Where to ski without the crowds


By Felice Hardy for High Life magazine

A frozen Lake Louise, Canada © Alamy

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September 2016

Swerve the packed pistes this season and head for these secret and surprising slopes around the globe. Felice Hardy reveals nine of the world’s little-known ski resorts, from Spain and Austria, to South Korea and Canada.

Seiser Alm, Italy

Why go?

Seiser Alm isn’t a conventional ski resort but a collection of buildings scattered around the piste. Adler Mountain Lodge, reached by a track or gondola from the valley village of Ortisei, is one of the most remote hotels in the Alps.

Who goes?

Couples or families wanting privacy – you’re unlikely to bump into anyone you know, and celebrities will be left well alone. Foodies will love it too: chef Hannes Pignater uses ingredients sourced from local farms in South Tyrol to create dishes such as omelette with meadow herbs and hay-roasted lamb.

When to go

January or March are best, although this far corner of the Dolomiti Superski area is quiet even in high season.

How to get there

We fly to Milan seven days a week from London Heathrow.

Find our cheapest flights to Milan >

  • Adler Mountain Lodge, Italy

    Back to nature

    Breathe in the crisp, fresh mountain air and the scent of mountain larch and spruce that makes up the intricate yet cosy Alder Mountain Lodge.

    Book now
  • Hotel La Pleta, Spain
  • Hotel Portillo, Chile

    Sunny skiing

    You can’t miss the Hotel Portillo with its bright yellow façade shining out against the crisp white snow. It’s also the only hotel in Portillo, Chile’s oldest ski resort.

    Book now

Baqueira Beret, Spain

Why go?

Located in the Spanish Pyrenees, Baqueira Beret has remained one of skiing’s best-kept secrets since it opened in 1964. It is a great alternative to the over-crowded resorts of the Alps, and the prices are good, too.

Who goes?

The King of Spain has a home in his country’s most upmarket ski resort. Otherwise, it’s mainly chic Spaniards who start their skiing day late, take a siesta at 6pm after a 3pm lunch, dine at 11pm, and party until dawn. David Beckham and family have stayed in the small and charming Hotel La Pleta.

Book a stay at the Hotel Pleta >

When to go

Avoid Spanish school holidays: January and March are the best times to visit.

How to get there

We fly to Barcelona from London Gatwick and Heathrow; or fly to Toulouse from London Heathrow. Both airports are within easy driving distance of Baqueira Beret. Add a car to your booking with Avis for free winter tyres with your rental.

Portillo, Chile

Why go?

For the steep slopes and thin crowds. Portillo is the country’s oldest ski area, located near the Argentinian border, with 28 miles of piste and exhilarating off-piste. Another reason is the retro-luxury Hotel Portillo – the only accommodation here – on the shore of the gorgeous Laguna del Inca surrounded by the imposing Andes.

Who goes?

People who are looking for a real challenge; the US and Austrian ski teams, including Lindsey Vonn and Marcel Hirscher.

When to go

During the southern hemisphere winter, from June to October.

How to get there

We’ll be flying direct to Santiago from London Heathrow on the new Boeing 787-9 from 3 January 2017.

Find our cheapest flights to Santiago >

Where to stay

Why not stop over in Santiago on your way to the slopes? The Ritz-Carlton Santiago has a rooftop pool with unbeatable views of the Andes.

Book a stay The Ritz-Carlton Santiago >

Solden, Austria

Why go?

Snow-sure skiing on two glaciers, and lively après-ski. The resort is relatively undiscovered internationally, especially to Brits. That may change though thanks to Sölden’s glitzy Ice Q restaurant being featured in the latest Bond film, Spectre. The world’s fastest gondola also opens here this October.

Who goes?

The party resort is climbing upmarket: glamorous Das Central hotel, the Ice Q and Daniel Craig have made sure of that.

When to go

The snow is reliable from October to May. In fact, you can ski here for ten months of the year.

How to get there

We fly to Innsbruck daily from London Gatwick and Heathrow. Add a car to your booking with Avis.

Find our cheapest flights to Innsbruck >

Lake Tahoe, California / Nevada

Why go?

For the wide variety of resorts, both big and small, set around the tantalising turquoise lake. Squaw Valley and Heavenly are the best known, but Kirkwood, Northstar and little Mount Rose also have exciting terrain.

Who goes?

A laid-back West Coast crowd who enjoy barbecue lunches on the sunny slopes.

When to go

This is a great spot for spring skiing in March and April.

How to get there

We fly to San Francisco twice daily, with a service on the Airbus A380.

Find our cheapest flights to San Francisco >

Where to stay

The modern Tahoe Lakeshore Lodge and Spa.

