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Andorra
 | Austria | Bulgaria | Canada | France | Germany
Italy | Norway | Romania | Serbia | Switzerland | USA

 


Andorra

The Beautiful Slopes of Andorra

Andorra, not to be confused with the Italian Riviera town of Andora, is (by area) the sixteenth smallest country in the world, covering just 181 square miles. Landlocked, it sits in the Pyrenees between Spain and France.

It is not a member of the EU but uses the Euro as its official currency and allows visa-free access to EU citizens.

There are two principal ski areas – Grandvalira and Vallnord.

Fact File

Resorts Grandvalira
Vallnord
Currency Euro
Language The official language is Catalan but French, Spanish, Portuguese and English are also spoken.
Time zone Central European Time (UTC +1)
International dialing code +376
Domain .ad
Useful websites www.skiaddorra.ad


Austria

The Beautiful Slopes of Austria

Austria is a small country – about a third the size of the UK – but is one of the giants when it comes to skiing.

In all it is home to over 7,000 ski resorts which together have over 7,000 kilometres of ski slopes and 2,500 ski lifts.

A member of the EU and of the Euro zone, Austria is a landlocked country that has borders with Germany and the Czech Republic to the north, Hungary and Slovakia to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Leichtenstein to the west.

One of the richest countries in the world, it is home to almost 9m people. The country is divided into nine states.

There is skiing in all nine, although the better known (to UK skiers) ski resorts are in the Austrian Tyrol, to the west of the country, near the border with Italy – such resorts as Kitzbuhel, Saint Anton and Alpbach.

Much of the country is mountainous with its Alpine mountain ranges reaching heights of almost 3,800 metres. Many ski resorts are however, much lower.

Fact File

Resorts Avoriaz
Brandnertal (Brand & Burserberg)
Kitzbuehel
Mayrhofen
Elevation of ski resorts 150 metres to 3,440 metres
Currency Euro
Language German, but English is widely spoken.
Time zone Central European Time (UTC +1)
International dialling code +43
Domain .at
Useful websites www.austria.info, www.tyrol.com


Bulgaria

 

The Beautiful Slopes of Austria

When Bulgaria was a Communist country (The People’s Republic of Bulgaria existed from 1946 to 1990) it was poor. Times have changed. Bulgaria is now a member of the EU – it joined in 2007. But it is still poor. In fact it has the lowest output per inhabitant of any EU member state. It also has the lowest wages.

There are high levels of pollution in the cities. Old industries and little leeway to invest make it so. Energy production is coal fired – some power stations use lignite, the worst kind of coal for pollution – while pesticides and other chemicals are not flushed away and waste is not recycled.

Things are supposed to be getting better, but it is taking time.

Not surprising then, that in an EU survey Bulgarians were found to be the least happy people within the Union.

Should all this matter to skiers? It depends on your point of view. On the one hand the steepness of the mountains is the same no matter what the economic situation. So why not contribute to the country’s tourist income? (Around 7m people, including 280,000 Brits do so each year).

On the other hand, can you expect good levels of accommodation and equipment in such a place, or good levels of service from disgruntled employees? And is going there just taking advantage of a low wage economy?

Well, the resorts themselves would say they want you. And what you can expect from a Bulgarian ski trip is a (relatively) cheap trip.

Bulgaria is a small country (about half the size of the UK  (it has about a ninth of the population) with some big mountains. It sits in the southeast of Europe occupying the eastern part of the Balkan Peninsula. It borders Romania to the north, Serbia and the Republic of Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, and the Black Sea to the east.

The Balkan mountains run through the middle of the country while the mountainous southwest has two alpine ranges Rila and Pirin,

The country has a number of ski resorts including Borovets, Pamporovo. Bansko, in the south west, is the best known.

The resorts have mixed reviews. Some people love them, others not so much. Most agree they are very low cost.

As Bulgaria is a member of the EU, travel there is currently relatively hassle free. However the UK Government warns that terrorist attacks cannot be ruled out although the Bulgarian authorities have put heightened security measures in place in all cities, winter ski resorts, and places where large gatherings are expected.

