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Where To Ski For Your Ability

Whether you’re a powder hound or a nervous novice, here are the best resorts to slope off to this winter

  • Photograph by Mr Reuben Krabbe. Courtesy of Ski Banff-Lake Louise-Sunshine

Can you feel it in the air? Ski season is almost upon us again. If you haven’t done so already, it’s time to dust off your bindings, wax your edges and plan your next snowcapped escape. But where to? Whether it’s snow parks or off-piste powder bowls you’re after, we’ve ploughed through the world’s finest ski resorts to suggest the best locations to meet your needs. Gentlemen: it’s snow time.

  • Photograph by Mr Erik Isakson/Getty Images

Like floating through cold smoke, the snow in Utah’s Wasatch mountain range has to be skied to be believed. The Great Salt Lake has a unique effect on the clouds, resulting in a dry, fluffy powder that’s a pleasure to ride, whatever your ability (it’s even nice to fall into). The regions’s premier resort, Park City, has recently been linked to neighbouring Deer Valley, creating North America’s largest ski area.

Whether you’re into gnarly blacks or genteel groomers, back bowls or tree runs, there’s plenty here for everyone, with more than 300 trails. Yes, that’s 300. Plus, in one of the US’s liveliest ski towns, you’ll be spoilt for choice in the evenings, particularly in January when you’ll be competing for bar space with Hollywood writers, producers and actors at the annual Sundance Film Festival.

Where to stay: Stein Eriksen Lodge in Deer Valley. Ski-in, ski-out, roaring fires and five-star luxury at one of North America’s most famous mountain retreats.

Where to après: High West Distillery. The world’s only ski-in gastro distillery. Order a Whiskey Campfire here after a hard day on the slopes. It’s a unique blend of Scotch, bourbon and rye whiskeys.

What to wear...

  • Bogner Jari-D Quilted Ripstop Down Ski Jacket

  • Burton AK Clutch Leather and DRYRIDE Ultrashell Ski Gloves

  • Photograph by Mr Gaudenz Danuser/LAAX

The freestyle capital of Europe, laid-back Laax is where it’s at if you want something a little more adventurous. Extensive, varied slopes are complemented by no less than four snow parks and the world’s largest halfpipe. This is where well-heeled Swiss and German bankers come to unleash their inner teens, launching themselves off some 90 obstacles and frequently landing on the resort’s enormous airbag. If you fancy honing your aerial abilities, there’s the world-class Freestyle Academy, offering excellent tuition in a space best described as adult skate park meets Q’s laboratory from the James Bond films. It’s another haven for inner adolescents, whether you work for a Swiss bank or not.

Where to stay: Rocksresort. A boutique mountainside property and member of Design Hotels, this is Swiss minimalism to the stylish max.

Where to après: Crap Bar. Does exactly what it doesn’t say on the tin. Carved from 24 tons of granite, it’s hard to miss and crazy to miss out on.

What to wear...

  • Arc'teryx Rush GORE-TEX Pro Ski Jacket

  • Anon MIG TPU Ski Goggles

  • Photograph by Mr Reuben Krabbe. Courtesy of Ski Banff-Lake Louise-Sunshine

Running from November to May, Alberta has one of the longest ski seasons in the Northern Hemisphere and some of the most challenging terrain to enjoy during its plentiful powder days. At its heart, Banff – the pretty ski town in the National Park of the same name – boasts almost 8,000 acres of juicy terrain across three resorts.

In particular, check out Mount Norquay for a string of double black diamonds to warm you up for some serious backcountry. Or Lake Louise, where roughly a third of all terrain is advanced. And, to complete the hat-trick, there’s Delirium Dive at Sunshine Village – a dedicated freeride zone designed to challenge even the most deft of downhill virtuosos.

Banff is popular with families, but don’t be fooled: you’re likely to be sharing chairlifts with some of the finest amateurs on the planet – and their kids are probably better than you, too.

Where to stay: Fairmont Banff Springs. Nicknamed Canada’s “castle in the Rockies”, this grand old property has been been Banff’s best luxury option for more than a century and it boasts a world-class spa on site. (Also look out for the ghosts.)

Where to après: Larkspur Lounge. Famous for its hot toddy selection, this fireside lounge (located by the hot springs) adds a touch of class to proceedings: picture polished wood and button-back armchairs.

What to wear...

