Travel – Hitting the slopes in 2015?

If you’re an avid skier, chances are you’ve already hit the slopes once or twice this season. I’m no ski bum myself, but that doesn’t stop me from writing about the places I’d go if I were one. In fact, these three spots, spanning across three continents, offer so much more than just great skiing – making them well worth a visit even if you never reach their highest altitudes.

Mammoth, USA

Mammoth Mountain Ski Area

Often overshadowed (not literally though, as it’s actually bigger) by its sibling Tahoe, Mammoth in California is the state’s highest summit offering pristine slopes just an hour from Los Angeles by plane (or a five-hour drive). Mammoth is as funky, innovative and fun as its state, and has been the same way ever since 1955 when its founder Dave McCoy sank a ski lift into this remote mountain. Half a century and 28 more lifts later, the snow is still superior and the weather is still great – and yes, Mr McCoy, now 93, is still here too.

Mammoth rests on the spine of the High Sierras, the tallest mountains in the US outside of Alaska, making the resort almost Alp-like. Even non-skiers like myself can be found heading up to the summit just for the awesome views over the lakes and Yosemite National Park.

All in all, ski bum or not, Mammoth’s colossal heights mixed with its 300 days of sunshine makes for a lovely and lengthy season.

Where to stay?

Guests of the Juniper Springs Resort can breeze on and off the slopes, changing the outdoors for one of the 284 peaceful rooms equipped with fireplaces and soothing postcard-ish views. The hotel was recently named as one of Conde Nast Traveller’s Top 50 Ski Resort properties.

Where to eat?

The intimate 10-table Lakeside restaurant serves amazing stuff like elk, wild boar and warming desserts. Its charming dining room hosts ten tables set in the historic Tamarack Lodge, offering a stunning view of the Twin Lakes.

Kitzbühel, Austria


Ever since Franz Reisch slipped on his skis and whizzed down the slopes of Kitzbüheler Horn back in 1893, so christening the first alpine ski run in Austria, Kitzbühel has carved out its reputation as one of Europe’s foremost ski resorts.

If you’re longing for a snowy fairy-tale town with a touch of glamour, you can’t go wrong with Kitzbühel. Located just an hour’s drive from Salzburg and Innsbruck, this medieval Tyrol town resort caters to a well-off and good-looking bunch of people – all wearing high-performance ski boots. However, because of its popularity and great location you’re best off not discovering this gem during the week between Christmas and New Year, when it becomes very crowded.

Where to stay?

Within the idyllic town centre, Hotel Kitzhof is a tasteful mix of both classic and contemporary. Rustic Tyrolean touches include wool blankets and antlers on the wall. The Kitz Lounge and Kitz Spa are both easy-going and elegant options.

Where to eat?

Kitzbühel’s culinary work keeps raising the bar; try the saddle of venison at Hotel Tennerhof’s restaurant for proof. The popular Huberbräu Stüberl is a vaulted wood-lined tavern whose Wiener schnitzel and home-brewed beer never fails to hit the spot after a crisp day on the slopes.

Niseko, Japan


Each winter, Hokkaido, a large island to the north of Tokyo, is hit by snowstorms blowing in directly from Siberia, bringing with them some of the world’s lightest, driest, fluffiest snow – some 11 metres of it during an “average” winter.

Niseko, our pick on this powdery island, gets more snow than any other ski area in the world. The resort is made up of three areas: Annupuri, Niseko Village, and Grand Hirafu. Annupuri is the smallest and most relaxed, with a bunch of wooden chalets, cool coffee shops, and restaurants. Niseko Village is dominated by an enormous Hilton shaped like a giant soda can, which towers over the base area, and offers winter-sport activities like snow rafting. Hirafu lies at the historic heart of the resort and is now a compact, architectural mishmash teeming with hordes of young Aussies.

Despite its development, Niseko remains rustic, surrounded by rectangular farms and patchwork forests, and the vibe is charmingly wholesome and unpretentious. Pure water bubbles up in the form of geothermal hot springs and community-maintained mineral springs, where restaurants fill their water jugs.

Where to stay?

Named Japan’s best Ski Chalet in 2013, The Vale offers internationally renowned holiday luxury. There’s also the more personal and cosy Kimamaya by Odin, a boutique hotel designed by architects Atelier BNK, offering just nine rooms.

Where to eat?

The Barn (right next to Kimayama) is a French alpine bistro bar, serving signature dishes such as foie gras terrine, crab rillettes and coq au vin.