The winter season is here, and it is time to get to visit the most exclusive places to enjoy it
The origin of skiing has no definite date, but it associated with man’s necessity to move around winter. Some historians place the first skiers in northern Scandinavia, while others in China. The earliest evidence of skiing was in Russia, dating back to 6000 B.C.
In the 16th century, the Byzantine historian Procopius of Caesarea described a competition on snow, and in the 19th century, in Norway, the first snow tournaments initiated – cross-country skiing and jumping – in a regulated manner.
This led to a growing interest in winter sports, forcing the owner of lodging places to install heating and receive their guests in those cold seasons. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Hotel Mont Blanc in France was one of the first. A new era of winter vacations vegan, which led to the creation of exclusive places to enjoy them, as presented below.
Yellowstone Club, Montana, Estados Unidos
Designed on 15,196 acres, Yellowstone Club is a private venue that offers its members more than 100 ski and snowboard trails for all ages and levels – from beginner to professional – located on 2,470 acres in the Rocky Mountains of Montana.
It includes more than 800 luxury real estate properties, including ranches, mountain chalets, residences, and condominiums; one lodging option is Montage Big Sky or The Green O, near the Yellowstone Club.
In the winter season, the golf course clubhouse, designed by Tom Weiskopf, becomes a place to watch the scenery, as well as The Barn, recently opened for social events; the experiences are not only sporting, but also culinary, for example, at chef Ming Tsai’s BaBa restaurant.
Another ski area belonging to the Yellowstone Club is Eglise Mountain, which is reached by a cable car; the site has track with a personal time keeping, allowing to record the time of each participant's run during their stay, and at the end of the season to snow the best descent among the other skiers.
For the practice of Nordic skiing there are several trails, depending on the visitors' level of practice, or a guided walk in the forest, equipped with snowshoes. Yellowstone Club members have access to Big Sky Resort, another winter sports center with 5,683 acres for skiing.
St. Moritz, Suiza
The daring gamble of hotelier Johannes Badrutt, who in 1864 challenged a group of British tourists to stay at his St. Moritz resort in the winter season, promissing that their stay would be free if they got cold (which did not happen). It was the birth of the winter tourism in the Swiss Alps.
Years before Johannes Badrutt’s story, St. Moritz welcomed summer vacationers, attracted by its healing mineral springs, that inspired the town’s baths and spa traditions that continue to this day.
St. Moritz in winter is not only sport, it is a cosmopolitan city that combines glamour and lifestyle, especially in Via Serla, the equivalent of Rodeo Drive for its exclusive stores, but surrounded by natural landscapes. A couple of original places to stay are Art Boutique Hotel Monopol and Badrutt’s Palace, and enjoy the dishes of Ecco St. Moritz, worthy of two Michelin Stars.
The quality of the snow and its facilities for winter sports made St. Moritz the venue for the second edition of the 1928 Winter Olympic Games, and in 1948, three years after the end of World War II, St. Moritz again hosted the Olympic Games, taking advantage of the fact that the sports infrastructure had not been damaged after the war.
Over time, St. Moritz became a favorite place for celebrities, artist and aristocrats eager to enjoy winter sports on its more than 217 miles of slopes for skiers for all levels; another alternative is cross-country skiing on the 93 miles of trails in the area.
Since 1998, the Engadin slope has became hosted the Super-G downhill of the Women’s Ski World Cup and the Cartier Trophy Snow Polo St. Moritz World Cup, which celebrates its 37th edition this year.
As a new attraction, Edition Zero of the I.C.E. – The International Concours of Elegance took place last year on the frozen lake of St. Moritz, an exhibition of vintage, classic and sports car, which will be held again in January 2022.
Located in Hokkaido – the second largest island of Japan – Niseko United is a winter ski resort on the slopes of 4,291 ft high Mount Niseko Annapuri, consisting of four interconnected resorts: Niseko Village, Grand Hirafu, Hanazono and Annupuri, each with downhill slopes accessed by three cable cars and 30 chairlifts. The four resorts are lined by a bus circuit.
