Seven Exclusive Ski Destinations Where Social Distancing Is Easy (And Luxurious)
Sheldon Chalet, Alaska. Photograph by Totement, courtesy of Sheldon Chalet
As we enter a long, cold winter of social distancing, there is at least one major positive to cling to: skiing. Not only is it a pastime where participants don gloves, goggles, helmet and face mask as standard (the slope equivalent of PPE), but social distancing is infinitely easier when you have a pair of 6ft-long planks strapped to your feet.
The golden rule, as with anything right now, is to avoid crowds wherever possible. Which is why we’ve scoured the snowy globe to identify the best, most exclusive out-of-the-way resorts to check in to this winter. These are the lesser-known boutique gems where you can forget about languishing in lift queues or squashing into gondolas with Gore-Tex-clad strangers and simply enjoy plundering pristine powder, before returning to top-end accommodation. Read on for our official guide to the world’s most stylish under-the-radar ski resorts.
Silverton Mountain, Colorado, US
The Wyman Hotel, Colorado. Photograph courtesy of The Wyman Hotel
A purist’s dream, Silverton Mountain has one solitary chairlift, but it’s a highway to heaven, unlocking an incredible 1,800 acres of pure skiing joy. With no marked pistes, it’s largely for more advanced skiers, but there’s so much to explore up here in a pocket of the Rockies that boasts a whopping 400 inches of snow a year. There’s an option to join small guided groups or, if that isn’t exclusive enough, you can book out the entire mountain, from $9,990 (£7,500) a day.
Stay here: The Wyman, an urban boutique hotel for “artists, creatives and adventurers” in tiny Silverton, a former mining camp with a real Wild West feel.
Don’t miss: Silverton is a short drive from Telluride, where you’ll find the workshop of the legendary Mr Pete Wagner, aka the Stradivarius of skis. Mr Wagner’s bespoke skis are considered among the best in the business and his clients range from Olympians to royals and Hollywood A-listers.
What to pack
Grand Hotel Kronenhof, Switzerland. Photograph courtesy of Grand Hotel Kronenhof
As one of the highest ski resorts in Switzerland, Pontresina revels in a plenitude of powder every year. A mere 8km from the more overtly glamorous St Moritz, it nevertheless feels a world apart, set in its own serene, fairytale-like bubble. Picture snow-dusted pine forests, charming cobbled streets and horse-drawn sleighs, then add genuinely world-class skiing on pleasingly unoccupied slopes and you have a gold-standard winter winner.
Stay here: Grand Hotel Kronenhof, a luxury retreat that’s regarded as one of the finest five-star properties in the Alps. Rumour has it, it was the blueprint for the The Grand Budapest Hotel in the film of the same name.
Don’t miss: The Diavolezza Glacier Run, a breathtaking 8km descent down loosely marked pistes. It’s Switzerland’s longest glacier run and high on many a skiing bucket list.
What to pack
Sundance Resort, Utah, US
Tree Room, Sundance Resort, Utah. Photograph by Mr Derek Israelsen, courtesy of Sundance Resort
Utah is renowned for its light, fluffy powder, thanks to the Great Salt Lake’s unique drying effect on the clouds. And one of the best places to sample the Greatest Snow On Earth is at Mr Robert Redford’s Sundance Mountain Resort. The secluded boutique property, an hour south of Salt Lake City, has 42 runs spread out over 450 acres, but always feels pleasingly empty because you can only ski here if you stay here. That accommodation is limited to a collection of luxury mountain cottages (95 to be precise), all carefully spread out to make social distancing a breeze.
Stay here: Sundance Cottages, where romantic meets rustic luxe. The cottages are all incredibly cosy and surprisingly spacious and each comes with two free lift passes per day.
Don’t miss: The Owl Bar. Face coverings are required, of course, but it’s well worth visiting the original bar where Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid and the rest of the Wild Bunch used to hang out in their heyday and plot heists. Mr Redford had the bar transported down from Wyoming, restored and installed here for his guests to drink at.
What to pack
Iisakki Glass Village, Finland. Photograph courtesy of VisitFinland
The keenest of powder hounds have been aware of Ruka for a while now. The remote but beautiful Finnish village boasts superb snowfall, decent downhill slopes and almost 500km of cross-country skiing tracks, which makes it the perfect place for some socially distanced Scandinavian snow sports. For those who don’t fancy the extra physical effort required for ski touring, there are also 600km of snowmobile routes through the Nordic wilds.
Stay here: Iisakki Glass Village, a collection of glass villas that maximise your chances of watching the Northern Lights dancing overhead as you drift off to sleep.
Don’t miss: Ice climbing. Ruka is one of the best spots to channel your inner Jon Snow and learn to scale sheer frozen walls with ice axes.
What to pack
Sheldon Chalet, Alaska, US
Sheldon Chalet, Alaska. Photograph courtesy of Sheldon Chalet
Perched atop a lofty, isolated outcrop in the middle of Denali National Park, Sheldon Chalet is Alaska’s most remote – and remarkable – retreat. Only accessible via helicopter, the deluxe five-bedroom chalet boasts its own gourmet chef and some truly mouth-watering back-country skiing. Picture a 35 square-mile amphitheatre coated in untouched pristine powder and skiable lines as far as the eye can see.
Stay here: Sheldon Chalet, an extraordinary building perched on a razor’s edge in the shadow of Mount McKinley, North America’s tallest mountain, the sumptuous hexagonal chalet sleeps up to 10 guests in five bedrooms.
Don’t miss: The optional helicopter ride to remote hot springs during your visit – the perfect way to reinvigorate those aching thighs after a few days of wild back-country skiing.
What to pack
Brixen, South Tyrol, Italy
Penthouse, Forestis, Italy. Photograph courtesy of Forestis
Tucked away amid the jagged peaks and ridges of the Dolomites, beautiful Brixen is South Tyrol’s oldest mountain town, but remains criminally overlooked as a skiing destination. Here, you’ll find nearly 40km of pistes for every ability, with nothing like the human traffic hurtling down the slopes of its more famous neighbours. If you like fresh tracks with barely a soul around, empty chair lifts and no queues, this is the place to clip on your skis this winter.
Stay here: Forestis, a brand new luxury wellness retreat that looks like a genuine game-changer. Surrounded by woodland, it boasts ski-in/ski-out access and a world-class restaurant.
Don’t miss: Brixen’s pretty medieval town centre, half a mile from the ski resort, boasts a spectacular cathedral that dates back to the 10th century.
What to pack
Black Turtle room, Hidden Dragon Resort, Switzerland. Photograph courtesy of Hidden Dragon Resort
A small resort in the Valais region of Switzerland, Veysonnaz is a charming satellite village linked to the dynamic 4 Valleys region, with its own quiet, secluded charm and ample slopes. Most guests in these parts make a beeline for neighbouring Verbier, but if serenity and isolation are what you’re after, often overlooked Veysonnaz is just the ticket.
Stay here: Hidden Dragon Lodge, a deluxe alpine lodge and spa, nestled discretely in a forest above Veysonnaz in extensive private grounds.
Don’t miss: Getting cholera while you’re in town. The appetising pie with the unappetising name is a speciality in these parts and just what you need to power up your ski legs – a hot, gooey blend of potatoes, onions, leeks, bacon, cheese and apples, all packed together in a pastry crust.