A common question amongst winter sports enthusiasts is: what is the best ski resort in the world? Of course there is no correct answer, but many column inches have been dedicated to the question, including on this blog! The Daily Torygraph, which for all its political failings does a good job of covering winter sports, analysed what its readers researched and came up with the following list:
- St Anton, Austria
- Chamonix, France
- Courmayeur, Italy
- Les Deux Alpes, France
- Val Thorens, France
- Les Arcs, France
- Morzine, France
- La Plagne, France
- Val d’Isère, France
- Cervinia, Italy
- Tignes, France
- Mayrhofen, Austria
- Zermatt, Switzerland
- Méribel, France
- Alpe d’Huez, France
- Courchevel, France
- Kitzbühel, Austria
- Lech, Austria
- Obergurgl, Austria
- Flaine, France
It is an interesting list, dominated by French resorts, perhaps addressing a certain demographic’s idea of what is a good package holiday destination. Nowhere from North America? No Wengen. No Cortina. No Borovets for the budget conscious? Morzine over Avoriaz? Nonetheless a selection of resorts you can’t fault. Not my list though.
In 1993 World Media And Events Limited launched the World Travel Awards and, buoyed by the success of this, launched the World Ski Awards in 2013. It’s only a bit of fun, although I am sure it brings business not only to the organisers but also the award winners. The approach is straightforward: votes are cast online by professionals working within the ski industry, and by ski tourism consumers, at the World Ski Awards website.
Every year the awards are associated with a three day networking event, culminating in the awards ceremony, this year held in Kitzbühel over 16th-18th November. World’s Best Winners for 2018 included:
Ski Resort – Val Thorens (France)
Freestyle Resort – LAAX (Switzerland)
Ski Hotel – W Verbier (Switzerland)
New Ski Hotel – Fahrenheit Seven Courchevel (France)
Green Ski Hotel – rocksresort, Laax (Switzerland)
Ski Boutique Hotel – Aurelio Lech (Austria)
Ski Chalet – Chalet Les Anges, Zermatt (Switzerland)
New Ski Chalet – Chalet des Cascades, Les Arcs (France)
Ski Tour Operator – Sunweb
As well as awards for the best in the world, there are also country awards, with votes for the best ski resort in Switzerland going to Verbier.
The Daily Telegraph reports on the scariest airports to land at that cater for skiers and snowboarders. For winter sports enthusiasts with a fear of flying, these are the ones to avoid!
The following airports are classified as category C, i.e. they require pilots to have special training before they can land there:
What makes for these airports to be designated as Category C? The Torygraph goes on to explain: “Challenging visual manoeuvring within the valley, made harder by low-level wind shear (a sudden change of wind velocity and/or direction), come as standard. The approach is fraught with challenges for the aircraft’s captain, who is the only one allowed to fly the plane – the first officer isn’t qualified.”
I can certainly vouch for Innsbruck as the scariest. It is quite an astonishing experience to look out of the cabin window for the approach to the airport, with all the surrounding Alpine peaks seemingly almost close enough to touch as the pilot twists and turns through the descent.
However if you want a really white-knuckle ride into your ski resort, try the small airport in the resort of Courchevel. It is Europe’s highest tarmacked runway and is too short to safely accommodate most types of aircraft. Fewer than 100 pilots have the special “Qualification of Sight” licence required to land there.
Of course there is an alternative if you are not minded to fly for a ski holiday – take the train! There are over 50 ski resorts with railway stations right in the resort (including all those named above). Visit Snow and Rail for more details.
Despite the weak pound providing a welcome boost for UK seaside resorts, if you want the white stuff you pretty much have to go abroad, the often excellent Scottish resorts notwithstanding. The most ecological way to get to the Alps is undoubtedly by train, and one of the best options is the special Eurostar ski train that runs from 17th December this year until the 8th of April.
Tickets for the service this winter have just gone on sale. Two trains will run each week, leaving London St Pancras on Friday evening and Saturday morning for Bourg St Maurice, with drops convenient for a number of French resorts – particularly Les Arcs.
I can remember ski trains being pretty lively, with disco carriages at one time, but the frivolity is rather more limited these days and no alcohol is permitted on board.
Tickets are available from eurostar.com.
As an alternative, scheduled Eurostar services now run to Lyon (or you can take normal Eurostar trains to Paris and change if the direct Lyon train times don’t suit you). From Lyon you can take a Lyria train direct to ski resorts in France and, in particular, Switzerland. More details on various options for taking the train to the slopes are given at snowandrail.com.