Skiing Close To Home: The Best Resorts You Can Get To By Car
Heavenly Ski Resort, South Lake Tahoe, California. Photograph courtesy of Vail Resorts
The good news is that ski season isn’t cancelled this year. The bad news is that, for most of us, it’s going to look a bit different. (Who else is sick of hearing that?) So, no, you might not be jetting off to snowier pastures, but for many city-dwellers, there’s actually no need to hop a plane to get a winter sports fix. Though sometimes overlooked for glitzier global destinations, these local ski resorts are just a few hours’ drive from some of the world’s biggest cities. Whether you’re in dire need of a quick ski weekend away or planning a proper holiday on the pistes, you may be surprised by what you can find close to home. Wherever you’re based, be sure to check the local travel restrictions and safety guidelines of any hotel or resort you’re planning on visiting, as they can change quickly.
01. South Lake Tahoe, California
The Lodge at Edgewood Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California. Photograph courtesy of Edgewood Tahoe
Approximately three hours from San Francisco
Brimming with that trademark lax Cali charm and half-a-dozen premier ski resorts, San Franciscans are lucky to have Lake Tahoe in their neck of the woods. Just three hours away, the vast Heavenly Ski Resort in South Lake Tahoe lives up to its divine moniker with epic lake views and wide, powdery trails. The ritzy retreat of choice in the area is The Lodge at Edgewood Tahoe. While still delivering nods to the Old West by way of log-hewn staircases, wood beams and all-American A-frames, The Lodge at Edgewood Tahoe is very much an immense masterpiece of modernity with a heated outdoor pool right on the lakefront and even a Mr Tom Fazio-designed, 18-hole golf course for those snow-free months.
Where to stay: The Lodge at Edgewood Tahoe
Where to ski: Heavenly Ski Resort
What to pack
02. Cervinia, Italy
Suite Prestige at Relais & Châteaux Hermitage, Cervinia, Italy. Photograph courtesy of Relais & Châteaux Hermitage
Approximately 2.5 hours from Milan
For weekend ski trips, Milan is nothing short of a dream with the winter wonderland of Valle d’Aosta less than three hours away. Butting against the borders of Switzerland and France, this unmissable Alpine region is home to the famed chichi ski town of Courmayeur by Mont Blanc (that’s Monte Bianco in Italiano) and the high-altitude hot spot of Breuil-Cervinia on the sun-blasted southern face of the Matterhorn. (Fun fact: that’s the mountain on the Toblerone box.) Nestled slope-side in Cervinia under dollops of sugar-white snow, the enchanting Hotel Hermitage is a gingerbread house come to life. Unwind from the 360km of pistes – including the white-knuckle runs going all to way to Zermatt – by soaking in the spring-fed waters of the spa pool or sipping homemade grappa in the cosy, subterranean wine cellar.
Where to stay: Hotel Hermitage
Where to ski: Breuil-Cervinia Valtournenche
NOTE: As of 24 October 2020, the lift system at Cervinia has been temporarily closed, but is expected to reopen soon, in compliance with new rules.
What to pack
03. Karuizawa, Japan
Hoshinoya Karuizawa, Karuizawa, Japan. Photograph courtesy of Hoshino Resorts
Approximately two hours from Tokyo
Though the knee-deep powder in Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido may be the stuff of legends, the resort town of Karuizawa on the main island is far easier to reach for the nine million urbanites who call Tokyo home. The major pro of Karuizawa is that it’s only a two-hour drive or one-hour bullet train ride away. As far as cons go, the snow here is mostly of the manmade variety (you’ll have to go a little further to Yuzawa for the real thing), and the ski area is largely designed for beginners. However, a few nights at the nearby Hoshinoya Karuizawa, in the formidable shadow of the active volcano Mount Asama, makes up for Karuizawa’s shortcomings. An eco-minded onsen hotel with geothermal hot springs (used for both long, relaxing soaks and generating hydroelectricity), this is a real haven of Zen serenity – especially in wintertime.
