Courmayeur – Mont Blanc, Alps
This charming, traditional mountaineering village situated in the lee of Mont Blanc at the Italian end of the Mont Blanc tunnel is an extraordinarily popular weekend skiing destination for the posher snow bunnies from Milan and Turin. The town is pleasant, with plenty of shops and après ski entertainment, from well reputed restaurants to bars and specialty delicatessens. Perhaps not in line with Courmayeur’s party ski resort reputation, the skiing is actually pretty good for the confident intermediate. The off poste terrain however, is a pretty hard challenge and must not be attempted unless a confident skier. There are classic off-piste runs from the Cresta d’Arp at the top of the lift network, while the SkyWay Monte Bianco cable car from Entrèves, provides access to some serious descents, including the famous Vallée Blanche and Punta Helbronner. If you’re not keen on hard core skiing, do make time for a trip in this cable car which boasts a rotating cabin which gives spectacular 360-degree views of Mont Blanc.
Cortina d’Ampezzo – Dolomites
Possibly Italy’s chicest skiing destination, Cortina is a quaint mountain town in the Dolomites surrounded by soaring cathedrals of sandstone. The picturesque town centre has helped earn the town its reputation for over a century, making it popular with celebrities, and the jet set. Michelin starred restaurants and luxury hotels punctuate the pretty village, though the hottest tables are at the houses of those old Italian families who have been coming to Cortina and throwing legendary parties for decades. Cortina’s 115km of marked slopes best suit intermediates and experts. There is a handful of tricky black runs, plus countless off-piste opportunities in good snow conditions.
Cervinia – Alps
Not for the faint hearted, Cervinia is a high-altitude resort with fabulous long runs apt for the skiing fanatic. Cervinia claims 160km of pistes covered on the local lift pass and is also linked by lift to Zermatt in Switzerland. The highest and most impressive peak in this section of the Alps is the Matterhorn, Il Cervino. Known for its fantastic skiing weather and geography (try the 8km Ventina red run, with breath-taking views of 4,000m peaks), Cervinia is not one of the prettiest resorts in the Alps, but it offers enough après ski activities, if you can drag yourselves off the couch after the strenuous descents.
Madonna di Campiglio – Dolomites
Much like Cortina, Madonna di Campiglio’s reputation for its après ski rivals that for its actual skiing. People Watching and shopping are common past times, and the resorts offers sophisticated restaurants as well as raging nightclubs. But it is the wide range of skiing which makes the chic aficionados flock to this part of the Dolomites. Madonna has access to 380km of downhill skiing, with 297 individual pistes, served by 150 ski lifts, and being above 1500 metres above sea level, may of the easier runs allow direct access to the resort (handy in high season where traffic might be heavy). Madonna is also a champion of snowboarding, having investe din facilities since the inception of the winter sport. The Passo Grosté boasts a half pipe built a few seasons ago, as well as a piste for boarder cross.
Selva di Val Gardena – Dolomites
Selva di Val Gardena is located at the foot of the Sella Massif in Val Gardena. Another pretty village in the Dolomites, along with Ortisei and Santa Cristina, it is favoured by connoisseurs of authentic Sud Tyrol charm in lieu of unabashed luxury. Catering for all levels, Selva is also a magnet for powder enthusiasts, particularly boarders, with the Sella Ronda (a circular route) a favourite area here, part of the 500 km of sloaps of the Sella Group. As well as skiing and snowboarding, Val Gardena also offers many places for off-piste and cross-country skiing, as well as possibilities to go carving, telemark skiing, sledding, ice climbing and paragliding.
Brunico – Pustertal Valley
Overlooked by the Bruneck Castle, Brunico is a lively town with a relaxed atmosphere. Artisanal shops and exclusive boutiques, cafés and wine bars line the long Stadtgasse alley, making it an après ski friendly destination. Just outside the town you can gain access Kronplatz, South Tyrol’s most famous skiing area where snowy peaks, dense forests, 116km of pistes and 31 lifts offer unlimited skiing opportunities.