GARMINS AT THE READY FOLKS – HOW MANY MILES CAN YOU CLOCK UP IN A DAY?
Keen to make up for lost time this winter? Then it’s time to play your very own version of ‘Coming Round the Mountain’ folks! Ski circuits are the ultimate way to get to know a ski area. Amazing views, a proper sense of achievement, punchy leg burn, solid Strava stats and a well-earned beer/hot chocolate at the end of the day… what’s not to like? Check out our faves below
SELLA RONDA, ITALIAN DOLOMITES
The Sella Ronda ski circuit (pictured above) is world famous, and with good reason – it is a kind of a ski carousel around the Sella massif in the Dolomites with a mighty 500km of slopes to play on, and the scenery throughout is spectacular. Anyone from early intermediate upward can enjoy the circuit, although you’ll need to be away by 10am at the latest if you want to complete the route in either direction before the lifts close.
You pass through a string of picturesque ski resorts, such as Arabba and Val di Fassa, and, this being Italy, the options for a slap-up lunch break are wide and varied; try Rifugio Boè between Arabba and Corvara, which has top-notch Italian fare and epic views to boot. Bellissimo!
The clockwise route offers the more exciting skiing, with some especially fun reds around Corvara, and is usually slightly quicker, but it does tend to be busier.
Length: Clockwise 37km; Anti-clockwise 38.6km
Altitude difference: Clockwise 13,518m; Anticlockwise: 15,705m
Time (approx.): 6 hours
SMUGGLER’S CIRCUIT, SILVRETTA ARENA, ISCHGL
Before skiing became the main source of income for this formerly remote mountain region the locals liked to indulge in a little smuggling between Austria and nearby Switzerland (in fact, there’s even a myth that the income from these illicit activities helped to fund the building of the first ski lifts).
Today you can follow their ‘Smuggler’s Route’ from Ischgl to the linked resort of Samnaun in Switzerland on one of three different circuits. While the ‘Bronze’ circuit with its blue run cruisers is ideal for tentative intermediates, serious piste bashers can prove their worth on the plentiful black slopes and steep descents of the ‘Gold’ circuit, which at 61.8km is one of the world’s longest.
Need a breather? All three routes take in the 2864m Palinkopf above Ischgl, one of the ski area’s best viewpoints.
Length: three different circuits (Gold, Silver, Bronze) between 40.2 – 61.8km
Altitude difference: 8,282m – 13,740m depending on route
Time: (approx.) 4 hours for each route
HÖHENMETER-FRESSER-RUNDE, AKA THE ‘ALTITUDE EATER’, MAYRHOFEN
There’s a clue in the name as to what to expect on this mighty circuit in the Austrian Alps. It will see you amassing more than 13,000m of vert on a mix of red and black pistes in a ski area renowned for its reliable snow cover (although Mayrhofen itself is fairly low, much of the ski domain is above 1,600m and it holds snow well).
The biggest challenge of this loop is the black run known as the ‘Harakiri’, a name that refers to the Japanese ritual suicide performed by a samurai (gulp). It is the steepest ski slope in Austria, with some sections tipping daunting 78% gradient. Those who succeed in completing the Altitude Eater are awarded a special certificate to take home and show off to their mates.
And for extra bragging rights, there’s the option of the spectacular Glacier Circuit, which involves 15,000m of vertical spread out across 60 downhill kilometres throughout the entire Zillertal 3000 region on runs varying from black to blue.
Altitude difference: 13,000m +
Time (approx.): 4 hours-plus
Despite the fact that it sounds like an urban transport system, the Utah Interconnect is actually one of North America’s great days out on skis, a 27-mile-long guided adventure that uses a combination of ski lifts and easy backcountry skiing to take you between the best resorts in Utah.
Open to any decent intermediate skier who is happy to venture off-piste, the tour is led by one of Ski Utah’s certified backcountry guides and takes in the resorts of Deer Valley, Park City, Solitude, Brighton, Alta and Snowbird, providing everything from the glitzy (Deer Valley and Park City) to the hard core (all the rest), at the end of which you’re whisked back to the start point in a minibus.
The route may vary depending on conditions, but if there has been recent snowfall you can expect some tasty powder stashes on your way to Solitude, while the last top-to-bottom run is from Snohttps://www.snowbird.com/wbird’s Hidden Peak at 3353m to the base.
If these iconic resorts were linked by ski lifts, they’d easily make up the largest linked ski area in North America, but since they aren’t you have no choice but to earn your turns on the Interconnect if you want to sample Utah’s finest in the space of a day.
Length: 27 miles
Altitude difference: 15,000 ft
Time (approx.): 6 hours
Cost: from $450
PARADISKI END TO END
It’s around 20km in a straight line from one end of the Paradiski ski area to the other, but of course no one skis in a straight line (well, few of us anyway), so the journey from Champagny-en-Vanoise at the far end of La Plagne to Villaroger at the far end of Les Arcs (or vice versa) is considerably more than that – and then you have to double it to get back again.
There is no set route so you can choose from an array of pistes and lifts, which include the impressive – and mandatory – Vanoise Express double-decker cable car linking La Plagne and Les Arcs. Don’t miss the long, wooded red run down to Villaroger at the far end of Les Arcs.
Be sure to take a pause to enjoy the views, too – on a clear day you can see the Mont Blanc Massif from many slopes, as well as the imposing north face of 3417m Bellecôte.
Altitude difference: Varies depending on choice of route
Time (approx.): 6 hours
THE FOUR VALLEYS TOUR
Various circuits are available in the Four Valleys, and freeriders in particular will find plenty to go at. You can build into your circuit classic descents such at the Chassoure-Tortin itinerary, which in good conditions has some of the best freeriding in the Alps; the cream of the crop, however, lies above Thyon 2000 on the peak of Etherolla, where there’s a whole ridgeline of fun offering tight couloirs, steeps, open powder bowls and tree skiing.
And unlike nearby Verbier (which is also part of the circuit) there is no real freeride culture in Thyon, which means that you can find fresh lines days after the last snowfall. Just make sure you don’t get too carried away and miss the last lift home!
As for piste bashing, head to the Savoleyres area above Verbier for a fine selection red runs, which are generally in good nick and don’t tend to get too busy.
Length: 35 – 90km depending on route
Altitude difference: Varies depending on route
Time (approx.): up to 7 hours depending on route
This circuit is brand new for this winter and at 80km it’s claimed to be the longest in the world, so get out to Brixental early in the season and you could be one of the first to ski it; indeed, so new is it that the travel time and altitude difference had yet to be confirmed at the time of writing.
The KitzSkiWelt Tour should be ideal for intermediate skiers looking to eat up the miles, since it takes in perfectly groomed slopes throughout its length and allows you to travel through the Kitzbühel Alps all the way from Going am Wilden Kaiser to Hollersbach in the Hohe Tauern without using the same slope twice. Highlights will include the excellent red run down to Brixen.
The tour can be started from pretty much any SkiWelt location, using the new KitzSkiWelt ticket, so there are no fixed start and finish points you need to access. What’s not to like?