12 best Skiing holidays

Leap from a helicopter, glide down a glacier or cruise across


1 French gourmets For a week of wine tasting, gourmet dining and skiing, contact Winetrails (tel: 01306 712111; net: www.winetrails.co.uk) which offers Ski Gourmet Safaris at the Auberge Camelia in the French Alps. This small family hotel is in the village of Aviernoz close to the resorts of La Clusaz, Flaine and Mÿgeve and just a 40-minute drive to Geneva. Evening meals of classic French cuisine are complemented by local specialities such as raclette, and followed by wine tastings. Prices start from £497 per person for a week including return flights, half-board accommodation, one or two wine tastings, transfers to the slopes and accompanied skiing. Champagne reception on arrival and some dinner wine is also included.

1 French gourmets For a week of wine tasting, gourmet dining and skiing, contact Winetrails (tel: 01306 712111; net: www.winetrails.co.uk) which offers Ski Gourmet Safaris at the Auberge Camelia in the French Alps. This small family hotel is in the village of Aviernoz close to the resorts of La Clusaz, Flaine and Mÿgeve and just a 40-minute drive to Geneva. Evening meals of classic French cuisine are complemented by local specialities such as raclette, and followed by wine tastings. Prices start from £497 per person for a week including return flights, half-board accommodation, one or two wine tastings, transfers to the slopes and accompanied skiing. Champagne reception on arrival and some dinner wine is also included.

2 Beginners in Aspen Of the four mountains that make up the resort of Aspen - Ajax, Buttermilk, Highlands and Snowmass - Buttermilk is widely acknowledged as North America's premier beginners' mountain. The Ski and Snowboard Schools of Aspen (tel: 00 1 970 925 1220; net: www.aspensnowmass.com) offers a good introduction course to Buttermilk called Beginners Magic. Guests are offered a money-back guarantee or additional lessons at no extra cost if they are not satisfied at the end of their course. The cost is $249 (£177) for three-days' skiing or boarding tuition, equipment hire and lift pass. Ski the American Dream (tel: 020-8552 1201) offers hotel packages starting at £765 for a week in January. The price includes return flights, transfers and room-only accommodation based on two sharing at the Molly Gibson Lodge.

3 Just for the weekend Simply Ski (tel: 020-8541 2209; net: www.simply-travel.com) has just introduced skiing weekends in Chamonix at the chalet-hotel Les Planards. The venue of the first winter Olympic Games still retains its charm with cobbled streets, pavement cafés and historic buildings. The Chalet Les Planards is situated close to the Les Planards slopes. Prices start at £399 per person for three nights' chalet accommodation, return flights and transfers.

4 A life of luxury Chilled vintage champagne on arrival, daily English newspapers, fresh flowers, coffee or tea in bed in the morning, picnics on the slopes and drinks and canapés before the four-course dinners are all an integral part of a Scott Dunn (tel: 020-8767 0202) chalet holiday. A perfect example is Cristal de Roche, a penthouse apartment with views over Courcheval 1850 and a whirlpool bath in the master bedroom. The chalet sleeps eight and costs from £1,105 per person for a week full-board and includes return flights to Geneva and transfers.

5 On the Arctic Circle Riksgränsen is the world's most northerly ski resort in the Arctic Circle in Swedish Lapland. Famous for its off-piste skiing, its heli-skiing is some of the cheapest in Europe. Norvista (tel: 020-7409 7334; net: www.norvista.com) has seven-night packages from £784 per person based on two sharing a self-catering apartment, including return flights.

6 Salsa and skiing For a week of skiing and salsa contact Dance Holidays (tel: 01206 577000, www.danceholidays.com) which has two trips to Granada in Spain from 3-10 March and 10-17 March. A bus leaves every morning for the mountains of the Sierra Nevada, so you can alternate a day's skiing with salsa and sightseeing. There's also dancing every night in Granada's salsa clubs. The price is £540 per person including flights, b&b accommodation in a three-star hotel in central Granada, transfers to the ski resort and two hours of salsa lessons per day.

7 Safari in Canada Ski Safari (tel; 020-7740 1221; net: www.skisafari.com) offers tailor-made self-drive itineraries between two or more resorts in Canada and the USA. The Okanagan valley safari takes in the three resorts of Big White, Sun Peaks and Silver Star. A 10-night trip from 4-31 January costs from £849 per person based on two sharing and including return flights and room-only accommodation in three- to four-star hotels.

8 On a glacier For those who want year-round skiing but don't want to switch hemispheres, Europe's glaciers are the answer. Austria has eight to choose from, including the 10,500ft Kitzsteinhorn Glacier which towers above Zell Am See. Thomson Lakes & Mountains (tel: 0870 606 1470; net: www.thomsonlakesandmountains.co.uk) has a new summer skiing and cycling package in 2001 called Up and Down in Zell Am See. You can book a morning's summer skiing on the glacier followed by an afternoon's cycling along the shore of Lake Zell. The price is £45 in high season and £39 in low season and includes a one-day glacier lift pass and piste map, half-a-day's ski and boot hire and two hours' cycle hire. Thomson has seven-night packages to Zell from £365 per person during the summer including half-board accommodation, flights and transfers.

9 Cross-country in Italy The Gran Paradiso was Europe's first National Park and is situated in the Aosta valley in the north of Italy. A wild, rugged, mountainous region, the cross-country skiing traverses rolling meadowland and valleys. Inntravel (tel: 01653 629010; net: www.inntravel.co.uk) has seven-night trips based in the village of Cogne from £544 per person staying in the family-run Hotel Sant'Orso. Price includes half-board accommodation based on two sharing, scheduled flights and transfers.

10 Parlez vous français? Caledonia Languages Abroad (tel: 0131-621 7721; tel: www.caledonialanguages.co.uk) offers French and skiing holidays in Chambery. A two-week language course staying with a French host family, on a half-board basis costs £360 or £290 for b&b only. The price includes 40 French lessons in the language school and 13 nights' accommodation. Day trips to local ski areas cost approximately £20, including transport and ski-pass. Or you could opt for a two-week German course in Vienna which starts at £455 per person.

11 Heli-skiing in India Himachal Heli-skiing (tel: 01264 861251; net: www.himachal.com) is organising skiing trips to the Indian Himalayas from 25 January to 10 April. Based in Manali in Himachal Pradesh, north-east India, this is high altitude- skiing at up to 5,000m. The helicopters are parked in the garden of the four-star Holiday Inn ready to whisk you up to the powder. Skiing is in the Kulu Valley (Valley of the Gods). The cost for a week is US$5750 per person excluding international flights and stopover hotel in Delhi.

12 Bargain breaks Skiing doesn't have to cost the earth. If you can avoid peak periods, notably school holidays, you will be able to take advantage of some great offers this season and enjoy less crowded slopes. Ski Independence (tel: 0870 600 1462) has deals to some of the top resorts in France including Courcheval and Méribel after 6 January. A seven-night holiday in Courcheval starts at £90 per person based on four people sharing a studio apartment. The price includes a Channel crossing for one vehicle by Eurotunnel or ferry and seven nights' accommodation on a room-only basis.

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