When you think of the top ski resorts, you will have guessed Aspen, and maybe Whistler in Canada. But India, you say? Isn’t that hot, as in very hot? And the visuals in one’s head are of people (looking very warm) in big cities, with not a ski pole in sight, let alone a slope. Or snow.
We too once thought like that. But we have come to learn that India has one of the greatest skiing locations on the planet—along with more-expected spots such as in Vermont, Austria, and Switzerland. If you love skiing (or have always wanted to learn), you should go to all of these places.
Stratton Mountain, Vermont
When Stratton Mountain opened on December 29, 1961, it had only three lifts, eight trails, and 22 inches of snow. Today, the southern Vermont ski resort has 99 trails, gets 180 inches of snow a year, and has the fastest ski lifts on the East Coast, transporting about 34,000 skiers and snowboarders per hour.
Jake Burton founded Burton Snowboards here in 1977, and in 1983 Stratton became the first U.S. resort to allow snowboarders on its slopes.
Besides the traditional après-ski scene, Stratton offers a package that includes a group snowcat ride to the Mid-Mountain Lodge for a four-course dinner.
Where to stay: Long Trail House
It’s smack-dab in the middle of Stratton Village, walkable to the lifts, and takes winter comfort seriously. Each room has a gas fireplace.
Where to eat: Fire Tower Restaurant and Tavern
Named after the iconic Fire Tower on Stratton’s summit, the establishment serves eclectic comfort fare and the best craft cocktails in Southern Vermont in its modern dining room, Tavern, and Porcupine Lounge.
St. Anton Am Arlberg, Austria
Between Zurich and Innsbruck, the village of St. Anton is in the Tyrolean Alps; and its 433 annual inches of snow and dramatic terrain make these mountains perfect. St. Anton has 335 miles of marked runs and 124 miles off-piste, accessed by 94 lifts.
“It’s a gigantic ski area connected to a variety of other towns and resorts, and you can ski from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and then take a bus home,” says Canadian former competitive skier Steve Podborski.
Ski halfway down the mountain to have coffee or grappa with a sheepherder and then fly down to the village to your cozy pensione or hotel suite.
“There are crazy on-mountain clubs, or you can have a fine dinner with only four tables, or go to places with people dancing on tables,” adds Podborski, of the lively après-ski scene.
Where to stay: Himmlhof
Cozy and homey, it’s the best hotel in town.
Where to eat: Mooserwirt
For dancing on tabletops and endless beer, this is the best après-ski experience you are going to find in Austria.
Aspen is its own world, where billionaires and ski bums live side-by-side. The town is the requisite quaint but jetsetter sophisticated, with world-class food and wine lists, and is full of beautiful people. The fresh powder, about 175 inches per year, tends to fall overnight, so early risers ride the gondola with the locals to race down untouched snow under gorgeous blue skies.
“Aspen’s 700 acres is like skiing down a multi-flavored ice cream cone,” says John Clendenin, a two-time world freestyle champion who now teaches skiing in Aspen. He prefers Ridge of Bell. “It’s one of the most famous runs in America because it’s one of the longest, biggest, roundest bumps and it’s right under a chairlift.”
In town, there are art galleries, designer boutiques, and fantastic restaurants. The busiest time of year is during Christmas (when the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport has some 200 private jets in its hangar).
Aspen isn’t ideal for families. It’s better for singles looking for new friends, and couples wanting to ski hard by day and party hard by night.
Where to stay: The Little Nell
Located at the base of the gondola, Aspen’s only true ski-in, ski-out property is also the town’s only AAA 5-Diamond hotel
Where to eat: Shlomo’s Aspen
At the base of Ajax Mountain, this deli and grill is where locals chill with visitors over potato latkes and matzo ball soup.
The ski resort Gavarnie-Gèdre is rarely crowded—a rare find in France. That alone should get you to book a trip to the majestic Pyrenees Mountains. This UNESCO World Heritage Site offers 28 trails (spanning 21 miles) for all skill levels, including the 3.5-mile “Les Marmottes,” the longest green trail in the Pyrenees.
