SNOW MAGAZINE: January 16, 2014
So why should a resort be in your Top Ten Ski Resort Bucket List? Well in the office, after a few hours of calm debate, followed by a few more hours of shouting and the odd hurled sticky bun (other more healthy mid-morning snacks are available), we decided that there is no set reason, or even set combination of reasons, it’s just far too personal.
Some of you would prioritise snow and scenery over partying and food, or child care over off-piste… So after wiping the icing and doughnut residue from our keyboards we compiled our Top Ten Ski Resort Bucket list, for you to agree with, dispute against, disregard, scream at, just please don’t get so mad that you post us your sticky buns.
In no particular order, here they are...
Quite simply Revelstoke has to kick off our list, as talk to anyone who has been and they’ll tell you, not just, how good it is but how truly epic it is.
Revelstoke has the lot when it comes to on-mountain terrain, there’s steep and open powder faces, fantastic tree skiing, long well-maintained pistes, an adjacent cat-skiing operation and if that’s not enough then the ½ a million acres of heli-sking terrain should keep you happy.
Revelstoke is in our bucket list for skiing alone, as off the mountain its resort base is very small, with limited choice of après and accommodation. That said, the town of Revelstoke (15 mins drive), while small, is a cool place with a great local vibe and lots of bars and restaurants to choose from.
Because it’s the one in the middle…
This pick was more about skiing a world-class linked area, which can offer fantastic skiing for all abilities, great night life and is family-friendly, rather than just picking one resort. But as we had to choose one, and after much debate, we settled on the resort of Meribel from the 3 Valleys ski area, over either Val d’Isere or Tignes from the nearby Espace Killy ski area.
There is little to split these two fantastic ski areas, both of which are very popular with the Brits, but in the end the 3 Valleys got the nod on size alone, as it has 600km of piste to Espace Killy’s 300km.
Meribel got the vote over Courchevel and Val Thorens mainly because it’s the middle valley, making it super easy to ski in any of the 3 valleys without feeling rushed. Another bonus of Meribel is the fact that it’s been developed sympathetically, with low level chalet style development rather than high-rise apartments which spoil many a French mountainside.
Riksgransen made our Top Ten for keeping the season alive well into June. Head north post Easter, while the rest of Europe’s lifts are closing, and you’ll be skiing at midnight over 200km north of the Arctic Circle.
Being so far north, Riksgransen gets tons of snow and doesn’t actually open until Late February, as it’s far too cold and too dark beforehand.
It’s best in April/May when the days go on well into what should be night and all the Scandinavian seasonaires have returned home, from mainland Europe, for a season-ending party. The best of which is the Scandinavian Big Mountain Championships free skiing competition, held here every May.
Riksgransen’s pistes aren’t necessarily the longest, but they are varied and the off piste is good too, but it’s the ski touring that stands out here as being world class. It really is true wilderness and you’re likely to meet a few reindeer if you leave the resort boundaries.
Alyeska, Alaska, USA
Anyone who loves to ride powder will have Alaska on their bucket list, and if you want to ski this isolated US state then look no further than the resort of Alyeska.
Yes; most hardcore ski nuts will head to Alaska for either ski touring, ski mountaineering or heli-skiing but the resort of Alyeska should not be overlooked, as it’s like heli-skiing without the price tag.
A 33-year average snowfall of over 16 meters is enough to keep the pistes in pristine condition and the off piste fresh all season. The mountain here is quite open, with multiple black diamond chutes and wide exposed faces, while most of the trees are no go areas. Intermediate and beginners are well looked after, with plenty of groomed pistes on offer.
If it’s good enough for a Toblerone pack then it’s good enough for our bucket list. The Matterhorn is possibly the most perfect and iconic mountain on the planet, so why wouldn’t you want to ski beneath it.
Zermatt and Verbier, are arguably Switzerland’s top resorts, but only Zermatt and the linked Italian resort of Cervinia have the Matterhorn as an awe-inspiring backdrop.
