Hot resorts for the 2015/16 ski season

23rd October 2015, by Dave Watts

Jackson Hole in Wyoming is celebrating 50 years as a ski resort this season

Jackson Hole in Wyoming is celebrating 50 years as a ski resort this season

There’s great news for skiers for the coming season. Ski holidays in France, Austria, Italy and Andorra will be more affordable because the pound has risen against the euro by around 10% since last season, making lift passes, lessons and food and drink cheaper in terms of pounds. And some big-name resorts have made major improvements in attempts to attract a bigger share of the ski holiday market. Here are eight of the hot destinations for the coming season.

Saalbach-Hinterglemm will be linked by a new gondola and a new 3.5km-long piste to neighbouring Fieberbrunn to form what will be Austria’s biggest lift-linked ski area with 270km of pistes and 70 lifts. That puts it up in contention with some big French resorts in terms of size. And Saalbach-Hinterglemm already had the best lift system of any major resort with virtually all lifts being fast chairs and gondolas. It has slopes to suit all standards from beginner to expert, though it is best for mileage-hungry intermediates. And it has very lively après-ski with bars that are packed from mid-afternoon on and clubs that rock into the early hours.

Mayrhofen will at last get a new state-of-the-art 24-seat gondola to replace the queue-prone main Penken gondola out of the village. Most people catch this gondola back down at the end of the day too, as there is no piste back to the village. The resort has long been a British favourite and is renowned for its lively après-ski, culminating in the week-long Snowbombing party in early April. The slopes suit good intermediates best with almost two-thirds of the pistes being classified red. It also has the one of the steepest pistes in Austria – aptly named Harakiri.

Sölden’s main claim to 2015/16 season fame is that it features in the new James Bond film Spectre. Look out for the scenes set in the futuristic, glass-walled Ice Q mountain restaurant with panoramic views. The slopes suit good intermediates best with lots of steepish red runs. But there are excellent easy runs on the snowsure glacier area too, which hosted the opening World Cup ski races of the season on 24 and 25 October. The après-ski scene is one of the liveliest in the world – with bars and clubs (including a fair share of table dancing and strip clubs) throbbing till dawn.

Les Deux-Alpes will be getting its first blue run back to the village for 2015/16. It has taken two years to build, cost €10 million and involved moving 550,000 cu m of earth and planting 12,000 trees. But it will be great for intermediates who up till now had the choice of steep, icy black runs, a narrow overcrowded green or catching a gondola back to the village. The resort has good runs for all standards, excellent terrain parks and a high snowsure glacier area. It is also very affordable by big French resort standards and has a youthful atmosphere.

Courchevel’s long-awaited aquatic centre will at last open in December 2015 just below Courchevel Moriond (1650). It will be a great addition to the resort’s facilities and is packed with features such as indoor and outdoor pools, a diving pool, surfing area with a spectacular wave, three lane water slide, wild water rapids, saunas, steam room, hot tub and climbing wall. The resort is part of the world’s biggest lift-linked ski area with over 600km of pistes and 180 lifts and ideal terrain for all standards.

Courmayeur will have a spectacular new two-stage cable that revolves 360º to make the most of the views on the way up to Punta Helbronner at 3460m on Mont Blanc. This serves fabulous, long off-piste runs on glacier terrain – to be explored only with a qualified mountain guide. But it will be worth riding up and down just for the mind-blowing views. Courmayeur’s pistes are on the opposite side of the valley and suit intermediates best. The village is charming and resort is renowned for its excellent and affordable bars and restaurants, on and off the mountain.

Park City ski area in Utah will become by far the biggest in the US for 2015/16 as a result of a new two-way gondola link to next door Canyons. Utah is renowned for its frequent falls of light, dry powder and there is great terrain for all standards as well as other nearby resorts to try. Park City’s charming Main Street has beautifully restored 19th century buildings dating from back to silver-mining boom years and now every January hosts Robert Redford’s Sundance film festival.

Jackson Hole in Wyoming is celebrating 50 years as a ski resort this season by opening a new fast chairlift serving three new groomed runs and terrain you could only reach by hiking until now and a new table-service mountain restaurant. The resort has been transformed in the last 20 years from attracting only hard core skiers to its famously gnarly terrain to being a good family resort, with slopes to suit all and some very comfortable slopeside hotels. But it is still good skiers and boarders who will get the most out of Jackson’s steep slopes. Jackson town, 12 miles away and linked by bus has an entertaining ‘wild west’ ambience with wooden sidewalks, cowboys in Stetsons and saloons with swing doors and country and western music and dancing.

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