What do Val d’Isère, St Anton and Sauze d’Oulx all have in common? Epic après-ski, notorious off-piste and a handy train connection…
Sauze d’Oulx, Italy
Italian renaissance in the Milky Way
Just south of the French border, on the TGV route from Paris to Turin and Milan, sits Sauze d’Oulx. Back in the late 80s the resort had the reputation as ‘Ibiza on Snow’ – and became a bit of magnet for stag and hen parties. Those days are gone, and while the village still has lively nightlife, the bars are more welcoming and comfortable than wild. The ambience is all very relaxed here: people amble the cobbled streets of the old centre and no one seems to be a hurry.400km of terrain, plus some of the wildest parties this side of Ibiza
That vibe spills out onto the slopes too – all 400km of them when you include the wider Milky Way areas, of which Sauze’s terrain forms a central part. Areas like Moncrons remain quiet, and after a snowfall you can keep doubling back fresh tracks again and again. Much of Sauze’s local terrain is tree covered – a big plus of course when it’s snowing and not blue skies. What’s more, you are in Italy – and they take their mountain food very seriously. Seek out cosy little Ciao Paix, set in the woods, with it’s sumptuous home-made cakes.
Daytime rail travel: Depart London St Pancras on the 09:22 Eurostar to Paris-Nord, change station by taxi and take the 14:41 TGV from Paris-Lyon to Oulx, arriving at 19:23. From there it’s 15 minutes by bus or taxi.
St Anton, Austria
Austria’s party and powder capital
The prolific snow record and endless off-piste terrain has long made St Anton am Arlberg a magnet for snow-hunting thrill-seekers. There’s so much to choose from here: the open bowls under the Valluga peak; through the trees at Gampen; long lines at Rendl – and that’s just for starters. St Anton offers a powder buffet where you just keep going back for more.
The journey from the UK takes longer than to French resorts but the scenery en route, passing Lakes Zurich and Walen and plunging through the Arlberg Valley, is spectacular.The cradle of Alpine skiing (and rambunctious après) |Josef-Mallaun
St Anton bills itself as the cradle of Alpine skiing, but it’s definitely the birthplace of après ski, with the legendary Mooserwirt and Krazy Kanguruh the most famous. The resort is full of charming quirk too, such as the Hospiz Alm with it’s chute that lets skiers slide from the restaurant to the cellar, and the fascinating History Museum, which traces the development of skiing from its origins to the present day.
Rail travel: Depart London St Pancras on the 18:01 Eurostar to Paris-Nord. Stopover in Paris and take the 07:23 TGV from Paris-Lyon, changing in Zurich to the 12:40 RailJet arriving at St Anton at 15:03.
Val d’Isère, France
Epic days and nights at this British favourite
Arrive at Val d’Isère and it’s not difficult to understand why it holds pole position in popularity amongst Brits. The 300km of piste, shared with neighbouring Tignes, are superb. The town has a buzz about it, plenty going on – as lively off slope as on it.
Val’s popularity amongst good skiers and boarders means that the off-piste gets tracked out relatively quickly, so it can be worth hiring a guide to take you out to the parts that those on their own would dream about but not discover. If guide-less, a good bet is the top of Vallonnets and the Tour de Charvet, which hold delights that others often miss. The resort is also home to informative three-day courses by Henry’s Avalanche Talk (HAT).As lively on the slope as off | Andy Parant/Val d’Isère Tourism
The lift system is swish and efficient and will improve further still with the opening of the 10-person Solaise Express chairlift this winter, with heated seats and wifi (for those not content with the views). Once you are ready to party, head for the original La Folie Douce – where its talented performers will likely be dancing on tables by the time you arrive.
Daytime rail travel: Depart London St Pancras on the 09:45 Eurostar Ski Train, arriving at Bourg St Maurice at 18:58. From there it’s 45 minutes by bus or taxi.
Overnight rail travel: Depart London St Pancras on the 19:45 Eurostar Ski Train, arriving at Moutiers at 06:17. From there it’s 45 minutes by bus or taxi.