Holidays off the beaten piste

Skiiers on a chair-lift made to look like a paraglider
Make the leap: the lesser known runs provide the best skiing

“You know you are on to something special when the well-travelled couple sitting opposite you in the cable car lean forward and say intently, ‘Please don’t tell anyone about this…’,” says Roger Alton in the Daily Mail. Heading up to the 2,770m Pezid peak in Austria, skiers can savour views of Switzerland and Italy “before choosing from the two hairy-chested black runs or taking the scenic, long blue… Spoilt for choice, in other words – and virtually unknown in the UK.”

The three villages of Serfaus, Fiss and Ladis sit on a plateau in the Austrian Tyrol. The largest, Serfaus, is “virtually traffic free” thanks to an underground railway. The Schlosshotel in Fiss, located right on the slopes, is “elegant but not oppressively so; friendly, with good restaurants and a lavish spa and pool” (rooms from £173; SchlossHotel-Fiss.com). “I haven’t enjoyed discovering a new resort so much since 25 years ago when I first came across Champoluc in northern Italy,” says Alton. Now Champoluc is “recognised as one of the diamonds of Alpine skiing”.

Affordable options in France

“Hidden in plain sight, just behind several of the world’s ritziest resorts, there’s a valley full of cut-price skiing. It’s called Maurienne,” says Sean Newsom in The Times. The 70-mile-long region skirts the edge of ski towns such as Courchevel, Méribel and Val d’lsère, and has 20 “accessible, unpretentious and affordable” resorts of its own.

A week in a self-catering apartment for four starts at £115 per head, including the Eurotunnel crossing. Base yourself in Val Cenis – the resort faces north and northwest and “holds its snow well, rising to a treeless 2,800 metres before plunging back into the forests below”. It’s unpretentious – people aren’t there to “prove how chic they are; they just want to ski”. And the Eski-Mo ski pass, which includes access to the four other Maurienne resorts (£173 for six days; see Eski-Mo.com), “gets them a lot of it”.

Heliskiing in Canada

“You know you’re skiing somewhere special when a group of your fellow adventurers declare that they’ve spotted a pack of wolves roaming high up on the glacier they just descended,” says Tim Woodward in The Daily Telegraph, as you sit down to dine at a temporary picnic table “on the edge of a mighty glacier”. The Skeena mountains in northern British Columbia, on the edge of the Alaskan panhandle, hundreds of miles away from the nearest ski lift, lie in the heart of “the largest single heliski area in the world”, which is operated by the “aptly named Last Frontier”. Here the snow conditions and surrounding landscape are “anything but mundane”, while runs such as Troubadour, Virgin and Cougar in “the mecca of heliskiing” offer the best “hero snow” of the whole trip. (Prices from CA$6,700 per person; see LastFrontierHeli.com).

A new adventure in Iran

“For most skiers and snowboarders the idea of an off-piste paradise normally conjures up thoughts of Alaska’s majestic peaks, Verbier’s world-famous freeride terrain or Japan’s legendary powder fields,” says Lucy Aspden in The Daily Telegraph. Indeed, “many, forgivably, would not consider looking to the mountains of Iran”. But now, Snoworks, a UK-based provider of ski courses, is running a trip to four of Iran’s top ski resorts, Dizin, Shemshak, Darbandsar and Tochal, next March.

All have untapped off-piste areas that are accessed by lift, but most skiers and snowboarders have “probably never heard of them”. The Alborz mountains in northern Iran stretch from the border with Azerbaijan and along the western and southern coast of the Caspian Sea. “The predominantly dry air that hits the Alborz mountains from the desert means that the slopes and backcountry terrain are covered in light dry powder, the perfect recipe for off-piste skiing”. (Price is £2,545 per person; see Snoworks.co.uk/ski_iran_.html).

disfi.com