Where to stay: Hoshinoya Karuizawa
Where to ski: Karuizawa Prince Hotel Ski Resort
What to pack
04. Metsovo, Greece
Grand Forest Metsovo, Epirus, Greece. Photograph courtesy of Grand Forest Metsovo
Approximately five hours from Athens
There’s a surprising amount of options for Athenians looking to hit the slopes this winter, with Mount Parnassus and Mount Helmos both within a three-hour drive from the capital. But for those who are willing to go further afield, there’s the quaint, pine-forested enclave of Metsovo in the wild mountains of Pindus. With several ski areas only 20 minutes away, including Anilio and Metsovo Ski Center, the secluded and stylish boutique hotel Grand Forest Metsovo makes for a solid mountaintop basecamp of toasty wood-feed fires; blanket-bedecked timber terraces; and memorising forest views of black pine, beech trees and even the occasional brown bear.
Where to stay: Grand Forest Metsovo
Where to ski: Anilio Adventure Park
What to pack
05. Bretton Woods, New Hampshire
Omni Mount Washington Resort, Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. Photograph by Art Phaneuf/Alamy
Approximately six hours from New York City; 2.5 hours from Boston
Thanks to an impressive network of interstate highways connecting the ski-obsessed states of the American Northeast, New Yorkers and Bostonians are never far from decent terrain come winter. With historic Americana appeal and a dramatic backdrop of the weather-bashed White Mountains, Omni Mount Washington Resort in New Hampshire wins a spot for its proximity alone to the award-winning, 464-acre Bretton Woods ski area. A favourite of US presidents, other draws of this distinguished property include its wrap-around veranda; the 2,300sq m spa (try the Gentleman’s Rebalancing Facial after a day on the windy slopes); and a sneaky speakeasy, dating back to the 1930s.
Where to stay: Omni Mount Washington Resort
Where to ski: Bretton Woods
What to pack
06. Kitzbühel, Austria
Penthouse Chalet at Tennerhof Gourmet & Spa de Charme Hotel. Photograph courtesy of Tennerhof Gourmet & Spa de Charme Hotel
Approximately 1.5 hours from Munich
If the smart Alpine town of Kitzbühel were a man, he’d be one of those scarily intense, daredevil sporty types with seemingly little interest in keeping his bones intact. Home to the infamous Hahnenkamm Streif, the world’s most demanding and dastardly downhill course, Kitzbühel is without a doubt a beacon for the brave (or the insane), but that’s only one side. Beyond all the international bombast and bravado, Kitzbühel can be accommodating for beginners (check out the smaller and quieter southern-facing Kitzbüheler Horn). And at its core, it still retains a traditional Tyrolean soul imbued with small-town charm – and plenty of glühwein. Explore this gentler side at Tennerhof Gourmet & Spa de Charme Hotel, a centuries-old former farm turned luxury hotel with gourmet credentials; 39 rooms and suites; and a smattering of private chalets – all in under two hours from Munich.
Where to stay: Tennerhof Gourmet & Spa de Charme Hotel
Where to ski: Kitzbühel
What to pack
07. Glencoe, Scotland
Glencoe House, Glencoe, Scotland. Photograph by Mr Daniel Christie
Approximately three hours from Edinburgh; two hours from Glasgow
With a theatrical, expansive landscape of lofty mountains and swooping glens, it’s easy to social distance in Scotland. It’s also easy to ski here, too. Scotland is home to a handful of outdoor ski resorts; two of the most scenic are Glencoe Mountain, with great steeps, and Nevis Range, with plenty of space. Both are within are a short drive (20 minutes and 40 minutes, respectively) from the five-star Highland mansion, Glencoe House. Take your pick of snug suites featuring clawfoot tubs and Loch Leven views or live it up like a laird in a self-catering lodge with wood-burning stoves and bubbling outdoor hot tubs. You’ll quickly forget that this country pile is just a stone’s throw from Scotland’s biggest cities.
Where to stay: Glencoe House