Zermatt has world-class skiing, a good snow record and all the in-resort facilities you’d ever need. While a tad expensive, it should be skied at least once in any self-respecting skier’s life.
St Anton, Austria
Just don’t tell your doctor that it’s on your bucket list, as while yes, St Anton is great for skiing, it’s in our top ten for the absolutely crazy party that happens every night.
Apres skiing in Austria is like nothing you’ll experience anywhere else, and while bad for every major organ of your body, it is great fun, if a little painful.
Those of you who can drag yourselves from your pit in the morning, after an afternoon start, followed by a long night of jagerbombs, oompapa music and huge sausages while conga-ing around the bar with loads of Dutchmen in ski boots, will enjoy the phenomenal skiing St Anton has to offer.
Telluride, Colorado, USA
The San Juan Mountains of Colorado are amongst the newest on the continent and as such are like a huge set of razor sharp dragon’s teeth, which in our humble opinion, makes for some of the best skiing in US of A.
The resort of Telluride has a history of gold mining and bank jobs, it claims to have the first bank that Butch Cassidy robbed, but it’s the absolutely fantastic desert-dry, light-as-air snow and butch ski terrain that is the lure now.
Telluride has mile upon mile of perfect piste and masses of superb inbound hike-to terrain, backed up by a purpose-built mountain village and the very real and very cool original cowboy village which just makes you envisage that an old school shootout is about to start at any moment. So keep clear of the main drag at high-noon, won’t you.
Everyone wants to ski Canada, and many people will have the resort of Whistler as number one on their bucket list, and we at Snow can’t really disagree with them.
Whistler is awesome, epic, brilliant and a lesson in how to create a joined-up ski resort that works for every single level of skier. In fact it’s so good and sure of itself that the marketing director’s favourite line is: ‘If you don’t come this winter; it’s just another year before you do.’ He could be right.
Just inland from Vancouver; Whistler gets struck by Pacific storms all winter, and while the snow isn’t as dry as some of the interior British Colombian resorts, it is abundant, and as good; if not better than most of the snow we get in Europe.
Switzerland has an abundance of picture postcard-perfect ski resorts, and we couldn’t really choose a Bucket List without adding one of them.
Murren got our vote; as not only is it a beautifully tranquil traffic-free village, linked into the superb Jungfrau ski area - which includes the longest downhill run in the world, the Lauberhorn – it also sits in the shadow of arguably the most imposing mountain face anywhere in the world.
The north face of the Eiger will have you stopping in your fresh powder tracks, as it’s feels like it’s glaring at you. But not ones to be put off by its brooding presence the Swiss have tunnelled into it and you can take a train through its heart, out the other side and up to the top of the Jungfrau.
And we just adore the cog railways that traverse the slopes. There is something very special about talking your skis off and boarding a little train to get back up to the top.
Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy
We said this list includes something for everyone, and for less experienced skiers and lovers of long lunches that means we have to be talking Italian, and there is nowhere more quintessentially Italian than Cortina.
It may not have the world’s best snow, but it does have some serious skiing, and the mighty Dolomiti Superski pass means you can take advantage of the links into the Sella Ronda and also the lovely hidden valley at Lagazuoi – possibly Europe’s most beautiful red run.
But Cortina’s real appeal is the town itself - the culture, the cuisine, the cobbled Corso Italia - and the absolutely jaw-dropping Dolomites scenery that circles the town like a pink-hued crown.
And two that nearly made the list, or may well make the next one...
Red Mountain -
Now rivalling Whistler for terrain after a new lift opened this season, we fully expect Red Mountain to be vying for a place in the next one. Snow haven't been yet so we can hardly include it this time around!
We know this one is contentious. We agree the skiing is fantastic, and most would see this as an obvious choice, but our experience of the resort as a whole is one of frustration. The infrastructure is dis-jointed and you spend far too long fighting to get on buses, often making it feel like a London commute rather than a holiday. If you hire a car that helps, but generally there are at least ten resorts we decided we preferred...sorry Chamonix!
We have no doubt you'll have opinions on this. You can add comments below to put your case across for any resorts you feel should be in there...