Visitors are also warned to be alert to petty crime, such as pick-pocketing and burglaries from hotel rooms.

Fact File

Resorts Around 20, including Bansko, Pamporovo, Borovets and Vitosha, near the capital Sophia
Currency Bulgarian Lev
Language Bulgarian, but English, German, French and Russian is spoken in resorts.
The Bulgarian language uses the Cyrillic alphabet but signs in many places also appear in Roman letters
Time zone Easter European Time – UTC +2hours
International dialling code +356
Useful websites http://bulgariatravel.org/
www.bulgarianembassy-london.org/


Canada

The Beautiful Slopes in Canada

Canadians love sport, and they love the great outdoors. It follows they love boarding and skiing. An estimated 2.5 million Canadians (out of a total population of 36 million) take part in the sport.

They have almost unprecedented opportunities to do so. Canada is, in winter at least, a cold country with plenty of mountains.

There are ski resorts in all ten of Canada’s ten provinces – including Marble Mountain in Newfoundland, Mystery Mountain in Manitoba, and Duck Mountain in Saskatchewan (there is also Moose Mountain in the northern territory of Yukon).

Best known to Brits are the resorts of Alberta and British Columbia – Lake Louise Mountain Resort in the Banff National Park, Alberta, the Marmot Basin in Jasper, Alberta, and Whistler in British Columbia.

Getting to these places from the UK will involve a 10 hour or longer, not inexpensive, flight plus transfer time.

In addition to holding a valid passport, British citizens travelling to Canada now require Electronic Travel Authorisation before setting off. For other travellers Visas may be required

None of this has not put people off.

The Canadian resorts offer reliable snow, deep powder, jaw dropping scenery, and tree-lined runs. The season extends into May, well after most European ski resorts have closed for the year. Language is not a problem while Canadians are, to a man, woman and child, polite and accommodating.

Fact File

Resorts There are well over 200 ski resorts in Canada spread over all 10 provinces. Most popular destinations for UK skiers are in Alberta and British Columbia, both in the west of the country.
Jasper
Whistler
Currency Canadian Dollar
Language English and French
Time zone There are six time zones in Canada. Vancouver falls into the Pacific zone which is UTC -8 hours
International dialling code +61
Useful websites http://visit-canada.com/
www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/canada/entry-requirements
www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/


France

The Beautiful Slopes in France

France is a big country (43rd largest in terms of area) with big mountains, and a big population (66m), a good many of whom love to ski. The result is a large number of high quality ski resorts. Some are older towns and villages with their own distinctive characters; others are purpose-built and equally distinctive, if (usually) less aesthetically pleasing.

As skiing is big business, investment keeps pace with development, especially in the largest and best known resorts. These are mainly to be found in the northern Alps – such places as Alpe d’Huez, Chatel, Courcheval, Les Arcs, Meribel, Tignes, Val d’Isere, and Valmorel. But there are also ski resorts in the Jura mountains (in the western Alps), Auverge (the Massif Central), the southern Alps, and the Pyrenees.

Travel to most French resorts is relatively easy with good transport links from the UK. French, of course, is the official language in these resorts, but English is widely spoken. As part of the EU, no visas are currently required, while the currency is the Euro.

Fact File

Resorts There are five main areas with many resorts within each (too many to list all here). The five are:

Central Auverge
Northern Alps
Pyrenees
Southern Alps
Vosges Jura

The two main areas visited by Brits are the Northern Alps and the Pyrenees. Resorts in the Norther Alps include:
Avoriaz
Chatel
Courchevel
Flaine
Les Arcs
Meribel
Morzine

Resorts within the Pyrenees include:
Ax les Thermes
Les Angles

Currency Euro
Language French, but English is widely spoken.
Time zone Central European Time (UTC +1)
International dialling code +33
Domain .fr
Useful websites en.france-montagnes.com


Germany

The Beautiful Slopes in Germany

Germany, at the heart of the EU, is a country of 82m people occupying a space roughly one and a half times that of the UK. It has borders with eight EU member states: Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, France to the southwest, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands to the west and Austria in the south. It also has a border with non-EU member state Switzerland.

