Ski holidays don’t have to be about champers and chalets in Chamonix. There’s a winter holiday for you, whether you’re an off-piste adventurer, a hilltop hedonist or a glamorous snow bunny.
An Arctic encounter
An Antarctic adventure will cost you a small fortune. But for similarly wild terrain, long daylight hours and ultra-remote, super-steep 2,000-metre runs dropping into three different fjords, look no further than the other side of the globe: the tiny Arctic oasis of Kangaamiut in west Greenland. It’s still steep (in price terms), but that’s because there are just three slots in which to enjoy this heli-skiing spot next year – April 25-May 1, May 2-8 and May 9-15. They’re limited to 15 people each time, who’ll stay in houses rented from the locals and enjoy home-cooked meals after their physically challenging days out. Talk about a once-in-a-lifetime experience…
From Dhs40,347 including everything except drinks and international flights, www.greenlandheliskiing.com. Fly from Dubai to Copenhagen with Etihad from Dhs6,000 (www.etihadairways.com), then from Copenhagen to Kangerlussuaq with Air Greenland from approximately Dhs1,500 (www.airgreenland.com).
Clubbing on ice
Hard partying and the Alps go together like skiing and bad Spandex, not least because there are plenty of music festival packages luring hedonists their way. The biggest of the bunch, Snowbombing, in Mayrhofen, Austria, is infamous for its fancy dress-themed street party and Arctic disco – a nightclub made entirely of ice – and it returns on April 9-14 this year with a headline set from Snoop Dogg. Over in Kopaonik, Serbia, they have their own version, The Big Snow Festival on March 20-23, which boasts a similarly clubby vibe. For a more boutique feel, opt for the Black Weekend in Chamonix on March 8-11, which last year featured underground electro sets from the likes of Busy P and Drums of Death.
www.snowbombing.com, www.thebigsnowfestival.com, www.blackweekend.com.
Planet-friendly accommodation may be springing up all over the world now, but the seriously energy-conscious among you should snuggle up in a sustainable, carbon-neutral igloo. Iglu-Dorf has igloo villages across seven different locations in the Alps and the Pyrenees, including Andorra, Zermatt and St Moritz, some of which are available for overnight stays and even feature a whirlpool spa or sauna.
Standard rooms at Iglu-Dorf from Dhs510 a night (www.iglu-dorf.com). Air France flies direct to Paris with return flights from Dhs3,000 (www.airfrance.ae).
When it comes to cuisine, skiing holidays don’t have to mean a steaming raclette and cold meats. Plenty of resorts cater for intrepid foodies as well as skiers, and the Alps are a melting pot of cuisines. Zermatt in Switzerland has been dubbed a gastronomic capital thanks to its top-notch mountain pitstops and even gourmet-themed guided tours, available through luxury chalet specialists Mountain Exposure. French resorts Courchevel, Chabichou, Megeve and Chamonix, meanwhile, all boast at least one Michelin-starred restaurant each. The Pistes Gourmandes food festival in Val d’Isere is on March 21-24 next year and comprises competitions, debates, lectures, demonstrations and cookery classes for adults and children.
Gourmet Ski Guiding from Dhs1,042 for one to four people per day if staying in a Mountain Exposure chalet (www.mountainexposure.com). For info on Pistes Gourmandes, see www.valdisere.com.
Hit the highest ski lif
Escape the hustle of European and US resorts this season at one of the world’s far-flung powder paradises – perfect for off-piste exploration. The slopes in the Indian Himalayas are among the most beautiful, and even if you’re going too fast to notice, think of the monkeys and bears watching you from the forests as you head down into deserted valleys, surrounded by some of the highest peaks in the world. There’s nary a fondue or vin chaud in sight either – instead, you’ll most likely find curry and chai at the gondola stations. Check out heli-ski resort Manali, which offers up to 3,500 metres of vertical descent during its short January-to-February season, and the prettier Gulmarg in Kashmir, whose sole ski lift is also the world’s highest.
An all-inclusive 10-day trip to Gulmarg, Kashmir, excluding international flights, is Dhs9,200 (www.mountaintracks.co.uk). Guides, accommodation, transfers and ski hire are also available via www.kashmiralpine.com. For more information on skiing in Manali, see www.himalayanadventure.com.
Middle Eastern slopes
Lebanon is commonly dubbed ‘the Switzerland of the Middle East’. It has five ski resorts, all within easy reach of its capital, Beirut, which are bizarre yet brilliant (timid skiers, be warned– the Lebanese ski like they drive!). They’re all fairly cheap compared to their Alpine counterparts too: a weekend day-pass ranges from Dhs85 to Dhs150 depending on the resort, while ski hire is around Dhs35. Faraya is the largest, with a buzzing après-ski scene; The Cedars has the longest season and impressive natural beauty; the family favourite is Laqlouq; Mzaar Kfardebian is the tamest; and Qanat Bakish a less crowded option. Lebanon is also one of the few places where you can ski and swim in the sea on the same day, so it’s not uncommon to spot snow demons in skimpy Speedos alongside burqa-clad ladies on skis.
For more information on skiing in Lebanon, see www.skileb.com.
On a budget
We can’t all afford the glitz of St Moritz. Unusual European ski locations such as Slovenia, Romania, Czech Republic and Croatia all offer cheap alternatives, but perhaps the most unexpected bargain ski spot is on Mount Olympus in Cyprus’s Troodos area. Built by the British army after World War II, little has changed since the resort was taken over by the Cyprus Ski Club in the ’60s. Consequently, it’s not one for serious skiers, with its mere four lifts, 16 trails and infrequent snowfall. But it is cheap. In 2009, the last time the ski pass prices were updated, a full-day pass was just Dhs110, while neighbouring guesthouses start at Dhs95 a night for a double room. Overall, it’s great for a break during the winter weeks, when it’s less overrun by locals in pastel-coloured all-in-ones, and when the prices are considerably cheaper than spring. The best bit? Come the afternoon, you can relax on a glorious nearby beach.
The Troodos ski season runs from mid-January to mid-March. For more details on the resort, see www.skicyprus.com.
Snow festivals are pretty common now, with artists hacking snow and ice into glorious shapes in Sweden (Kiruna Snow Festival), Japan (Sapporo Snow Festival), China (Harbin) and the US (North Lake Tahoe Snowfest) and beyond. But some of the finest frozen work can be seen at the Shapes in White festival this January at ice-cool resort Ischgl in Austria. International sculptors are encouraged to submit their designs and 10 artists are invited to line the slopes with pieces to create a giant open-air gallery. This year’s theme is – topically – vampires, so expect the fanged ones to be on show until the end of May when, presumably, they’ll melt in the sun.
Shapes in White continues until the end of January. For more information, see www.ischgl.com.