Snowmobiling is great fun and is one of the best ways to enjoy the backcountry during the winter months. The scenery is spectacular and riding a snowmobile is thrilling. Not to be missed!
If you fancy combining two of the most fun activities in the world, snowsports and clubbing, in a beautiful Austrian village with a few thousand like-minded fancy dressed loons, this is your bag baby!
For 10 years now at the end of the season the amazing Austrian resort of Mayrhofen gets transformed into party central. The crack Snowbombing team take over virtually every hotel and venue for miles around and pack them full of the hottest DJs and bands you can think of providing a frenzied atmosphere of piste by day and beats by night. To drop a few names from this year's line-up, we've got the legendary Fatboy Slim, Dizzee Rascal, Reverend and the Makers, Grandmaster Flash, Fabio & Grooverider, Zane Lowe, and the list goes on...
If you're serious about your riding you'll find 625km of pistes, a world renowned funpark, and the Tux glacier, offering piste and off-piste action all year round. Just don't be put off if Batman or a herd of boarders wearing only their pants pass you on the slopes!
And my hottest tip for Snowbombing? Get accommodation in the Hotel Strass! This is the epicentre of the whole festival. Three of the main apres and nightlife venues are in the same building, it's right next to the lifts, one night of the week there is a street party right outside, and it has a naked sauna in the basement - the perfect way to wind down and make new friends after a hard day on the slopes or a hard night on the tiles.
If you like the finest Powder (15 meters average snow fall), quiet slopes, stunning scenery, amazing food, politest lift attendants in the World and natural hot springs to soak your tired limbs in after a day on the slopes then Niseko on Japans far north Island Hokkaido, is definitely the place to go.
Prevailing Siberian winds dump hugh quantities of the worlds lightest powder creating a truly powder heaven. So if you’re a powder hound and want quality snow then this is the location.
Three interlinked ski areas (Hirafu, Annapuri and Higashiyama) combine to create Niseko, Japan’s largest and best known resort. Because it is so far from Tokyo it is relatively quiet compared to the ski areas in the Japan Alps.
The terrain includes wide cruising runs fringed with snow-laden trees (silver birch woodlands), steeper backcountry descents accessed from gates hidden throughout the ski area and a long well designed Snowboard Park. You can hike to the top of the mountain peak for some mind blowing views of Mt.Yotei (extinct volcano that is perfectly cone shaped) and excellent off-piste powder bowl runs. And did I mention the extensive night skiing? Wow and haven’t even stopped for a bowl of noodles.
If your there for a few weeks I would recommend checking out nearby resorts of Rusutsu and Furano (which allegedly has the driest finest powder in the world).
Getting there: Fly with BA or Virgin direct to Tokyo (11 hours) and Hokkaido is only a 11/2 hour flight and then 2 hour bus transfer. Or buy a JR rail pass which can only be bought by tourists to use bullet trains.
Where to stay:
Best secret, I stayed in Annapurna hostel which is more like a rustic hotel. 2 minutes to lifts it is a beautiful wooden chalet with great cosy communal area with open fire place. Amazingly tasty traditional Japanese dinner of several courses prepared fresh everyday by the loving friendly owner who will also drive you to local Onsons (natural hot springs) every night. Best value around at Y5,300 (£40) per night with breakfast and mind blowing dinner. You can even do your own board waxing in the ski room. www.snowjapan.com/e/hotel/viewhotel.php?hotid=79.
The only downside (or upside) is that there is no ‘western’ night life in Annapurna village but for a few days I highly recommend staying here. Those after nightlife (with an Australian flavour) should stay in Hirafu the largest of the villages, where there is plenty of bars to choose from.
Top tips for Boarding Japan
• Bring your own gear – hiring is expensive
• If you don’t have your own gear then book ski and board rental before you get there. It’s a lot cheaper.
• Bring cash. Only post offices and 7-11 cash points work with foreign visa cards. Also tell your card company that you are going away. I have two days stranded with no cash.
