Top 10 EARLY SEA­SON SKI BREAKS

Adam Ruck se­lects the best places to catch some snow this side of Christ­mas

The Sunday Telegraph - Travel - - People & Places -

1 ROCK WIN­TER

Ty­rol’s party cen­tral – Ischgl – lays on quite a bash for its win­ter sea­son opener: fol­low­ing Katy Perry, Kylie Minogue, Rob­bie Wil­liams and the Beach Boys, Ja­son Derulo takes the stage on Nov 24. The ski area is high and wide and, if there’s not enough snow to ski to the vil­lage – or even if there is – you can come down from mid-moun­tain by zip-wire. Lift passes of two days or more du­ra­tion in­clude a con­cert ticket.

Three nights cost from £300 from Nov 23, in­clud­ing B&B ac­com­mo­da­tion book­able through ischgl.com. Also in­cluded are re­turn flights from Gatwick to Inns­bruck (no checked lug­gage) and car hire (easyjet.com).

2 BELLA VISTA, DOLCE VITA

Cour­mayeur, on the sunny side of Mont Blanc, is a typ­i­cally Ital­ian box of treats: shop win­dows filled with mouth-watering food and clothes you wish you could af­ford (and wear); gor­geous views and a moun­tain restau­rant at ev­ery turn of the piste. The com­pact ski area has wall-to-wall snow-mak­ing and runs for all grades of skier. In bad weather, the old Ro­man town and mod­ern shop­ping hub of Aosta (40 min­utes away) beck­ons.

Three nights cost £495pp from Dec 13 at the Ho­tel Bou­ton d’Or, in­clud­ing B&B, flight from Gatwick to Geneva and car hire. Mo­men­tum (020 7371 9111; mo­men­tum­ski.com)

3 ROCKY MOUN­TAIN HIGH

In Vail, 8,000ft up in the Colorado Rock­ies, the snow-mak­ing ma­chines will fire up any day now, spew­ing out the un­der­lay for a flaw­less white car­pet to be ready in time for Thanks­giv­ing. Mod­elled on an Aus­trian moun­tain vil­lage, Vail is a far cry from the Wild West, but nowhere does the feel­good Amer­i­can ski ex­pe­ri­ence bet­ter: cor­duroy groom­ing, traf­fic lights di­rect­ing you to less busy lifts, in­struc­tors flat­ter­ing your turns; yule­tide charm laid on thick. For Christ­mas shop­ping, fac­tor in an ex­cur­sion to the Sil­ver­thorne mall.

Seven nights cost £1,389 from Dec 3 at the Lodge at Vail, in­clud­ing B&B, Lon­don-Den­ver re­turn flights and trans­fers. Ski In­de­pen­dence (0131 243 8097; ski-i.com).

4 IN­DOOR/ OUT­DOOR

As an al­ter­na­tive to Inns­bruck, stay at the lux­u­ri­ous Jagdhof in Neustift, us­ing the ho­tel shut­tle to ski on the Stubai glacier slopes – big and var­ied enough for three days of sport. Make ex­cur­sions to Inns­bruck and Igls. It may be hard to tear your­self away, how­ever: the wine cel­lar is full of trea­sure and the spa is a des­ti­na­tion in it­self – use­ful in bad weather.

Four nights cost from £805 at Spa-ho­tel Jagdhof (0043 5226 2666 111; ho­tel-jagdhof.at), in­clud­ing half board, spa, tea, lift pass and one trans­fer. Fly to Inns­bruck with Bri­tish Air­ways (ba.com).

5 BEST OF ALL WORLDS

A half-term ski hol­i­day later this month is a pos­si­bil­ity at Zer­matt in Switzer­land, the re­sort with Europe’s high­est ski­ing – from 3,820m via the Klein Mat­ter­horn cable car. The glacier runs alone are a match for many re­sorts’ top-to-bot­tom pistes and by De­cem­ber it’s usu­ally pos­si­ble to ski down to the vil­lage on man-made or nat­u­ral snow. The place is an Alpine clas­sic for its set­ting, his­tory, ho­tels and moun­tain restau­rants – but it charges ac­cord­ingly.