Lying on the border of France and Spain, in between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, the Pyrenees have old, well-preserved villages, modern ski resorts, spas, and thermal baths. While swishing throughout Gavarnie-Gèdre, you can see the distinguished Brèche de Roland, a natural gap 131 feet wide by 328 feet tall, and the Cirque of Gavarnie peaks at elevations of about 10,000 feet.
Where to stay: Hotel La Brèche de Roland
This cozy hotel has been owned by the same family since the 17th century. The current owners elegantly blend the antique fireplace and rustic weathered furniture with sustainably renovated rooms providing views of the Breche de Roland gap.
Where to eat: Chez Louisette
About an hour north of Gavarnie-Gedre, in Barèges, through the Pyrenees National Park, this restaurant provides stunning vistas from nearly 5,000 feet above sea level. Louisette herself will welcome you to her “home” that’s been in her family since 1905.
Whistler Blackcomb, Canada
Being near the Pacific Ocean in British Columbia makes Whistler’s weather unpredictable, but it still receives an average of 456 inches of snow per year. While you wait, grab a pint of the ominously named Faceplant Winter Ale and mingle with the locals in the village.
Whistler Blackcomb is the single largest resort in North America, with over 200 trails and a run for every skill level. It boasts the second-highest and steepest vertical in North America (after Revelstoke, British Columbia), providing 50-degree elevation runs with names like Exhilaration and Excitation. A new gondola now connects peak-to-peak betweenWhistler and Blackcomb resorts for a nearly three-mile ride over mountains, the longest in the world.
Where to stay: Fairmont Chateau Whistler
North America’s largest ski-in, ski-out resort believes “the world is not flat, ski it.” So, do. Then return to this five-star hotel, which can also arrange for glacier skiing.
Where to eat: Bearfoot Bistro
Any place that promotes the sport of Champagne bottle sabering—along with a menu that combines Canadian and international delicacies-–is worth checking out.
The Himalayan Mountains have been around for about half a billion years, but Manali is a cool throwback ski town in northern India that few skiers know about. And the best way to tackle these mountains, according to Brad Vancour, principal skier for the immortal Warren Miller ski films, is by helicopter. Says Brad, “the mountains dwarf anything you see in North America.”
Skiing takes place between high-valley floors around 8,800 feet and ridges at over 15,000 feet—so high, you are at the limit of a helicopter’s threshold.
Manali is the spot for deep reflection both on and off the mountain. Hot springs, temples, art galleries, Tibetan monasteries, the Manali bazaar, and many other cultural delights are there to add a very cultured touch to what is genuinely the ski experience of a lifetime.
Where to stay: Span Resort & Spa
Thirty-six cottages offer stunning mountain views in a serene setting.
Where to eat: Il Forno
So what if you’re 3,500 miles from Italy? Italian food and wood-fired pizza is delicious anywhere. This restaurant, set in a circa-1860 lodge in the middle of an apple orchard, with gorgeous views of the Himalayas, is accessible via rickshaw.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe is known for many things—chiefly, its art scene (specifically Georgia O’Keeffe), its 400-year-old city plaza, its culinary scene, Native American pueblos, and Spanish architecture. Snow and skiing in New Mexico are typically synonymous with Taos. But Santa Fe is also at an elevation of around 7,000 feet.
Ski Santa Fe is just sixteen miles from the city plaza, with a base elevation of 10,350 feet, and gets 225 inches of snow to cover its 83 trails. With its 320 days of sun every year, you’ll feel the heat on every run. In between, enjoy a drink at mid-mountain Totemoff’s Bar. The mountain also has a terrain park, called The BoneYard. We’re afraid to know how that got its name.
Where to stay: La Fonda on the Plaza
The only hotel on the historic city plaza, it sits on the land of the town’s first inn, from 1607. Every room has gorgeous artwork created by Native American artists.
