Skiing holidays: head off the beaten piste
Avoid the crowds and brush up on your skiing at these four resorts. Nicole Garcia Merida reports
No wonder avid skiers plan a trip whenever they can. Hot chocolate, crackling fires and picture-perfect views are an excellent cure for winter blues, and there is a vast array of resorts to explore. If you want to skip the crowded world-famous pistes you don't have far to look, says Alex Cody in the Sunday Times. Whatever your taste, ability or budget you're bound to find something that suits you.
The slope less travelled
At the heart of the skiing village lies the Chedi, a resort that has become a destination in itself. It boasts luxury accommodation, a spa, a 6,000-bottle wine cellar and a Michelin-starred Japanese restaurant.
But Andermatt's key selling point is its vast expanse of powdery snow. A gondola takes skiers to the top of the Gtsch peak, which is ideal for beginners and intermediates: it is dotted with blue, green and red slopes. Another cable car goes up to the Gemsstock ski area, which lends itself to both piste and off-piste skiing. It is also possible to take two cable cars up to the summit, which offers panoramic views of the Swiss alps. "The time to book your trip is now."
Powder skiing in Ischgl
Heavyweight gondolas take you up the mountain and offer a breathtaking view of rugged mountain ranges and the picturesque villages below. The 240-kilometre ski area "best suits mileage-hungry intermediates who enjoy covering lots of ground each day before returning to the resort for some of the wildest table-dancing in the Alps", says The Daily Telegraph. For more seasoned skiers, there is plenty of space to ski off-piste.
Something for everyone
Penken is home to the Harakiri piste, the steepest black slope in Austria. There is also Penken Park, an obstacle course that allows beginners and advanced skiers or snowboarders to hone their skills. The valley of Ahorn, meanwhile, offers nursery slopes ideal for beginners and families. It is also home to the White Lounge, an igloo bar and hotel. Mayrhofen is known as one of Austria's most musical areas and is also renowned for its Tyrolean architecture and picturesque wooden houses.
A sunny weekend break
Courmayeur, at the foot of Mont Blanc, is an excellent option to fulfil any weekend wanderlust, Rachael Martin told the Italian edition of The Local. Because it is on the Italian side of the mountain it receives plenty of sunlight even during the winter, so it is not as chilly as its French counterpart Chamonix.
It offers 100km of piste and off-piste skiing and opportunities for cross-country skiing, snow-shoeing, and other winter sports. "The town's centre is the pedestrianised Via Roma with bars, restaurants and boutiques," notes Martin, so there's lots to do once you've exhausted the slopes. Its proximity to airports in Turin and Geneva will appeal to those after a weekend break of fast skiing and slow living.
The resort is also known for the Skyway Monte Bianco, a cable car that travels to the closest point of the mountain's summit. This "Italian feat of extreme engineering" offers rotating cars that give panoramic view of the surrounding mountain ranges.