Seven nights cost from £770 from Dec 15 (min­i­mum group size four) at Chalet Ulysse, in­clud­ing break­fast and four din­ners. Self-cater­ing also pos­si­ble. Mat­ter­horn Chalets (0041 79247 1588; mat­ter­horn­chalets.com). Flights and rail trans­fers to Geneva are book­able via swiss.com and swiss-pass.ch re­spec­tively.

6 TIPS WITH EV­ERY­THING

Win­ter ex­plodes through the start­ing gate when the World Cup road­show rolls into Val d’Isère, France, for two week­ends of ac­tion – men’s slalom and GS on Dec 8-9, women’s down­hill and su­per-G a week later. Après-ski is in full swing, and good ski­ing is likely. Typ­i­cal pre-Christ­mas con­di­tions – black runs and off-piste not ad­vised – are ideal for a short pre-sea­son tech­ni­cal brush-up, as of­fered by chalet op­er­a­tor Le Ski.

Three nights cost £729 from Dec 8 at Chalet La Face, in­clud­ing half board, three-day ski pass and video tu­ition, re­turn flights from Gatwick to Geneva and trans­fers. Le Ski (01484 954396; leski.com).

7 GURGLS OF PLEA­SURE

The Gurgls – Ober and Hoch, in Aus­tria – are old favourites for a fail-safe com­bi­na­tion of com­fort­able and well-equipped ho­tels, reli­able snow, no queues and sin­ga­long

gemütlichkeit in the moun­tain hut. The two halves of the ski area are linked by a trans-val­ley lift and Hochgurgl has a new gon­dola at high al­ti­tude this year, re­plac­ing a teethchat­ter­ingly long drag-lift.

Seven nights cost £918 from Dec 8 at Ho­tel Belle­vue, in Ober­gurgl, in­clud­ing half board, re­turn flight from Heathrow to Inns­bruck and air­port trans­fers. Ing­hams (01483 371217; ing­hams.co.uk).

8 SKI­ING AND THE CITY

The Ty­rol’s his­toric cap­i­tal, Inns­bruck, is well worth a city break even with­out ski­ing – and Ad­vent is a good time, with Christ­mas mar­kets adding to the at­mos­phere in the old town cen­tre. From Dec 9 there are free buses to outlying ski ar­eas in­clud­ing the glacier pistes at Stubai. If there’s good snow lower down, take the city tram to Igls and tackle the run on which Franz Klam­mer skied to im­mor­tal­ity in the 1976 Olympic Down­hill.

Four nights cost £840 from Dec 8 at Ho­tel Gold­ener Adler, in­clud­ing B&B, re­turn flight from Gatwick to Inns­bruck and trans­fers. Kirker (020 7593 1899; kirk­er­hol­i­days.com)

9 ALL-IN­CLU­SIVE VALUE

With lifts to the Swiss bor­der at 3,480m, and Zer­matt’s glacier lifts above that, Cervinia in Italy has year-round ski ca­pa­bil­ity and opens in Novem­ber. There are wide open pistes for wob­bly be­gin­ners and speed ad­dicts; and steeper ter­rain – and prices – on the Zer­matt side of the Mat­ter­horn. The big tour op­er­a­tors’ pro­grammes don’t start un­til mid-De­cem­ber, but Club Med opens ear­lier and of­fers an allinclu­sive pack­age that’s ter­rific value, if you want it all.

Seven nights cost £1,186 from Dec 8 at Club Med Ho­tel Cristallino, in­clud­ing full board, drinks, ski school, child care, lift pass, re­turn flights from Lon­don to Turin and trans­fers (but not ski/boot hire). Club Med (020 3937 7563; clubmed.co.uk).

10 SKI BE­SIDE THE SEE

Zell am See is a lively town with good pistes of its own and, should na­ture fail to de­liver, glacier ski­ing a few min­utes away on the Kitzstein­horn above Kaprun. The lat­ter also has the im­mense Tauern Spa, and Salzburg is within reach for

The Sound of Mu­sic and Mozart tours. Don’t ex­pect the Zellersee to be open for skat­ing.

Seven nights cost £895 from Dec 15 at the Ho­tel Tirol­er­hof, Zell am See, in­clud­ing half board, flights from Gatwick to Salzburg and trans­fers. Crys­tal (0208 712 2810; crys­tal­ski.co.uk).

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