Top 30 ski breaks: Your ultimate guide to the slopes for 2015/16
On the pistes
Published 18/10/2015 | 02:30
Hitting the slopes this year? Award-winning travel writer Susan Morrell rounds up the very best deals for 2015/16.
Best for bargains
1. St Johann, Austria
Enjoy quieter slopes in the New Year and plenty of Tyrolean charm in St Johann. Book a self-catering holiday with Topflight (topflight.ie) and stay at the homey Chalet Alpina with access to amenities like the steam room and sauna at neighbouring Hotel Tyrol. A good option for groups looking for comfort and value.
Get there: Prices start at €499pp, based on four sharing, with a January 9 departure.
Transfer time: Three hours from Lyon
Resort info: sanktjohann.com
2. La Plagne, France
Score some serious savings in the snow and perfect piste time with a self-catering stay in gorgeous La Plagne. Belfast based firm, Ski McNeill (skimcneill.com) has a great value seven-night package, with flights, transfers and accommodation in modern and airy furnished apartments at Club Belambra Residence Cassiopée.
Get there: Prices start at €409pp, based on a January 9 departure. Guests can also avail of decent prices on extras like equipment rental, family lift passes and ski tuition before departure.
Transfer time: Three hours from Lyon
Resort info: la-plagne.com
3. Claviere, Italy
Go all-inclusive without breaking the bank in Italy's epic Milky Way region. Experienced skiers will love the fast lift queues and 400km of runs stretching across the French border. Families will appreciate the all-inclusive board and on-site childcare at the three and a half-star Grande Claviere Hotel, which includes a nursery and kids club on site.
Get there: Crystal Ski (crystalski.ie) has seven-night holidays from €795pp with flights, transfers in January.
Transfer time: One hour 45 mins from Turin
Resort info: claviere.it
4. Andorra for Paddy's Day
Celebrate St Patrick's Day with sunshine skiing in Arinsal. Duty-free shops mean good value food and drink, while a holiday with ITAA member Just Split (justsplit.com) includes flights, transfers and accommodation at the Hotel Palarine, plus ski hire, lift pass and lessons. All you'll need to worry about is avoiding a hangover on the slopes.
Get there: Prices from €874pp for seven nights half-board, departing March 13. Tel: (057) 862 1226.
Transfer time: 2.5 hours from Barcelona
Resort info: arinsal-andorra.com
5. Alp d'Huez, France
Enjoy skiing in the Island of the Sun (or L'Ile au Soleil if you're local) at this all-round winner of a resort. South-facing ski slopes mean plenty of sun and there's something for everyone from glacier skiing and the Sarenne, the longest black run in the world, to plenty of blue runs and nursery slopes.
Get there: ClickAndGo.com has seven-night stays at Le Pic Blanc Hotel from €559pp, based on a December 4 departure.
Transfer time: 2 hours 15 mins from Chambery
Resort info: alpedhuez.com
Best for Beginners
6. Livigno, Italy
Bag a bargain in this duty-free ski resort, where you'll find good value on everything from accommodation to dining. Direct Ski (directski.com) has a smattering of three-star self-catering apartments located close to the lifts and is currently offering half-price ski tuition. Kids under eight get a free lift pass with each paying adult.
Get there: Prices start at €504pp, with half-price ski school.
Transfer time: 4 hours 30 mins from Milan
Resort info: livigno.eu
7. Lake Bled, Slovenia
This lesser-visited ski region is bursting with scenic beauty and lots of beginner-friendly skiing. For those who haven't built up their ski stamina just yet, there's fun off the slopes too, like day trips to Ljubljana and good value dining. The famously photographed Church of the Assumption (above), which seems to float on the lake, provides an atmospheric backdrop.
Get there: Crystal Ski (crystalski.ie) has half-board week-long stays at Hotel Savica from €660pp, with pool, play rooms and an entertainment programme for kids.