  • Das Central, Austria

    Sumptuous seclusion

    If you’re looking to escape and still get your fair share of exhilarating skiing, Das Central offers a quiet spot with gourmet food and a luxury spa.

    Find a hotel in Innsbruck
  • Lake Tahoe, USA © Alamy

    Did you know…

    Lake Tahoe is so deep that if you stood the Empire State Building in it, the tip of its famous spire would still be 50m from the surface. Fly from London to San Francisco, and rent a car for seven-days from:£555 pp

    Book flights and cars
  • Refuel after a day on the slopes at Grapes Wine Bar, Fairmont Banff Springs

    Castle in the Rockies

    Fairmont Banff Springs has been the go-to Banff resort for over 125 years and the hotel still retains many of its splendid Victorian features.

    Book now

Lake Louise, Canada

Why go?

Lake Louise is the biggest of three separate ski areas in the Banff National Park that share a lift pass and a total of 26 lifts and 7,748 acres of trails. It is a 45-minute drive from the lively town of Banff, but also has its own quieter accommodation base at the foot of the slopes.

Who goes?

Everyone, from beginners to experts. Lake Louise attracts people who want to ski amid strikingly beautiful scenery with reliable snow conditions.

When to go

It can be extremely cold here, so the optimum time to ski is from February onwards. But even in high season, the slopes are never as crowded as major Alpine resorts.

How to get there

We fly direct to Calgary from London Heathrow once a day. You can check in your baggage and ski gear for free.

Find our cheapest flights to Calgary >

Where to stay

Fairmont Banff Springs kick-started modern tourism to Banff 125 years ago. Expect grand, elegant décor and heart-stopping views from the floor-to-ceiling windows of Bow Valley Grill restaurant.

Book a stay at Fairmont Banff Springs >

Yongpyong, South Korea

Why go?

For the adventure. South Korea’s first ski resort opened in 1975 and is gathering popularity as the up-and-coming Asian resort, with its 14 lifts and 28 slopes.

Who goes?

South Koreans mainly. Also international racers – the resort is a venue for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, and has hosted the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup four times.

When to go

From mid-November to early April.

How to get there

We fly nonstop to Seoul Incheon from London Heathrow seven times a week.

Find our cheapest flights to Seoul >

  • Facts and figures

    The picturesque Yongpyong resort is set over 4,300 acres, with 28 ski slopes and 14 ski lifts including one cable car.

    Discover South Korea
  • Kite-skiing conditions in Geilo, Norway are amongst the best in the world © Soren Hald / Getty
  • Slopes to sleighs: Mush your way through Norway’s countryside with a pack of four-legged friends © Alexander Palm / Getty

Sirdal, Norway

Why go?

Quiet, relaxing and undiscovered, the resort of Sirdal is made up of two ski centres: Tjørhomfjellet and Ålsheia. It’s unlikely anyone outside Norway has even heard of them, although Sirdal is one of Norway’s largest and most accessible resorts, with 15 lifts and 45 runs.

Who goes?

So far just Norwegians and, as you’ll usually find in the Scandinavian resorts, not just skiers. The downhill terrain is limited and best suits beginners to intermediates, but extra activities of dogsledding and cross-country skiing on 124 miles of tracks make it suitable for an all-round winter sport holiday.

When to go

The resort opens in January. Go later rather than earlier in the season, when temperatures are milder.

How to get there

We fly direct to Stavanger twice a day from London Heathrow. Add a car to your booking with Avis.

Find our cheapest flights to Stavanger >

Where to stay

Base yourself in Stavanger at the Clarion Hotel, and you’ll only be a 90-minute drive from the slopes of Sirdal.

Book a stay at Clarion Hotel Stavanger

Geilo, Norway

Why go?

Lying between Oslo and Bergen, this is one of the best resorts in Scandinavia for family skiing. Oleevar. The Havsdalen ski arena has one of the longest toboggan runs in the country, while Vestlia has excellent childcare. Geilo is also a major centre for cross-country skiing, has options for floodlit night-skiing and is also an excellent place to kite-ski. There are just over 21 miles of mainly intermediate piste and 20 lifts.

Who goes?

Families, cross-country skiers and those wanting an all-round winter-sports holiday.

When to go

Any time between mid-December and May.

How to get there

We fly to Oslo daily from London Heathrow; or fly to Bergen from London Heathrow twice daily.

Find our cheapest flights to Bergen >

Where to stay

Vestlia Resort is a four-star hotel with a spa, bowling alley and huge indoor play area for children.

Book a stay at Vestlia Resort >