When friends suggested we go to Obergurgl in the Austrian Alps, we thought they were having a laugh, says Lesley Grant in the Daily Express. "That was until we discovered it is considered a paradise for skiers." Discerning skiers would have known that all along. After all, it's not for nothing it's known as the "Diamond of the Alps" "it is stylish, has queue-free lifts, top-quality hotels... and an absolute snow guarantee' on 70 miles of immaculate slopes". Hiring ski gear is a breeze and if you jump on the cable car to Hochgurgl, you will find long, wide runs and the best of the sunshine.
Aside from the skiing, there are eight miles of cleared winter hiking trails, and many excellent restaurants for when the going gets tough, without the need to queue up. Hotel Madeleine, a family run hotel and spa, is just 200 yards from the lifts, and "oozes charm and friendliness".
Compared with the Alps, the Pyrenees have always seemed a bit of a provincial mountain range for skiers, says Stephen Wood in The Sunday Telegraph. That's not for a lack of slopes there are more than 40 on the French side alone. Rather, it's the relative lack of glamour the rich and famous tend to gather in Courchevel and Val d'Isre in the Alps. No oligarchs own over-the-top chalets in the Pyrenees and more fool them. Cauterets, on the French side of the peaks, is less a ski resort than "a centuries-old spa town of considerable beauty".
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The old wooden railway station, which wouldn't look out of place in a spaghetti western, is best viewed from the gondola on the way up to the Cirque du Lys, with its 20 pistes on undulating terrain that mostly suits skiers of intermediate ability. For beginners, there's a learning complex with three different zones and a covered "magic carpet" travelator to get them back up the hill. Stay at the family run Le Lion d'Or hotel, "a place of nooks and crannies and home-made baked goods". "For the indolent or unskilled, Cauterets would be an ideal destination for a short break."
You can forget the vin chaud, tartiflette, and that quintessentially Alpine herbal liqueur, gnpi. Aprs-ski in Kyrgyzstan consists of kymyz a bitter, alcoholic concoction made of horse's milk and besbarmaq horse sausage served with noodles, says Tristan Kennedy in The Guardian. "But if the restaurants around the Suusamyr Freeride Lodge (email: firstname.lastname@example.org, +996 550 198 899) lack the sophistication of those in Alpe d'Huez, the area makes up for it with the quality of the skiing." Here the snow is always light and fluffy, thanks to the extreme Central Asian climate. It is perfect for "powder-loving, backcountry skiers and snowboarders".
If you think the food sounds bad, the resort infrastructure is even worse. The few, scattered lifts are little more than relics from the Soviet era. But, ever innovative, Suusamyr Lodge uses modified piste-bashers to ferry skiers up the slope a system dubbed "the poor man's heli-skiing", but it works. As long as you're careful, "the snow in Suusamyr is simply too good not to enjoy".
Skiing with the legends
"This, I think, is the best ski trip ever," says Chlo Hamilton in The Independent.Legend Holidays & Events is a company founded by retired rugbystars Austin Healey and Will Greenwood, and which gets sports professionals tohost luxurious trips, sharing their pearls of wisdom with guests along the way.Hamilton followed in the tracks of British Olympic downhill skier Chemmy Alcott.
As well as choice skiing advice, you get all the trimmings: there's the obligatoryraclette and wine, dinner at La Folie Douce in the nearby resort of Val d'Isre inFrance, and a heli-ski escapade on the final day. But the real focus of the holiday is onthe pros, says Hamilton. Chemmy's passion for powder is infectious and "learning atthe skis of legends is, well, legendary".
Chris Carter spent three glorious years reading English literature on the beautiful Welsh coast at Aberystwyth University. Graduating in 2005, he left for the University of York to specialise in Renaissance literature for his MA, before returning to his native Twickenham, in southwest London. He joined a Richmond-based recruitment company, where he worked with several clients, including the Queen’s bank, Coutts, as well as the super luxury, Dorchester-owned Coworth Park country house hotel, near Ascot in Berkshire.
Then, in 2011, Chris joined MoneyWeek. Initially working as part of the website production team, Chris soon rose to the lofty heights of wealth editor, overseeing MoneyWeek’s Spending It lifestyle section. Chris travels the globe in pursuit of his work, soaking up the local culture and sampling the very finest in cuisine, hotels and resorts for the magazine’s discerning readership. He also enjoys writing his fortnightly page on collectables, delving into the fascinating world of auctions and art, classic cars, coins, watches, wine and whisky investing.
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