The slopes of Niseko Annupuri offer trails delineated around wooded areas for downhill skiing and snowboarding for all levels. The ideal time to visit is from November to March, when an average of 46 ft of powder snow falls.
Those who practice snowboarding will find natural half-pipes and toboggans located on the other side of Niseko Annupuri, and for the more experienced the possibility of skiing among the trees. There is also a heli-skiing and cat-skiing service that takes tourist to off-the-beaten-path areas, or if you prefer, a snowmobile ride or a snow scooter ride. It is suggested to purchase the Niseko All Mountain Pass and be able to visit the four ski areas.
For lodging there is the Higashiyama Niseko Village a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Chalet Ivy, or a Kasara Niseko Village residence, overlooking the Mount Yotei and the Niseko Annupuri, as well as the Park Hyatt Niseko Hanazono. Enjoy the comforting experience of hot springs in an onsen offered at hotel spas.
Home of the 1924 Winter Olympic Games, Chamonix is one of the favorite winter destinations for its three ski areas: Les Grands Montents, Brévent-Flégère and Domaine de Balme, sheltered by Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps at 15,780 ft.
Chamonix is the après-ski capital of the world, with a variety of ways to enjoy your stay, including spa, a visit to the exclusive shopping area, the ambiance of the bars, or a gourmet dinner in one of the dozen Michelin-starred restaurants, such as chef Damien Leveau’s Albert 1er and its 19,000-bottle wine cellar. Balneotherapy is ideal for a deep rest in Chamonix, before or after skiing, while admiring Mont Blanc.
There are also free family shows, including Tourchet Night Fever, on the Tourthet slopes, and Vendredi Zic, with musical concerts.
More than 14.2 miles of ski areas are prepared on a glacier, with descents of more than 6,560 ft. At Brévent-Flégère you have a view of Mont Blanc from where you can record and time your slalom descent for a personal souvenir or jump and descend safely on a big airbag. Beginners have the Savoy and Plateau 2000 slopes. The above is done in complete safety, as skiers are equipped with avalanche transceivers for quick location in any situation.
Another attraction is to take the cable car to the top of Mount Auguille du Midi, at 12,605 ft above sea level, where you can enjoy the view, including Mont Blanc, and enjoy the specialties of Savoyard cuisine at the Restaurant Le 3842 or live the experience of Step into the Void, an observation platform made entirely of glass that gives the sensation of floating.
Departing from Chamoix, a short train ride leads to the Mer de Glace glacier – considered the largest in France – and the summits of Drus and Grandes Jorasses. There you will discover the blue walls of an ice grotto inside the glacier, with a fascinating play of lights and colors. In the Glaciarium, the life and evolution of the glacier is shown and then, dressed in a pair of snowshoes, take a tour of the trails.
Beaver Creek, Colorado, Estados Unidos
In the heart of the Rocky Mountains, Beaver Creek Resort offers unique landscapes on more than 1,730 acres in three different ski areas – Red Buffalo Park, Haymeadow Park and McKoy Park – each dedicated to the level of experience of the visitor, all sheltered by the 11,443 ft Beaver Creek Mountain, the main elevation that gives its name to the site.
The development has 150 ski slopes, some of them with descents of up to 3,280 ft, which, thanks to its annual average snowfall of more than 26 ft, a pleasant descent is assured. The longest ski run is 2.7 acres, and there are 23 chairlifts to reach various points in the mountains.
Red Buffalo Park is located at the top of Beaver Creek, with nearly 5 miles of vertical descents, classified as black diamond and double black diamond, considered in the 2019 Alpine Skiing World Cup. Skiers who conquer all 14 runs placed in the area earn the right to be included in Beaver Creek's Talon's Wall of Fame.
