Defining the top ten ski resorts in the world is by no means a simple task. Naturally, different atmospheres, terrain and facilities appeal to different crowds, but if we really had to name our top ten, the following would probably make the list.
In no particular order....
1. Whistler Blackcomb, BC. Canada
No one is going to argue with you for putting Whistler on the list. The huge and varied terrain ensures that there’s something for absolutely everyone. Plus, the incredibly reliable snowfall means you will never go home disappointed. If you have never been to one of the major North American resorts, Whistler cannot fail but to impress. With 4,757 acres of ski-able area and over 250 km of piste, even compared to the French resorts it’s huge, and for this reason, it’s one of the few non-European resorts on the UK seasonaires’ bucket list.
From the snow-parks to the hidden jib courses and speed runs, it is a skier and snowboarder’s dream come true. What’s more, the highly efficient lift system will spoil you for life and have you fuming the next time you have to wait ten minutes for a lift in France.
2. Paradiski, Les Arcs, France
We’re careful here to state that it’s only in its entirety, that Paradiski makes its way into the top ten. While Les Arcs is itself an excellent resort, with an abundance of accommodation and almost doorstep connection to the Eurostar ski train, it’s only when you merge the location with Vallandry and La Plagne that you get all the points. Put the three resorts together and Paradiski becomes an immense, something-for-everyone resort.
The huge, wide sweeping pistes of 1800 and 2000 get you racing, sweeping tree lined runs in Vallandry calm the soul and the picturesque La Plangne runs will make you forget where you are. All of this means that even when it’s busy, you’ll have room to move. We rate Les Arcs over its not-so-close neighbour of Tignes / Val d’Isere because at Les Arcs the seasonaires and locals leave their attitudes down in the town. This makes the whole experience far more accessible for holidaymakers and learners alike.
3. Mayrhofen, Austria
Mayrhofen is many things to many people. Quite typical is the Tyrolean architecture and accommodation at smaller, family-run hotels. Untypically, it’s a place where chic skiers happily get roaring drunk on flaming Stroh with the roughest of snowboarders and carry the friendship back onto the mountain the next day.
The town is located on the village floor, from where the only way is up. This gives the resort a certain unifying quality not always found in Austria. The resort is at the very centre of the Tyrolean valley and with a quick ride up the valley, allows access to the Hintertux glacier and its all year round skiing and park riding. Mayrhofen has to be on the list because anyone who hasn’t been there is simply missing out on a crucial cultural experience.
4. Riksgransen, Sweden
Riksgransen just doesn’t play by the rules and it doesn’t care either. If you want to go skiing in June, head here. 200km north of the Arctic Circle, a little thing called summer doesn’t really put this place off, it just means that the lifts stay open until after 11pm. Yes, that’s right, midnight skiing without the motorway lights. Expect to reach the bottom of the piste a little sooner than expected but take consolation in the fact that you saw a reindeer on the way down.
Of course the downside to this is that it doesn’t open until February but there are plenty of other locations on the list to keep you occupied until then.
5. Vail. Co. USA
Similar to Whistler but on the other side of the dividing line, Vail is a purpose-made, pedestrianised North American resort with everything you could ever want. It’s the largest US resort and the most dependable US location for accessing back country skiing and challenging terrain. If you ever wanted to know what a cowboy looks like when skiing, Vail is the place to come. But don’t be too quick to judge, Vail is the preferred holiday home location of many of the US’s multi-millionaires. So, if you get cut up by a dude in sunglasses who tips his hat at you, don’t be offended. He might pick up your restaurant tab later on.
6. Hakuba 47, Honshu. Japan
While any serious Japanese skiing aficionado will tell you that the best skiing is in Hokkaido - and they’re right - Hakuba 47 is the Japanese contribution to the list for a number of reasons. Firstly, you can get there from Tokyo by train in about 90 minutes. And its vicinity to the capital makes it far more user friendly for foreign visitors who might not know the language. Next, its amazing snow conditions are unlike anything you’ll see in Europe or the Americas, with off-piste powder pillows perfect for Instagram junkies. There’s a small park with impressively large kickers and lots of steep pistes for those who want to race.
The only downside really is its size. If you stick to the piste, it’ll only last you a day, but after that, there’s always the local hot tub onsens to discover.
7. Zermatt, Switzerland
This is the place with The Matterhorn, which is probably the fantasy backdrop to every British person’s idea of a skiing holiday.
While Verbier is often named as a superior resort, Zermatt is directly connected to the Italian resort of Cervinia. So in addition to excellent skiing and dramatic imagery, you get to ask your companions if they fancy meeting in Italy for lunch without any hint of sarcasm.
Again, no respectable skier wants to admit they’ve never been here. You’re certainly missing out if you haven’t.
8. Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy
Staying with the Italian theme, we’re sure you’ve heard of Cortina. Nestled in the Dolomites, this resort has a reputation far removed from many of the other European resorts. It’s where the jet set have been skiing since long before there were jets.
Think back to Jude Law’s Dick Greenleaf telling The Talented Mr. Ripley about the place’s “Excellent skiing! - Excellent” and the impression you’ll get is pretty accurate. The skiing can be excellent, but even when it’s not, the prevalence of the fashionable set who simply come to soak up the skiing atmosphere, means the bars and restaurants are always much busier than the piste.
Enjoy breath-taking scenery as you ride beneath the pink-tipped tomes of the Dolomites, and try not to think too much about how much that coffee cost.
9. St. Foy, France
We might have to change our phone number after adding this little gem to the list but it can’t be helped. This tiny 3-lift village just off the road running between Bourg Saint Maurice and Tignes has one of the most electrifying and surprisingly accessible stretches of back country in Europe. You’ll need to hire a guide to take you, but whisper the magic words ‘La Foglietta’ and skiing or snowboarding will never be the same again.
10. Nevados de Chillan, Chile
Built on the slopes of the inactive Chillan volcano, Nevados de Chillan is a resort best known for its natural hot springs and therapeutic massages. While, it might not be seen as strictly ski resort, its dry Chilean powder snow, and abundance of it, makes this resort unlike any other you’ll find.
What’s more, it’s about 500km from Santiago so the number of casual day-trippers is not so high. Expect excellent conditions and deserted runs.
So, that’s our top ten list. It’s a little long and there’s something for everyone, but don’t worry, you don’t need to do it all this winter. There’s always next year, and the year after...