We feel quite fortunate to live in Summit County, with easy access to four great ski areas, including, of course, Copper Mountain. But every now and then we like to dream about a ski safari to far-away places. Here's our top-10 list of ski and snowboard destinations around the world.
The Arlberg: The marketing slogan of this cluster of resorts in the panhandle of Austria says it all — “The Cradle of Skiing.” Lech, Zürs, St. Anton, St. Christoph and Stuben are legendary names in the sport, and the Arlberg is where Hannes Schneider developed the first modern technique for maneuvering seven-foot-long wooden skis in a way that could be taught, relatively easily, to tourists. Altogether, the area boasts 94 ski lifts and 210 miles of trails, making it one of the largest ski regions in the world.
Telemark: As long-time free-heelers, we've always had a hankering to visit the birthplace of the now-popular three-pin technique. According to ski lore, the Telemark turn first received public notice in 1868, when Sondre Norheim competed in a ski-jumping contest, completing his run with an elegant free-heel swoop. The turn is a perfect way to combine crosscountry touring with a bit of downhill excitement, and the mountains in the Telemark region, around the town of Morgedahl, are perfect for a bit of Nordic exploration.
Chamonix: The French town at the base of the highest mountain in Europe (Mt. Blanc) has long been known as a center of alpinism and ski mountaineering, but don't let that reputation scare you. Along with the steep chutes around the Aguille du Midi, there are plenty of developed ski trails ideal for all levels of skiers and snowboarders. And if you're feeling adventurous and the weather is good, hire a guide to try the famed run through the Vallée Blanche, often described as the longest ski run in the world.
Berner Oberland: In the heart of Switzerland, the Jungfrau ski region, crowned by the triple summits of the Eiger, the Mönch and the Jungfrau (The Ogre, the The Monk and The Virgin) reigns supreme. One of the things we like best about this corner of the ski world is that it includes several villages that are entirely car-free, including the lovely town of Mürren, at the base of the impressive Schilthorn. Movie buffs will recognize the peak as the lair of the notorious Blofeld, the bad guy in several James Bond flicks including On Her Majesty's Secret Service, which was filmed around the Schilthorn. Mürren has several other claims to fame; first as the stomping ground of British skier Sir Arnold Lunn, who essentially invented slalom racing, and, secondly, as the home to a wild free-for-all race called the Inferno — the largest amateur ski race in the world over an all-mountain course about 10 miles long!
Zermatt: In the very south of Switzerland, at the border with Italy, lies Zermatt and the Matterhorn. It may not be the highest mountain around, but because of its classic shape, it has become an icon of the Alps, and skiing in this region is worthwhile just to enjoy a view of the classic peak from the surrounding slopes. As a bonus, you can ski across the Theodul Glacier to the Italian side of the Alps for a pasta lunch before heading back to Zermatt.
Sella Ronda: This amazing lift-served ski tour in Italy emcompasses four resorts: Val Gardena, Alta Badia and Arraba/Marmolada. The day-long excursion crosses four mountain passes and never-ending views of the some the craggiest peaks in the Dolomites, which are pretty darn craggy to begin with. And, of course, there are plenty of inviting ski huts along the way where you can stop off for a glass of Italian red wine and some of the best food anywhere in the ski world.
Thredbo: Skiing may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Australia, but the sport is very popular down under, and Thredbo offers access to the country's highest peak, Mt. Kosciuszko. There's nowhere else in the world where you can ski among Eucalyptus trees. Because of global warming, there may not be skiing in Australia much longer, so you might want to put this one at the top of your list.
Portillo: Skiers are always looking for a way to extend the season, and there's no better way to do that than by making a summer trip to the southern hemisphere. While North America basks in summer heat, the snow is piling up in the Andes, and there's no snowier spot than Portillo. The famed Chilean resort has been operating for 60 years and once even hosted the FIS speed-skiing championship. Along with lively Latin culture, you'll find steep chutes and groomed cruisers, all at a time of year when most of your friends are hanging out on the beach.