Transfer time: Four hours from Salzburg
Resort info: bled.si
8. Ruhpolding, Germany
Enjoy a winter wonderland in the German Alps. The village of Ruhpolding is adorable, the amenities plentiful and novice skiers can work on their turns on the local Unternberg slopes for free every day for two hours with the Ruhpolding eXrta card. Crystal Ski (crystalski.ie) is currently offering the card as part of their holidays, plus a free second lift pass with every pass purchased.
Get there Try the four-star Alpenhotel Wittelsbach; half-board from €684pp.
Transfer time: 45 mins from Salzburg
Resort info: ruhpolding.de
9. Westendorf, Austria
The short transfer time and storybook village will get you in the mood, while the plethora of blue runs and learn-to-ski packages will help you get into the swing of things. Topflight (topflight.ie) offers accommodation close to nursery slopes and ski schools, plus tuition packs including four hours' daily lessons for five days, boot and ski hire for six days and lift pass, from €429 for adults and €299 for kids.
Get there: Stay a week at the family-run Hotel Post on a half-board basis from €762pp or the self-catering Haus Angerer from €529pp.
Transfer time: 90 minutes from Salzburg or 1 hour 50 minutes from Munich
Resort info: westendorf.net
10. Madonna di Campiglio, Italy
With plenty of long runs (including almost 40 blues) this is a beautiful location in which to find your ski legs. Reward your efforts at the end of the day in the pretty, Alpine-style village nestled in the Dolomites. It's more laid-back than other villages, making it great for families and those seeking to relax.
Get there: Book seven nights with Crystal Ski (crystalski.ie) at the three-star Alpen Vidi on half-board basis from €757pp.
Transfer time: Two hours 45 minutes from Verona
Resort info: campiglio.com
Best for Experienced Skiers
11. Val d'Isere, France
Skiers who want to live it up on the slopes should consider a luxury chalet holiday with Highlife (highlife.ie). Head to Val d'Isère, a famously chic resort in l'Espace Killy, for an early season getaway and avail of reduced prices and the chance to make the first tracks in the powder. You'll get seven nights in a chalet with private chef and host, half-board meals with wine and minibus transfers. Flights arranged separately.
Get there: Early season prices start at €630pp and €518 for kids under 12, with departures from November 29. Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com) flies from Dublin to Geneva.
Transfer time: 2 hours 30 mins/3 hours from Geneva
Resort info: valdisere.com
12. Zermatt, Switzerland
This resort (above) boasts high altitude glacier skiing and mighty Matterhorn scenery, making it a favourite of intermediate and advanced skiers. With 360km of pistes, adventure activities like heli-skiing and its proximity to Italy, this is a true ski bunny's playground.
Get there: Crystal Ski (crystalski.ie) offers seven nights at the Hotel Alpen Royal on a half-board basis from €1,093pp in January.
Transfer time: 3 hours 30 mins from Geneva
Resort info: zermatt.ch/en
13. Ski touring in Italy
Seasoned skiers who've tired of heading downhill can spice things up with ski touring, which includes downhill, flat and uphill climbs in specially adapted skis. Popup Skiing (popupskiing.com) has a spring ski touring package covering Cervinia and Monte Rosa, Italy, featuring six nights' B&B accommodation plus one night half-board mountain refuge. Flights booked separately.
Get there: Prices from €975pps with an April 10 departure. Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com) flies Dublin to Geneva from around €172 in April as we go to press.
Transfer time: 2 hours 20 minutes from Geneva
Resort info: cervinia.it
14. Chamonix Valley, France
Serious skiers have flocked to the Chamonix Valley since the first Winter Olympics were held there in 1924. The gorgeous Mont Blanc scenery, challenging runs and off-piste ops keep them coming back. Now you can even walk on air (so to speak) on the Skywalk at Aguille du Midi.
Get there: Topflight (Topflight.ie) has luxury self-catering holidays at the Le Cristal d'Argentiere apartments, with its indoor pool and cosy fire-lit lounge, from €457pp.
