Think of skiing and a resort with traditional Alpine chalets may come to mind, or you might see more of the canyon scenery of Colorado. Does the USA have the top places to ski or is it Europe for you? They both offer superb skiing opportunities and surrounding areas to visit, plus they’re packed with top of the range facilities and have a fantastic atmosphere that makes visitors come back time and time again.

For me, it has to be Europe. My all-time favourite is Val d’Isère in France. It’s a huge resort as it also neighbours Tignes, so I’m never short of things to do on my skiing holiday. I can ski the 3000 metre terrain, which has a flurry of snow from the Mediterranean, but I can also join in the après ski fun at the many cafes, bars, and restaurants that line the route. In particular, Dick’s Tea Bar is a favourite. It’s a bar that has lovely drinks and nibbles and then turns into a late night venue with a DJ.

Val d’Isère is great for my friends and me, as we like to sample a little bit of everything, but with its ice skating rink, tobogganing area, water and leisure centre, and spa, it is suitable for people of all ages and circumstances. The town centre is a worth a visit too with a Monday market as well as designer shops.

The snowy mountains of Val D'isere in France are perfect for skiing

I’ve always used Ski Bonjour for finding a chalet in Val d’Isère. Bonjour-Bivouac has been my favourite so far. It’s only 40 metres away from the slopes so I can hop straight on when I’m up and ready in the morning! And for a little bit of luxury, it has a sauna and chef to make my holiday experience totally relaxing. I’ve also stayed at Bonjour-Palmyre. This was similar to Bonjour-Bivouac but also had its own cinema room and is really close to my aforementioned favourite, Dick’s Tea Bar.

But I have heard that the US can rival Val d’Isère. One of my good friends regularly goes to Sugarloaf in Maine. This has recently been improved with over $5 million of investments but she has always enjoyed skiing there, even before the improvements. Although Katie has her own favorite hotel that she is loyal to, Sugarloaf is full of motels, bed and breakfasts, and cottages available for rent. Passing the day away by skiing the 138 trails and exploring the ski town sounds like paradise to me. She also headed out West to Colorado Springs to get a completely different view. As well as experiencing the fantastic skiing in the mountains, she spent some of her time seeing the area, including visiting Old Colorado City.

The snowy mountains of Sugarloaf, Maine in the USA are perfect for skiing

I’d love to join her one day so that I can experience skiing in a completely new area. I’ve seen that new ski resorts are opening in places such as India, China and Japan too, which would be another different experience!

So where is your preferred skiing destination? Are you open to new places or do you have a firm favourite that your return to for every holiday? And most importantly, would you cross the pond from your best location?

  flickr   //   jeremy-couture   rudiriet

Published in France

The many attractions of Switzerland make it an excellent destination for a European adventure. From the majestic beauty of mountain landscapes to the cultural attractions of some historic cities, there is much for visitors to enjoy on a trip to this landlocked country. Aside from the usual Swiss highlights, there are plenty of other things to see and do and the following are some to consider.

Enter a Ski Marathon

Switzerland has long been a popular destination for winter sports and there are plenty of resorts offering catered ski chalet holidays. This type of vacation provides access to the slopes and the opportunity to take in some impressive alpine scenery of snow covered peaks and valleys. While many holidaymakers enjoy racing down a prepared or off-piste slope, others prefer cross-country skiing and for these the Engadin Skimarathon is something to consider. This annual cross-country race is open to anyone over the age of 16, with up to 13,000 competitors taking part each year. The full distance covers some 42km although there is also a half-marathon that runs to 21km. For the adventurous that want to take part, it can be an incredible Swiss experience and one they will certainly remember.

Take a Toboggan Ride

A less energetic way for all the family to enjoy some winter scenery is on offer at La Tzoumaz resort in the Alps. It has one of the longest toboggan runs in Switzerland, which stretches out to around 10km in length. Access to the top of the run at Savoleyres is by cable car and from there it is an 820m drop all the way back down to the resort. This allows riders to build up some speed as they slide to make it an exhilarating experience for children and adults.

Stay in Jail

Lucerne is a popular destination in Switzerland and the Jailhotel in the city offers a unique way to stay there. The historic building was originally constructed in the mid 1800s and served as a prison for many years before being converted to a hotel in the 1990s. It retains many of the original features and visitors can get a feel for what prison life was really like as they spend the night on bunk-beds in a barred cell. There are also larger Governor and Library rooms on offer and as it is a budget hotel, it has some of the most affordable prices for accommodation in Lucerne.

Walk Through History

The Ballenberg Open-Air Museum is situated on Lake Brienz and offers the chance to stroll through some Swiss history. Around one hundred traditional buildings from across Switzerland have been brought to the museum and reconstructed in all their glory. This includes homes, schools, farm buildings, and other architectural gems. The museum also provides demonstrations of traditional Swiss crafts and food making, as well as having a farmyard display of over 200 animals and garden areas growing local plants, herbs, and flowers.

Switzerland is a beautiful country, with scenery and attractions that ensure anyone will have an enjoyable time on a trip. Those that choose it for a vacation should consider trying some of the activities shown above. They offer a more unusual experience, but are certainly worth the effort for a truly fun Swiss adventure.

Published in Switzerland

Nothing says winter quite like a proper snowfall, so make it your mission to experience it properly. Instead of a mild winter with plenty of grey skies and rain showers, you could be having fun in the snow, making memories and trying something new. That’s what Andermatt in Switzerland has to offer you; it truly is an alpine playground!

So how do you actually get to Andermatt, and what is there to do when you arrive? Here are a few hints and tips to start your planning process...

Travel Information

The closest airport to Andermatt is in Zurich/a>, 125 kilometres away; by car it should take you around 90 minutes, but if you prefer to get the train you can relax on your 2.5 hour journey. Then again, if it is easier for you to fly into Milan (MXP) the drive is still only a reasonable two hours. When you consider how much you’ll be able to do on your trip, the drive becomes a lot more appealing! Also, it’s a great time to look at the scenery as you make your way to the resort.

    Logistics
  • There are around 20 airlines that fly into Zurich airport, so you should easily be able to find a plane to get you into Switzerland.
  • You will need to change trains to get from the airport to Andermatt so be sure to write down the times you need before you depart.
  • If you don’t want to hire a car or get the train, organise a transfer to take you from the airport straight to your hotel.

Accommodation

When you get to Andermatt, you’ll want somewhere to put your bags and rest your head. There are some excellent places popping up, but The Chedi Andermatt looks especially nice...a perfect way to enjoy a little slice of Swiss luxury. Places like this stay true to the alpine playground description; it has a ski-in living room and a spa and wellness centre with hydrothermal facilities, that can help to get rid of those aches and pains from the piste!

Activities

Once you’ve arrived and had a chance to recover from your journey, it’s time to explore the good stuff. There is guaranteed snowfall in Andermatt, so skiing and snowboarding is the order of the day. You can go almost 3,000 metres high up Gemsstock Mountain in cables cars before you come down again with gravity! Beginners might prefer the Gurschenalp and Nätschen Mountain...

It’s worth keeping in mind that the temperatures in Andermatt are between -5ºC and -10ºC in the winter months; it’s a very good idea to bring your winter woolies with you. The cold can often deceive skiers who believe they’re getting hot; your skin will be exposed to the chill if you take off your layers so avoid doing this to protect yourself against frostbite!

Published in Switzerland

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