The best winter sports destinations for skiing, snowboarding, and more

23 de October de 2023

While Australia may be home to a small sampling of ski resorts such as Thredbo and Perisher, let’s face it, we aren’t exactly known on the world stage as a premier winter holiday destination. We Aussies looking to express our love and passion for winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, snowshoeing, and more will often look to Europe or North America in places like the Alps or Rocky Mountains for our ski holidays.

Winter sports provide a unique sense of adventure, making for an exciting winter getaway often at a time when much of Australia is sweltering under 40-degree heat since the winter and summer seasons are reversed for us and the northern hemisphere where most of the world’s top ski resorts are located.

If you’re looking to spend time on the slopes in some breathtakingly locations, check out these top recommendations for a truly memorable winter sports holiday.

Whistler Blackcomb, Canada

Situated in the heart of British Columbia, Whistler Blackcomb stands as one of North America’s largest and most beloved winter sports destinations. With terrain suitable for both beginners and seasoned skiers/snowboarders, spanning approximately 8,000 acres of pristine powder, there’s something for everyone.

A standout feature is the renowned Peak to Peak Gondola, connecting the summits of Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains. This engineering offers one of the world’s longest and highest unsupported cable car span that provides riders with a very scenic 10-minute ride.

Freestyle skiers and snowboarders will enjoy the terrain parks where they can perform tricks on various jumps, rails, and other creative features. The resort also offers wonderful opportunities to try snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and tubing.

In the heart of it all, Whistler Village, a bustling pedestrian-only hub at the mountain’s base, beckons with a range of accommodations, dining establishments, shops stocked with top-notch snow sports gear, and a plethora of après-ski activities. This destination’s reputation for a dependable supply of high-quality snow continues to attract winter sports enthusiasts from all corners of the world.

Aspen, Colorado

Located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, Aspen is known worldwide for its stunning natural beauty, world-class skiing, and vibrant cultural scene that attracts notable celebrities.

Aspen’s fame is anchored by its four distinguished ski resorts: Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, and Snowmass. Each resort possesses its unique charm, catering to a diverse range of skiers and snowboarders. Buttermilk, for instance, is ideal for families, while Aspen Mountain and Aspen Highlands are a haven for seasoned enthusiasts seeking a thrilling experience.

Hosting the Winter X Games, an extreme sports event featuring snowboarding, skiing, and snowmobile competitions, it attracts top athletes and spectators from around the globe. The winter season also ushers in an array of festivities, including the Wintersköl event—a four-day extravaganza featuring snow sculptures, fireworks, a wide range of snow-related activities, and a torchlight parade down the mountain.

While Aspen may shine its brightest during winter, summer is also a great time to visit. The Aspen Music Festival is held during the summer months and attracts top classical musicians and music lovers from around the world. Aspen’s focus on wellness and relaxation means numerous spas, yoga studios, and wellness centres offer a range of treatments and services. Film enthusiasts can enjoy the annual Aspen Film Festival, which showcases independent films, documentaries, and international cinema.

Aspen’s dedication to well-being and culture extends to numerous art galleries and museums that grace the area, adding depth to the enriching experience of this extraordinary destination.

Chamonix, France

Site of the very first Winter Olympics and one of France’s oldest ski resorts, Chamonix-Mont-Blanc or simply Chamonix attracts skiers and snowboarders from around the globe. Located in the French Alps, Chamonix is often called the “Capital of Extreme Sports”.

The resort area includes several ski areas which include Les Grands Montets, Le Brévent, La Flégère, and Le Tour/Balme. Off-piste skiing on virgin snow outside the regular runs is also available for more adventurous skiers and snowboarders.

Chamonix is also a popular mountaineering paradise, attracting climbers from all over the world who attempt to summit Mont Blanc year-round. The Aiguille du Midi is another mountain peak accessible by cable car from Chamonix. From the summit, visitors can enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of the Mont Blanc massif and surrounding peaks. It’s also the starting point for the famous Vallée Blanche off-piste ski route.

Don’t forget to explore the Mer de Glace, France’s longest glacier, reachable by the Montenvers train. It’s a winter wonderland waiting to be discovered!