To the north, where the land is lowest, Germany has a Baltic coastline. To the south, and especially in Bavaria – Germany’s largest state – it becomes mountainous. Zugspitze, which at just short of 3,000 metres is Germany’s highest mountain, lies on the border with Austria.

Germany has a host of ski resorts although many, especially those in the central uplands, are low – below 1,000 metres – and boast only one or two lifts and a kilometre or two of pistes.

The larger ski resorts are all in Bavaria and are easily accessible from Munich. They include Oberstdorf, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Steibis and Reit im Winkl.

Fact File

Elevation of ski resorts 500 metres to 3,000 metres
Currency Euro
Language German, but English is widely spoken.
Time zone Central European Time (UTC +1)
International dialling code +49
Domain .de & .eu
Useful websites www.germany.travel
www.bavaria.by


Italy

The Beautiful Slopes in Italy

Italy has almost 300 ski resorts. Like the mountainous spine that runs the length of Italy, they are spread throughout the country and are to be found in some unexpected places – Etna in Sicily, or the Apennines within easy of Rome, for example. But the best known and largest are in the north of the country in the Alps, near the French and Swiss borders, and the Dolomites in the far north east, closer to the Austrian border.

The Dolomites are in fact part of the Southern Alps. Ski resorts there include Val Gardena and Cortina d’Ampezzo – both part of the Dolomiti Superski area that includes 12 linked ski resorts with access to 1,220 kilometres of slopes.

In the Italian Alps, the autonomous region of Aosta Valley is home of Courmayeur, La Thuile and other resorts that offer combined lift passes with access to 100 kilometres of ski runs.

Meanwhile the Via Lattea (‘Milky Way’) is a ski area that straddles the Italian-French border. Within easy reach of Turin, five Italian resorts (all in the Piedmont region) including Sestriere and Clviere give access to 400 kilometres of pistes.

In the Lombardy region and within easy reach of Milan are Livigno and Aprica.

Like the country, Italian ski resorts tend to be described as having flair rather than Spartan efficiency – they are a little more relaxed and more interested in la dolce vita than in athletic prowess. ‘Family friendly’, ‘good food’ and ‘less expensive’ are terms often used.

Fact File

 Resorts Italy has almost 300 resorts spread throughout the country.
The bigger and best known are in the north of the country in the Alps and the Dolomites.
Cortina
Courmayeur
Livigno
Currency Euro
Language Italian, but English is widely spoken.
Time zone Central European Time (UTC +1)
International dialling code +39
Domain .it
Useful websites www.piemonteitalia.eu, www.turismo.regione.lombardia.it , www.dolomiti.org/en/


Norway

The Beautiful Slopes of Norway

Part of Norway lies within the Arctic Circle. The country has almost 300 mountains that rise above 2,000 metres. Here, having sufficient snow to ski on is generally not a problem.

Having enough daylight hours to do it in, is another matter.

Some resorts make up for this with floodlit skiing – including the novelty of skiing under lights in the morning!

Norway is one of the most strung out countries in the world, stretching all along the western shores of the Scandinavian peninsular. It is roughly one and a half times the size of the UK with less than a tenth of the population.

It shares land borders with Sweden, Finland, and Russia. It has access to the Barents and North seas.

Norway is not a member of the EU but maintains close ties and trade links with the EU through its membership of the European Economic Area and European Free Trade Association. It is also a member of the Schengen Area allowing free movement of EU citizens.

It is a rich country and rates number one or two in various lifestyle surveys assessing such things as happiness, public integrity, democracy, health care, freedom and household income.

The country has to deal with large seasonal variations in daylight hours. In the north of the country the sun hardly sets for part of the year and hardly rises in winter.

In Oslo, the capital, there are about six hours of daylight in December, six to eight in January, rising to eight to nine in February and 10 to 11 in March. In December the sun sets at 4.30pm moving on to 6.30pm by March.

Norway is big on sports, including winter sports such as cross-country, boarding, skiing and ski jumping.

