My husband loves to ski but the idea of breaking my legs just doesn’t appeal. However, I do love the mountains and snow – where are the best ski resorts for those not so keen on skiing?
Believe it or not, ski resorts are not just a paradise for those who relish hurtling down a mountain on one or two planks. A holiday in the mountains is the perfect tonic to a hectic life, whether you ski or not.
Just being in the clean, alpine air in stunning mountain scenery (and eating hearty, wholesome food), will send anyone home with a glow. But besides that, with ski resorts offering all manner of activities and culture, it’s more a matter of what not to do, than how to fill one’s time while everyone’s out on the slopes.
St Moritz, in Switzerland, is one of the most imaginative resorts when it comes to non-ski activities. The town’s huge lake freezes solid for much of the winter, and plays host to events like ice polo at the end of January and horse racing on Sundays in February.
Then there’s skijoring, which involves skiers being towed behind galloping horses. It’s gripping stuff, but the resort is very busy on those weekends. If you avoid the racing, there are still plenty of activities on the lake including golf, which is played with red balls and ice hockey.
Of course, you don’t have to be active – it’s a holiday after all! St Moritz also has plenty of shopping – although most of it is of the designer sort. Chocolate box village this isn’t…more like Knightsbridge on snow, with glitzy shops, bars, restaurants and skiers. Definitely one to see and be seen in.
If you’re splashing out, Suvretta House is the place to stay. A chateau-style five-star with its own branch on the ski lift system – handy if you want to join the skiers for lunch. There’s also a pool, gym, spa and curling pitch. Rooms cost from £300 in high season in winter; it’s pricey, but the hotel is fantastic.
In France, the Portes du Soleil region of France is a perfect place to head for non-skiers. The main resort of Morzine has so much going on that it might even tempt some of the ski bunnies off the slopes. The busy town functions all year round and consequently offers a huge range of municipal facilities, including a swimming pool, tennis courts, bowling, horse-riding and spa.
Outdoors, you can book various activities through the tourist office, including glacier walking, taking a horse-drawn sleigh, ice climbing, or just gliding around the outdoor ice rink in town.
If you want a chalet experience, but don’t have enough people to take one property, I’d recommend the Chilli Powder chalet for its laid-back atmosphere and excellent food. It’s great for families because it has a crèche on site and costs from around £800 per person per week, half-board, with a 15 to 25 per cent discount for children.
If you want to try something a bit different, and by that I mean a different continent, I’d recommend Banff. It’s a Rockies’ mountain town that welcomes tourists year-round, so has much more to offer than simply skiing. The surrounds are the Banff National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and host to a wealth of wildlife that may well make an appearance in the town – most likely a moose holding up the traffic while it crosses the road.
The town shops will kit you out for the climate – from rails and rails of high-tech gear, to fur and sheepskin to stay toasty the old-fashioned way. There is also the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, where you can learn about the natural environment, ethnography and culture of the region.
You can also take the gondola trip up Sulphur Mountain, for good views and a chance to soak in the hot springs – an activity that will also be popular among the skiers in your group.
The Fairmont Banff Springs is the most famous place to stay. The huge hotel has 770 bedrooms, but still feels special because of the grandeur of its turrets, and homeliness of its open fires and natural stone and wood interiors. There’s outdoor skating, curling, dog sledding, snowmobiling, snow shoeing, and indoors there’s a bowling alley and a huge spa with indoor mineral pool, sauna, steam and gym. It costs from £230 a night and offers a variety of packages that include ski and spa offers.
If you want somewhere a bit more affordable, the Banff Aspen Lodge costs from £97 a night and has just completed a total refurbishment of its rooms. It has two outdoor hot tubs and an outdoor fire – perfect for curling up next to with a good book and a hot chocolate.
If that image doesn’t have you packing your thermals, then perhaps you should be hunting down some winter sun instead!
Answer by Ginny Light – TimesOnline travel editor
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