Niseko, Japan

Whether you’re a seasoned skier or snowboarder, or simply a nature enthusiast, Niseko offers a breathtaking winter wonderland that’s sure to delight. Located in Hokkaido, the world-famous ski resort features exceptional-quality powder which is locally known as Japow or Japanese Powder.

Niseko and its surroundings receive a staggering average annual snowfall of over 15 metres, providing the kind of skiing and snowboarding conditions that attract visitors from around the world. The resort area is made up of four interconnected ski areas or snow parks that include Grand Hirafu, Hanazono, Niseko Village, and Annupuri.

Many of Niseko’s ski areas offer the unique experience of night skiing, perfect for those seeking a change of pace. And if you’re yearning for more than skiing, there’s a diverse array of winter activities to explore. Picture yourself on a sleigh ride through a winter wonderland, embarking on snowcat tours that venture into remote and untouched areas, or feeling the thrill of snow rafting as you’re towed on an inflatable raft by a snowmobile.

Hokkaido is renowned for its natural hot springs, providing the perfect remedy to rejuvenate tired muscles in the relaxing mineral-rich waters after a long day on the slopes. For photography enthusiasts, Hokkaido is also a haven for capturing stunning winter landscapes, including the majestic Mount Yotei, which is Hokkaido’s answer to Mount Fuji.

In the midst of winter, Hokkaido’s wilderness comes to life. Abundant wildlife, including red-crowned cranes, foxes, sea eagles, Japanese macaques, whooper swans, and sika deer, provide captivating subjects for you to capture through your personal lens.

Zermatt, Switzerland

A winter wonderland set high up in the Swiss Alps overlooked by the majestic Matterhorn Mountain.

Imagine yourself gliding down well-groomed runs, the crisp mountain air in your lungs, and the modern ski lift system ensuring easy access to the mountains.

The charm of Zermatt lies not only in its exceptional skiing but also in its unique car-free village. Here, the only sounds you’ll hear are the crunch of snow underfoot and the clip-clop of horse-drawn carriages.

The Matterhorn Glacier Paradise is an unmissable gem, Europe’s highest cable car station, perched at an astounding altitude of nearly 3,900 meters. From here, visitors can access a year-round ski area on the glacier, accompanied by breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding Alps.

For one of the most spectacular viewpoints of the Matterhorn, a visit to the Gornergrat is a must. A cogwheel train will transport you from Zermatt to the summit, where you’ll be greeted by a panoramic view that includes dozens of peaks in the Alps, many towering over 4,000 meters.

After a day of skiing or exploring the stunning landscapes, treat yourself to the delightful alpine cuisine that Zermatt has to offer. Imagine being in a traditional Swiss chalet-style restaurant, indulging in Swiss specialities such as fondue and raclette. It’s the perfect end to a perfect day in Zermatt, warming your body and soul with Swiss hospitality and comfort.

Innsbruck, Austria

Nestled in the heart of the Austrian Alps, Innsbruck is a premier winter sports destination, attracting skiers and snowboarders from across the world. Having twice hosted the Winter Olympics, it’s a destination that redefines the winter experience.

The Nordkette and Patscherkofel ski resorts are easily accessible from the city centre. And if that’s not enough, the Olympia SkiWorld Innsbruck opens up a world of possibilities with interconnected ski resorts, including Axamer Lizum and Kühtai.

But Innsbruck isn’t just about skiing. Discover snow-covered wonderlands through well-marked winter hiking trails or let your inner child loose on the various toboggan runs in and around the city. And for those who prefer a graceful glide, lace up your skates and glide around one of the many outdoor ice skating rinks.

The Seefeld region, just outside Innsbruck, is renowned for its extensive cross-country skiing network. In addition to these winter adventures, Innsbruck plays host to a wide array of winter events and festivals. These include enchanting Christmas markets, captivating concerts, and thrilling sporting events like the prestigious Four Hills Tournament in ski jumping.

And lastly, here are some answers for first timers and beginners! So, gear up, hit the slopes, and enjoy the thrill of exploring the fantastic ski locations that await you.

Happy skiing!