EXPERT • November 2016
Even though the snow may have melted on the lower flanks of the Alps you don’t need to pack away your ski gear for the summer. Ski expert and travel writer Gabriella Le Breton shares the best off-season pistes for dedicated powderhounds – from Europe’s lofty glaciers to volcanoes in New Zealand
A veritable ski leviathan, Whistler Blackcomb boasts North America’s greatest skiable acreage, its largest high-speed lift system and one of its longest ski seasons (November to May). Encompassing Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, which are linked by gondola, the resort offers skiers of all abilities more than 200 trails, 16 powder bowls and three glaciers. Come April, ski days are warmer and longer, and the pistes emptier.
British Airways Holidays offers ten nights at The Listel Hotel Whistler, from £1,579 per person, travelling 1-30 April 2017. Includes World Traveller return flights from London Heathrow to Vancouver and accommodation with breakfast. Book by 21 November. Visit ba.com/whistler
Nearest airport: Vancouver
Travel deep into the Arctic Circle in spring and you’ll reap rich rewards, skiing beneath the midnight sun in a frozen landscape bathed in golden light. Stick to the trails of Riksgränsen, on the border with Norway, and chances are you’ll share some chairlift rides with professional freeriders, here to compete in the annual Scandinavian Big Mountain Championships. Indulge your inner freerider and step aboard a helicopter, which will drop you on remote Lapland peaks at midnight: the warm light, classic spring corn snow and magnificent views are well worth getting out of bed for.
Nearest airport: Stockholm
The southern hemisphere ski season gets under way in June and, as New Zealand’s largest and highest resort, Whakapapa is the place to kick it off. With 75 per cent of its pistes rated intermediate and advanced, it also boasts some of New Zealand’s best backcountry skiing, including the most famous run in the Antipodes: hike to the peak of the dormant volcano Mount Ruapehu (North Island’s tallest mountain) and admire its crater lake (pictured) before skiing into neighbouring Turoa.
From £90 per night at Chateau Tongariro
Nearest airport: Fly to Auckland via Kuala Lumpur with BA’s oneworld partner Malaysian Airlines
You don’t have to change hemispheres to ski in the summer – Zermatt’s Matterhorn Paradise is the largest summer ski area in the Alps, with 21km of pistes. This is the time to celebrate the diversity of the mountains: ski in the morning, catch some rays over lunch on the terrace of one of Zermatt’s legendary mountain restaurants, and spend the afternoon hiking through Alpine pastures. Enjoy live après-hike music at Cervo (pictured), a smattering of old chalets above the historic, car-free village that have been transformed into a quirky, designer hotel.
Flights from London Heathrow to Geneva from £84pp.
Nearest airport: Geneva
Don’t let the name put you off – Perisher is the southern hemisphere’s largest ski resort – particularly now that its lift system and resort are reaping the benefits of being part of the global Vail Resorts family. Set in the scenic Kosciuszko National Park, spanning seven peaks and encompassing four villages, most of its pistes are intermediate-friendly, with some challenging off-piste terrain to keep advanced skiers on their toes. Stay at the Perisher Valley Hotel to be at the heart of the action – it’s ski-in/ski-out and houses a popular bar, restaurant and spa.
From £1,130 per person for six nights, excluding flights
Nearest airport: Fly to Canberra via Melbourne with BA’s oneworld partner Qantas
Set in a remote valley on the Chilean-Argentinean border, the 24-room Puma Lodge is dubbed the ‘Powder Capital of the Andes’, offering 2,000 miles of heliskiing terrain exclusively for the use of guests. The lodge’s dedicated heli guides usher skiers around jaw-dropping terrain, where ‘average’ descents measure 1,200 vertical metres – with some exceeding 3,000 vertical metres. Reward yourself with a deep-tissue massage in the Los Cipreses spa (pictured) followed by some vinous entertainment in the wine-tasting room and restaurant.
Nearest airport: Santiago
Hintertux is one of the few glaciers in the world to offer skiing 365 days of the year. As a result, you’ll find national ski teams training here. Many of the world’s leading freestylers master their tricks in the Betterpark which, with the dramatic Olperer mountain as its backdrop, draws adoring (and often bikini-clad) audiences. Stay in the heart of town at the Hotel Berghof Crystal Spa & Sports and you can enjoy mountain views from your balcony and complimentary guided walks.
From £590 for a half-board, three-night weekend break for two, excluding flights
Nearest airport: Innsbruck
The Ultimate Ski Book: Legends, Resorts, Lifestyle & More by Gabriella Le Breton (£43, teNeues) is out now.
You can now book your next ski break with British Airways Holidays. For more information, visit ba.com/ski