• Most hotels and lodges offer discount lift tickets. It is better to buy two discounted tickets (3 and 4 day) then to buy a 7 day ticket from the ticket office.
www.snowjapan.com/ - places to stay and snow reports
www.snowjapan.com/e/hotel/viewhotel.php?hotid=79. My favourite accommodation
www.skisafari.com/Ski-Japan.aspx - information about the area
www.skihirejapan.com/home.php - renting boarding gear
I am genuinely hesitant to offer my tip because its beauty lies in its unpopularity but the prize is just too good to pass up.
On the sunny southside of Switzerland's Matterhorn and Italy's Monte Rosa lies the best kept secret in European snowsports. Cervinia is the highest resort in the Valle D'Aosta (and maybe the Alps or even the world?) at 2050m and is a mere 3 gondolas and 30mins from Platuea Rosa at 3480m. This offers incredible riding for much more of the season than anywhere else in the Alps and some very accessible and pretty decent glaciar action even mid-summer. At a time when gloabal warming is threatening wintersports this altitude has advantages. From the plateu you can ski down into picturesque Zermat (a dizzy drop of nearly 2000m) or down the 22km run to Valtourenche (over 2000m below). There's everything else in between including Europe's highest snowpark and some of the safest powder off piste i've ever seen. My favorite times there have been early December and mid April. Cheap passes and empty slopes coupled with total snow coverage.
The village itself has everything you need and is certainly more suited to the dedicated dawn to dusk rider than the dusk til dawn clubber; perfect. Hotel Fosson is a personal fav at the bottom of a sunfilled blue run into Cervinia and Paula, the owner, has more skiing medals than the Herminator.
As if this weren't good enough its merely two hours drive from Turin and it's dangerously cheap to fly there from UK. Wait, what am I saying? don't go, you'll like it too much. Alright do go, but don't tell anyone about it.
Cervina, Valle D'Aosta. Just of the A5, Italia
If you are skier or snowboarder, this is the most amazing off piste powder run for snowboarders and skiers. The run is completely untouched and easy to find. You can achieve that same exhilarating feeling as if you were heli skiing but without the hike across the mountain to get there. Although you have to be prepared for a 30-minute hike back up the road at the end but well worth it.
Information to follow
The beautiful Lake Tahoe region, bordering California and Nevada, may have other ski resorts better known to Europeans (Heavenly, Squaw Valley, etc.), but Alpine Meadows combines the intimacy of a smaller resort with spectacular, well-maintained pistes.
On a clear day, travel up the Lakeview Chair and absorb outstanding views of the pure, blue lake and across the Sierra Nevada. The resort gets busy with visiting San Franciscans over the weekends, but mid-week you might catch some exhilarating moments of solitude on the mountain.
The pistes are mainly of an intermediate level. Snowboarders will be particularly happy that all lifts are chairs. There are even a couple of small freestyle parks for the more reckless amongst us.
Straddling the spectacular Belledonne mountains, Les Sept Laux is a gem of a ski resort that is little known to foreign skiers. A small resort, only 45 minutes by bus or car from Grenoble, there is little in the way of accommodation, and you don't come for the apres-ski, Les Sept Laux is nonetheless a fantastic option for those who wish to beat the crowds and save money. Its easily accessible location means it gets busy with day-trippers at the weekends but never to the same degree as the more famous resorts, and come during the week for blissfully empty pistes. Sept Laux doesn't have the largest pisted terrain in the French Alps by any means, though there are certainly a variety of slopes for all abilities, however what makes the resort stand out is the seemingly endless expanses of soft, luxuriously powdery off-piste areas. And all this comes with superlative views on both sides of the Belledonne ridge (there are three base stations for the resort), and a mixture of jagged peaks, lush, scented pine forest and fresh, clean mountain air. Ski heaven.
Les Sept Laux, Isere, France.
I chose the right moment to go to Grenoble as it was celebrating the 20th anniversary of the 1968 Winter Olympics which took place in Grenoble and in the ski resorts surrounding the city.