Transfer time: Ninety minutes from Geneva
Resort info: chamonix.com
15. Bad Gastein/Bad Hofgastein, Austria
Skiers love the Gastein Valley for its expansive network of four ski areas covering 200km of pristine pistes, long red runs and opportunities for backcountry skiing. Ease tired muscles by slipping into the thermal baths and hot springs in the Belle Epoque village before indulging in some lively après ski.
Get there: Try the romantic charm of the Hotel Alpina, with access to the town centre, lifts and transport, on a half-board basis from €739pp with directski.com.
Transfer time: 2 hours from Salzburg; 3 hours from Munich
Resort info: gastein.com
Best for Family
16. Arinsal, Andorra
Duty-free shops and free lift passes for kids under six make this quieter resort in Andorra a family ski haven. Families will appreciate the childcare options and snow gardens for tiny tots.
Get there: Direct Ski (directski.com) offers stays at the Princessa Parc (which has its own bowling alley) on half-board basis, from €749pp, with extras like half-price lift passes and good value equipment and lesson bundles.
Transfer time: 3 hours from Barcelona
Resort info: arinsal-andorra.com
17. Sainte-Foy, France
Pretty Savoyard buildings, wide open runs and a lack of rowdy nightlife make this small Alpine resort a dream spot for families. You won't find crowds or long lift queues, but you will find kids' clubs, dining options and modern accommodation nestled in the Tarentaise Valley.
Get there: Crystal Ski (crystalski.ie) offers seven-night self-catering stays at the Residence Etoile des Cimes from €696pp.
Transfer time: 2 hours 45 minutes from Chambery
Resort info: saintefoy-tarentaise.com
18. Weissbriach, Austria
Book an à-la-carte Austrian ski holiday and stay in the bright, wood-accented Jufa Gitschtal Landerlebnisdorf. German tour operator Snowtrex (snowtrex.ie) offers seven nights accommodation on half-board basis with lift pass from €339pp. Or try the Holiday Club Bellevue in Walchsee from €349pp including childcare.
Get there: Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com) flies from Dublin to Vienna.
Transfer time: Four hours 15 minutes from Vienna Airport
Resort info: austria.info
19. Cervinia, Italy
Nobody does all-inclusive family holidays like Club Med. Sunway (clubmedsunway.ie) have luxury spring ski family getaways in the Aosta Valley that include travel, transfers, lift passes and lessons. Parents will savour the fine Italian cuisine and the Decleor spa, while kids get rosy-cheeked at the kids' club.
Get there: Prices start at €1,499pp based on an April departure.
Transfer time: 2 hours 20 minutes from Geneva
Resort info: cervinia.it
20. Lillehammer, Norway
Where better to enjoy a family ski holiday than the place where the sport was born? Kids will love off-piste fun like bobsleighing and dog-sledding. Topflight's (topflight.ie) short breaks to Lillehammer offer good value.
Get there: A three-night stay at the Birkebeineren self-catering apartments, with flights and train transfers from Oslo, starts at €369pp.
Transfer time: 2 hours by train from Oslo
Resort info: en.lillehammer.com
Best for Christmas
21. Morzine, France
Indulge in the ultimate Christmas treat in the Portes du Soleil region and have everything taken care of upon arrival by Highlife (highlife.ie). Go for the newly built Chalet Lucienne in Morzine and enjoy the outdoor hot tub and quick access to powder perfect slopes. Festive touches like horse-drawn sleigh rides and your own Christmas tree will set the mood. Relax with mulled wine and festive food by a crackling fire.
Get there: Highlife has seven nights' accommodation in a catered chalet, food, wine and minibus transfers, from €1,120 per adult and €910 per child based on a December 20 departure. Flights are not included, but Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com) flies Dublin to Geneva.
Transfer time: 1 hour from Geneva
Resort info: en.morzine-avoriaz.com
22. Zell am See, Austria
Its traditional village, lake views and skiing for all levels make Zell am See a skier's favourite. It's close to Salzburg where you can enjoy a day's shopping, mulled wine and concerts at the festive Christmas Market, which is open through December 26.
Get there: Stay at the centrally located Hotel Neue Post from €702pp on self-catering basis, with Topflight (topflight.ie), based on a December 19 departure.
