Dates with your mates

fresh snow covered ski town on a cloudy day

There’s a growing trend in ski holidays, and if you haven’t already tried it, you probably should. Enter the ski weekend.  

If you’re short on annual leave, tight on budget, or struggling to find dates that all your buddies can do, then the ski weekend could be the answer. Breaks of anything from two to six nights are on the rise, with Heidi seeing sales of weekend trips up a whopping 40% this year.  

We asked Heidi, who burst onto the ski holiday scene this year with their flexible approach, for their top four picks for ‘dates with your mates’ this season.  

Courmayeur, Italy  

If you’re looking for a short transfer from Geneva airport, it’s tempting to head to a French resort, but Courmayeur (pictured above) on the Italian side of Mont Blanc is an absolute gem for your weekend ski fix. Just a short hop through the Mont Blanc tunnel (90 minutes from Geneva) and you have a resort that combines epic terrain with all the Italian goodness you want from a ski trip.  

Courmayeur’s off-piste runs – regarded as among the best in the world – are its ultimate attraction. It often gets the same snowfall as Chamonix, but, crucially, there are many fewer powderhounds here, so the deep stuff tends to get tracked out much less quickly.  

It’s where locals in Chamonix go on a powder day, need we say more… From the Cresta d’Arp at the top of the lift system, there are three superb itineraries. 

Hungry? If the off-piste skiing is Courmayeur‘s main draw, then its restaurants are a close second. Nab a table at Rifugio Maison Vieille, at the top of the chairlift of the same name, for roast suckling pig and hearty homemade pasta plates. Delizioso! 

two competent skiers on a steep off-piste descent in gorgeous weather
Mayrhofen’s Harakiri slope

 Mayrhofen, Austria

Here’s one for all you partygoers – Mayrhofen’s vibrant nightlife ensures a loyal following.  Yes, its nightlife is legendary, with après-ski kicking off on the mountain in one of the many huts, sun terraces converting to open-air parties, before spilling out in the town until the early hours. 

Despite being modest in size, Mayrhofen‘s ski area is jam-packed with variety, with terrain that suits beginners, freestylers and anyone who likes their pistes steep. Test your nerve on the legendary Harakiri slope, the steepest piste in Austria – it reaches a toe-curling inclination of 78%. Keen for more? Add in the neighbouring resorts of the Zillertal and you have a lot to get stuck into. 

Meanwhile, if your buddies enjoy skiing of a more airborne nature, the Penken Park is up there as one of the best snowparks in the Alps.  

All this with such easy access – Mayrhofen is just an hour and a quarter by road from Innsbruck airport. 

A ski piste with a few dozen skiers making turns
Skiers cruising the gentle slopes of Gressoney

Gressoney, Italy 

It’s a cinch to get to, with Turin airport within an hour and a half away. Once you arrive, it doesn’t get any more majestic. Think bigger views than Chamonix, and more mountains in a greater sweep than Zermatt. You’re skiing on the shoulders of the second highest mountain in Europe, Monte Rosa, and can see 4,000m peaks in every direction once you head up the lifts. 

But you didn’t come for the views… Part of the vast Monterosa ski area, Gressoney is a surprise treat for advanced skiers. The piste map doesn’t show much in the way of black runs, but the reds are long and challenging, and great fun for skiers looking to push their riding. The off-piste is expansive too, especially in the Alagna side of the resort. Think long, wild descents dropping from 3,200m. 

If you and your buddies are looking for a wild party, then Gressoney probably isn’t for you, although there are some interesting and quirky little bars to pootle around post-ski.  

cable cars cross over against a big mountain backdrop
Big mountain scenery in Alpe d’Huez

Alpe d’Huez, France  

Set on a sunny plateau south of Grenoble – just one hour’s drive away – Alpe d’Huez is one of France’s oldest ski resorts and the hub of its fifth-largest ski area, boasting a not-too-shabby 250km of pistes. 

Pick of the bunch for advanced skiers is Sarenne, the longest black run in the Alps. How long? A thigh-engaging 16km, which drops 2,000m from the very top of Pic Blanc through the Sarenne gorges to the centre of Alpe d’Huez. 

But there’s more to Alpe d’Huez than the Sarenne – explore its network of beautifully prepared pistes (you need to be competent skiing red runs to get the best of the place) and thrilling off-piste routes. 

Keen to celebrate your adventure-filled day with some après? Head to the most famous venue of them all – the Folie Douce. Once the lifts close the après party continues in town until the early hours. So if your mates are part adventurer/part après animal, then you’ll have met your match in Alpe d’Huez…