From celeb spotting in Aspen to big-brand shopping in Vail, you’d be forgiven for thinking that a winter trip to Colorado is more about what happens in the resorts than the action on the slopes – but think again. With 50 mountains over 14,000 feet (and the snow depth to match) Colorado is top of our list when it comes to skiing in the States. It may have Wild West charm in abundance and a jet-set reputation, but it’s also home to wide, quiet slopes, back-country powder bowls and super-fast lifts – so you won’t spend half your time jostling in a queue.
Our favourite resort: If you’re going to go all the way to America to ski, you might as well go the whole hog and head to Vail – an upmarket resort attached to one of the largest ski areas in the world, where you can expect plenty of bluebird days thanks to more than 300 days of sunshine a year. The cobblestones in the village are heated, which tells you pretty much all you need to know about the level of luxury we’re talking about here. Vail’s something of a treat for foodies too – with fine dining restaurants alongside standard smokehouses and pizza joints.
Stay here: A short walk from the main gondola, the extravagantly-designed Tivoli Lodge has modern rooms, a well-equipped boot room and its own resident labrador, Speedy. If that’s not enough, you can spend the evening in front of the fire in the cosy Brown Hound bar, or watching the sun set over the mountains from the outdoor whirlpool.
Don’t miss: At the top of Gondola One, The 10th is an on-mountain fine-dining restaurant and the ultimate lunch stop. Book ahead to enjoy big flavours, bigger views and hot cocktails including the Hot Apple Pie (made with spiced apple cider and brandy liqueur).
Prices for seven nights in Vail with Crystal Ski start from £1,288 per person, departing from Newcastle.
Skiing in Japan is like skiing nowhere else on earth – think perfect powder, tree-lined runs and some of the heaviest snowfall in the world (we’re talking around 14 metres). Head to Hokkaido (the most northerly of Japan’s main islands) where the snow usually arrives in November and, as in much of Europe, resorts are open from December to around April. Be prepared for cold though – average January temperatures here stay well below freezing.
Our favourite resort: Unusually, resorts in Japan are on a miniature scale compared to those we’re used to closer to home. These micro-resorts are great for locals, or if you want to really explore and are up for travelling around, but for a full-blown ski holiday we’d recommend checking out one of Japan’s larger resorts such as Niseko, which is made up of four interlinked ski areas (buy an All Mountain pass to access them all). There are plenty of English and Australian instructors at the ski schools, and around a third of the slopes here are suitable for beginners. Japan’s après scene has a long way to go before it catches up with the European resorts, but Niseko does have a decent selection of lively bars, as well as a varied range of restaurants to keep you busy in the evenings. As in much of Japan, there’s also well-lit night skiing here.
Stay here: Marrying rustic Alpine charm with modern elegance, Ki Niseko is a new ski-in, ski-out hotel. Choose a one-bedroom condo with kitchen, dining and lounge areas, an entertainment system and simply unbeatable views over the slopes.
Don’t miss: A visit to one of Niseko’s 15 naturally-occurring volcanic hot springs (known as onsen) has to be the ultimate way to unwind after a day on the mountain.
Iglu Ski offer tailor-made packages departing from the UK. Prices vary.
This eastern corner of the Alps (the Julian Alps) is where you’ll find peaceful, quiet slopes, and a relaxed vibe. The food here is a great blend of Italian and Austrian (Slovenia’s two Alpine neighbours) and although it’s just a hop over the border from both, Slovenian holidays are usually considerably cheaper than the neighbouring Italian or Austrian options.
Our favourite resort: Kranjska Gora is Slovenia’s best-known resort for a reason. It’s got FIS World Cup black runs alongside loads of space for beginners and intermediate skiers, and there’s plenty to keep the whole family busy here both on and off the slopes; practise your moves in the snow park, climb the jagged face of a frozen waterfall, and check out the Slovenian Alpine Museum and mountaineering centre. The village itself is postcard pretty, and home to a fabulously festive Alpine Village in the main square throughout the winter.
Stay here: A friendly atmosphere, comfy rooms and handy location make Hotel Kompas a good pick. It’s got an indoor pool and wellness area on-site, as well as a cocktail bar and a nightclub.
Don’t miss: Not getting quite enough of an adrenaline hit on the mountain? Reach speeds of 90km/hour on the Planica Zipline – it’s the steepest in the world.
Prices for seven nights in Kranjska Gora start from £605 per person with Inghams, departing from Leeds Bradford.
Bulgaria’s cheap resorts and group-friendly accommodation options have seen it gain serious popularity over the last few years, and despite the doubts of many hardened Alpine skiers, the Bulgarian pistes have come on leaps and bounds lately too. You’ll pay much less for your holiday than you will for most other European ski destinations (Bulgaria often coming out at literally half the price) and once you’re there, your spending money will go further too. Bulgaria has pretty towns, good après ski and a beer will cost you less than a pound. What’s not to love?
Our favourite resort: In the South East of the country, Bansko boasts brilliant snow conditions and the longest runs in Bulgaria – there are 70km of pistes here, with plenty of blue and red runs for novices or nervous skiers. If you’re looking for black runs, there’s not so much choice, but you can always hire a guide and head off piste for adventure. That’s not to say there are no challenging runs – Bansko is one of the stopping points on the FIS Ski World Cup calendar – but there’s no doubt that this area has more to offer beginners and mixed-ability groups than experts. In town, you’ll find a lively selection of bars, clubs and restaurants, particularly in Bansko’s Old Town.
Stay here: Aparthotel Belmont offers spacious self-catering accommodation, and it’s just 150 metres from the ski school. A few minutes walk will take you into town – or just relax in the lobby bar or the indoor pool.
Don’t miss: Just to one side of the Plato 2 blue run (number 11) there’s a good snow park, with jumps, ramps and rails. Even if you’re not up for catching some air or riding a rail, it’s worth stopping to check out the skills of those who are.
Prices for seven nights in Bansko with Barrhead Travel start from as little as £393 per person, departing from Newcastle.