Fancy getting off the beaten piste this season? I caught up with Craig Burton, Managing Director of Ski Solutions and asked him about his top five hidden gem ski resorts. Craig has been in the ski industry for 15 years after falling in love with the mountains on a ski season in Whistler, Canada.
His selection may not have the instant name recognition of Whistler and Chamonix, but what these resorts lack in fame they make up for in unspoiled scenery, stylish après-ski scenes and (most importantly) great powder.
Sainte Foy, France
Sainte Foy is a playground for advanced skiers, with a chairlift that goes straight to the resort’s large off-piste area. Natural skiing is the biggest draw, and you’ll find a range of black-rated runs down virgin slopes which will really get your pulse racing. For the truly daring, private heliskiing tours are available. Every Tuesday, there are free, timed races (both GS and downhill) so you can challenge yourself (and your friends).
The most charming aspect of a Sainte Foy ski holiday is the resort itself. There are no concrete buildings – just typical Alpine chalets with pitched roofs and wooden balconies. Après-ski is equally as cosy. Le Saint Germain is the place to go for fine wine and tapas. Sample Savoie charcuterie and cheese (along with Spanish jamón and foie gras from Périgord). If you don’t have time to linger, pick up one of their takeaway sandwiches for a mountain picnic.
Sitting a respectable 1,800 metres above Aosta, with views across to the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc, it’s easy to see why Pila’s tagline is ‘ski in the sky’. This resort is small but mighty, with just 10 lifts and a wide range of slopes – all benefiting from fantastic powder. Local ski teams adore the race piste under the Leissé chairlift, while the vertigo-inducing black runs will keep adrenaline addicts coming back for more.
The true definition of a hidden gem, Pila is often overlooked in favour of nearby Val Thorens and Paradiski. This means that, on a skiing holiday in Pila, you’re unlikely to find big crowds – not yet, at least. The après-ski scene is just as laid-back, with cosy eateries like Ristorante Sociéte serving up comfort food such as honey-glazed suckling pig and slow-cooked Fassone beef shank.
Aprahoe Basin, Colorado
Although it’s relatively unknown on the international ski scene, Aprahoe Basin has been a hit with native Coloradans for years – they know it as ‘The Legend’. It has one of North America’s longest ski seasons, and is open for business from October to June. This is in part due to its altitude – the summit sits at almost 4,000 metres.
Expert skiers will be spoiled for choice here, with 45 black and 37 double black runs. You can reach some of the resort’s most challenging terrain from the Pallavicini chair lift. After you’ve tackled all five alleys, head to the 6th Alley Bar and Grill for one of their famous A-Basin Bacon Bloody Marys (the bar sells more than 10,000 each season).
SilverStar, British Columbia
Avoid the international crowds and ski with the locals in SilverStar. It’s a wonder that British Columbia’s third-largest ski destination has flown under the radar for so long. The press have certainly taken notice, and Ski Canada magazine gave SilverStar a host of titles in 2016, including the joint Family Resort award and ‘Best Grooming’ and ‘Best Sun’. The village is quirky and colourful, with slope-side accommodation providing a true ski-in and ski-out break.
The powder is reliable and natural, with 275 inches falling each year across the 128 designated trails. The Putnam Creek zone, located on the back of the mountain, is a definite bucket list addition for advanced skiers – the steep runs are mostly black and double black. If you don’t fancy the night-time skiing that’s held every Friday and Saturday evening, cosy up by the log fire over some pub grub in The Den Bar & Bistro instead.
If you’ve done Arlberg’s Weiße Ring and have grown tired of the Sella Ronda, Hochkönig’s Königstour should be your next adventure. With five summits, 32 continuous kilometres of slopes and 6,700 vertical metres, there’s never a dull moment. The route is marked with orange and yellow arrows, and you can easily complete it in one day. There’s also a selfie spot at the top of the highest peak – trigger the camera’s timer with your ski pass and pose in front of the eye-popping panorama.
After tackling five peaks in one day, head to the ski huts for sundowner drinks. Starting at 2pm each day, these cosy huts put on a spread of Austrian nibbles and cocktails. Different ones open on different days of the week, so you’ll be able to sample plenty of new flavours on a week-long ski holiday.
Ski Solutions is Britain’s original and largest specialist ski travel agency and tailor-made tour operator, with over 30 years’ experience in creating memorable ski breaks in the mountains. Their expert team can select from thousands of ski holidays offered by a wide variety of reputable, fully bonded tour operators, or package something tailored to you. Whether you’re looking for a large chalet in France for a celebration with friends over New Year, a romantic luxury hotel in Switzerland for a short break or a two-week bespoke trip to some of North America’s more remote resorts, Ski Solutions can help.
+44 (0) 20 7471 7700