Active Vacations: Top 6 destinations for Skiing
This is the active vacation of Champions! Well for some that is. If you have never tried it before, skiing is definitely an experience to have at least once. Many are big fans of the sport, going to ski destinations every chance they get. The thrill of going down the slopes, skiing over the soft snow below your feet, the feeling of gliding through the cold air, is all too exciting. The advanced skiers make it look effortless, though we know it is anything but. However, the pure exhilaration is worth the effort.
The history of the sport is rumored to go as far back as 600BC in what is now China, though the sport itself evolved from early beginnings in Scandinavia. The word ‘ski' comes from an Old Norse word "skíð" which means "split piece of wood or firewood". So, you can imagine the ski equipment back then.
Finland and Sweden used to have asymmetrical skis up to the 19th-century, a skier would use one long non-arching ski for sliding and the other would be shorter for kicking. Primarily used as a form of transportation during those times, it has evolved into a well-known recreational activity and popular sport.
Whether you are already familiar with the thrilling slope dropping sport or you have never even seen a pair of skis, these are 6 amazing destinations to add to the list of ‘active vacation spots' around the world.
We start with a well-known ski region that is the Three Valleys in France or Les Trois Vallées in French. It is one of the largest ski areas in the world that is interconnected by ski lifts and slopes. The area boasts 500 to 600 kilometers of ski slopes as well as 120 kilometers for cross country skiing.
The Three Valleys include the valleys of Saint-Bon, Allues and Belleville. We have chosen one from each valley to list here, and they are Courchevel in Saint-Bon, Meribel in Allues and Val Throrens in Belleville.
Courchevel is one of the most well known areas in the Tree Valleys, with the Jardin Alpin area of Courchevel 1850 being the highest point at 1850 meters above sea level. Courchevel is in the Saint-Bon valley and is made up of several towns which are Courchevel 1300 (Le Praz), Courchevel 1550, Courchevel 1650 (Moriond), and Courchevel 1850, all named for their altitudes.
The area is of course world-renowned for the quality of skiing that can be done there.It offers approximately 150 kilometers of ski runs and has 58 lifts to help you get there.
There are designated areas for beginners such as the fun 'ZEN' areas, they also have 19 green and 35 blue runs once you gain more confidence and 34 red and 8 black runs to test the skills of the more advanced skiers.
Yes there are ski schools in the area such as Esf 1650 Courchevel Moriond for small groups, or private lessons available for teenagers and adults. Another one is Esf 1550 Courchevel Village for relaxed skiing at your rhythm.
Meribel is in the Allues Valley and is a very popular destination for families. The tree main areas in Meribel are Méribel Centre, Méribel-Mottaret and Méribel Village. Mottaret is the highest point here at 1700-1800 meters above see level.
The beautiful area has approximately 600 kilometers of pistes, so, you can be sure that you will have a lot of space to ski. Meribel is also very family friendly with many activities to do. Club Piou-Piou Creche is a ski kindergarten that will take children as young as 3-5 years old, there is an ice rink for skating and you can also enjoy sledding with a team of energetic Huskies in Le Plantin, a small village located about 1 kilometer away from Meribel, among other activates. You can also hire Merinannies, which is a childcare service available for parents that would like to have some uninterrupted time on the slopes.
You can find out more about Meribel on our Quick Guide to Meribel.
3. Val Thorens
Val Thorens in the Belleville Valley is at 2300 meters above sea level. The ski resorts here are often open from mid-November until early May. Val Thorens is the highest ski resort in Europe.
The more advanced skiers would try their skill at the highest ski-able points at Val Thorens which are Cime de Caron at 3200 meters and Pointe du Bouchet at 3220 meters, which can be reached by taking the cable cars of the same names.
The ski schools here cover all-levels. For those who want to improve their skills to reach that of competition level, you can take the competition training courses - Stage Competiton - at Ecole Du Ski Francais (ESF).
The Ecole Du Ski Francais even has a school for children as young as 35 months to 12 years old. They offer exclusive and personalized lessons for skiing and snowboarding.
Ok, so this one is also in France, but this one isn't for just any skier. We're talking about 4,810 meters (15,781 ft) above sea level filled with rock, snow, ice and extreme dreams.
Chamonix is situated near the massive peaks of Aiguilles Rouges and Aiguille du Midi, and is one of the oldest ski resorts in France. Known as the "gateway to the European Cascades”, the area is well-known among skiers as well as mountaineering enthusiasts. Here, you can take the cable car lift to the Aiguille du Midi and access the off-piste skiing area of Vallée Blanche that is about 20 kilometers long with a vertical descent of 2700 meter through amazing mountains and beautiful scenery. Like I said this place is only for the more advanced enthusiasts.
The area is often described using the phrase “you fall, you die” and globally renowned for being the birthplace of extreme skiing.
Tip: If you're with someone that doesn't want to ski or you don't feel up to skiing on any particular day, head to Alpine Museum in the area, which is the former Chamonix-Palace that dates back to the 20th-century. Or stop by Chambre Neuf, a Scandinavian-influenced bar that has live music!
5. Whitefish, Montana
Here's a spot in the US, Whitefish, Montana. Listed on National Geographic as one of the best spots for skiing and described as being good for ‘families and groups with disparate skiing abilities'. The resort was once called the “big mountain in northwest Montana", the area has over 3000 acres of ski-able terrain and 11 lifts to help you access the 105 named skiing trails available.
The terrains' ratings are 12% beginner, 40% intermediate, 42% advanced and 6% expert. So, the area is great for group ski vacations, as they will be able to accommodate skiers and riders of all levels and abilities.
There is dinning and shopping facilities available 4 miles from the slopes, as well as other fun activities such as a snowmobile tour, dog-sledding, a spa and backcountry cat skiing available.
6. Aspen, Colorado
Image: Skiing in Snowmass
Every American that calls themselves a skier would have probably visited Aspen once before. Aspen, Colorado is the ski town that all American ski towns compare themselves to. There is an abundance of natural beauty here and it is also a destination for other outdoor activities.
There are four separate ski area within a 10-mile radius that caters to various abilities. The areas are Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass.
Aspen mountain is loved by the locals and experts for its steep-glades and bump-runs. Snowmass and Buttermilk are more beginner friendly. The best part about skiing in Aspen is that you can use your ski ticket on all four-mountains.
Snowmass is also known for the skiing and snowboarding instructions available, where you can arrange private or group lessons for skiing, they also have specific programs for women, mountain explorers and kids.
7. Wanaka, New Zealand
This area is quickly gaining a reputation for a premier adventure town. Wanaka is located near Lake Wanaka in New Zealand's Southern Alps. Here you can ski the rugged yet beautiful Lord Of The Rings-like terrain.
There are 4 areas for skiing within a 40-minute drive of the town. Snow Park NZ is one popular among the youngsters and is essentially one big world-class terrain park. Treble Cone is another area that is about 35 minutes from the town and has more snow and ski-able terrain, note that there are very limited beginner friendly terrains here. Cardrona Alpine Resort is another area that is about a 40-minute drive south of the town.
Note that the seasons are reversed here, in the Southern Hemisphere, so Wanaka would make a great place for skiing in the summer months. Ski season here runs from June through October.