For many skiers there is nothing like the sensation of floating on deep powder, a feeling unrivalled by that of skiing on prepped trails. For this reason, simply having the best powder is enough to make a resort popular. The most familiar is packed powder – the soft snow on the slopes that has been compressed by skiers. However, it is what’s known as ‘champagne powder’ that is the most coveted; fresh, uncompressed snow with low moisture content. Resorts abundant with powder snow are in high demand, and here is a list of some of the best.
Families and groups head to Formigal for the season’s best skiing in November and December. Three and four star hotels provide large luxury suites at good rates, popular for their large windows that overlook the beautiful mountains covered in powdery snow.
These Pyrenean slopes are great for all ski abilities, with 137 km of well-marked pistes containing thirty runs each for intermediate and advanced skiers, and four valley bases for beginners. A high capacity lift system is well-utilized for optimum skiing time and the ski bus between bases is free to use.
Formigal’s overall ambiance is sociable and warm: kids can enjoy their own club, indoor swimming, dog sled activities and skidoo rides, while, for adults there are plenty of bars and restaurants.
Singles, couples and groups go to Niseko from December to May to ski the impressive tree runs and steep runs over 61 courses. Base slopes are maintained for beginners, but each of the runs are long and Niseko attracts a balanced ratio of beginners, intermediates and advanced skiers. However, the real fun begins around a twenty minute hike above the highest ski lift, where expansive powder areas can be found. Perhaps even better, the mountain is lit up for night skiing!
Accommodation is typically decorated in a western style, with plenty of choice between self-contained luxury apartments and hotels or family-managed traditional lodges and pensiones. You’re only ever a three minute shuttle ride, or ten minute walk, from a ski-lift to transport you close to that beautiful powder.
Niseko is very relaxed with highly trained bilingual staff (including English) and ski schools. There are day trips to Sapporo and Otaru, as well as an ice festival, relaxing hot springs, and numerous bars, shops and restaurants.
Families love the sunny village resort of Pamporova, and so do experts – especially from December to April. It won’t blow your budget, it’s great for first time skiers, and it looks just like a postcard, filled with a variety of luxury hotels, apartments and chalets set against hundreds of snow-covered pine trees.
Ski runs and cross-country trails accommodate everyone from beginners to experts. Most runs begin at the peak and are simply labelled as beginner medium or difficult, which makes it easy to decide based on your ability level. There’s also something extra for experts called ‘The Wall’, Pamporovo’s most difficult piste. A guide is recommended for going off-piste, but it’s definitely worth the time.
Families are well catered for in this delightful resort. A special ski zone for beginner kids between the ages of 3-10 is enclosed with mesh to ensure their safety. Within this area, they’re taken to the rise of a small hill by a transport band, where inflatable arcs, figures and tunnels add to the fun. There’s also a kindergarten for 7-11 year olds, a children’s dining hall, a garden, sled rides, games, and television. Ski lessons are available for children, and all staff are qualified and speak English and Russian.
The resort is close to plenty of additional sites and attractions, including Smolyn Lakes, Bachkovo Monastery, Chepelare Town and Gela and Trigirad Villages. The après ski in resort is also fantastic; adults can enjoy a vibrant social scene of discos (free entrance), bars and restaurants.
Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy
Throughout winter, Cortina d’Ampezzo attracts a glamorous crowd of all ability levels, with slopes for beginners through to advanced, and even professionals. The resort is especially loved by independent skiers, and it’s no wonder – its breath-taking mountain scenery looks like a backdrop to a Bond film and makes the longer than usual transfer time to the resort thoroughly worthwhile.
Cable cars or shuttles transport you to three skiing areas: Faloria, which is shady and has good snow, along with easy higher slopes; Falzarego, containing challenging intermediate slopes; and Tofana, filled with advanced slopes which are also used for Women’s World Cup races.
Cortina d’Ampezzo’s night scene also makes it perfect for solo skiers, couples and serial partiers, with six discos, plenty of wine bars, local pizzerias and even Michelin starred restaurants.
Jackson Hole, USA
Voted Best Overall Resort 2014 (Forbes Magazine), Jackson Hole places emphasis on intermediates but there are also challenging slopes for advanced skiers. Its lifts, snow and fine dining make it a winner with those who want to venture a little further than usual. From the end of November through to April, it draws in a mix of couples, singles and families from around the globe. Its accommodation is varied, offering a wide selection of comfort and luxury hotels, condos, B&Bs, lodges and ranch cabins.
A whopping 116 mapped trails cater for 10% beginner, 40% intermediate and 50% expert, and the views on each are simply incredible. There are numerous lifts and an aerial tram to transport you to the top of a glistening paradise where snowfall is deep and frequent.
There are a variety of multi day camps for adults and kids. A day care for children from 6-36 months; pre-ski programs for 2-3 years covering dress, balance and stride; full day lessons for 2nd-9th graders; and a kid’s night out 4-14 years offering a pizza party, sledding, games and entertainment. Adults can visit art galleries, fine dining restaurants, international eateries, the Grand Teton National Park, and Yellowstone National Park, or alternatively take part in dog sledding, snowmobiling, paragliding and spas.
A ski holiday for powder seekers is, first and foremost, based around the quality and amount of snow available. However, these resorts are ultimately geared towards hosting skiers and provide excellent accommodation alongside first class entertainment.