There are cross-­country trails and alpine resorts all over the country, but the largest and most popular are in the mountains of central and eastern Norway.

Resorts include the family-friendly Trysil with its 67 slopes, close-to-Oslo Norefjell, and the former Olympic host Hafjell. There is summer skiing at Stryn and Nordic skiing at Malselv.

Fact File

Resorts There are over 20 significant ski resorts in various parts of the country, but the largest and most popular are in the mountains of central and eastern Norway.
Hafjell
Hemsedal
Currency Norwegian Krone
Language Norwegian, but English is widely spoken.
Time zone Central European Time (UTC +1)
International dialing code +47
Domain .no
Useful websites www.visitnorway.com


Norway

The Beautiful Slopes of Norway

Part of Norway lies within the Arctic Circle. The country has almost 300 mountains that rise above 2,000 metres. Here, having sufficient snow to ski on is generally not a problem.

Having enough daylight hours to do it in, is another matter.

Some resorts make up for this with floodlit skiing – including the novelty of skiing under lights in the morning!

Norway is one of the most strung out countries in the world, stretching all along the western shores of the Scandinavian peninsular. It is roughly one and a half times the size of the UK with less than a tenth of the population.

It shares land borders with Sweden, Finland, and Russia. It has access to the Barents and North seas.

Norway is not a member of the EU but maintains close ties and trade links with the EU through its membership of the European Economic Area and European Free Trade Association. It is also a member of the Schengen Area allowing free movement of EU citizens.

It is a rich country and rates number one or two in various lifestyle surveys assessing such things as happiness, public integrity, democracy, health care, freedom and household income.

The country has to deal with large seasonal variations in daylight hours. In the north of the country the sun hardly sets for part of the year and hardly rises in winter.

In Oslo, the capital, there are about six hours of daylight in December, six to eight in January, rising to eight to nine in February and 10 to 11 in March. In December the sun sets at 4.30pm moving on to 6.30pm by March.

Norway is big on sports, including winter sports such as cross-country, boarding, skiing and ski jumping.

There are cross-­country trails and alpine resorts all over the country, but the largest and most popular are in the mountains of central and eastern Norway.

Resorts include the family-friendly Trysil with its 67 slopes, close-to-Oslo Norefjell, and the former Olympic host Hafjell. There is summer skiing at Stryn and Nordic skiing at Malselv.

Fact File

Resorts There are over 20 significant ski resorts in various parts of the country, but the largest and most popular are in the mountains of central and eastern Norway.
Hafjell
Hemsedal
Currency Norwegian Krone
Language Norwegian, but English is widely spoken.
Time zone Central European Time (UTC +1)
International dialing code +47
Domain .no
Useful websites www.visitnorway.com


Serbia

The Beautiful Slopes of Serbia - Out of Season

Serbia is a relatively small (slightly larger than Scotland with a population of 7 million people) southern European country. It has borders with Hungary to the north; Romania and Bulgaria to the east; Macedonia to the south; and Croatia, Bosnia and Montenegro to the west.

The disputed territory of Kosovo, sits between Serbia and Albania. Kosovo, which is a ninth the size of Serbia and has a population of 1.7m, mostly ethnic Albanians, declared independence from Serbia in 2008. It is now recognised as a sovereign state by the USA, the UK and over half of the United Nations’ 193 member states.

However it is not recognised by Russia or Serbia, nor by the UN as a whole.

Serbia is worried about the ethnic Serbian minority in Kosovo and a UN peace keeping force remains there.

Although recent wars have been fought in and around Serbia and Kosovo, Serbia is now peaceful and has declared itself a neutral state. It has applied to join the EU.

Various mountain ranges are features of the southern part of the country; notably the Dinaric Alps, the Carpathian Mountains, and the Balkan Mountains.

As a whole the country has a good number of ski resorts, but many are one hill wonders. A number have ski slopes measuring no more than 200 metres.

Kopaonik (55 kilometres of slopes), Stara Planina – Babin Zub (13 kilometres) and Tornik-Zlatibor (7 kilometres), are the exceptions.

