Where is the best place to ski?

Top ski resorts in the world

I have been skiing during the past 25 years. Six countries, countless runs and a lot of fun along the way! I thought about telling my experience, in order to help you find your perfect ski resort.

Austria 

Achenkirch –  I started on a flat terrain (everybody starts on a flat terrain, right?) located in the lovely town of Achenkirch, in Austria.  It was tough to understand the instructor who did not speak Englsih. By my side I can easily communicate in English although my native language is Portuguese. Anyway, my first ski lessons were on German!  That was tough! 🙂

I can’t tell details about the slopes on Achenkirch because as a beginner I did not have the opportunity to explore the whole mountain. All I can tell you, looking on the maps, is that the terrain is modest (in size) and I think a good skier would probably get  bored skiing there during one whole week. I guess some travel would be necessary to the nearby towns (there are plenty of them along the Mayrhofen Valley ).

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Lech –  We had been to Lech twice and loved it! The first time we stayed at the marvelous Montana Hotel. Located in Oberlech, it is ski-in / ski-out.

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On  our second time skiing in Lech, we stayed at Hotel Cafe Restaurant Fritz. This hotel provides  comfortable accommodations, good breakfast and is more affordable than  Hotel Montana.  Although it is situated on a slope,  with nice views of Lech, I didn’t like the location. The access to Hotel Cafe Restaurant Fritz is hard on skis (we had to walk on ski boots in the morning to go to the lifts) and at night we had to walk along a slippery  hill to go out for dinner. If I return to Lech during winter, I plan tol stay again  at the Hotel Montana.

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Lech is a very live city with excellent aprés ski. , there are many bars,  excellent restaurants and great shopping (although very expensive!). There are also beautiful cultural presentations and we were fortunate to watch the “Opera on the Snow” _  those are memories that will stay forever!  Music, performance and the vibe of the snow flakes following on our  heads during the performance is  something that can’t be explained.

Opera on the Snow. It’s magical and can’t be described. Films and pictures don’t make it justice. Opera on the snow must be lived. You can watch my movie while watching Aída,  clicking here

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We left Lech with hard driving conditions. Chains on wheels and poor visibility.

Canada

Whistler –  It’s a huge mountain, specially because you can ski Whistler / Blackcomb with the same ticket  and using the extensive network of lifts and gondolas. We have been to Whistler / Blackcomb twice (one week in January 2013 and one week in January 2014).

What I like in Whistler: It’s close to my home. I can arrive there in less than two hours, driving my car. So… it’s convenient. 🙂

I also like the fact that  the Canadians are polite and friendly, and they do respect other skiers. It’s a place where you feel safe, despite the fact if the run is steep. Something you don’t feel when you ski in Courchevel, as an example.

The runs are large and well marked. The mountain restaurants serve excellent food.

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What I don’t like:  It’s common to see Whistler covered by fog, with poor visibility. I don’t know If it must blame my  “luck factor”  (in fact “no luck factor” ) but both times I was there the snow conditions weren’t good. It was icy, with hard pack snow and I could not find any corduroy around, and  yes, I am a corduroy lover!

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I also find the prices expensive, not only regarding  hotels but also restaurants.

France

Courchevel / Val Thorenz / Meribel / La Tania / St Martin de Belleville…  Le Trois Vallées –

Courchevel is gorgeous. I mean GORGEOUS. The runs are magnifique, the views are superb, the lifts are fast and comfortable. It’s a super modern ski resort. The Ski School is excellent,  and although everything is really pricey there, I consider Courchevel one of the best ski resorts is the world.

What  l like there: It’s big, there are runs for every level of skier. The lifts are modern. The runs are very well marked, containing  signals  showing how long you need to ski to reach the bottom. There are maps and signs everywhere. Although the skiable terrain is giant, I would say that it’s impossible to get lost (of course I am not considering days with poor visibility).

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But…. Courchevel has an ENORMOUS problem (in my opinion); The “Kamikaze“.  Those are skiers that don’t ski so well as they think they do,  and they usually come at very high speeds, almost crashing (sometimes really crashing) onto you.  This is  bad. They have no consideration with the skiers that are ahead of them,  and they don’t care. In my opinion the ski patrol could do a better job confiscating the tickets of these “kamikaze” skiers.

