Picture-perfect solutions for skiers and non-skiers

A ski holiday doesn’t have to be all about catching the first lift of the day and bombing downhill as fast as you can.

It’s about that fine blend of excitement and relaxation created by beautiful mountain scenery, pure air, great food and a host of activities. Choose your resort with care, and you can have a truly enjoyable break without even skiing at all.

If you’ve never skied before but your partner or friends are diehard powderhounds, the prospect of learning is daunting. You might think: ‘How can I ever do this without making a fool of myself? It will take me years to reach even a modest level of expertise.’

Choose your resort with care and you can have a truly enjoyable break without even skiing at all, says Peter Hardy

Absolutely not true. Thanks to modern equipment and the latest teaching techniques, you should be up on your skis and getting about nicely within a few days.

But even if you decide that skiing is not for you, relax in the mountains, enjoy the lunches and — of course — the apres-ski. The secret lies in where you choose to go, so here’s our pick of some of the world’s prettiest ski resorts.

Say ‘ah!’ in are

This remote Swedish resort provides the best combination of skiing and alternative activities anywhere in Europe. As an all-round winter sports destination with a sizzling nightlife, it’s unbeatable. Pastel-painted houses and candle-lit buildings add to the atmosphere.

The skiing: 100km of pistes with some challenging off-piste, and stark but beautiful scenery. It suits every level of skier.

For non-skiers: Take a snowmobile tour to view reindeer herds. There’s also reindeer sledding in the woods, dog-sledding on the lake, skating, ice-sailing and fishing through ice holes.

How to do it: Seven nights’ half-board at Hotel Fjallgarden from £825pp including flights and transfers (crystalski.co.uk, 020 8610 3123).

Mellow in Megeve

Magical: Megeve in the French Alps vies with Courchevel 1850 for the title of France’s most chic resort

Magical: Megeve in the French Alps vies with Courchevel 1850 for the title of France’s most chic resort

With its mellow 18th-century buildings and medieval church, Megeve in the French Alps vies with Courchevel 1850 for the title of France’s most chic resort.

The skiing: The area is enormous — 445km of skiing on the regional lift pass. Overall, the pistes around Megeve are best suited to intermediates. The off-piste is exceptionally good.

For non-skiers: Shopping is a serious but expensive occupation here, with lots of smart boutiques. Local farmers offer rides in brightly painted sleighs.

How to do it: Seven nights’ catered stay at chalet Les Clochettes, sleeping ten, from £750pp, travel not included (stanfordskiing.co.uk, 01603 477471).

Italian style

Cortina d’Ampezzo is Italy’s top ski destination, an attractive town dominated by a green-and-white bell tower set against a mountain backdrop.

The skiing: The pistes are in two areas reached by cableways from the different ends of town. Slopes suit all standards.

For non-skiers: Many of its predominantly Italian visitors consider skiing secondary to shopping in the array of elegant boutiques and antique shops.

How to do it: Seven nights at Hotel Ancora from £1,295pp with flights and transfers (skisolutions.com, 020 3918 9771).

Medieval dream

The medieval town of Kitzbuhel is the most beautiful ski resort in Austria with spa opportunities abound

The medieval town of Kitzbuhel is the most beautiful ski resort in Austria with spa opportunities abound

The medieval town of Kitzbuhel is the most beautiful ski resort in Austria. It is most famous for the Hahnenkamm downhill that takes place each January — the most testing event on the World Cup circuit, with skiers reaching 90mph.

The skiing: When not prepared for racing, the Hahnenkamm reverts to being a relatively benign family run. The skiing is suitable for all standards.

For non-skiers: The Aquarena, with its 25m pool and giant waterfall, was a forerunner for sports centres in the Alps. Spa opportunities abound, but Kitzbuhel’s true attraction for non-skiers are its shops and coffee houses.

How to do it: Seven nights’ half-board at Schwarzer Adler from £1,099pp with flights and transfers (inghams.co.uk, 01483 667 471).

Glitz in St Moritz

St Moritz is a major ski resort, with 350km of pistes across four ski areas, and a magnet for the Swiss socialite set

St Moritz is a major ski resort, with 350km of pistes across four ski areas, and a magnet for the Swiss socialite set

It was the British who invented winter sports holidays here in 1864. These days, St Moritz is a major ski resort, with 350km of pistes across four ski areas, and a magnet for the Swiss socialite set. It is still best known internationally for its alternative spectator and participant sports.

