Four of the best winter snow holidays to book in 2023

From a fairy-tale cabin in Austria to a magical ski trip in the Scottish Highlands

1. A Norway ski tour

Sunnmøre Alps

There are lots of great descents to enjoy in the Sunnmøre region
(Image credit: Christian Ljoeen Vassbakk/Getty Images)

Ski touring boomed across the world during the Covid lockdowns, when ski lifts were closed, but it has long been popular in Norway. You could try it in the Lyngen Alps or the Lofoten Islands – but neither are as picturesque as the Sunnmøre Alps, said Toby Skinner in Condé Nast Traveller, where the fjords reach deep into the mountains from the art nouveau city of Ålesund.

This is perhaps Norway’s most “adventure-friendly region”, a “fairy-tale universe” of clapboard houses and untouched back-country snow, where little ferries streak across the waterways, “leaving great dissolving wakes and disgorging near-silent electric cars”. There are “smart” hotels with spas and saunas, but few other distractions from the landscape itself, and on most of the area’s ski routes, you won’t see another soul.

In Norway, ski touring is a part of the friluftsliv, or “open-air life”, which involves “journeying in nature” with patience and humility. There are lots of great descents to enjoy in the Sunnmøre region, but before each one you face a long climb, for which you must put on skins – strips of “carpet-like” nylon or mohair which allow your skis to grip the snow. You may fall into a kind of “meditative blankness” as you clamber up through the silence, and the way down is all the sweeter for having been earned through such hard work – like a meal that you’ve foraged for yourself and cooked hungrily on an open fire.

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Among the best hotels is the Juvet Landscape, which featured in the 2014 film Ex Machina. “Wonderful” meals are served in the farmhouse at its heart, and its guest rooms – glass “pods” with beautiful views – are far less “ominous” than they seemed in the film. Also excellent is the Hotel Union Øye, a “grand dame” that has welcomed guests including Kaiser Wilhelm and Arthur Conan Doyle; and the more rustic Storfjord Hotel, which has an excellent restaurant and “a general vibe of antlers, cowskin and cosiness”.

Uteguiden offers bespoke trips with guided ski touring from about £1,300pp for three nights, excluding flights

2. Pretty Pontresina

Grand Hotel Kronenhof

The ‘premier’ address in town is the Grand Hotel Kronenhof
(Image credit: Grand Hotel Kronenhof)

The Swiss resort of Pontresina stands firmly in the shadow of nearby St Moritz, “peerless party town of the ski world and winter retreat of the financial elite”. But it wasn’t always so, said Nick Trend in The Daily Telegraph. From the 1860s until after the Second World War, it was just as fashionable. And today, it not only offers access to the same ski areas as St Moritz (you just have to rely on your hotel minibus), it’s also “far prettier”.

While St Moritz has “transformed itself with slick contemporary architecture”, the narrow streets of Pontresina are still lined with 19th century villas and “steep-roofed” chalets. The “premier” address in town is the Grand Hotel Kronenhof. It’s a “Belle Époque beauty” redolent of Pontresina’s glory days, from its chandeliered dining room to its 19th century bowling alley.

In the cellar bar, Victorian and Edwardian skis are stacked against the walls, some still labelled with the names of their original British owners, at least one of whom (brief googling reveals) died in the First World War. It’s a poignant reminder of an earlier generation’s “derring-do”.

3. A fairy-tale cabin in Austria

Austria’s ‘starriest’ resort, Kitzbühel

Austria’s ‘starriest’ resort, Kitzbühel
(Image credit: George Pachantouris/Getty Images)

Family ski trips to the Alps can be “ruinously expensive” in February – but look beyond the most fashionable spots, and chances are you’ll find a good deal on a mountain hut or rural chalet.

Take the Josef Kreidl Hütte, said Tom Robbins in the FT. Built for hunters in 1958, this log cabin is perched in a forest at the top of a snowy track in Austria’s Saukaser Valley. Its interior is rustic (gas lamps, a woodburning stove, a single, shared bedroom and no Wi-Fi or phone signal) and it feels wildly remote – like something out of a “fairy tale”. But it actually sits in the middle of the vast KitzSki area, less than five miles south of Austria’s “starriest” resort, Kitzbühel.

Click into your skis (or jump into your car) at the front door, and you can be at the Jochberg lift – where there’s a “friendly” restaurant and a good ski school – within minutes. And there are a further 56 lifts, 233km of ski runs and 60 mountain restaurants in the area as a whole. The hut sleeps five, and costs from €87 per night, or €937 for the week at half term – not bad for a “snowglobe fantasy” in such a convenient location.

Almliesel has 170 properties to rent, including the Josef Kreidl Hutte

4. Skiing in the Highlands

The Scottish ski resort of Glencoe

The Scottish ski resort of Glencoe
(Image credit: Chris McLoughlin/Getty Images)

On a good day, the skiing in Scotland is “up there with anywhere in the world”. The problem, as the old adage goes, is finding that day. Snow conditions are unpredictable, and the weather is often atrocious – but with the right approach and the right attitude, any Highland holiday in winter can be a success, said Stuart Kenny in The Guardian.

First of all, relish the fact it’s cheaper and more climate-friendly than a trip to the Alps. Second, don’t expect to ski every day, but be ready to seek out alternative entertainment, of which the region offers plenty, from whisky distilleries to sculpture parks. Third, go late in the season – by the last week of February, the weather tends to have settled and you can usually ski through to the end of April. And fourth, “stay flexible”.

Scotland’s five main ski resorts – Cairngorm Mountain, Glenshee, the Lecht, the Nevis Range and (perhaps most beautiful) Glencoe – all lie within two hours of Aviemore, so you could base yourself there and go where conditions are best each day. Finally, consider ski touring, thrilling images of which in recent years have confirmed that “this is a country seriously underrated in terms of skiing terrain”.

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