Fact File

Resorts There are over 20 although most are very small. Kopaonik is the largest
Currency Serbian Dinar
Language Serbian, which uses both Cyrillic and Latin alphabets
Time zone Central European Time (UTC +1)
International dialing code +381
Domain .rs and cpo
Useful websites www.serbia.travel
http://www.kopaonik.net


Switzerland

The Beautiful Slopes of Switzerland

Switzerland is a small country (about one sixth the size of the UK) with a lot of skiing.

Landlocked, it contains almost all the highest mountains in the Alps including, for example, the Matterhorn that rises to just short of 4,500 metres. It also has the biggest glaciers.

The country has over 100 ski resorts spread across 10 cantons. They range from Les Portes du Soleil (the closest major ski resort to Geneva but partly in France) with its 650 kilometres of ski runs, to Zermatt, whose Matterhorn ski slopes reach up to an elevation of 3,900 metres, and Verbier and its four valleys.

All the last three are in the Valais canton, where most of the major Swiss resorts are to be found.

Although all but surrounded by the EU, Switzerland is not a member. It does, however, adhere to most of its laws, including those allowing free movement of EU citizens, and is a member of the single market. It has its own currency – the Swiss Franc – but the Euro is accepted in many tourist destinations and often elsewhere.

It is a rich country, ranking high on many satisfaction and social development surveys. The home to bankers, it is not a cheap place to visit.

Although resorts often trade on their rustic charm, it is also a controlled and efficient country where trains (and lifts and cable cars) run on time – the cuckoo clocks make sure of that.

Fact File

Resorts There are over 100 ski resorts in Switzerland including 14 with over 200km of ski runs. Most of the better known and bigger resorts are in the Valais and Vaud areas.
Verbier, Crans Montana
Currency Swiss Franc, but Euros are widely accepted
Language French, German, Italian and Romansh but English is also widely spoken.
Time zone Central European Time (UTC +1)
International dialing code +41
Domain .ch
Useful websites www.myswitzerland.com


USA

The Beautiful Slopes of Switzerland

USA is a big country with a lot of skiing – in the region of 600 resorts in close to 20 states. Choices include Idaho (Sun Valley), New Mexico (Taos), Wyoming (Jackson Hole), New York (Greek Peak), and Maine (Sugarloaf), and many more.

There are three mountain ranges to choose from – The Appalachians in the east, the Rockies in the west and the Sierra Madre mountains in the south west.

Best known to Brits are the Colorado resorts such as Vail, Aspen, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Copper Mountain. These are high altitude resorts – so high that it is not uncommon for some people to find difficulty in acclimatising. The time difference and ‘jet lag’ can also be an issue for those travelling from the UK for relatively short stays.

It’s obviously something of a trek to get to these places, but once there skiers can expect good snow conditions – usually of the light powdery variety – wide, well groomed, not overcrowded ski slopes, efficient lifts systems and friendly, efficient service. Some, especially those more used to popping into hot steamy mountain-top restaurants for lunch, might find it all a bit clinical.

Although we speak the same language, the US is still a foreign country with its own laws and customs. So visitors are well advised to check out such things as slope etiquette, liquor laws (no drinking alcohol under 21) and visa requirements (in addition to a valid passport everyone now needs prior travel authorisation, which can be obtained online) – and, as much as it might go against the grain for free riding, powder loving skiers and boarders, to make sure they are very well insured.

Fact File

Resorts There are too many to list – over 600 in close to 20 states, spanning three mountain ranges. These are: the Appalachians in the east, the Rockies in the west, and the Sierra Madre mountains in the south west.
Jackson Hole
Magic-mountain
Vail
Currency US Dollar
Language English
Time zone Five time zones apply across mainland USA  Of these Pacific time (which includes California and Washington) is UTC -8, Mountain Time (Colorado and other states) UTC -7, and Eastern Time (Maine and others) UTC -5. Daylight saving applies in summer.
International dialing code +1
Domain .com
Useful websites www.usembassy.org.uk,
www.usatourist.com,
www.visittheusa.co.uk,
https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov (for permission to travel)