Haymeadow Park, adjacent to Beaver Creek Village and McKoy Park on Bachelor Gulch Mountain, includes intermediate and advanced stages. Recently, 247 more acres of snowshoe trails were opened at McCoy Park.
The Village is the gathering place for visitors, and this season it has a surprise: Beaver Creek Wonder, an artistic attraction made up of large sculptures scattered throughout the village, waiting to be photographed. For après-ski, there's Beaver Creek Chophouse, Toscanini, and Splendido at the Chateau, each with its own culinary specialties.
Entertainment is assured at the Vilar Performing Arts Center, near Beaver Creek Village, with a calendar of live performances for all ages. November 26th is a must-see for the lighting of the Christmas tree, not to mention the Family FunFest, with family attractions.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Estados Unidos
Coinciding with Thanksgiving on Thursday, November 25th, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort opens for the 137-day 2021-2022 winter season.
For more than 75 years, skiers have been present in the 2,471 acres of this plain, located between the mountains, where Rendezvous stands out, the highest peak, with its 10,450 ft, which can be conquered in an expedition on foot, or by funicular, enjoying the scenery. The place, Jackson Hole, owes its name to David Edward Jackson, an expert hunter and explorer, who was the first person to spend the winter in this area, at the beginning of the XIX century.
There are 133 ski and snowboard run, ideal for all skill levels of visitors – 50% expert, 40% intermediate and 10% beginner – accessed by chairlifts and cable cars, including the famed Big Red cable car, which makes the 3,937 ft vertical ascent in nine minutes.
Jackson Hole is home to Four Seasons Resort and Residences and Hotel Terra, ranked the number two resort in Jackson Hole by the Condé Nast Traveler Readers' Choice Awards 2020.
You can take a family snowmobile tour and view local wildlife, such as bison and elk; Jackson Hole is located near two of America's largest national parks, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton, which can be visited. A hike using snowshoes or in a sled pulled by dogs or Percheron horses are other options. The après-ski here is cosmopolitan, with restaurants such as the Worth Hotel's Silver Dollar Green, Teton Tiger and The Mangy Moose, the latter with live music.
Aspen, Colorado, Estados Unidos
One of the most iconic places to ski is in Aspen, where thousands of visitors arrive annually during the winter season, especially in Aspen Snowmass, a territory of 5,515 acres, divided into four ski areas: Mountain, Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass, with 96 runs, the longest is 5.2 miles.
Ready to meet the demand of skiers, Aspen Snowmass has multiple transportation equipment, including cable cars and chairlifts, to move an average of 32,000 people per hour in a timely manner.
Buttermilk Mountain is undoubtedly the most media-worthy, having hosted since 2002 the spectacular Winter X Games, to be held January 21st-23th, 2022. Aspen Mountain is in bustling downtown Aspen, with slopes for beginners, and Snowmass with slopes for experts and novices, while Highlands is a favorite among experts who prefer the top of Highland Bowl.
Due to the topography, the skiing and snowboarding scenarios are mostly difficult, making the place challenging for skiers. The highest zone is 12,500 ft, having the longest vertical descent of 4,406 ft. With families in mind, Elk Camp Meadows at Snowmass welcomes children as young as two and a half years old.
Aspen is home to more than 100 restaurants, including Velvet Buck at the St. Regis Aspen Resort, by chef Daniel Humm, who received three Michelin stars at the Eleven Madison Par restaurant, and for shopping, there are the boutiques of the most renowned designers. At the Aspen Environmental Studies Center you can tour the forests and learn about the local wildlife.
Heavenly, California, Estados Unidos
On the border of California and Nevada is Heavenly, a 4,942 acres development with Lake Tahoe in the background. The site has 97 slopes of all levels, for a total of 34 miles, with ski or snowboard descents of more than 1,574 ft, on black diamond slopes or through the trees. The site began operating on November 19th, 2021.
Annually 29 ft of snow falls; in case it is not enough, through the snow factory it is produced and distributed on the slopes ensuring an ideal descent.
