1. Zermatt, Switzerland
Switzerland’s most iconic mountain range can easily be experienced without a pair of skis. Several of the resort’s ski lifts are accessible to foot passengers; for example, the Sunnegga underground funicular railway and the cable car up to Trockener Steg. You can also board the new Matterhorn glacier ride – which opened in late 2018 and let it whisk you up to Klein Matterhorn, the highest cable car station in Europe at 3,883m, in just nine minutes. From there you can enjoy panoramic views of the famous Matterhorn and Mont Blanc.
Alternatively, ride on the quaint red Gornergrat train and disembark at Rotenboden where the Igloo Village is reconstructed every year by international artists. The restaurant and bar, open daily, serve Swiss cheese fondue and homemade mulled wine.
Those looking for something more active can don snowshoes and explore the 70km of walking paths, through picturesque forests and hamlets where you might catch a glimpse of the local chamois (goat-antelope) as you go. In the town of Zermatt itself, visitors can have a skate on one of the several ice rinks and even take part in a game of curling.
2. Kitzbühel, Austria
The Tyrolean ski resort may be renowned for being home to the world’s most exhilarating ski run – the Streif – but off the slopes, the resort has a more serene vibe.
Free guided walking tours are offered at 9.45am every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, which set off from the tourist office and take guests through open meadows and pine forests, and past idyllic creeks. Afterwards, warm up with traditional kaffee und kuchen (coffee and cake) in town at one of Kitzbühel’s charming cafés, such as Café Bäckerei Sabine (9 Bichlstraße).
Kitzbühel also offers guests an opportunity to experience a Turkish hammam or Finnish sauna at Aquarena. These treatments are known for their detoxing properties and ability to improve your circulation. Otherwise, there are plenty of therapeutic massages on offer that will be equally relaxing.
3. Heavenly, USA
This is one of California’s most scenic ski resorts, but for truly breathtaking views, board the Heavenly gondola for a 3.9km ride up to the observation deck. From here, you can enjoy 360-degree views of both Lake Tahoe and the surrounding Sierra Nevada mountains. Continue on the gondola to its final stop Adventure Peak, where a thrilling 152m-long tubing hill awaits. Tickets sell out quickly, so be sure to book early.
Heavenly also offers guided snowmobile tours which cover over 72km of groomed trails and can take place by the light of the full moon.
Beyond the resort, Park Harbor state park is just a 30-minute drive north and features 22 hectares of soaring trees and nature trails. Enjoy the beach areas in this quieter season or treat the family to a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the park.
4. Avoriaz, France
With its spectacular cliff-top location, Avoriaz is a car-free town that is easy to navigate on foot, though horse-drawn taxi sleighs are also available at various pick-up points throughout the resort. Many of Avoriaz’s ski runs end in the town centre, which is buzzing with piste-side cafés and restaurants, so after a day spent browsing the shops you can easily meet your skiing buddies for a meal.
Non-skiers can get out in the snow for a variety of activities as well. Dog sledding and snowshoeing are just two of the many available in and around the resort. A visit to the nearby alpine farm of Seraussaix for fresh French cheese like Abondance and tomme d’alpage also adds a gourmet side to the trip.
If the weather turns inclement, head indoors to Aquariaz (avoriaz.com), a huge water park made up of a pool with natural climbing walls, a gently flowing indoor river and aquatic halfpipe for tubing that feels miles away from the cold outside.
5. Courmayeur, Italy
While most people flock to Courmayeur for its skiing, those in the know come for its natural springs. The mineral-enriched waters of the Aosta Valley make for an indulgent soak at the über-luxurious QC Terme Pré Saint Didier, where its outdoor pools (complete with hydro jets to stimulate circulation), saunas and relaxation areas boast magnificent views of the Mont Blanc massif.
Thrill-seeking need not be limited to skiing – the resort offers paragliding and ice climbing to give you a completely different view of the majestic mountain ranges and scenic, snow-covered terrain. As for views, a cable car ride on the Skyway Monte Bianco will also take you 3,466m up to Punta Helbronner where you can enjoy views of the mighty Mont Blanc from the open-air 360-degree terrace, and have a glass of prosecco in the bistro.
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