The places you need to ski this winter and why, from the Arlberg to Zermatt
1. Andermatt, Switzerland
Andermatt and its mighty Gemsstock mountain have long been luring freeride skiers with top-to-bottom runs and couloir-covered off-piste and, with a huge amount of money being invested in its infrastructure, things are constantly improving.
Next season, a 7 million CHF chairlift will crank into action, connecting Andermatt with nearby Sedrun. The resulting 120km of pistes are the perfect mix of flattering blues, testing reds, gnarly blacks and challenging off-piste. In short: it’ll be the ultimate all-mountain resort.
2. Saalbach, Austria
Another ski resort on the run, Saalbach connected with Fieberbrunn this season, giving access to the Tyrol’s snowiest valley (it averages more than 5m of snowfall a winter). Next season it’s set to get bigger still, with a gondola between Zell am See’s Schmittenhöhe and Viehofen, a five-minute drive from Saalbach’s lift system, currently in progress.
Skiers will be able to slide between Fieberbrunn’s freeride terrain, Saalbach’s cruising territory and scenic Schmittenhöhe all in one day.
3. Val d’Isère, France
It’s all change on Solaise. The resort is rolling out a €16 million revamp, which includes a new beginners’ area at the top of the Solaise Express – ideal for Fall-Liners keen to learn a new discipline, like telemarking or snowboarding – with a covered moving carpet replacing the old drag lift.
On the far side of the summit, two more moving carpets have replaced the queue-prone chair that returned to the top of Solaise. Further upgrades are planned, including a quad chair and cable car being replaced by a 10-person gondola with Wi-Fi and heated seats. Plush.
4. La Grave, France
Its rainbow-coloured Wonka-like cable cars rise 2000m from the 12th-century village of La Grave up to Meije, opening up one of the largest and best expanses of lift-accessed off-piste terrain in the world.
But the future of the télépherique is uncertain – next year, its lease is up for renewal and as yet no one has taken it over. So now is the time to sample its sea of glaciers, infamous couloirs and powder-covered bowls while you still can.
5. Whistler-Blackcomb, Canada
With one of the best ski schools in the world, Whistler is the place to master a new wintersport, and things are set to get even better. The resort is spending $8 million on upgrades in the next year, with a large bulk going towards beginner facilities, including a new learning area and two covered magic carpets by the Olympic Station.
Plus, once you’ve mastered your turns, you have the rest of North America’s biggest mountain to progress to (though maybe wait before you attempt Cougar Chutes or Couloir Extreme – they’re as gnarly as they sound).
6. Arlberg, Austria
It’s been talked about for decades, and finally it’s happening! The long-awaited Flexenbahn gondola is due to open next winter, linking the east and west Arlberg and creating a ski area that extends all the way from Warth-Schröcken to St Anton, with Lech and Zürs at the centre of the action.
The 305km of linked ski slopes will make the Arlberg Austria’s largest connected ski area — great news for mileage-hungry skiers, but we’re just as excited by the almost endless lift-accessed freeride it will open up.
7. Courmayeur, Italy
Keen to ski the Vallée Blanche from the Italian side? The famous off-piste run is now more easily accessible thanks to the opening of the long-awaited new cable car from Entrèves, just outside Courmayeur, up to Punta Helbronner at 3460m on Mont Blanc.
It goes up in two stages with spherical glass cable cars that rotate 360° to make the most of the epic views, and it has a much higher carrying capacity than the old lift, eliminating the often hefty queues of old. The Punta Helbronner is also the start point for the Toula Glacier – a series of vast snowfields, criss-crossed with crevasses and a series of huge rollers. Big smile guaranteed.
7. Zermatt, Switzerland
After 50 years of service, Zermatt has bid farewell to the old Hörnli T-bar lift on the Schwarzsee sector. In its place is a new high-speed six man chairlift, called, wait for it, Hirli.
It has a start point 255 vertical metres below the old start point of the T-bar and now, crucially, extends below the Stafelalp restaurant, further opening up Schwarzsee’s epic itineraries (marked off-piste runs). Much of the season they are challenging steep mogul runs, but after fresh snowfall they transform into awesome powder gullies.