The skiing: This is centred on the two largest areas of Corviglia and Corvatsch. Zuoz is suitable for families, and at peak times slopes here are much quieter.

For non-skiers: Cricket, golf, polo, horse and greyhound-racing, show-jumping and winter golf on the frozen lake.

How to do it: Seven nights’ half-board at Hotel Monopol from £1,089pp with flights and transfers (snowfinders.co.uk, 01858 466 888).

THE MAGICAL AND MAGNIFICENT MATTERHORN

The famous Matterhorn peak in Switzerland

The famous Matterhorn peak in Switzerland

Zermatt’s narrow lanes are lined with age‑blackened wooden chalets and gleaming modern hotels beneath the angular eminence of the Matterhorn that seems to fill your vision at every corner.

The town is typically Swiss, with sophisticated shops, a lively nightlife and lots to do for non-skiers.

The skiing: The slopes divide into three sectors that can be reached by lift and mountain railways from three access points in town. Together, they offer some 350km of varied skiing for all standards.

For non-skiers: Winter walking and lunching are the main pastimes. Get a pedestrian pass to reach outstanding mountain restaurants including Zum See and Chez Vrony.

How to do it: Seven nights’ b&b at Hotel Mountain Paradise from £590pp, travel not included (matterhornchalets.com).

Austrian hotspot

Bad Gastein is the focal point of a handful of resorts in Gastein Valley, an hour’s drive from Salzburg airport. Some 23 million litres of thermal water bubble up each day from 17 underground springs and is piped to spas and hotels.

The skiing: This takes place on undulating pastureland around Bad Gastein, in nearby Bad Hofgastein, and three other villages. Best suited to intermediates.

For non-skiers: Watch skiers whizz by as you wallow in the curative waters at a steaming outdoor spa. Then try your luck in one of Austria’s most famous casinos.

How to do it: Seven nights at Chalet-Hotel Tannenburg from £644 (skimiquelholidays.co.uk, 01457 821 200).

Beautiful Banff

In Alberta, Canada, this pretty town on the edge of Banff National Park is the gateway to three ski areas with mountain scenery and plenty of wildlife.

The skiing: Banff has its own pocket-sized ski area of Mount Norquay. Sunshine Village, a 20-minute drive away, is the snowiest and home to dramatic off-piste.

For non-skiers: Don’t miss the 37c thermal spring in Banff or the views across the glaciers.

How to do it: Seven nights’ room-only at Buffalo Mountain Lodge from £837pp with flights and transfers (americanskiclassics.com/banff, 020 8607 9988).

Lakeside charm

Zell am See is a charming old lakeside town in Austria sitting beneath the 2,000m Schmittenhohe, which offers limited all-round skiing on 77km of pistes. Medieval guest houses and shops are clustered around a 10th-century tower, giving it the atmosphere of a mini-Kitzbuhel.

The skiing: This winter, Zell hits the mainstream with a link into the 270km of slopes that make up the giant Skicircus area. Some 408km of runs will be accessible, making this Austria’s biggest ski area. You can ski the Kitzsteinhorn glacier, too.

For non-skiers: Ride the new gondola up to the glacier where there are 5,000 sq m of igloos with an ice bar and ice cinema.

How to do it: Seven nights’ half-board at Hotel Fischerwirt from £627pp with flights and transfers (igluski.com, 020 3733 9061).

Belle of the ball

Aspen in Colorado is unfairly described as Hollywood-on-Ice. Yes, you may find yourself sharing a gondola with a famous face. Stars flock due to the challenging slopes and lively ski town.

The skiing: This is spread across four areas up to 20 minutes apart, but linked by a free bus. Aspen Mountain suits advanced skiers, as does outlying Aspen Highlands. Buttermilk is for beginners. Snowmass caters for all.

For non-skiers: Enjoy spas in Aspen, yoga, gentle apres-ski and forays up the mountain for lunch. You can buy almost anything here — from a Picasso to a £10 million home.

How to do it: Seven nights at Hotel Aspen from £1,300pp with flights and transfers (sno.co.uk, 020 7770 6888).


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