Transfer time: 90 minutes from Salzburg
Resort info: zellamsee-kaprun.com
23. Les Deux Alpes, France
Solo skiers looking to mingle over the holidays can join a Learn to Ski Week organised by Friendship Travel (friendshiptravel.com). Seven night holidays operate from December to March, and include Christmas week. There are plenty of social spaces in the luxurious Chalet Hotel La Berangere to inspire conversation.
Get there: Holiday includes single occupancy room with equipment hire, lift passes, five days' lessons and flights from Dublin, from €1,855pp at Christmas (€1,687pp other dates). Book by phone on 0871 2002035.
Transfer time: 2 hours from Chambery or 3 hours from Geneva
Resort info: les2alpes.com/fr
24. Selva Val Gardena, Italy
Ring in the New Year on the slopes of Sella Ronda. Combine value with pampering at a Crystal Ski (crystalski.ie) catered chalet in Selva Val Gardena. The quaint Tyrolean-style Chalet Salvan caters for groups of up to 14, with breakfast, afternoon tea, dinner and wine included. You'll be well placed to access the lifts.
Get there: Prices from €932pp based on eight sharing.
Transfer time: 2 hours 30 mins from Verona
Resort info: valgardena.it
25. Méribel [Brides-Les-Bains], France
Enjoy a Christmas bargain in a quintessentially French ski village, with a stay in the self-catering Legrange Residence Cybele. This small spa town, located just south of Méribel's centre, is an ideal location for a relaxed yet festive ski holiday in Les Trois Vallées.
Get there: Prices start at €474pp with Direct Ski (directski.com).
Transfer time: 2 hours 30 mins from Lyon
Resort info: meribel.net
Best for North America
26. Breckenridge, Colorado
Pack your sunglasses because this resort offers skiers over 300 days of sunshine. You'll need them on the Imperial Express SuperChair, the highest lift in North America, which reaches a dizzying 12,840ft.
Get there: Book seven nights with Crystal Ski (crystalski.ie) at Beaver Run Resort (room only), with flights and transfers, from €1,149pp.
Transfer time: 2 hours from Denver
Resort info: breckenridge.com
27. Whistler, British Columbia
This world-class ski resort is famous for all the right reasons: a massive ski area catering to all levels, lively après ski, and plenty of adventure off piste, like ice skating, tubing and scenic helicopter rides.
Get there: Thomas Cook (thomascook.ie) offers seven nights at the plush Hilton Whistler Resort and Spa (room only) with return flights, Dublin to Vancouver from €1,264pp.
Transfer time: Two hours from Vancouver
Resort info: whistler.com
28. Stowe, Vermont
New England offers small town charm, boutique ski resorts and great accommodation - and it's only six hours flying time from Dublin. Stay at the historic Trapp Family Lodge (of Sound of Music fame) in Stowe and enjoy a quaint mountain inn atmosphere. Rooms from around $156/€139. Or try the lovely Stowe Mountain Lodge (from $209/€186).
Get there: Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com) flies Dublin to Boston.
Transfer time: 3 hours from Boston
Resort info: stowe.com
29. Banff, Alberta
They're expecting good snow this season in western Canada. Trailfinders (trailfinders.ie) has a great value seven-night stay at the three-star Mount Royal Hotel (room only), flights, transfers and triple mountain ski pass (the equally impressive Banff Mount Norquay, Sunshine and Lake Louise resorts are all located within Banff National Park).
Get there: Book before October 31 for prices from €1,269pp, based on a December 1 departure.
Transfer time: 2 hours from Calgary
Resort info: banfflakelouise.com
30. Loon, New Hampshire
New Hampshire is a great spot for a family ski holiday. Loon Mountain is located in the gorgeous White Mountain National Forest - it offers excellent slopes, challenging moguls, and cross-country and snowshoe trails.
Get there: Topflight.ie has seven-night packages from about €1,250pp, based on flight availability.
Transfer time: 2 hours from Boston
Resort info: loonmtn.com
NB: All prices subject to availability/change.