Ski, don't walk

Skiers should not have to walk more than five minutes from their accommodation to the ski-lift: that's one of the maxims of the world's leading ski-resort planner, Eldon Beck. Sadly, most Alpine ski resorts were not planned that way. Take Zermatt: it has lifts at either end of the village, bars and restaurants in-between, and accommodation dotted around the valley floor. The resort offers lots of skiing, and plenty of walking, too. While each hotel and chalet is (as the brochures specify) close to one key location - perhaps the village centre, a bus stop, or the Gornergrat railway station - it is also (as the brochures don't specify) a hike away from another.

Skiers should not have to walk more than five minutes from their accommodation to the ski-lift: that's one of the maxims of the world's leading ski-resort planner, Eldon Beck. Sadly, most Alpine ski resorts were not planned that way. Take Zermatt: it has lifts at either end of the village, bars and restaurants in-between, and accommodation dotted around the valley floor. The resort offers lots of skiing, and plenty of walking, too. While each hotel and chalet is (as the brochures specify) close to one key location - perhaps the village centre, a bus stop, or the Gornergrat railway station - it is also (as the brochures don't specify) a hike away from another.

Without an A-Z of a resort, it's difficult to work out the ideal place to stay. But the new If You Ski website (formerly complete-skier.com) has taken a small step towards solving this problem. It features "interactive flash maps" showing locations of hotels, chalets and apartments, plus such facilities as ski schools, lift-pass booths and tourist offices. Unlike most bits of e-trickery, more downloading than uplifting, these maps spring to life quickly, enabling you to see, for example, exactly how far the ice rink at St Anton is from the Hotel Christoph. Well, not exactly, since the maps lack a scale; but you get a pretty good idea.

Only eight resorts are covered at present, among them Val d'Isÿre, Méribel, Verbier and Breckenridge. But for those who prefer to have skis on their feet rather than over their shoulders, the maps at www.ifyouski.com are a good way of looking around a resort before you get there.

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