Three of the best ski safaris

Ski resort, Switzerland
A cross-country trek in Switzerland is hard work, but it’s worth it

Off-piste in the Alps

The “ski safari” is an “increasingly popular style of Alpine trip designed to revive the spirits of the piste-weary mountain enthusiast”, says James Pickford in the Financial Times.
“It rests on a simple but enticing concept: rather than stay in one resort, you make a journey on skis, using cable cars, helicopters, skidoos and anything else available to ‘daisy-chain’ across valleys and ridges, staying in different villages or mountain huts as you go.”

Pickford’s plan was to explore off-piste options Gornergrat, in the Swiss ski resort of Zermatt, before catching the cable car to the Gandegghütte for the night. “After a day of mini-adventures – including being occasionally thrown off-balance by the weight of rucksacks carrying avalanche airbags, shovels, probes and transceivers, as well as our night-time gear – our windswept crew drew up to the mountain refuge, fixed limpet-like on a rock beneath the Breithorn.”

The refuge, a relic of the Zermatt that was before it was developed into a ski resort, built in 1885, upholds “all the best traditions of the genre”: the wood-fired stove, the fug of the dining room and the dinner served up by the “hut mistress”, Andrea – “a three-course feast of broth, macaroni with meat and cheese, then dessert”.

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A fashionable hotel in the Dolomites

The Dolomites, in Italy on the Austrian border, have become known for their ski safaris, says Roger Toll in The Wall Street Journal. The mountain range covers the world’s largest expanse of ski terrain under a single lift pass, not to mention 13 Michelin-starred restaurants.

“After a first night at the Cristallo, Cortina’s most fashionable hotel, I skied Cortina’s slopes”, before reaching Rifugio Averau, which sits “on an 8,000-foot pass six miles outside of town, where we’d spend the second night”, says Toll. “Owner Sandro Siorpaes and his daughter, Margot, greeted us in the bar/dining room, designed in the typical Tyrolean style with wooden beams and knotty pine walls.” Due to the region’s shared history, you will find yourself “jerked between Austrian and Italian cultures”, so you never quite know whether to expect apple strudel or ricotta dumplings – “truth be told, I was happy either way”.

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Cross-country trekking in Switzerland

“‘It’s hard,’ Peter, who runs The Hotel Castle in Blitzingen, Switzerland, warned us,” says Kate Humble in The Daily Telegraph. “The people who do it make it look so effortless, but don’t be fooled. You will fall over, your muscles will hurt, but it is a wonderful way to see the valley,” said Peter. And it is, agrees Humble, who, together with her husband, Ludo, were up on skis after an hour’s tuition, ready to go on a trek, not having skied in 25 years.

After the first day you can expect to be sore from using unfamiliar muscles and you’ll wonder whether your legs will be working for the next leg of the trek. But a sauna will revive you, and “bolstering” soups will soon have you keen to get back out there, “revelling in your independence and the frosty, frigid beauty of your surroundings”.

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A ski safari for gastronomes

Each December, Michelin-starred chef Norbert Niederkofler hits the resorts of the Dolomites (see above) for the Gourmet Ski Safari, says Chris Madigan on Niederkofler works at the St Hubertus restaurant at the Hotel Rosa Alpina in San Cassiano, Alta Badia, in Italy.

He invites his top friends from the valley: chefs Matteo Metullio, Giancarlo Morelli and, from further afield, Esat Akyildiz of the Ritz-Carlton in Almaty, Kazakhstan. They each cook a special dish in the mountain restaurants around the Alta Badia ski area, and teach the staff how to prepare it throughout the season. For participating restaurants, see