Looking to go skiing

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We may earn a commission from affiliate links. Quickly outgrowing its beginnings as a sport for intrepid mountaineers, skiing is now a mainstream winter activity for the whole family. But for skiers, it's the snow that counts, and the terrain of the mountainsides it falls on. Although the world's best-known ski resorts are in Europe and North Americathe Winter Olympics put Japan firmly on the ski map, and enthusiasts' quest for year-round snow has brought the Andes more attention.

A lot of considerations go into choosing the best ski resort for your vacation, but for this list, the ski experience itself — the variety and challenge of the terrain, the snow conditions, and lift access — predominate in selecting these top choices for any serious skier's bucket list. Caution: Many of these mountains offer backcountry terrain that by its nature is unpredictable and should not be attempted without a qualified and well-equipped backcountry guide.

Each country or region has its own approach, but you can expect certain measures at nearly any ski resort. These include wearing masks, limited use of indoor facilities, and many mountains are requiring advance reservations to control s with no same-day ticket sales. Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues. Now part of Vail Resorts group, Whistler Blackcomb combines the superb terrain of two mountains to make it Canada's premier ski resort and the largest winter sports area in North America. The combined skiable terrain offers more than runs accessed by 37 lifts.

These outstanding technical facilities paired with the variety of terrain — wide-open bowls on Whistler Mountain and the Horstman Glacier on Blackcomb where you can ski year-round — and world-class grooming keep Whistler a favorite for serious skiers. Access to all resort facilities this season will be by advance reservationand all resort transactions will be by debit or credit card. Incomparable views that stretch to the Pacific Ocean, plenty of terrain for all skill levels, and a charming full-service resort village right at the base make it an equally good choice for families and casual skiers.

There's enough snow and mountain to go around, and it's just a two-hour drive from Vancouver. Official site: www. Courchevel, France. Despite its decidedly upscale villages and reputation, Courchevel is for serious skiers looking for snow thrills of a lifetime. The yearly average of four meters of natural snow is meticulously maintained and groomed, and the off-piste skiing is legendary. Black runs include one corridor couloir that's considered one of the most difficult black runs in the world; there's also a good choice of steep black mogul runs. Jean Blanc is a former World Cup downhill run.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Courchevel. A skier in fresh powder next to the Matterhorn. Even if it didn't have one of the world's most beautiful mountains as a backdrop, Switzerland's ski resort of Zermatt would be a place skiers dream about.

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It's the highest winter sports area in the Alps, and it has the greatest vertical drop in Switzerland, plus the magnificent peak of the Matterhorn can be seen from almost everywhere on its kilometers of trails and slopes. New last year was the world's highest 3S Liftcarrying 2, skiers an hour to the Matterhorn Glacier, at 3, meters altitude, where you can ski year-round. Not enough reason to ski here?

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Try the chance not only to ski over a mountain pass and down into a trail system on the other side, but it's over an international boundary, as well. There's also Europe's longest downhill run, from Matterhorn glacier Klein Matterhorn into Zermatt, over 25 kilometers long. Zermatt Snow Park on the Theodul Glacier, one of the highest in the Alps, is the hot spot for snowboarders and freeride skiers. Few places can equal the off-piste opportunities of Zermatt. Along with Rothhorn, Stockhorn, and the Matterhorn Glacier, Zermatt is the gateway to one of the world's most exhilarating off-piste experiences, the kilometer miles mountaineering route from Zermatt to Chamonix, in the French Alps, known as the Haute Route.

A guide is mandatory, as are expert skills and high-altitude stamina; the route connects a network of mountain huts, inns, and lodges and usually takes eight days to complete. The biggest of Colorado's ski resortsand one of the largest in the world, Vail offers enough terrain to keep an avid skier in any skill level busy. Long, well-groomed runs overlook the luxury hotels and upscale restaurants and shops in the equally well-manicured town of Vail. Experts head for the seven back bowls for bumps and glades, which the expected inches of annual snowfall keep in prime condition.

