Forget one-size-fits- all ski holidays: snowy sojourns now encompass therapeutic spas, a gamut of slope-side thrills such as sleigh rides and snow-shoeing, and a bevy of epicurean delights. Shorter breaks are in vogue, with sybaritic skiers refusing to scrimp on style or luxury for their four or five-day escapes. They are downsizing the quantity but not the quality of their vacations, traveling at quieter times to get more bang for their bucks.
If you’re making a long haul, squeeze the most from your European foray: discerning travelers favor multi-destination trips, spending a couple of days in a French Alps resort, then pausing in Switzerland’s peaks. Set aside the standard-issue chalet accommodation of yore – the new breed of chic promises restaurant-quality gourmet meals with five-star amenities and nothing-is-too-much-trouble concierge services.
Culinary thrills for casual skiers
As upscale as Courcheval, but a little less showy, there’s no need to be a fanatical snow hound to enjoy this glamorous resort at the foot of Mont Blanc. Indeed, the rustic village of Megève in the Rhônes-Alpes is ideal for couples that aren’t totally committed to skiing. Boutique shopping, gourmet dining, wine-tasting and ice-skating – although perhaps not in that order – are other great ways to pass time here.
Snow conditions may not be as impressive as, say, Chamonix, but who cares when you have snow cannons, slopes for all levels of skier and plenty of off-slope distractions? Hire skis from Ski Concept next to Chamois lift for around $35 a day (less if you book online and in advance), and hit the area’s intermediate-friendly slopes
Perched above the village is the 22-room Alpine hotel Alpaga, which has all the charm of a traditional chalet, reworked with cool, contemporary flair and enhanced with luxe hotel frills such as a cosseting concierge service, splendid restaurant and top-rated spa. Alpaga’s hotel rooms cost $378- $790 per night, inclusive of Continental breakfast and taxes. Six individual chalets, which sleep up to 12, start at $1,830 per night; four apartments sleeping up to four start at $719. (mrandmrssmith.com/alpaga)
This is not only France, but the same region that boasts Lyons as its culinary capital – so expect world-class food and wine. Of the 11 Michelin-endorsed eateries, Flocons de Sel is probably the most noteworthy; sign up for Emmanuel Renaut’s six-course gastronomic affair.
Considered to be one of Europe’s prettiest resorts, Megève’s chocolate-box scenery is especially soul-stirring when viewed by horse-drawn carriage – even better by hot-air balloon.
An elegant European classic
Less ritzy than St. Moritz, but grown-up and genuinely sporty, the resort of Verbier is as celebrated for its off-slope skiing as its buzzing nightlife. We love it there in January when conditions are usually perfect, with lower charges and fewer visitors to share the slopes with.
Verbier’s most celebrated slope is Mont Fort, which is worth tackling for its postcard-perfect Matterhorn view. Ski hire is $37 a day or less from Mountain Air sports shop in Verbier.
Comprised of three stylish apartments, Sagittaire offers serious luxe for less. Located just below the main Médran hub, the interior design is worthy of a magazine shoot. Attention to detail at Sagittaire is unstinting, and the swimming pool, sauna and steam rooms help reach the parts lesser chalets cant. Les Esserts is the ground floor apartment for four to six people; Les Gentianes and Fontanet sleep 12 to 13 guests. A masterful chef whips up breakfast, afternoon tea and dinner; most conceivable extras are included in the rate – first-class house wines, in resort chauffeuring, a well-stocked bar and Jo Malone amenities. Low season, Les Esserts is about $8,365; at Christmas it is $26,500. Les Gentianes and Fontanet, $19,190; at Christmas, about $72,800 (all per week). (mrandmrssmith.com/sagittaire)
Lunch on grilled meat or fish dishes right on the slopes, either at Le Cristal at Les Ruinettes or at the chic-but-cozy Chez Dany, where you can take a sleigh ride back down after your meal.
Verbier is famed for its après-ski, so get stuck on and sip cocktails at Coco Club and Coup d’Etat. For a mulled-wine wind-down, slope off to wood-paneled Le Fer à Cheval, right at the foot of Médran.
JACKSON HOLE, Wyoming
Challenging skiing for adrenaline junkies
With its saloon-lined town square, the small Wyoming town of Jackson borders wildlife-rife national parks including Yellowstone. Teton Village is its upscale ski hub, from which you have access to slopes galore, and over half are worthy only of advance skiers.
Beginners beware: only a tenth of the runs here are easy enough for novices. Adrenaline-seekers, rejoice: this winter will see snowmaking boosted by 25 percent, which means more come-hither slopes to tackle than ever.
Amangani is a high-altitude three-storey sweep of sandstone and redwood at the foot of the Tetons. An effortlessly dramatic Rocky Mountain hideaway, it was the first outpost of the Asian luxury resort group in the U.S. Amangani operates a ski lodge in Teton Village, where guests can borrow kit, take lessons and test their skills on snow-coated Jackson Hole Mountain resort’s 2,500 acres of ski and snowboard terrain. And there’s no spa better equipped to soothe aching muscles than the Health Center here. Low season is $565 - $1,230 per night; high season, $725- $1,800. Private four-bedroom houses are $3,000 - $4,800, per night. All rates include airport transfers, but not breakfast, tax or service. (mrandmrssmith.com/amangani)
Jackson Hole’s earliest residents, the American Indian, heaped their plates with the game abundant in these parts, and the tradition continues today – many restaurants serve elk, bison, deer, pheasant and buffalo. Wash your meaty feast down with one of the local beers with dramatic names like Snake River Lager or Zonker Stout. We love the elk sirloin chili and bison short ribs in the wood-paneled splendor of The Grill in Amangani.
Browse an eclectic array of handmade jewelry, furniture and homewares at Made at Gaslight Alley, 125 North Cache, Jackson. Crafted by artists from across America, there are new, offbeat design pieces appearing all the time.