Queenstown, New Zealand
This bustling small town at the bottom of New Zealand’s long, skinny South Island has to be one of the most friendly ski spots in the world; and with it being winter down south, the season runs from now until late September. The locals are friendly, it’s the adventure capital of the world – you can bungee jump, white water raft and jet boat – and the après ski culture is a lively one. Yes, this tiny town surrounded by a crystal clear lake, makes for the perfect break, whether you’re skiing or not. But if it’s powder you’re after, the town is just a 20-minute drive from Coronet Peak and The Remarkables – two of the country’s best ski and snowboard areas.
Coronet Peak is the locals’ choice, and boasts a glorious 280 hectares of skiable area, offers night skiing and has a fun vibe – sit out on the sun deck and chat to fellow snow fans (just wear sunscreen while you do so, the sun in New Zealand is super-strong, even in winter). Or visit The Remarkables, which offers three bowls for skiers to try out, as well as one of the best beginners’ slopes in the world (perfect if your skiing experience has hitherto been limited to Ski Dubai). Or, if you’re after the ultimate VIP snow experience, try heli-skiing, which was invented in Queenstown in the Seventies, and involves being choppered to the clearest and whitest runs you’ve ever seen, and, don’t worry, there’ll be a guide there to keep you safe (from Dh2,400 per person for three different runs, www.heliski.co.nz).
Stay Here: Matakuri Lodge
Seven minutes from the centre of Queenstown, and perched on the edge of a beautiful lake, this hotel offers 11 suites, each with a private terrace with mountain views. While there you can ski, yes, but you can also horse ride, trout fish, hike, paraglide or visit vineyards.
Rooms from Dh1,760 per person, including pre-dinner drinks, gourmet dinner, full breakfast and complimentary mini bar with hops. matakurilodge.com
Not far from the border of Argentina, and 160 kilometres, or two hours drive, north of Santiago, this ski resort is one of the favourite summer haunts for Olympic ski teams (who you’re likely to bump into après the slopes.) The area boasts extraordinary natural beauty – you can see the highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere, Aconcagua, from the slopes, as well as the azure Inca Lake; but it’s perhaps the exclusivity of Portillo that is its most enviable asset. The hotel on the top of the slope – Portillo Hotel – hosts a maximum of 450 guests, who have the slopes – which are open until October – all to themselves. There are few shops around, but the hotel itself has all that you need. And with a heated outdoor pool, a gym, a cinema and even a disco, there’s enough to keep you entertained when you’re not cutting your way around the resort’s slopes, which are all above the tree line and so very bowl-like.
Stay Here: Portillo Hotel
Visitors have to stay here, as that’s part of the Portillo Experience – the iconic yellow building dates back to 1966, and features lovely, modern-designed rooms. The standard here is to book for a week – from Saturday to Saturday, and the package includes lift tickets, four meals a day and use of all facilities and activities at the hotel (this starts from Dh6,500 per person) – but if it’s a quiet period they sometimes accept bookings for a shorter period of time.
Seven-day stays from Dh6,500 per person.skiportillo.com
Drakensburg and Maluti Mountains, Lesotho
Most associate the African continent with wide, arid landscapes, but the tiny kingdom of Lesotho (which is landlocked by South Africa) is actually made up of majestic mountains, and a group of plucky entrepreneurs have created a ski resort atop the Maluti Mountains (meaning you can have a ski and safari holiday in one visit). Four hours from Jo’burg by car, the ski resort sits 3,322 metres above sea level, has two ski lifts, three slopes and a ski race circuit, and it sleeps 140 people in its self-catering houses and lodge. In between ski time, take a day or two to explore the dramatic mountain nation of Lesotho, whose people are warm and welcoming, and historical finds include dinosaur footprints and amazing ancient cave drawings.
Most associate the African continent with wide, arid landscapes, but the tiny kingdom of Lesotho – which is landlocked by South Africa – is actually made up of majestic mountains.
Stay Here: Lilyhammer Mountain Chalets
With all the comforts you’d want – roaring fires, comfy beds and full kitchens – these self-catering chalets are perfect for big groups. While you can definitely cook up a storm there, Afriski also has a pub and a good restaurant.
Chalet for eight people from Dh8,000 for three nights. afriski.net
This ski town has become famous thanks to the impressive mountain that looms over it – and the 4,478 metre high Matterhorn and its surrounding peaks are so grandiose, they’re even skiable in the summer. There’s about 25 kilometres of pistes which stay open all summer – and you can ski on the broad motorways that are the mountain’s glaciers. Seasoned skiers can try racing along the two or three kilometre uninterrupted stretches, and there’s also a summer snowboard park for those who prefer one board over two. The town of Zermatt itself is a worthy destination all-year-round, but hotels are cheaper in summer. It’s also virtually car free, with the ones that are on the road being electric, and therefore silent, meaning you can sit on your hotel balcony to the natural soundtrack of birdsong while enjoying some of the cleanest air in the world.
Stay Here: Coeur Des Alps
This creative, cute hotel is made up of six suites and six rooms, which all have elegant glass fronts that take full advantage of the beautiful views of the Matterhorn. The design is modern and hip, and there’s a luxury spa for you to unwind in after a day on the slopes. Make sure to head off on one of the many hikes that start from the hill the hotel is perched upon.
Rooms from Dh1,200-a-night in summer. coeurdesalpes.ch.