Now that the clocks are drifting back all across the world, that means one thing: winter is about to come roaring in. You know the drill – it’s dark and dreary out for months. Thus no doubt you’ve been perusing the holiday packages for somewhere nice and warm. But I’ve got a hot tip for you. (Well, it’s a cold tip, but work with me here). One of my favourite things to do over the winter is to go and enjoy some winter sports. And Europe has some great places to do exactly that. Here are three highlights for you to consider.
Bet you didn’t think Spain would top the list of winter sports destinations, did you? Not to be confused with the Sierra Nevadas found in California, this mountain range is the highest in Spain, at over ten thousand feet. The road up to the main ski resort is one of the highest in continental Europe. Even more surreal is the fact that you can easily drive here from the sunny climes of Malaga or Granada.
Snowboarding has lately become the en vogue activity in Sierra Nevada, but there are also 40 miles of ski slopes (including night ski), alpine skiing, and apres-ski. You can also just sit and relax in the hot tub after jetting around the resort on a snowmobile. It’s all up to you.
As far as a budget ski destination, France usually gets skipped, because it is one of the most popular ski countries in Europe. However, what most people don’t realise is that there are hundreds of ski areas in France. Not only do the Pyrenees mountains have resorts, but also you’ll find great resorts on the Jura, the Vosges, and the Massif Central mountain ranges. Personally, I love the resorts in France because of the food! That and a glass of wine after a day on the slopes goes down pretty well.
If you want to ski without breaking the bank, here are a few tips: firstly, do not travel during French school holidays. You’ll know when you bump into them because prices shoot up. Another tip is to consider smaller resorts that might be a bit further from the ‘name in the frame’ resorts and mountains. I think you can have a nicer experience in this places (less crowded, for one), and you’ll also be saving money, so you can splurge on nice meals and souvenirs.
You may remember Turin, in the north of Italy near the French border, as it was the host of the 2006 winter Olympics. It’s a cute little town, very European and because of the Olympics, it now has a very good tourism infrastructure so you can find all the amenities you’ll ever need. Turin has a lot going for it – it’s home to Italy’s Royal family, it’s now the World Book Capital, and the city itself has plenty of attractions. The most famous ski area in town is Via Lattea, but you’ll find almost every other ski alternative is cheaper, less crowded, and just as nice.
By the way, at some point during your wintry visit, be sure to try a “bicerin.” It’s coffee, hot chocolate, and cream – served in a glass that makes it look sort of like a dark beer. Three good things together makes for an even better thing, and it seems that you can only find it here in Turin.
Do you hit the slopes in winter? Where do you go?
Posted : Wednesday, November 10th, 2010 at 12:55
Andy Hayes is a travel journalist currently based in Edinburgh, Scotland. When not criss-crossing the world to have his next travel adventures, he is spending time hanging out on his own website, Sharing Travel Experiences.