This week I realised that more often than not I am opening these chats to you with something along the lines of “suchandsuch has a travel dilemma of some kind”. And it really makes it sound as if we’re/ I’m talking about nothing much else but jumping on planes and heading off… whilst at the same time not doing a lot of jumping on planes! But this self awareness has not really brought about any change, as I am about to start the same way, by referencing a conversation I was involved with this week, started by the fateful sentence: “Have you booked your Ski Holiday Yet?”
Christmas decorations have been up in the big stores for about a month, so this shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me, but it did – maybe it’s the weather? It’s still so summery here. Anyway, I am definitely not the ski expert in the family, and while I have been staring misty-eyed at photos of New Zealand and Tuscany, our resident ski expert has come up with this shortlist for all of us to consider:
Courchevel 1650 – Skiing to Suit Everyone
Courchevel – where you can ski for miles! The runs are well groomed, the lift system is efficient and the views are bracingly beautiful. Courchevel 1850 is the St. Tropez of the alps, and has been since the end of the second World War, with two six-star hotels and eleven Michelin stars. But Courchevel 1650, just 200 metres down the hill, is family friendly and well priced with great, friendly restaurants and charming stone and wood chalets.
Where to Stay? For traditional-chalet-style accommodation and ski-in ski-out access in the Three Valleys, Le Portetta is hard to beat. Expect plenty of wood and numerous stone fireplaces, and 38 fairly generously proportioned rooms with private balconies – including some great family suites. The restaurant has an excellent reputation and you’re in a good spot for Courchevel’s buzz. Prices start from €200 per night B&B, and the six rooms on the top floor have incredible views.
Practical Details: Most people fly in via Geneva and then get a transfer or shuttle to the resort. Chambéry airport is closer but there are fewer flights. Alternatively you can catch the train all the way. The season runs between December and April.
Arosa – For Alpine Magic
Arosa has plenty of alpine magic. It could be the beautiful views, the setting, right beside an icy lake, the tinkling of the sleigh bells, the prevalence of fondu and raclette on menus, or the half-timbered chalets decorated with the traditional monochrome Graubünden designs. It’s also at the end of one of the world’s most spectacular rail journeys. And additionally, the sunshine and snow are pretty reliable and it’s fairly relaxed. Plus, when it comes to the skiing there’s access to a whopping 225kms worth of piste.
Where to Stay? The Valsana Hotel is a stylish, four-star hotel at the foot of the Swiss Alps, just far enough away to have views all the way from the bottom to the top. And you’re only a few minutes from the bottom of the mountains if you wanted to ski all the way home of an evening. The hotel has 49 rooms, decorated in a rustic, but design conscious manner, with oak floors and balconies with stunning views. There’s a great spa, with a gym and sauna, indoor pool and steam bath, and an excellent restaurant too. Rooms start from €365 per night B&B.
Practical Details: Zurich Airport is closest, and from there you can travel the last leg by road – or that highly recommended rail route. It takes about three hours, changing in Chur, but it’s totally worth it.
St Anton – For Après-ski
St Anton thinks of itself as the ‘cradle of Alpine skiing’ – whatever that means – and is known for its access to a huge skiable area, the reliability of its snowfall, and for its unrelenting après-ski. We’re not just talking about ice skating and sleigh rides, we’re talking curling, luge, high end retail therapy, an incredible selection of cuisines on offer in a long run of restaurants, and a bar or nightclub to suit everyone who wants to go out of an evening.
Where to Stay? St Anton’s Hotel Pete is a chic chalet in the centre of town with just six large rooms and an excellent Austrian cafe bar. The decor is contemporary, but still heavy on the birch and natural stone, there’s a glorious sun deck and a great spa and sauna. Rooms start from only €129 per night including breakfast.
Practical Details: St Anton is less than an hour’s drive from Innsbruck Airport, or two hours by road or rail from Zurich. They say their ski season lasts between December and April, and they have the snow-making equipment to make pretty good on their word.
Aosta Valley – For Peace and Dramatic Views
This spectacular region is one of the highest places in Europe. And where you’ll find Mont Blanc, one flank of the Matterhorn, Gran Paradiso and Monte Rosa, surrounded by a glacier-carved landscape and dotted with big name ski resorts like Courmayeur , La Thuile, Pila and Cervinia, and the ski-out city of Aosta. But you don’t have to stay in one of the resorts to ski here, the whole region is criss-crossed with lifts, runs and off-piste runs, and there’s a single pass giving you access to everything. This region is also known for its food, the best of which is also not cooked and served solely in the resorts or in Aosta.
Where to Stay? Le Coffret is a beautifully rustic, six room boutique hotel in the very heart of the Aosta Valley. Each of the rustic-chic rooms has its own shape and design, but they all have plenty of good features, aimed at making your stay comfortable – especially for those prone to aches and pains after long days in the mountains. Rooms start from €110 B&B per night.
Practical Details: The closest centre to Le Coffret is Saint Marcel, which is about 15minutes outside Aosta. There’s a range of options when it comes to travel: you can fly to Geneva, Milan Malpensa or Turin and catch trains and/or buses onwards, or catch the train all the way there in about 12hours ex-London. This resort is so high that snow tends to last well, and it can also expect early season snow.
Argentière – Chamonix Adjacent
Argentière offers many of the pleasures of Chamonix but in a smaller, quieter format. You’ve still access to the long ski runs much loved by winter sports enthusiasts from Olympic level downwards, the thrills of climbing the icy ravines of Mont Blanc, hurtling down La Vallée Blanche, the glamourous après-ski, and the chance to sip your beverage against an epic backdrop, but you’re just laying your head somewhere further from the Mont Blanc road tunnel. For many people the highlight of a visit to Chamonix is the view from the Aiguille du Midi cable car, as you head towards perpendicular cliffs. For some it’s the view from the top of Mont Blanc, a breathtaking vista of Alps. Another favourite is the chocolate box view of Mont Blanc as it towers above, but you might just love any view at the start of one of Chamonix’s myriad of long, long runs.
Where to Stay? The Hotel Les Grands Montets is a four-star chalet in a wonderful spot for classic views of Mont Blanc. The hotel has 42 rooms and suites, all of them spacious and well laid out, and the decor is rustic and alpine – with modern touches. This is a great base for skiers, but also for walkers and cyclists – during the summer. Rooms start from €212 per night including breakfast.
Practical Details: Geneva is the best airport to fly into, with an excellent shuttle service and good road and rail options.
Hotel Guru has commissioned a collection of leading travel writers and journalists to offer their recommendations on where to stay, found out all the important, and minute, details about each property, and then cross referenced that with guides we respect. So if having a hot tub is important to you you can search by that, likewise pet-friendly properties and hotels with a great wine list.