We have been to Courchevel 1850 twice and loved it there! 🙂

I also don’t like the city. It’s ugly. There are different styles of Architecture, some very ugly buildings side by side with old pretty houses. There’s no “character” / “ski resort atmosphere”  there.  Last but not least, it’s really expensive there.  We have been to Courchevel twice and despite the problems mentioned above, we had a great time there.

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Italy

Dolomites –  This is for sure one of the most scenic places in the world where we have skied. It’s simply magical! The mountains get a pink tone when the day is fading that I have never seen anywhere else. The runs are very well groomed and marked. The food is to die for, and it;s affordable too!

If you go to ski The Dolomites, I highly recommend you stay at Selva di Val Gardena.  It is the most charming place with excellent options regarding accommodation, restaurants and shopping and also with the most convenient way to access the slopes.

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Something you can not miss is  “The Sella Ronda Circuit“. This is a MUST.  You start skiing in the morning and go skiing  clockwise or anti-clockwise around a mountain.  You go  up and down, up and down around the Sella Ronda, a famous mountain. By the end of the day you will be back to the point where you have started. I did it anti-clockwise as it is faster, although steeper than on the opposite direction.

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The Sella Ronda Circuit is 40km long and you will feel as a super star when you complete it!   Yes, your legs must be fit to ski the 26km of slopes and  you will feel very proud of yourself by the end of the day!  Most of the circuit is of high-medium difficulty, with a steep section near the “Vesuvian Door” (if I remember the name correctly…) .

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Italians are very serious about food and it is really delicious! 🙂

Something you should not miss while visiting selva di Val Gardena is the presentation held by the Skiing Company, with the torch descent and many jumps. It’s AWESOME and very live!  Wonderful! you can watch a part of it clicking here

Switzerland

Arosa – We went to Arosa in Switzerland and had a great time there. The city is very pretty, with a frozen lake and everything close by. There are several restaurants, serving delicious traditional Swiss meals. We stayed at a four stars hotel  and found it “dated” and a little bit “shabby”. If you intend to go there, check if they had any decor renovations, otherwise, I would look for somewhere else.

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The runs are nice if the weather is good. The resort is above the tree line and in poor weather conditions, visibility can be a problem.

What I did not like: The road that takes you to the resort is very steep, narrow and without guardrail in many places. People drive fast and I got really scared  in the car. We had chains and it was not a pleasure experience to drive there. If you intend to go, I would recommend the train instead.

Wengen –  This is our favorite resort when we talk about skiing in Switzerland. Wengen is a car free resort with all hotels located a few steps from the Mannlichen lift of from the train station. Yeas! In Wengen you take the train to  Kleine Scheidegg or to Grindelwald and from there you reach the slopes. This has the advantage of staying on a comfortable place instead of on a chair lift (specially in very cold /windy days) but, on the other hand, your life is “dictated” by train schedules…

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We have been to Wengen three times. The first time we stayed at the excellent Sun Star Hotel Wengen . On our second visit  we stayed at the very charming and comfortable Romantik Hotel Schoenegg. Both hotels offer a “full pension” menu and the food is absolutely delicious.

Below are the pictures taken during our second visit to Wengen

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We had a third visit to this glorious region and stayed in Grindelwald, but as it occurred during  summer, I will write about it in another post.

Zermatt –   The trip to Zermatt is unforgettable! Beautiful train, with panoramic glass roof making it possible to admire the beautiful surroundings while you travel.

What I did not like there:  The hotels are not ski-in / ski-out . We stayed at the excellent  Schweizerhof Zermatt.  Excellent accommodations, very friendly staff but… away from the slopes! We had to get a cab everyday to reach the lifts. When I say “cab”, is not a “real cab” because the resort is car-free. It’s an electrical vehicle (like a golf cart) that takes you to the mountain. The taxi is  very expensive, although the trip takes less than ten minutes,  and I don’t think this is convenient. I am a fan of ski-in / ski-out hotels.

