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Skiing holiday hot spots

If you are looking for some last minute adrenaline and adventure before the start of the new season take a look at these three skiing hotspots and the essentials for your trip.


LAPLAND, FINLAND 

Yes, that Lapland. So far north you’re just a few hours’ drive away from the world-famous home of Santa Claus at Rovaniemi, Lapland is also home to Finland’s largest ski resort at Ylläs.

The Finns take skiing impressively seriously, and Ylläs ofers a rather spectacular choice for the connoisseur looking for untouched snow and the curious beginner alike.

Comfortably inside the Arctic Circle, Ylläs boasts no fewer than 63 gorgeous slopes to suit all tastes and experience levels and the mighty Jättipitkä even holds the record as Finland’s longest. Complete with 29 ski lifts, a vertical drop of more than a quarter of a mile and 21 miles of cross-country tracks – skiing cross-country in Finland must be experienced to truly appreciate both skiing and Finland, as any Finn will readily insist – Ylläs ofers something for everyone.

But the fun doesn’t have to stop at sunset. Ylläs also offers unforgettable views of the Aurora Borealis, the fabled Northern Lights, and the local authorities even turn the streetlights off from November to February because they simply aren’t needed. You’ll definitely want to take a camera.
 

ZELL AM SEE, AUSTRIA 

A charming lakeside town just across the German border, Zell am See is an excellent choice for combining a skiing holiday in the Austrian Alps with ready access to the whole of the Salzberg region.

With 80 miles of splendid local slopes, runs ideally suited for all experience levels and extraordinary panoramic views along the 125 miles of cross-country trails, Zell am See and the nearby Kaprun Glacier promise sunshine and snow in equal measure.

As a general rule, go further up the mountain if you’re looking for pure snow and go lower down it if gliding between the trees is your thing.

Once you’re had your fill of skiing for the day, the town is well worth a visit all by itself. The five-star Salzburger Hof offers a selection of fine gourmet restaurants, while the hidden gem of the Pinzgauer Hutt promises a fun skidoo tow back to civilisation when you’ve finished your venison. The aptly named Ginhouse and its crack team of cocktail experts promises to make your trip back to the hotel a pleasantly meandering one too.
 

INTERLAKEN, SWITZERLAND 

Would any list of skiing hotspots be complete without the Swiss Alps? Right in the heart of Switzerland and just an hour from Bern, Interlaken has been the last word in winter sports holidays since the 19th century. Even Lord Byron was delighted by it, and Goethe and Mendelssohn were both famous aficionados.

The mountainous region around Interlaken offers access to some of the finest opportunities for skiing in the world. The Jungfrau Top Ski Region above Grindelwald alone boasts more than 100 miles of trails and it is perfectly possible to try your hand at a fresh trail every day of the week, while the respective merits of Wengen (home of the very first ski races) and Mürren (home of the International Inferno Race, the largest amateur race in the world) are hotly debated. Zermatt, meanwhile, offers the highest ski resort in Europe and the promise of snow all the year round.

Skiing is only half of the story, however, and Interlaken is famously idyllic. You can marvel at the natural formations of St Beatus Caves above Lake Thun, indulge a literary pilgrimage to the nearby Reichenbach Falls and shop ’til you drop in the elegant boutiques, all in the same day. Naturally, everything runs with the efficiency of, well, a Swiss watch.

SKIING HOLIDAY ESSENTIALS

To get the most out of your holiday, here are some top tips: 

  • Check the snow report regularly. You’ll want to know where the best locations are, after all.

  • If you don’t have your own skis, look into ski hire in advance. It will save a great deal of hassle.

  • Take out ski insurance. You never know when you might need it.

  • It should go without saying, but pack for the cold and then add at least one extra pair of gloves per person for luck.

  • Don’t forget sun cream – the higher the SPF, the better. It may sound counterintuitive, but sunlight will bounce clean off the white snow.

  • If you’re a naturally sociable sort or you’re a little intimidated by it all and would like someone experienced as company, is there a Ski Club you can join? The Ski Club of Great Britain (www.skiclub.co.uk) has volunteer Leaders at 18 resorts worldwide.
 
Extract from full article originally published in AGA Living magazine.