Inside the Bastille fortress there is a small but extremely informative exhibition on the big names of the Olympics and kids will love seeing the wooden skis and ski boots used by Rossignol - a famous French sportsman in 1968, there is also the original bobsleigh used by the Olympic French team.
To get to the 1968 Olympics exhibition take the cable car up to La Bastille and go down the stairs and follow the signs towards the exhibition (in the former dungeon).
Courchevel may be for the rich and famous but it has excellent snowboarding tracks for novices and is more catered for beginners than nearby La Tania.
Get your ski/skiboarding gear from La Tania (where it's cheaper) and take the free bus to Courchevel 1500 or 1850 from La Tania.
Courchevel is 20km west of La Tania and can be reached by coach from Geneva or Chambery airports in around an hour and a half.
Big Sky offers the best, least crowded skiing in North America. On December 26th, the longest we waited for a high-speed quad chair was three chairs.
This resort is built like Breckenridge years ago, there are runs and lifts across the face of three mountains and on the backside of one, without any of the crowds.
Base lifts are a five-minute shuttle ride from the condo, a private hot tub with views of the ski area is super great! Which you'll need because you skied so much and waited so little.
It's very cold but if you love to ski and hate crowds this is the place. $369 a night, over the holidays.
Cedar Creek Condos
13 Moose Ridge Road
Big Sky, Montana 59716
The Ski resorts of Sassotetto, Maddalena and Bolognola are small scale but a great place to learn or get a long weekend fix and give visitors the opportunity to combine skiing or boarding with a bit of culture and touring the beautiful area of Le Marche.
Prices are also very reasonable; passes and ski/boot hire are both about £12 a day. The resorts have just invested in four new lifts, artificial snow canons and a new trattoria.
The town of Sarnano is a top base for a white week in the Sibillini mountains, it has over 20 restaurants, a late music bar and even has a funky nightclub.
There's plenty to see and do locally, the area is full of wonderful medieval villages and fantastic for walking below the snowline.
There are many hotels locally or maybe you would prefer a cosy apartment with woodburning stove and free wood, in the old Sarnano Farm Villa San Raffaello.
The resort is easily reached on cheap flights into Ancona, Pescara, Perugia and even Rome and Bologna.
Ski resort piste map: www.scuolasci-montisibillini.it/pagine/cartina.htm
Not only are you doing your bit for climate change (which scientists will tell you is the reason for the ever more unreliable snow fall), but you also get to unwind as you journey through the beautiful countryside of France. Plus, you won't get stung by the airlines for taking your equipment with you!
The Campaign for Better Transport are actually running a competition to win coach tickets down to various skiing destinations (including Val D'Isere).
Take a look at: www.bettertransport.co.uk.
This is a gem of a place, the nicest chalet I've ever stayed in. It had a lovely welcoming feel, so warm and friendly - it was the perfect mountain retreat for us.
It's close to the Flegere ski lift and within staggering distance of some good bars and restaurants (though we spent more evenings in, lazing on the sofas with the playstation or Scalextric!). Lovely views from the balcony and garden too.
Sleeps ten, including a double in the cute mini-chalet in the garden.
Les Praz, Chamonix
A small and friendly snowboard clothing and equipment shop with a really well-chosen selection of clothes (both fashion and snowboard - Analog, Anon, Nixon, WESC, Dragon, Element etc) and a particularly good womenswear section. They also had a good selection of boards for sale and to rent.
Castel des Neiges
Route du Linga
Portes de Solieil
tel +33 (0)450 81 61 79
Rudechalets are a chalet company based in Morzine. I stayed last year with them. Their staff, food and chalets are awesome.
The only place I have stayed with PS2s in all bedrooms, a hot tub, a 42" plasma screen and a ride snowboard test centre!
www.rudechalets.com rudechalets, Morzine, France
An Olympic-standard bobsleigh track which visitors to Latvia can try out.
This adrenaline rushfest is also available during the summer months care of the new summer bobsleigh.
Send your feedback or queries to email@example.com