The ski resort has long been one of the classics of adventurous getaways, offering as it does a perfect blend of several winter themed activities, festive locales, stunning scenery, and the chance to experience something new and interesting with each trip.
Whether a seasoned winter sports pro looking for the most adrenaline-pumping slopes and ramps, a mature couple looking for a romantic getaway, or a family searching for wholesome fun, it’s hard to be disappointed.
However, you can never let yourself be sold short especially in recent months when travel has become so problematic. If you’re to go anywhere you may as well spoil yourself, and if you’re looking for ski resorts that truly offer something special then consider these – the world’s best.
Know the Lingo
Of course, be aware that not all ski resorts are alike no matter how luxurious they are. Make sure you know exactly what you’re setting yourself up for before you pack your bags.
A resort, for example, is strictly speaking not interchangeable with hotel. A hotel is merely the accommodation and any strictly related facilities – such as a restaurant, bar, pool, or gym. A resort meanwhile is an entire collection of sites and facilities focused around private entertainment and will include a wider variety of experiences to its guests. As well as numerous hotels, a resort will also include sites such as amusement parks, water parks, golf courses, private beaches or, in this case, ski slopes.
To illustrate this, the Ritz is a hotel. Walt Disney World, meanwhile, is a resort.
Furthermore, resorts will offer different sorts of accommodation, and to temper expectations you should know what you’re ordering when you make a reservation. The different kinds of accommodation a typical ski resort will offer include:
- A lodge – a lodge is basically a hotel but with a more rustic theme. They tend to be traditionally designed, reflecting the sorts of wooden structures and cabins often associated with mountain retreats, and amnesties are often simple. They will often have separate rooms for guests, an onsite restaurant, and often a large common area that functions as a lounge.
- A hotel – In contrast a hotel will have a more modern design to it and will also offer wider amenities and services to their guests.
- A chalet – These are small, individual dwellings typically used by a single group. Whether cottages, cabins or even villas, they will usually be self-catered and provide the same sorts of facilities you’d expect at any country home. Some may offer additional perks, such as a maid service or access to private facilities.
What You Should Expect
When looking to arrange a luxury ski holiday, you should of course go in knowing what to look for and what to expect. Some resorts may well offer a “luxury” experience, when in actuality they don’t offer all that much more than any other hotel or resort. So, what’s the defining criteria?
Naturally, the defining factor of a luxury ski resort is in quality. From the finest hotels with the softest bedsheets and round-the-clock room service, gourmet restaurants with award winning chefs, to exclusive boutiques with only the hottest brands. However, this is not the only factor – equally luxurious resorts have a focus on providing an exclusive tailored experience orientated around individual preferences and needs, whether they’re adrenaline addicts looking for the most exciting ski excursions or families looking for something everyone can enjoy.
In the latter case holiday makers may then turn away from hotels and resorts entirely and seek instead to hire out their own private mountainside ski cabin and create their own experience. Their cabin may have exclusive luxuries such as a jacuzzi, its own gym and spa, or even its own private track for skiing.
The Gold Medallists
Some examples of the best in luxury ski resorts in the business can be found below. These represent the pinnacle of skiing excellence and should make any decisions about future excursions easier to settle on.
The fortunes of Aspen seemed to take a turn for the worst at the start of the 20th century. A boom town formed during the Colorado gold rush, Aspen was initially founded by prospectors and miners seeking gold in the mountains. When that dried up, the town seemed doomed to become a deserted ghost town. This all changed when enterprising residents realised that gold need not always glitters.
Rebranding itself as a skiing town and seizing upon the surge in popularity that the sport was enjoying toward the latter half of the century, Aspen found new life as one of the USA’s most successful and glamorous ski resorts.
With over one hundred bars and restaurants, beautiful mountain scenery and four ski areas, and night-time activities for all in town, Aspen continues to demonstrate that there’s still wealth aplenty within it yet.
For our recommendation on where to stay, check-in at the Little Nell. Named after a former mining community, the Little Nell offers complimentary transport to and from the airport, as well as the town and all four ski areas. An award winning five-star lodge, it is the only site in Aspen to offer ski-in, ski-out accommodation.
Boasting the largest ski area in Switzerland, Verbier is one of the most popular sites for skiers and winter sports enthusiasts across the continent. 410km of slope are on offer for any visitors willing to brave them, including the infamous Mont-Fort – 3,300m descent within just 1750m; one of the steepest slopes in Switzerland.
When staying at Verbier, our recommendation is W Verbier, which is the first of Starwood’s hotels in the region. Its sleek, modern design is still evocative of the traditional Swiss ski lodge, while still offering only the trendiest drinks at its bars, the most mouth-watering food at its restaurants, and the finest comfort in its fireplace-dominated lounges.
Made up of five small towns within the Trois Vallées ski area, the Courchevel ski resort is one of the most well-regarded in France and has been frequented by celebrities and the well-to-do for decades. The five towns are named after their respective altitudes, with Courchevel itself sometimes being referred to as Courchevel 1850 (1850m above sea level).
It offers fine dining, luxury chalets and hotels, chic boutiques and over 650km of world-class ski slopes for its guests. The most recent addition is an Aquamotion water complex, complete with pools, a wellness centre and sports facilities. Furthermore, Courchevel mastered the delicate balance of feeling exclusive without being excluding; the class is on high but the snobbery way down low. While the prices can also be as steep as the slopes, it’s easy to find bargains here too.
The recommended hotel here is Le K2 Palace, which could be described less as a hotel and more a small hamlet of chalets nestled within the mountains. It’s both reclusive enough to be out of the way of other skiers yet still within easy access of all the main sites of Courchevel. As well as high quality amenities and luxuries, Le K2 Palace also boasts some of the best dining and service in the Trois Valées.
Sun Valley, Idaho
The Sun Valley Resort takes pride in being the first purpose-built winter sports resort in the United States, first established within the Rocky Mountains back in 1936 to much fanfare. It has since become strongly associated with the rich and famous of America, from presidents to socialites to Hollywood actors. Pictures adorn the walls of Sun Valley’s lodge, and it continues to attract such distinguished guests to this day.
Accommodations at Sun Valley are varied, from comfortable hotel rooms to cosy mountain cottages. As well as the powdered slopes of the surrounding mountains, Sun Valley also boasts fantastic restaurants, stylish shops, and seasonal activities aplenty. Take a romantic horse-drawn sleigh ride through the snow or enjoy the music at the town’s many musical festivals and shows.
Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy
Nestled within the Italian Alps, Cortina d’Ampezzo is as much well renown for its elegant shops, trendy wine bars and fashionable night clubs as it is for its towering mountains and world-class ski ramps. The resort as a whole offers skiing experiences best suited for experienced skiers, including some especially challenge black slopes for the truly daring winter sportsperson.
Although a little neglected and underdeveloped in recent years, the prospects of hosting the World Championships in 2021 and then the Winter Olympics in 2036 have seen increased investment in the area. New slopes, restaurants, hotels and infrastructure are now being laid to ensure the town is truly ready to host such august events.
The hotel of choice in Cortina d’Ampezzo is the Hotel Ancorra. A traditional family owned hotel based in a timbered lodge with painted frescoes, it provides the truest experience of Alpine Italy. Unbeatable views of the Dolomite Mountains and mouth water Italian cuisine are provided, along with quick and convenient access to all of the town’s best skiing spots.
We may be in lockdown right now but it won’t last forever – which of the slopes are you most keen to visit once you’re free to travel again?