  • Burton 3L Hover GORE-TEX Ski Jacket

  • Anon Rodan Ski Helmet

  • Photograph courtesy of Office du Tourisme Val d'Isère

Specialising in rolling cruisers and top-to-bottom blues that will make every intermediate feel invincible, it’s surprisingly easy to punch above your weight in Val d’Isère. Popular with a younger, and particularly British crowd, it’s also the perfect place to improve your technique, with all four sectors of the mountain – and neighbouring Tignes – easily accessible from the main village. There are no less than 18 ski schools here, with a number specialising in intermediate-level skiers and above. Plus, this season there’s an outstanding new accommodation option, too: Arctic Lodge. If you want to push your skiing – and your winter holidaymaking – to the next level, then this is the place to do it.

Where to stay: Arctic Lodge. An alpine private members club offering Soho House-style living, including a butler to warm your boots and a concierge to show you the best places to ride each day.

Where to après: La Folie Douce. Arguably the most famous après-ski bar in Europe and quite possibly the best.

What to wear...

  • Patagonia Untracked GORE-TEX Ski Jacket

  • Anon M3 TPU Ski Goggles

  • Photograph by Mr Dylan Brown

If you’re keen to step off the trail and into the powder, Aspen is the place to do it. Not only does it boast four mountains, and more than 5,300 acres of skiable terrain, it also has a specialist “Bumps For Boomers” ski-lesson programme to help you tackle monster moguls with ease. Head to Aspen Mountain – known locally as Ajax – for the most expansive off-piste action and keep your eyes peeled for the dozens of celebrity shrines among the trees dedicated to everyone from Mr Jimi Hendrix to Mr Michael Jackson. There are plenty of present-day celebrities to spot in Aspen, too, with many – including Messrs Jack Nicholson, Kevin Costner and Will Smith – maintaining homes here.

Where to stay: The Little Nell. Little in name, but not in size or reputation, The Little Nell is the undisputed champion of the Aspen hotel scene. Think wood floors, cosy fur throws and suptuous linen.

Where to apres: 39 Degrees Lounge. After a day of thigh-burning descents through the resort’s famous champagne powder, head straight here to unwind in the outsized hot tub with a glass of the real stuff.

What to wear...

  • Peak Performance Heli 2L Gravity GORE-TEX Ski Jacket

  • Sorel Cheyanne Waterproof Suede and Rubber Boots

  • Photograph by Mr Ola Matsson/Skistar

With new easyJet flights launching from London Gatwick to Åre Östersund airport on 11 December, and less than an hour’s transfer the other end, Åre is a serious option for those looking to hit the slopes for the first time this winter. Outstanding accommodation options, excellent ski schools (which all teach in English), and multiple beginner slopes mean this is the perfect place to perfect your parallel turns in comfort, style and plentiful soft snow. After all, where better to get your muscles used to the rigours of mountain life than the land of brännvin and saunas? Expect to see plenty of young professionals up here: Åre is essentially Stockholm-on-snow, with its burgeoning cumulation of high-end boutiques and spas attracting plenty of upwardly mobile, fashion-oriented thirtysomethings from the capital.

Where to stay: Hotel Åregården. Old-school charm and style in a picturesque setting, with incredible mountain views.

Where to après: Tott. Perfectly located in the village, with superb views of the lake and an outstanding wine list.

What to wear...

  • Moncler Grenoble Shell-Trimmed Fleece Zip-Up Base Layer

  • Peak Performance Heli GORE-TEX Ski Trousers

  • Photograph by Mr Grant Gunderson

It might be called the Land of the Rising Sun, but each winter Siberian storms dump industrial quantities of snow on Japan’s northern Hokkaidō island – up to 60ft a year. Set against the impressive backdrop of Mount Yōtei, this is nirvana for heli-skiers, with guaranteed powder so deep you might want to pack a snorkel. With a helicopter – and there are plenty of operators to choose from – you could be skiing down dormant volcanoes, swooping through crisp pine forests and bouncing about ungroomed back bowls all day in perfect peace. You’ll find a disproportionate amount of snowboarders and expats up here. Just ensure you conserve enough energy for Niseko’s buzzing social scene – these are people who take their après-ski very seriously, too.

Where to stay: The Green Leaf Niseko Village. A ski-in, ski-out property with a renowned restaurant and its own natural onsen (Japanese hot spring), which is perfect to dive into after a day on the slopes.

Where to après: Bar Gyu. Also known as the “fridge-door bar”, you bend down to enter through an old refrigerator door. Easily the coolest nightspot in town.

What to wear...

  • Aztech Mountain Triangle Waterproof Hooded Ski Jacket

  • Bogner Trutz Panelled Ski Trousers