The Best Winter Ski Vacations to Take This Year
Short of a drop-in by Marie Kondo, nothing provokes deep closet excavation like the start of ski season, when unearthing your gear is pretty much all that stands between you and the slopes. Well, that and deciding which slopes to hit. And while we can’t help with the gear, we’ve got some definitive ideas about where to go once you find it. Here are eight greats of the season, from the Rockies to the Alps.
Whistler Blackcomb, Canada
The king resort of Canada, British Columbia's Whistler Blackcomb boasts the most skiable real estate (8,171 acres) and highest vertical rise (5,280 feet) in North America. Within this vast area—open six months of the year for regular season skiing—you’ll find nearly every type of terrain and snow condition, and a healthy number of trails for each level. And the addition of the new Blackcomb Gondola this season adds another couple of superlatives to Whistler Blackcomb’s bragging rights: the longest continuous lift system and first three-gondola connection in the world. Bottom line? You can now take a cozy, enclosed ride from Blackcomb to the famed Peak 2 Peak Gondola, your ticket to the area’s highest restaurants and most insane panoramas. For easy-access après, however, hit Whistler Village’s Garibaldi Lift Co., where you can just ski right up.
The Dolomites, Italy
A decade ago, UNESCO declared the Dolomites World Heritage-worthy thanks to “some of the most beautiful mountain landscapes anywhere, with vertical walls, sheer cliffs and a high density of narrow, deep and long valleys.” For all the glory, though—and the legendary local trails—the skiing has remained the near-exclusive domain of Europeans because this web of lifts and trails hasn't been the easiest to navigate. Until recently, that is, when word of ski safaris—basically, hut-to-hut skiing with ridiculously good Italian food and English-speaking guides—started spreading among American skiers. This year alone, the New York Times, Vogue and USA Today have talked up the offering, so go soon. And whichever version you wind up choosing, try not to miss après at Piz Seteur, right at the bottom of the slope in Selva Gardena.
Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, U.S.
With an average of 400 inches of snow each year, this corner of California's Sierra Nevada boasts one of the longest seasons in North America (last season the resort closed on July 28). But you’re probably not going to want to wait long: As of Jan. 6, if you fly to Mammoth Yosemite Airport through San Francisco or Denver, you’ll ski for free the day you arrive. And you’ll have 3,100 vertical feet—and 3,500 skiable acres—to choose from. As for your time off the slopes, choices range from natural hot springs to pond skating. However you spend your days, don't leave without having at least one dinner at Restaurant Skadi (there are only 10 tables, so make reservations), where Chef Ian Algerøen’s Norwegian-inspired specialties always dazzle.
Fresh off some big wins at this year’s World Ski Awards—the Oscars of the slopes—Austria’s Best Ski Resort of 2019 may be most famous for the Hahnenkamm, the hairiest downhill race on the circuit. But you have plenty of other reasons to go check out this Tyrolean town: For starters, it’s one of the prettiest ski resorts in Europe, and one of the largest in Austria if you factor in neighboring Kirchberg. With a total of 57 lifts and 185 kilometers (115 miles) of groomed slopes, there’s enough for skiers of all levels, and ambitious intermediates and expert skiers can tackle the Hahnenkamm themselves (on the Streif and Ganslerhang pistes) outside of competition week at the end of January. Take your après game first to the Hahnankamm Pavilion on mountain, and then to the Londoner pub in the town’s historic center.
Heavenly Ski Resort, U.S.
Aptly named in light of its snow and views of Lake Tahoe, Heavenly spans two states (CA and NV) with 4,800 sprawling acres. New for 2019, Lakeland Village Resort on the shores of Lake Tahoe has on-site lift tickets and shuttles to the mountain, where you’ll find immaculate grooming, long sustained steeps and some of the continent’s best off-piste skiing. Before you head down the gondola, head to the Unbuckle party at Tamarack Lodge on the California side for the happy hour specials and live music.
This Colorado classic routinely shows up on best-of lists for all kinds of reasons. There are four mountains (Snowmass, Buttermilk, Aspen Mountain and Aspen Highlands) and rarely a lift line; the trails are perfectly groomed; and inter-mountain transport is free. But recent additions are making the area even more appealing: Snowmass Base Village is now home to Limelight Hotel Snowmass (complete with an ice rink) and The Collective—a lively restaurant, bar, community center and game lounge. And the W Aspen is the first new luxury hotel here in 25 years, where you'll find (among other things) some of the planet's poshest bunk beds. For the après scene, you’ll want to at least start with some tried-and-true spots: Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro at Aspen Highlands and Ajax Tavern at the base of Aspen Mountain.
Alpe d’Huez, France
Rising from 4,101 to 10,925 feet in the region of Auvergne-Rhône-Alps in France’s Central Western Alps, Alpe d’Huez pairs spectacular views with sunny, south-facing runs above the tree line. Suitable for all levels—and dotted with a wealth of mountain restaurants—the place is particularly family-friendly. After a long day outdoors, treat yourself to an indulgent dinner at Chamois d’Or, where everything is made in house and inspired by the natural bounty of the surrounding Alps.
Telluride Ski Resort, U.S.
This historic Western town sits in a gorgeous box canyon surrounded by granite cliffs and snowy peaks, so by all means, show up for the Insta possibilities alone. But the skiing also happens to be epic, with uncrowded lift lines and trails. And while more than half of Telluride’s terrain is geared toward beginners and intermediates, expert skiers shouldn’t stress: There are plenty of hardcore runs for you, here, too. You could spend your après-ski time doing the bar and appetizer thing, but a better idea is to grab a great dinner, as the restaurant scene in Telluride is stellar. Get a reservation at The National, and good luck not ordering everything. Bonus: Increased service to Montrose-Telluride and Telluride airports makes getting here ever easier.