Vail is known not just for its size— over 5, acres of skiing served by 31 lifts—but for its variety. Three separate terrain parks keep riders happy, and backcountry skiers find powder heaven here. Use of all resort facilities this season will be by advance reservationwith no on-site ticket sales ; all resort transactions will be by debit or credit card. Accommodation: Where to Stay in Vail. Top among the several ski resorts in ColoradoAspen Snowmass is made up of four ski areas surrounding Aspen and Snowmass Village. The combined terrain of Snowmass, Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, and Buttermilk exceeds 5, acres, with Snowmass alone ing for more than 3, Although the smallest of the four, Buttermilk is known for hosting the Winter X-Games since The games are scheduled for January 28— Aspen Mountain is strictly for intermediate and expert skiers, with steep terrain from its three ridge lines all rated black or double-black.

Aspen Highlands, known for its expert runs, is also a favorite for backcountry skiers, who hike to the high-alpine terrain of the Highland Bowl. Aspen Highlands is known for its advanced and expert runs. Aspen has completed the three-year glade project at Aspen Highlands to clear new lines in the steep, wooded Lucky Find area. The of Hollywood and sports stars who own property here has given Aspen its reputation as a glamor resort. Although much of the backcountry terrain is for experienced skiers, Aspen is unusual in having some easy areas that are safe for newcomers to ungroomed terrain.

This is one of the first places on the continent where backcountry skiing became popular, and it still le the pack. Aspen Powder Tours takes skiers and riders by snowcat into the powder stashes behind Aspen Mountain, where the lift system doesn't reach. Accommodation: Where to Stay in Aspen.

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Skiing legend Jean-Claude Killy made his home-town one of the best-known ski resorts in Europe after his breathtaking sweep of three gold medals at the Winter Olympics in Grenoble. Val d'Isere shares the high valley with neighboring Tignes to provide more than kilometers of interconnected ski terrain served by more than ski lifts.

The valley, surrounded by peaks that provide skiing at altitudes as high as 3, meters, is part of Parc National de la Vanoise. The altitude assures snow through the late spring; skiing on the Glacier du Pisaillas usually lasts through June and often into July. Val d'Isere and Tignes offers some of the best skiing for experts, with more than two dozen challenging black runs. But it's the exceptional off-piste terrain that earns bragging rights for skilled skiers.

The off-piste skiing in Tignes is largely above the tree line. For degree thrills and exceptional scenerygo to the North Face of Pramecou; hiring a guide is strongly recommended here, even for experienced alpine skiers. Accommodation: Where to Stay in Val d'Isere. The five ragged peaks of the Cinque Torri give upscale Cortina D'Ampezzo the most beautiful setting of any of Italy's ski resorts.

Known only to avid skiers before it hosted the Winter Olympics, Cortina became an overnight sensation for the well-set winter set. The town is still decidedly high-end, but skiing here is a surprising bargain, thanks largely to the value-packed Dolomiti Superski Pass. This gives access to the lifts and trails of a dozen resorts, most linked to give nearly kilometers of interconnected skiing.

More than three dozen lifts in Cortina alone carry skiers from the center of town to snowfields at the crests of the highest ridges, from which they can ski back into town in a single exhilarating run or spend the day on the high-altitude snowfields. Skiing here is one of the top things to do in Italy. Not just for experts, Cortina's terrain is about half suitable for intermediates.

There's also a bobsled run, and the Olympic rink for ice-skaters. Although many international ski competitions have been canceled this season, the FIS World Championships are scheduled in Cortina d'Ampezzo from February 7 to 21, Accommodation: Where to Stay in Cortina.