To reach the various areas of the mountain, there are 28 chairlift stations, as well as high-speed elevators. This season Groover Park will open, for those who want to learn how to perform tricks on skis or snowboard.
An extra attraction of Heavenly, is its proximity to Nevada, which allows après-ski in two states of the American Union; just go around the lake and reach the area of the casinos installed in the big hotels in Nevada as the Hard Rock Lake Tahoe, with the option of gambling and live music shows and 24-hour activity.
Those looking for the ultimate adrenaline rush will find in Courchevel, in the French Alps, a winter resort founded in 1946, with access to the slopes via 154 lifts, including chairlifts and cable cars, some of them high-speed.
Established near the italian border, Courchevel is part of the Les 3 Vallées region, one of the largest alpine skiing sites in Europe, with 372 miles of interconnected ski runs, among 10 peaks over 8,202 ft high, which ensure an ideal amount of snow, and in case of need, more than 2,000 snow machines that cover 50% of the ski area.
The ski slopes were designed to take advantage of the average snowfall in the area, as well as for the practice of mogul skiing. Visitors can explore the peaks and valleys or tour the small surrounding villages without having to take off their skis.
Because of its snow conditions and the steepness of its slopes, Courchevel hosted the ski jumping and Nordic combined skiing events at the 1992 Winter Olympic Games in Alberville, and in December it will host the women's Alpine Skiing World Cup in 2021 and the World Alpine Skiing Championships in 2023.
Courchevel offers après-ski, bars and more than 50 restaurants, 13 of them with alpine cuisine and deserving of Michelin stars, such as Cheval Blanc 1947, recognized with three stars. For pampering, there are more than 30 spas in the hotels and more than 100 boutiques.
For indoor fun, there is Aquamotion Courchevel, a 161,460 sq ft aquatic center, considered the largest in Europe. There you can enjoy a spa with a wide menu of services, as well as various aquatic activities, including surfing lessons.
Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italia
Thanks to its snow-capped mountains, Cortina d’Ampezzo hosted the 1956 Winter Olympic Games and will host again in 2026, in addition to hosting the 2021 World Alpine Skiing Championships in February. This winter site is in a valley, surrounded by the Dolomite Mountains.
Snowboarders will find slopes for all levels, including those designed for experts, which have been awarded the Snowboard World Cup in 2015.
Cortina d’Ampezzo includes six ski areas, with 86 runs totaling 74.5 miles, connected by 34 cable cars and chairlifts. Ninety-five percent of the trails have snow factories, so they are guaranteed to be open in the absence of natural snow.
The Tofane ski area is attractive, with 37 ski runs of various technical levels, including those used in the Alpine Ski World Cup and the Cortina 2021 World Championships.
One place to visit is the Lagazuoi Hut, located on Mount Lagazuio, at an altitude of 9,028 ft. From there you can enjoy 360° views of the peaks of the Dolomites, considered a Natural World Heritage Site by UNESCO; from the Lagazuoi Hut it is possible to ski a spectacular descent of 1.5 miles, with a drop of more than 1,968 ft.
With the tower of the Basilica of Saints Philip and James as a guide, après-ski in Cortina is a must, with its bars and restaurants, seven of them in the Michelin Guide, such as the SanBrite and Tivoli, and luxury boutiques; for lodging there is Rosapetra hotel, among others, spa included.
Text: Ricardo Villanueva ± Photo: Jackson Hol, Beaver Creek ty, The Luxury, Inspirao, Mountain watch / Yellowstone Club / Cristine Annibali, Bergflex / Mountain watch, Niseko Japan Noy / Tour radar, Checkity, Chamex / Beaver Creek ty, The Luxury, Inspirao, Mountain watch / Wyoming Travel sr, Wyoming Foundation, Wy-oming rbbr / American affair, Jeremy Swanson / Edissure, Edistum, Tawo / Wy Nat, Sky Planet, pnty / cth, Yahoo, Alphorn Tours, Powrock