What I really liked there: The scenery is  perfect! It’s like being inside a postcard! Be able to see the Matterhorn from your hotel balcony is priceless. I felt like living inside a chocolate box!

There are excellent runs on the glacier and the trip to Cervinia (In Italy) on skis is something you will remember forever and ever. I felt like James Bond, 007, skiing the Alps from Switzerland to Italy (Cervinia) and back by the end of the day.  Most of the time you will be skiing on Run 7, also called “Highway 7” (yes… the Italians like speed… take care there!_.  “Run 7 is 11 km long and you will feel your legs when you are reaching the bottom in Cervinia!  Anyway, it’s an unforgettable experience and I highly recommend it if you love to ski!

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If you decide to go to Italy skiing for the day,  keep an eye on your watch because there are countless stories of people who go to Italy and don’t have time to ski  back  to Switzerland (lifts closed). Many people have to stay overnight in Italy, and they must find a hotel room and stay there with  SKI BOOTS till the next day! That’s not funny, for sure! 🙂

USA

Aspen / Snowmass –  My second ski trip was to Snowmass Village, in Colorado and wow…. this place is like paradise for any skier, from total beginner to expert.  On top of that, Snowmass doesn’t come alone: There are three other mountains around, with  free shuttle buses connecting them.  Ajax (also called Aspen Mountain) in downtown Aspen; Aspen Highlands with its majestic bowl that makes any expert dreaming to ski there and Buttermilk Mountain (also called Tiehack) a broad mountain with very easy runs.

When I went to Snowmass  to ski for the first time, I had a tremendous improvement on my technique, not only because the easy runs are very “forgiveness” but also because the excellent ski instructors. I will never forget my first ski instructor there, Joan Valentine. She was so kind, gave me so much confidence that I looked for her every time I returned to that wonderful resort. I have very fond memories of my first days learning this great sport! Vail. We skied in Vail and found the runs excellent. We skied the back part of Vail (The Bowl) and loved it there but…. comparing to Aspen / Snowmass we prefer the latter much more. Why? Hmmm….  There is more “atmosphere”  in Aspen / Snowmass.  As an Architect, I don’t like the fake Architectural style  of Vail, imitating an Alps resort.  I also find that Aspen / Snowmass don’t get as crowded as Vail. Due to its proximity to Denver, Vail gets much more crowded than Aspen with huge lines on the lifts.  The city is not attractive, as it is along the highway. On the contrary, Aspen has a lot of character with its Victorian houses, Opera House, old mine and much more! So… after skiing in six countries, and in a variety of terrain and resorts…. where is my favorite place best to ski? You can watch the galleries bellow and take your all conclusions…check how many times we have been to Aspen / Snowmass… Below: Family trip to Aspen / Snowmass 1995

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Below: Family Trip to Aspen / Snowmass 1996

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Below: Family trip to Aspen / Snowmass 1997

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Below: Family trip to Aspen / Snowmass 1998

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Below: Family Trip to Aspen / Snowmass 1999

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Below: Family Trip to Aspen / Snowmass 2000

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Below: Family Trip to Aspen / Snowmass 2001

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Below: Family trip to Aspen / Snowmass 2004

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Below: Our trip to Aspen / Snowmass  2006

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Below: Our family trip to Aspen / Snowmass 2007

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Below our family trip to Aspen / Snowmass 2010

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Below our family trip to Aspen / Snowmass 2011

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After going to Aspen / Snowmass so many times you may guess where is the best ski resort for me, he?  🙂 Yes! My vote goes to Aspen / Snowmass! This is the perfect place for me.  That’s the reason why I have been to this gorgeous place many many  times and I where I plan to return forever and ever! Amen. In my opinion, Aspen Snowmass is the most perfect ski resort in the world. On a next post I write about my favorite places there.  Keep tuned on my blog and let me know where is your favorite place to ski!  Thanks!

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About CeciliArchitect

World Traveler ~ Photographer ~ Social Media Specialist ~ Tourism Vancouver Certified Specialist ~ Independent Tour Manager and Events Coordinator ~ Blogger ~ Architect & Interior Designer (in my previous life)
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