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In a beautiful setting with plenty of challenging terrain at an altitude that promises consistent snow, Telluride is one of Colorado's most popular ski resorts. The height of the San Juan Mountains makes it possible for the resort's base to begin at an impressive 8,foot elevation, and lifts carry skiers to 12, feet. In between is more than 2, acres of skiable terrain. It's this impressive vertical and expanses of hike-to terrain that bring extreme skiers to Telluride. But it's also a resort for the whole family, with skiing at all levels and a ski-in-ski-out Mountain Village at the base, which is connected by a free gondola to the town of Telluride.

Experienced skiers can ski the steep trails directly into Telluride. Accommodation: Where to Stay in Telluride. Niseko with Mt. Yotei in the distance. Between them, they provide some outstanding and varied terrain on the slopes of a volcanomany of the trails facing the near-perfect cone of Mt. Yotei, known as " Hokkaido's Mt Fuji.

Groomed trails, wooded glades, bowls of ungroomed powder, and snowparks cover one half of the mountain, while the other face is a vast mountainside of unpatrolled backcountry adventuresfilled with natural halfpipes, steep chutes, and almost unlimited tree skiing. Niseko is known for its powder and for the low temperatures that produce it, so be prepared for cold weather. Although it's famed for its glades and off-piste alpine skiing, Niseko rates more than two-thirds of its trails for beginners and intermediate skiers.

The resort offers heli-skiing, cat skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and hot spring spas — a highlight of any trip to Japan. The iconic name of Mont Blanc, the first Winter Olympics, and ski slopes with the world's greatest height differential all combine to make Chamonix one of the best-known and most popular ski resorts in France. Europe's tallest peak at 4, meters, Mont Blanc assures Chamonix some of the best snow conditions in the Alps, and the longest lasting.

The altitude is aided by the surrounding glaciers in keeping temperatures low and powder dry. The snow falls—and stays—on some of the world's most challenging terrain for skiers.

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Chamonix includes several different areas: Grands Montets, at altitudes from 1, meters to 3, meters, offers expert runs with the greatest height differential in the world. Tree-lined and often glazed over, its 3. Chamonix is known for its superb off-piste skiing.

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It's not all about experts though—at Les Houches there is skiing for all levels, as well as cross-country trails. A legendary name in the hearts of skiers, St. Anton is where the first ski club in the Alps began in Its kilometers of terrain at heights reaching 2, meters are no place for beginners, or even most intermediates, as they include some of the most challenging runs anywhere in the Alps. The moguls are as legendary as the resort itself, and the off-piste skiing is superb, as it's one of the snowiest resorts in the Alps.

For the most breathtaking experiences, hire a guide and head for the spectacular views around Sonnenkopf; ask about the Schindler Chutes or the Waterfall route into Langen. You can take a shuttle bus to these, and some of the pistes in these resorts are also connected to St.

Anton by Flexenbahn, a cable car that links to the other side of the Flexen Pass. Anton village is a sweet cluster of Alpine inns, shops, and restaurants, and ski lifts leave right from the village. Kitzbuhel on a clear winter day. For serious skiers looking for white-knuckle descents, there's the legendary 85 percent vertical, where skiers compete annually in the Hahnenkamm, the most challenging of all downhill races. For less skilled skiers, there are gentle slopes and long, wide cruisers.

The small Bichlalm area is especially deed for riders and freestylers. With a claim to being Europe's first winter resort, and still one of its most glamorous, St. Moritz has plenty of credentials to make it stand out among Switzerland's many ski resorts.

Although it may be known for its glitz and social scene, there's no questioning the ski challenges of its surrounding mountains. Moritz is strong in intermediate terrain, but about 30 percent is rated black and there is ample off-piste, some backcountry, and some marked itineraries. Because it is not as well-known for off-piste, it remains a well-kept secret, which means that its backcountry runs are less used, hence not as tracked as the better-known destinations.

For the steepest and most challenging terrain, head for the Diavolezza and Lagalp, where a deep base ensures excellent snow. Accommodation: Where to Stay in St.

Looking to go skiing

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