My Top Five ski areas in the world
written by Ed Raine, Director of WE ARE SNO for Snowcomparison
Growing up in the UK I was fortunate to have access to some of the most exciting mountain ranges that Europe has on offer. Within a few hours of the UK you could be transported to the idyllic alpine villages of Austria, France and Switzerland, surrounded by the towering peaks of the Alps.
I spent my younger years skiing and enduring the dry slopes of northern England. Dreaming of that magical week when the family headed off in search of ‘real’ snow on our annual holiday. Trips to the French and Swiss mega areas blew my mind, with their endless kilometres of pistes spanning multiple borders. Trips to the lesser known spots of Bulgaria and Romania were more humbling and intimate but equally endearing.
Once old enough I headed off to North America in search of a different beast. I’d heard a lot about the Rocky Mountains in both Canada and America, about their awesome terrain and consistent snow falls. I completed my Canadian instructor’s certification in Banff, Canada and immediately started working in the ski industry. Over time I enjoyed the people, the snow and many of the amazing resorts throughout Canada. I took road trips to US resorts when I could, and even managed a half season at Mammoth Mountain, California. I broke up the northern hemisphere summer by chasing winter and completed seasons in New Zealand. Japan followed that and by this time I was becoming an expert at living out of a bag and surviving on noodles. I didn’t know it at the time but I was building up a solid database of some of the best places to ski and snowboard around the world.
Now a Director of ski and snowboard training provider WE ARE SNO, I spend a lot of my time researching resorts around the globe. Important criteria I consider when selecting a resort include: overall size and quality of area, beginner facilities, snowsports schools, work levels, annual snowfall, transport links and more. For me it’s about ensuring our instructors are placed at resorts that can give them the best possible start in the industry. Somewhere they can learn and apply their trade in an environment that is sustainable for future seasons.
Drawing from my experience here are my five best ski resorts from around the world:
1. Canada (Banff, AB)
There is so much to like about this picture-perfect mountain town, nestled in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. Only a short one hour drive from the major city of Calgary and with three sizable resorts to enjoy (Norquay, Lake Louise & Sunshine Village). There is enough varied terrain here to suit all ability levels. The town itself boasts a selection of bars, restaurants and amenities to ensure your visit is a comfortable and enjoyable one.
MUST DO – Ice skating on the frozen Lake Louise at the incredible fairytale Fairmont Chateau.
2. Europe (France, Tignes)
Home to the Grande Motte glacier, Tignes is a great ‘year-round’ ski destination. With skiable terrain available for 10 months in every calendar year, you can be ripping up the slopes in the morning and relaxing by the pool in the afternoon. With five purpose built villages it is understated in comparison to its snobby neighbour, Val d’Isère. There is a nice local feel about the place that appeals to most, and with some of the finest lift accessed terrain in the world it is a must visit destination.
MUST DO – Top up the goggle tan on the Grande Motte glacier. There’s nothing quite like hitting the slopes in the summer sun.
3. Japan (Niseko)
The most talked about area in Japan and for very good reason. Niseko is located on the North Island of Hokkaido and is famed for its snow. Both the quality and quantity are second to none, with over 15 metres of the finest powder falling annually! Niseko also has the largest skiable area in Japan with four interlinked resorts, each one unique and offering up suitable terrain for all levels. Many of the ski schools push the boundaries when it comes to the learner experience. Think cartoon mascots, bright colours, inflatable obstacles and an emphasis on fun.
MUST DO – Night skiing at Grand Hirafu. Riding powder during the day is one thing but it’s a whole new challenge doing it under the floodlights!
4. New Zealand (Queenstown)
Located on the South Island of NZ and nestled amongst the country’s Southern Alps, Queenstown is stunningly pretty. An infectious mountain town that is famously home to the AJ Hackett Bungy empire now thrives with tourism year-round. With an expanding international airport, Queenstown is fast becoming the ‘go to’ spot for snow chasers and thrill seekers. There are four excellent ski resorts on offer with Coronet Peak and The Remarkables being the closest. Cardrona and Treble Cone are a touch further away at 1 and 1.5 hours respectively. Excellent beginner facilities, world class terrain parks and a laid-back atmosphere keep Queenstown high in the rankings.
MUST DO – Bungy jump! You simply cannot visit the birthplace of Bungy and not get in on the action. With three adrenaline charged options to choose from you won’t be disappointed.
5. USA (Mammoth Mtn, CA)
The facts: On average Mammoth receives over 10 meters of snow and over 300 days of sunshine annually. You don’t have to be a genius to work out that this is a rare combination of awesomeness. The mountain area is vast with an abundance of trails for all ability levels, these trails are accessed by 28 lifts. It is home to over six terrain parks and consistently ranks as one of world’s best freestyle destinations. What is not to like?
MUST DO – Befriend a local and ask them to direct you to one of the secret natural hot springs dotted around the local area. Great to sooth those aching limbs after a hard day charging the powder.
- Snowcomparison Team
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