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Choose Your Winter Resort
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Choose Your Winter Resort

When to go skiing or snowboarding is almost as important a factor to consider as where to go, but both are just part of the equation that forms a successful ski vacation. Companions, accommodation and travel arrangements are also crucial factor. You do, of course, also need snow and sunshine; too little of each results in disappointment.

Most European ski resorts open in middle of December but will not necessarily run their entire lift system until the weekend before Christmas. American ski resorts traditionally open for Thanksgiving.

At the start of the season, it is essential to choose a resort with a high top-station. Safe resorts in Europe include Val d’Isere, Zermatt, and Obergurgl.

Prices and crowds peak over Christmas and New Year when it is important to go for altitude. Pretty Christmas card resorts such as Alpbach, Kitzbuhel, and Wengen do not look so festive in a surrounding of green fields.

North American resorts are equally crowded and, in recent years, no more snow sure.

The low season begins in the second week of January. This is often the best time to visit big-name resorts such as Chamonix, Zermatt and Kitzbuhel. North American and European slopes offer their best in February. However, in Canada in particular, you run the risk of extremely low temperatures. March and April bring longer, sunnier days and some of the best skiing conditions in winter.

Where you take your vacation depends on your budget and your snow skills. Modern equipment and teaching methods mean the novice outgrows the nursery slopes within a couple of days. You therefore need to choose a resort with plenty of easy trails for the next stage of progress; large resorts with extensive ski areas and expensive lift tickets are not suitable.

Intermediates, who make up the vast majority of snow-users, can find plenty of trails suited to their ability in most resorts. Advanced snow users will need to choose a resort with a large and varied ski area, which has plenty of black (difficult) slopes and powder opportunities. The type of accommodation you choose to stay in within any ski resort is largely dictated by how much you wish to spend. In Austria, Italy and Switzerland most accommodation is in hotels. France leads the field in self-catering apartments, but the American condominium is an altogether more luxurious affair –although no more expensive. The chalet is a uniquely British and increasingly popular concept of Swiss origin, but now found in most alpine resorts and in North America.Evening entertainment traditionally centers around bars, Austria has the liveliest nightlife and the most welcoming atmosphere, Italy follows, with Switzerland just behind, while France takes the rear. Nightlife in North America is generally muted by comparison with Europe.


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