Ever since I was a schoolboy, ski trips during the Xmas break have always been a highlight for me. The vibe on the slopes on Christmas morning is pretty awesome. There’s just something in the air. It’s hard to describe, it’s hard to pinpoint what it is, but I promise you that as soon as you hit the slopes, you’ll feel it too. It’s also a great opportunity to spend time in the mountains with family and friends during that special time of the year. The resorts offer something for everyone, and if partying is your cup of tea, Christmas and New Years Eve are some of the biggest nights for most ski towns!
Here are five ski towns that really go off over the Christmas Holidays
Zermatt is unique. There aren’t many ski destinations in the world that can boast such an array of mountain delights. The Swiss resort encapsulates everything great about skiing in the Alps. It is rich in Alpine culture, has a high snow sure ski area and a town where you can relax and party in equal measure.
Zermatt has super reliable skiing due to the high altitude slopes surrounding the town, so it’s a good option for an early season trip. In fact, the Klein Matterhorn goes all the way to 3899 metres, making it the highest lift in Switzerland. The vertical drop down to Zermatt is a whopping 2279m.
Zermatt’s four linked areas – Rothorn, Gornergrat, Matterhorn Glacier Paradise and Schwarzsee have some great alpine areas to shred, along with tree runs lower down for bad visibility days. If that’s not enough, then you can head over the border to Cervinia and check out the Italian side. The weather and snow conditions are often different over in Italy, plus the mountain restaurants have unbeatable pizza, pasta and coffee.
Murren is the highest and most snow sure ski area in the Swiss Bernese Oberland. It’s home to some excellent skiing and is a beautiful, classic alpine village, perfect to spend Christmas in!
Located high above Lauterbrunnen, Murren can only be accessed by cable car and train in winter. It’s a pretty cool way to commute to your holiday destination. The village is quite small and entirely car-free. It has that classic Swiss Alpine feel which makes it magical around Christmas time.
Although Murren’s immediate ski area isn’t the biggest, it’s full of great possibilities, especially for the freerider. There are some big descents off the Shilthorn lift that are especially good on a powder day. Runs of up to 2000m vertical are possible all the way down to the valley floor. The views are incredible too, with the iconic triptych of the Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau on display right across the valley. Down in Lauterbrunnen, you can link back into the huge Jungfrau area that includes Grindelwald and Wengen too.
Val d’Isere, France
With the neighbouring linked resort of Tignes, Val d’Isere has one of the biggest ski areas in the Alps. Located high on main Alpine Ridge in the French Savoie, Val is very snow sure, even in early season.
Val d’Isere has a big range of accommodation including some super lovely hotels and apartments. A chalet is a good shout for Christmas though as it adds to the holiday spirit. A catered chalet will let you kick back while someone else prepares Grandma’s famous Christmas roast for the entire family.
There are plenty of bars and restaurants in Val d’Isere. It’s definitely one of the livelier resorts in the French Alps, especially for apres. There’s always stuff going on at the legendary Dick’s Tea Bar, and there are many other bars to check out too. Some are super lively, some are more relaxed. If you choose to spend New Year in Val d’Isere, finding a party isn’t going to be a problem.
Whistler offers the best combination of skiing and nightlife that North America has to offer. By Christmas and New Year, the mountains of the Coast Range are usually covered in a metre or two of snow, and there are so many nightlife options in the town that there’s something for everyone.
Whistler’s skiing is legendary. The two mountains – Whistler and Blackcomb – are both huge. They also both have an abundance of awesome natural terrain for all levels of skier and snowboarder. The pistes on the lower half of the mountains wind their way through beautiful BC forests and are perfect for beginners or intermediates. The alpine terrain consists of big bowls with open terrain, marked piste and off-piste areas that are great to hit on a sunny powder day.
Expert riders have an almost limitless amount of terrain and features to hit at Whistler Blackcomb. The chutes and bowls of Blackcomb Glacier are worth seeking out via the short hike up Spanky’s Ladder, and there are many cliff drops and mini pillow lines that litter the forest for big powder days.
Whistler’s backcountry is home to some amazing touring potential – everything from a short skin or hike off the lifts, to day-long trips and multi-day missions. There are also several cat and heli-ski operators in Whistler.
Whistler Village is home to an extensive amount of accommodation options, from cheap basic condos, all the way to 5-star luxury hotels. There are restaurants serving food from all around the world along with many pubs, bars and nightclubs. In short, Whistler would make a great place to spend both Christmas and New Year.
Last Frontier Heliskiing, BC
Canada is probably the best bet when it comes to heli-skiing at Christmas and New Year, and it doesn’t get any better than Last Frontier in Northern BC. They have one of the biggest heliski areas in the world, full of remote mountain wilderness.
Early heli-skiing season at Last Frontier generally means colder temperatures, which in turn means outstanding snow quality. Although the snow pack perhaps isn’t as deep as later in the winter and spring, Last Frontier still averages 2 metres plus at tree line by late December. It’s a great time to ski the trees as there are usually regular storms at this time of year too.
Last Frontier has two main bases. Bell II Lodge near the town of Terrace is an off the grid, custom built heli-skiing lodge with multiple smaller sleeping lodges for guests. Each lodge has a wood burning stove with the main lodge featuring a bar, games room and dining room. As befits a high-end helisking operation there are also spa facilities including massage and a sauna – pretty perfect for that unforgettable Christmas holiday you always dreamed of.