Whether you are looking for a new adventure close to home in Asia or want to combine a trip back to your homeland in Europe, USA or Canada with the ultimate ski break, CK Ski has put together their top skiing and snowboarding destinations to try this winter season, for all skiing abilities.
Credit: Kage, Niseko United
Japan is renowned for reliable deep, fluffy, powder snow. And in Hokkaido, you can access some of Japan’s most celebrated ski resorts, including Niseko Hanazono, Niseko Grand Hirafu, Niseko Village and Niseko Annupuri Ski Area. You can experience tree skiing and night skiing in all areas except Hanazono, until 9pm. Or why not head to Rusutsu resort for a day trip, about 30 minutes from Niseko.
Good for: Ski and snowboarding powder-lovers seeking long action-packed days with deep powder.
Why not try: The Warren Smith Ski Academy, founded in Verbier, runs an eight-day Powder Ski Camp in Niseko, 13-22 February 2014. It’s designed to build and develop skills and confidence in all types of terrain, with an emphasis on powder. Where better to improve your powder skiing!
Travel: Fly direct to Sapporo via Hong Kong in four hours with Cathay Pacific, or fly via Tokyo to Sapporo.
Where to stay: Try the Green Leaf in Niseko Village – take part in the Onsen experience; a complex of hot baths, showers and communal volcanic thermal pools. Costs from around HK$1200 per night.
Season dates: December – early April 2014
Yongpyong Resort, South Korea
Great for all levels, Yongpyong is the largest of the South Korean resorts – with 31 slopes and 15 lifts, it offers a variety of skiing for all levels. There is also a snow park (Dragon Park), enjoyed by skiers and snowboarders. Skiing in South Korea does not offer the lively entertainment and après-ski activities associated with European resorts, however with direct flights from Hong Kong, it is a great short-haul option for your annual ski fix.
Good for: Beginners should try the Mega Green (700m long), a wide, 12-degree. Intermediates should give the Rainbow Paradise slope a try – at 5,600m long, it is the longest slope in resort.
Why not: Stay in Seoul before or after your ski trip and experience NANTA, a theatrical cooking show
Travel: Fly to Seoul direct from Hong Kong, then transfer to resort in two hours.
Season dates: End November – April 2014
Although China’s ski resorts are fairly new to most people, Yabuli is a good family-friendly choice for skiing, reasonably close to home. The infrastructure is somewhat limited but skiers looking for a long weekend’s ski break or a week’s holiday with the children close to Hong Kong, will find Sun Mountain Yabuli a good option.
Good for: Families keen to ski in the surroundings of the national park in Heilongjiang province. You can hire skis, clothing and goggles too in the resort – ideal for first-timers.
Why not try: Take the toboggan run from top to bottom.
Travel: Fly to Harbin via Shanghai and Yabuli is approximately 200km, a 2.5-hour drive from the airport. There are also direct trains from Beijing and Harbin.
Where to stay: The Club Med Yabuli resort is a good family-friendly option with leisure activities, half-board and lessons included. Costs from around HK$14,000pp for four nights, during low season
Season dates: Mid November 2013– mid March 2014
This is a resort with something for everyone; excellent off-piste terrain for advanced skiers and recent investment in faster lifts means less waiting around and more skiing. The après-ski and nightlife is second to none and the selection of fantastic ski schools and mountain guides means you can take your skiing to the next level during your week’s ski holiday. And if you’re traveling with a multi-lingual group, a few of Verbier’s ski schools now offer classes in Chinese.
Slopes: 1500 – 3330m
Good for: Advanced skiers seeking powder and mogul fields, night owls and people keen to experience the delights of a picturesque ski resort.
Why not try: Lively après-ski and live bands at the Farinet, Place Centrale.
Travel: Fly direct to Zurich and then it’s just over two hours to resort, via the scenic Swiss countryside. Or fly to Geneva with one stop en route, and then it is 1.5 hours to resort. If you book with Ski Armadillo, they can arrange your resort transfer and any other in-resort activities.
Where to stay: Ski Armadillo offers 10 superb high-end chalets, all with top-notch service, dining and skiing tips on tap. Chalet Basalte Trois Roc, part of the new W Hotel complex, provides an exceptional chalet experience with all the trimmings. Guests booking from Hong Kong over Chinese New Year can choose from the ‘Pamper Package’ or ‘Inspirational Instruction’ offer, available in all Ski Armadillo chalets. Prices from HK$9900pp for 7 nights. Email [email protected] or call +852 6499 9287 to find out more.
Season dates: December – April 2014
A classic Austrian resort with snow-sure slopes, unbeatable nightlife and excellent terrain for intermediate and advanced skiers. Famed for its opening and closing parties – rock group Nickelback will take to the stage in the Top of the Mountain Opening Concert on 28th November. Nearby are the resorts of Galtür and Samnaun, access them by bus or by skis respectively.
Good for: Après-ski fiends in search of a lively resort atmosphere. Intermediate and advanced skiers can take advantage of 238km of piste, accessed by 44 lifts.
Why not try: Ski over to Samnaun, Switzerland and sample the food and duty free delights.
Travel: Fly direct to Zurich from Hong Kong with Swiss International airlines, transfer to resort in 3.5 hours. Alternatively, fly to Munich direct with Lufthansa with a resort transfer of just under 4 hours.
