5 great destinations for spectacular ski adventures
Each week, we spotlight dream vacations recommended by some of the industry's top travel writers. This week, we recommend five skiing vacations from around the world.
Skiing remote Iceland
"What does it feel like to ski on the edge of the world?" asked McKenna Peterson at Ski magazine. That's the question that recently inspired me to join three other skiers on a flight to northern Iceland's Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, a land of volcanoes, fjords, glaciers, and tall cliffs that plunge straight into the North Atlantic. Our small plane landed on a mossy beach, and after fording a leg-numbing river, we ascended our first summit, Dögundarfell, to enjoy a run on perfect corn snow — the type that makes you feel you are, "no joke," the best skier in the world. Standing atop a saddle between two peaks, I felt as if I had "fallen out of reality and landed in a fantasy world." Kálfatindur towered to my left, and to my right, the Hornbjarg cliffs dropped to a coastline speckled with shorebirds. I skirted those cliffs on my way downhill, spraying glittering ice into the void. For a few minutes, "I am flying with the birds, the closest I will come to being one of them."
Sledding the Bavarian Alps
You don't have to be an ace skier to join the winter elite, said Kevin Rushby at The Guardian. My 13-year-old daughter and I recently took a holiday in the Bavarian Alps and discovered many ski resorts near the German-Austrian border that maintain dedicated sledding slopes. On our first run, at Oberstaufen, I made it through the first 300 feet of a screaming descent before crashing into a wall of ice. But I sprang to my feet, remounted my rented sled, and quickly picked up my pursuit of the vanishing Maddy. I soon learned that one of the strange effects of sledding at breakneck speed is that "you laugh uncontrollably, especially when someone crashes." At Zugspitze, we were standing over a dizzyingly steep slope when Maddy asked, "Dad, where do you keep your will?" But I shook off her teasing, pushed off, and ended up holding every corner on that "roller coaster of white-lipped insanity." I screamed all the way down, finishing "breathless, disbelieving, and utterly addicted to the finest winter sport ever."
Switzerland's new super resorts
Hotels in the Swiss Alps have always been about the incomparable setting, but "not anymore," said Bert Archer at The Globe and Mail (Canada). Throughout the region, hotels and resorts are focusing on distracting guests from the new unreliability of winter weather by adding tennis courts, art collections, or 100,000-square-foot spas. Even among the magisterial new breed, the Chedi Andermatt stands out: It has a skating rink, a Michelin-starred Japanese restaurant, and opulent lounges that cater to long afternoons of drinking tea and listening to classical pianists. There's also a 115-foot pool, a two-story cheese humidor, and a museum filled with Olympian-autographed skis. This month, the Chedi will open a watch lounge, where guests can browse a collection of six-figure timepieces while sipping craft cocktails. "You can still ski, of course. If you can find the time."
Utah's throwback peaks
At a time when "bigger/faster/more" have become watchwords at many resorts, it can be harder than ever to find "that sweet feeling of escape," said Jill Robinson at the San Francisco Chronicle. "But if your tastes lean more to the old-school side, where chairs don't have to be heated or hold eight people, there's still hope." Outside Salt Lake City, three resorts — Brighton, Powder Mountain, and Alta Ski Area — evoke "the feeling of a simpler time." Good ol' Alta is one of just three resorts in the U.S. that still forbid snowboarding, and its five '70s-style lodges are all privately owned and promote camaraderie with game rooms and community-style dining. Alta's "legendary" powder completes the package.
Canada's latest heli-skiing mecca
The former gold-rush town of Stewart, British Columbia, is seriously hard to reach, but the payoff arrives the moment you soar by helicopter into the mountains, said Simon Usborne at the Financial Times. Last Frontier Heliskiing uses Stewart as its home base and boasts the world's largest heli-ski area — a 3,900-square-mile wilderness that nets 82 feet of snow a year. Stepping out of the chopper, I sunk almost to my waist in powder and started getting used to skiing from unnamed peaks to unnamed lakes or valleys. Our lodging was far from luxurious, but as one of the company founders put it, "Luxury here is flying around one of the last wildernesses and skiing powder top to bottom 15 times a day."