Where to eat: Teahouse Café
This is where breakfast is done right. And pastries. And lunch. And dinner. They also have over 150 different teas from China, India, Japan, Sri Lanka, and even Santa Fe.
Verbier Switzerland & Chamonix France
This is one hair-raising ski area. The slopes of Verbier in Switzerland are only an hour and a half from Chamonix in France, and the Mont Blanc Unlimited lift pass will let you ski both.
Verbier, located two hours from Geneva, gets about 330 inches of snow a year. It is a sunny, scenic location with exciting terrain and lively nightlife.
“The skiing is unbelievable,” says Steve Podborski. “You have super steep runs and lots of small narrow areas with chutes with deep snow. And you have a typical Swiss village complete with nightclubs that pound all night long.”
Chamonix, the birthplace of modern and perhaps extreme skiing, is part of the Mont Blanc mountain range—Europe’s highest—and it’s massive. Five ski regions spread along both north and south sides of the valley, with steep verticals. Hopefully, you make it down from the 12,678-foot summit (one trail is 13 miles long and has a vertical drop of over 9,000 feet) in one piece to participate in the legendary après-ski scene and take in the absolute majesty of Mont Blanc.
Where to stay in Verbier: La Cordée des Alpes
Experience a mix of vintage ski designs and the latest Swiss chic, right at the foot of the mountain.
Where to stay in Chamonix: Hameau Albert
Also at its mountain base, this inn offers a killer indoor/outdoor pool.
Where to eat in Verbier: La Grange
Great for superior, mostly French food.
Where to eat in Chamonix: Le Vagabond
A bar where the fire roars warmly and the buzz from ski day and your third beer lasts long into the night.
Cortina D’ampezzo, Italy
Ernest Hemingway lived here, and it was the location for films The Pink Panther and For Your Eyes Only. Known as the Queen of the Dolomites—or Dolomiti as the Italians call this range of pinkish-orange exposed rocky crags—it also hosted the 1956 Winter Olympics.
The only way in and out is by car. And if you are like famed World Cup Alpine skier Alberto Tomba, affectionately known as “La Bomba,” you can drive your Ferrari into town every morning at 5 a.m. and take a private helicopter to the slopes.
One-hundred-thirty inches of snow falls on Cortina’s 70 miles of trails and 6,624-foot vertical drop. For ski fanatics who want to traverse the entire mountain range, get the Dolomiti Super Ski Pass, which gives you access to over 740 miles of trails.
Where to stay: Hotel De La Poste
Live la dolce vita in a hotel that rents out the perfectly preserved Hemingway room, where the author slept during his visits in the 1950s.
Where to eat: El Brite de Larieto
You won’t be able to select the cow your beef comes from, but it was nearby, as are all of the ingredients for every elegant dish, truly epitomizing farm-to-table.
Summit County, Colorado
Summit County, Colorado is made up of five mountains, but Breckenridge, Copper, and Keystone with their 353 inches of snow, are where you want to be. The steepest drop is a gut-wrenching 3,400 feet in Breckenridge, aka Brecken-fridge for its Arctic temperatures, and it boasts the highest ski resort high-speed chairlift in the world.
Keystone is the largest of the three and possibly the most fun, with night skiing and tubing. Copper is a smaller resort, often hailed as Colorado’s perfect ski mountain, with beginner to expert runs.
Rowan Cheshire, who skied at the 2018 Winter Olympics, loves the relaxed atmosphere of Colorado. “You can go into Denver [90 minutes away] to shop and stay in Frisco [15 minutes away], a really chill town near the parks. Get a bunch of people and rent a house and just get into it.”
Where to stay: One Ski Hill Place
This big, beautiful, old-fashioned hotel looks like it was airlifted in from St Moritz.
Where to eat: HearthStone
Feast on elk, duck, and Colorado lamb, with a side of sunsets over the mountain you just skied.