorite Snake River Brewing since 1994. From the pizza dough to the fresh bread, nearly everything is handmade and reasonably priced. For a fantastic wine selection and bites of crab cream cheese stuffed mushrooms and fresh Idaho rainbow trout, head to the Blue Lion.
Whistler, British Columbia
Slopes: When Whistler has snow, you’d almost rather be here than in Aspen, Taos or anywhere else in the world. Home to the mile-long vertical, Whistler Blackcomb boasts 8,100 acres of incredibly groomed terrain that any worthy skier should experience at least once.
Scene: You might be looking for some classy live piano music or a relaxed pool game, at or what about attempting to beat the champagne sabering world record at the Bear Hut Bistro? Perhaps you’d prefer to spend some time in the Belvedere Ice Room? After the ski there’s the après-ski, and in Whistler there are plenty of options for everyone.
Save: With a simple search online, you can always find a good deal at the Summit Lodge and Spa.
Savor: A leader in the farm-to-table movement, Araxi Restaurant and Bar is nestled in the heart of the village’s main square and boasts a lively lounge and sleek raw bar. Crepe Montangne is a local favorite and serves up deliciously affordable crepes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy
Slopes: Italy may not win the world’s best snow award, but nothing beats a classical Italian town. Sixty-two percent of the 101 downhill runs are intermediate level, with the main expert slopes being closed some of the time due to snow conditions. Nonetheless, the enchanting views and magical pink-tinted dusk draw visitors back year after year.
Scene: Après-ski is relaxed, classy, and quintessentially Italian. Beautiful scenery and plenty of people watching are the main attractions along the cobbled Corso Italia. There are plenty of activities such as shopping, a visit to the planetarium, ice skating, bobsledding and ice polo that are perfect for families, and definitely don’t miss the disco dancing at the rink!
Savor: The culture and cuisine of Italy are worth a trip even without the skiing. Stop by the Enoteca wine bar and try one (or five!) of their 700 wines or head to one of the 9 piano bars. Enjoy the dolce vita via the wide ranged menu at Rifugio Copanna Tondi or enjoy a nice dinner at Baita son dei Prade.
Slopes: Right up there with Aspen, Zermatt is set against the backdrop of three individual mountains. It’s one of those places that any dedicated skier has to travel to at least once. Ski season stretches from late November to early May, and there are plenty of options for both intermediate and expert skiers. The lift system is regarded as the most sophisticated in the world, including a high-speed underground cable railway.
Scene: If you’d planned on heading back to your hotel room for a quiet night, you came to the wrong village! Start your après ski off on the ski deck with a cold pint and some appetizers and then head to the village where you can choose from dozens of bars and nightclubs. There are plenty of young couples and fun groups of friends to put back some pints with or, why not enjoy a folklore concert or theater in town?
Splurge: A contemporary interpretation of the traditional mountain lodge, The Omnia is a gorgeous choice. If you’re looking for more classical luxury, Hotel Monte Rosa or its sister hotel, Mont Cervin Palace, are the places to go. Neither will disappoint.
Save: The newly remodeled Testa Grigia is a right on the main street and the quiet family run Hotel Alphubel welcomes guests with a free three-course dinner, you really can’t beat that.
Savor: Try a traditional rösti atn Vis a Vis or take in the awesome view at Panorama Self, both located at the Gornergrat Hotel. Café du Pont also makes a great rösti and awesome fondue. Restaurant Stafelalp is perfectly post at 2200 meters and serves up a selection of meat dishes including their family farm raised lambs. There are also many affordable options for families. Fluhalp offers delicious portions that satisfy both your stomach and your wallet.
St Anton, Austria
Slopes: Snow is almost always guaranteed at St Anton, and even if it’s a bit dry one season 59 percent of the slopes are equipped with snow making machines. St Anton offers a variety of expert & off-piste (backcountry) skiing. A free “ski bus” offers rides to the 116 kilometers of groomed skiing and 41 kilometers of cross-country trails.
Scene: Crazy good skiing, crazy good partying. St Anton is not known for being low key after the ski, and parties go from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. You’ll even find après bars on the piste and next to the lifts where you can enjoy a quick break between slopes with a few beers. Après skiing in Austria is like nothing you’ll experience anywhere else.
Splurge: If you’re looking to splurge, definitely go the chalet route. St Anton probably has more chalets than all of Austrian ski resorts combined. Skiers can rely on Esprit Ski or Inghams to help find the perfect chalet for the trip. Esprit even offers childcare. Hotel-wise, check out the luxurious Hotel Montana.
Save: Haus Steffeler is a cozy bed and breakfast that has been family- owned for generations. The bed and breakfast starts at around 75 Euros a night and offers guests use of a small wellness center with sauna for after ski relaxation.
Savor: Sit on the romantic terrace or rally the crew around one of the large wooden tables indoors at Hozpis Alm. A local legend, the place may look like a regular old chalet on the outside, but once you’re inside, you’ll experience the gourmet seafood offerings and be sure to slide, yes slide, down to Adi Werner’s wine cellar. The Museum is another classic. St Anton’s tapas bars are also a great way to enjoy a light lunch in between runs, try Bodega. The Skiing Buddha offers delicious and well priced Thai.
Slopes: Niseko has received awards for best powder, best off-piste terrain, not to mention best overall resort in Japan as awarded by Powder Hounds. The resort offers a variety of slopes for both skiers and boarders of all levels and receives an average of 15-16 meters of fresh power per season. Heli-skiing is even offered by the Hokkaido Backcountry Club.
Scene: Many Australians and Westerners make their way to this resort that used to be a hidden gem and has been called the “Aspen of the East.” There are tons of activities including shopping and a colorful nightlife scene in the Hirafu Village.
Splurge: The Vale is a 5-star hotel that features ski-in/ski-out accommodations in the best location and Ki Niseko has a fabulous Onsen (hot springs) perfect for soaking in after a long day on the mountain.
Save: There are a few Japanese style pensions that are very affordable, as well as hostels like the Hirafu Backpackers. A great mid-range option is hiring a house or cottage with Jindabyne or Ginsetsu.
Savor: Head on a culinary journey with 3-Star Michelin Chef Hiroshi Nakamichi at the Asperges Hanazono or visit the 1-Star Kimimura that both serve fine French cuisine. Soba noodles at Rakuichi Soba’s are a must.
Mt Hutt, New Zealand
Slopes: More under-developed, raw, and divergent than the pristine slopes of Europe, New Zealand’s ski scene is quite simply, different. Mt Hutt offers some of the best snow conditions, lift infrastructure and racing slopes in all of NZ, and receives an average of 4 meters of snow per season over the 902 acres. On a clear day at the summit, you can take in a panoramic view that spans from the Pacific Ocean to the Southern Alps.
Scene: Mt Hutt is the perfect place to bring the family and experience a laid-back ski vacation.
Splurge: Mt. Hutt is located about half hour from Methven, and while there are no on-mountain accommodations, there are luxurious options to be found at the Terrace Downs Resort. It’s always an option to rent a cottage via Whitestone Cottages, or stay at the facilities of local photographer Bill and his artist wife Cheryl, where they offer short term self contained apartment rentals at their Methven property.
Save: The Methven Motels and Apartments offer clean and modern units to call home base just 5 minutes away from the town center and a half hour drive to Mt Hutt.
Savor: Fresh vegetables, meat, and poultry grown in the Canterbury region might be enough to make foreigners feel right at home. For a more luxurious dining experience try Hunter’s Steakhouse at Terrace Downs or the Aqua Japanese Restaurant and Takeaways.