White-hot snow
Country Life UK|December 29, 2021
Carla Passino explores six of the best winter destinations across the world and picks great properties for sale to enjoy life on skis
Carla Passino

Aspen, US

Perks and quirks Although it no longer holds the world record for the longest single-stage gondola (which, for a time, belonged to the Silver Queen linking Aspen to Aspen mountain), the Colorado resort can claim the crown for snow-side culture: it has its own art museum, many galleries, a literary centre (Aspen Words), the Aspen Music Festival, the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet and the Aspen Institute, which seeks to tackle some of the world’s most pressing issues, from climate change to the supply-chain crisis.

Known for The most spectacular renaissance any town could hope for. Once a thriving silver-mining town, it slid into a decline that lasted four decades after the Panic of 1893, a period of economic depression in which the value of silver plummeted. In 1936, however, a group of entrepreneurs saw fresh opportunity in the snow and created a new ski area to meet America’s burgeoning passion for winter sports—and the rest is history.

Slope encounters Hollywood, Silicon Valley and Wall Street come together on the Aspen slopes—notably on Red Mountain, also known as Billionaire Mountain—with present and past skiers including Jeff Bezos, beauty entrepreneur Aerin Lauder Zinterhofer and actors such as Jack Nicholson, Kevin Costner, Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell.

Courchevel 1850, France

Perks and quirks 1850 is the highest, snowiest and glitziest of Courchevel’s four resorts, which are perched at different altitudes on the same massif. It also has one of the largest concentrations of Michelin-starred restaurants of any ski resort, with six eateries claiming 12 stars, three of which belong to Chef Yannick Alléno’s Le 1947. Should this not suffice, two more Michelin-starred restaurants are not far away at La Tania and Courchevel-Le Praz 1300.

Known for Being part of the world’s largest ski area (Trois Vallées) and having one of the world’s most challenging couloirs, which runs vertically down beside the cable car. With almost 373 miles of beautifully linked slopes, there are plenty of options for beginners, too.

Slope encounters Anyone who is anyone, from The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich has been spotted on the Courchevel slopes.

Gstaad, Switzerland

Perks and quirks No ski, no problem. Yes, Gstaad may have 136 miles of pistes, but it also puts on an array of activities that range from the thrilling (fat biking, which, despite the name, is cycling down a snowy slope with slightly oversize tyres) to the unusual (snow golf) and the mildly eccentric (yodelling), with an obsession for hot-air ballooning thrown into the mix—you can take a ride from the town or head to nearby Châteaud’Oex for the annual balloon festival (in 2022, it takes place on January 22–30).

Known for Other than its tricky name (an entire Wikipedia page is devoted to how to pronounce it properly, depending on whether you prefer German or Swiss-German), Gstaad is famous for being the grande dame of European skiing. Glamorous and sophisticated, the town has ancient roots—it was a medieval pit stop on the Alpine trade routes and has an early-15th-century church—but embraced skiing earlier than almost anywhere else, with the first season opening in 1907–08; the celebrated Gstaad Palace opened in 1913. It also has a surprisngly rural side and a thriving year-round population. As befits such a beacon of Alpine civilisation, it has a cheese grotto.

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