Where to stay: Try the typically Tirolean Goldener Adler in the centre of town, from HK$ 6700pp, room only. Or contact Snow Wise who offer a personalised service with specialist knowledge of every one of their hotels they feature, including those in Ischgl.
Season dates: November – end April 2014
Lech is a charming Austrian resort, with snowy slopes, excellent snow record, easy access to nearby resorts St Anton and Zürs and lively après-ski. It is a pretty resort with large hotels built in traditional chalet style and Austrian décor. The skiing area suits all abilities, cruising slopes for intermediates and good off piste for advanced skiers.
Good for: Intermediate skiers looking to carve up the slopes, and powder skiers keen to explore.
Why not try: Skiing ‘The White Ring’ – a circuit linking Lech, Zürs, Zug and Oberlech in over 22km of piste.
Travel: Fly direct to Zurich from Hong Kong with Swiss International Airlines and then a 2.5-hour resort transfer.
Where to stay: Try the Four-star Hotel Schwarzwand, located near the nursery slopes, famed for its dining, service and rustic appeal.
Season dates: December – April 2013
Cervinia is one of the highest resorts in Europe and you’ll find superb snow conditions late in the season. Linked with Zermatt in Switzerland, it is possible to ski between the two resorts until May. The resort sits above the tree line at just over 2000m with the Matterhorn dominating the scenery- a great resort for beginners and intermediates looking to cruise the slopes in late-season sunshine.
Slopes: 2050 – 3480m
Good for: Beginners and intermediates, looking to improve and practice on wide, well-groomed pistes. Not forgetting food lovers who can take advantage of lunchtime stops at mountain restaurants.
Why not try: Mountain restaurant Chalet Etoile, above Plan Maison, or Lo Baracon dou Tene.
Travel: Fly direct to Milan Malpense with Cathay Pacific, and then it’s 2 hours to resort.
Where to stay: Try the four-star Sporthotel Sertorelli, located near the pedestrianised precinct and ski lifts.
Season dates: December – early May 2014
Alpe d’Huez, France
Alpe d’Huez is home to extensive high-altitude skiing on sunny slopes with efficient lift services. It features the the ‘Sarenne,’ a 16km black run that starts at the top of the Pic Blanc and winds its way down to resort. The resort offers a mixture of accommodation options to suit all budgets, from self-catered apartments to luxury chalets and 5* hotels.
Resort facts: 1860 – 3330m
Good for: Families – the sports centre with its ‘jungle gym,’ the large expanse of beginner ski areas, night skiing on the signal run and bowling alley make it a family-friendly option.
Why not try: Staying in the satellite village of Vaujany – you’ll experience all the Alpe d’Huez skiing, in a smaller, quieter area.
Travel: Fly to Lyon or Grenoble via Zurich or London and then it’s just over 2 hours to resort.
Where to stay: There are a large choice of accommodation options – from five-star hotels and chalets to self-catered apartments and hostels.
Season dates: December – end April 2014
Chamonix is renowned for off piste terrain and challenging slopes for the more advanced skier. In addition to the adventurous skiing on offer, it is a town immersed in Alpine tradition and the sight of the Mont Blanc, whether from resort or the slopes, are quite staggering. The slopes are quite fragmented and expect to travel by bus to access the different ski areas: Argentière, Les Houches, Le Tour and Vallorcine.
Resort facts: 1035 – 3840m
Good for: Experienced skiers keen to access extensive steep terrain and deep snow. Best accessed with a local guide
Why not try: Improving your off piste or ski touring – Chamonix schools are strong in these areas.
Travel: Fly to Geneva via Zurich, London, Paris or Dubai and then transfer to resort in just over one hour.
Where to stay: Snow Wise offers a variety of excellent four and five-star hotels and can arrange your accommodation and resort transfers for you.
Season dates: December – early May 2014
Whistler’s terrain suits all abilities, its slopes ranging from high, open bowls to woodland trails. With direct Hong Kong flights and two-hour transfer to resort, it’s an easy, exciting option for your winter ski break. The three main centres are traffic-free and the chalet-style apartments on the hillsides give it a charming ambiance. The introduction of the PEAK 2 PEAK gondola, spanning Whistler and Blackcomb mountains offers easy access to both mountains in 11 minutes.
Resort facts: 653-2284m
Good for: Mixed-ability groups, all of whom will experience excellent terrain to push their skiing to the next level.
Why not: Ski with skiing or snowboarding Olympian – a new programme introduced by the ski school last season.
Travel: Fly direct to Vancouver with Cathay Pacific, then it’s a 2-hour resort transfer.
Where to stay: Ski Max offer packages to Whistler and can help create your trip from Hong Kong.
Season dates: End November – Mid May 2014
Try before you travel
Yes, it is possible to try skiing in Hong Kong before your holiday! Play in Hong Kong consists of two 500 square-foot automated dry slopes and offers beginners and seasoned skiers a great day out.
Weather and snow conditions are a very important part to skiing. Here are CK Ski’s pick of websites offering up-to-date snow conditions, throughout the season:
www.weathertoski.co.uk – they know their snow. Also features ‘Top 10s’ of snow-sure resorts, powder destinations, late-season ski resorts.
www.snow-forecast.com – weather maps, snow reports, cameras for over 2900 resorts.
About the author: CK Ski is a Hong Kong-based snowsports information service and representation company for organisations worldwide keen to promote their offering in Asia. If you are planning your next ski holiday and need advice, please get in touch, [email protected]