The 50 best places to ski this winter

Seasoned snow-bunny or strictly aprés, book now for the ski season, says Ian McCurrach. You can go for black-run thrills, beginner's lessons or a weekend chalet party - just slip on your salopettes and slope off!


1. LES GETS, FRANCE

There's more to a beginner's ski holiday than house-trained ski instructors, gentle slopes and sore limbs. Finding yourself in a picture-postcard resort is a real bonus and Les Gets in France's famous Portes du Soleil is as charming a ski village as you're likely to find. A well-positioned resort with great instructors.

Getting there: Equity Ski (0870 499 2992; www.equityski.co.uk) offer a seven-night all-inclusive break at the Chalet Aiguille Blance from £685 per person, including breakfast, afternoon tea and three-course evening meal with wine, lift pass, winter sports insurance, ski equipment hire, ski tuition, return flights from Gatwick and transfers.

2. ST ANTON, AUSTRIA

As well as having an international reputation for glitz and glamour, St Anton is blessed with world-class skiing, amazing powder and opportunities for huge off-piste mileage. For experts, the skiing's as hard as you want it to be, with a steep drop back to Zura, the challenging powder bowls of the Valluga and some seriously testing lower slopes.

Getting there: British Airways (0870 850 9850; www.ba.com) flies five times a week from Gatwick to Innsbruck on a Tue, Thur, Sat and Sun from £79 return. For accommodation and transfer details contact the Tourist Office (00 43 512 72720; www.tyrol.com).

3. BOROVETS, BULGARIA

If budget is a concern, and let's face it, when isn't it with a family, then consider one of the less expensive destinations where you probably won't bump into the Beckhams, but the snow is the same colour and the skiing is good! Borovets in Bulgaria has crèches, ski schools for children and kindergartens, free lift passes for kids aged 8-12, folk nights, barbecues and wine tasting, oh, and good value, very good skiing.

Where: Inghams (020-8780 4433; www.inghams.co.uk) offer a seven-night half-board break at Iglika Villas from £247 per person, based on six sharing a three-room apartment, including return flights and transfers. A nanny service is available for children aged 3-8 years from £82 per child.

4. KRVAVEC, SLOVENIA

If short transfer times and maximum time on the slopes are your main criteria for a ski weekend, Krvavec in Slovenia wins hands-down for having one of the world's shortest transfer times from any city airport, at around 15 minutes by taxi, followed by a seven-minute gondola ride on to the mountain. Snow- making and wide-open, varied terrain will keep most people happy for at least a long weekend.

Getting there: EasyJet (0905 821 0905; www.easyjet.com) flies daily to Ljubljana from around £42 return. Accommodation at the four-star mountain top A&S Hotel (00 386 4 201 2800; hotel.as@siol.net) costs from around €50 per night, based on two sharing, on a half-board basis.

5. BANFF, CANADA

A champagne lifestyle seems strangely out of sync with the friendly town of Banff in the Canadian Rockies, an unspoilt ski area in the beautiful Banff National Park, where elk can be seen wandering the streets and the occasional moose moseys on down town. But luxury is provided in no small measure by high-quality hotels that include the world famous five-star Fairmont Banff Springs and the five-star Rimrock luxury hotel, with spa treatments, steaming outdoor pools and hot tubs, and relaxing chill-out lounges.

Getting there: Inghams (020-8780 4433; www.inghams.co.uk) offers a seven-night room-only break at the five-star Fairmont Banff Springs from £525 per person, based on four sharing a Fairmont Deluxe Room, including return flights and transfers.

6. SEEFELD, AUSTRIA

Seefeld is the home of cross-country skiing ("langlauf") and is Austria's leading cross-country resort, with an impressive 250kms of marked trails including the course designed for the 1976 Olympics and the 1985 world championships. Close to Innsbruck, one of the resort's great advantages is its short transfer time of around half an hour. The gentle incline to the slopes of Seefeld also makes it a superb place to learn to ski. Tone up at the Olympia Sports Centre and top up at one of more than 50 restaurants, such as Sudtiorolerstuben, Seefelder Stub'n or Emilia Romagna.

Getting there: Igluski (020-8544 6406; www.igluski.com) offers a seven-night half-board break at the Hotel Krinserhof from £385 per person, based on four people sharing, including return flights and transfers ( www.innsbruk-tourismus.com).

7. ISCHGL, AUSTRIA

Ischgl has fought hard to transform itself from a traditional farming village to achieve its status as the Alps' top party resort. It would be picky to claim that anyone who has sold 100 million albums worldwide and had 22 top 10 hits is just a tad short of "A" list celebrity, but nevertheless it's pretty impressive for a once humble Tyrolean resort when Lionel Richie opens this year's ski season in November 2005 in a free concert in the village centre. He follows a star-studded cast that includes The Corrs, Alanis Morissette, Ronan Keating, Enrique Iglesias, Elton John, Tina Turner, Peter Gabriel, Sting and Rod Stewart. Aprés-ski rocks here, and top spots are the nightclub at the five-star Trofana Royal and Pacha at the four-star Madlein.

Getting there: Inghams (020-8780 4433; www.inghams.co.uk) offer a seven-night half-board break at the Trofana Royal from £1,441 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights and transfers.

8. SOLL, AUSTRIA

A great beginners' resort, Soll has an attractively priced Learn to Ski lift pass, which saves you paying for lifts and pistes that you won't use, and many good UK ski operators include it in their Learn to Ski tuition and equipment-hire packages. A lively and good-value Tyrolean village, it has an abundance of things to do when ski legs tire, including a large sports centre, tobogganing, squash courts, sleigh rides and is a great place for an induction into the tricky old art of aprés ski.

Getting there: Igluski (020 8544 6406; www.igluski.com) offers a seven-night b&b break at the Soll Pensions hotel from £219 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights and transfers.

9. VAIL, USA

Ranked as one of the finest ski resorts in the world, Vail's reputation for fulfilling the demands of the most expert skier centres around the awesome powder of its seven Back Bowls. While skiers wait for the snow dumps to fill them out, the double-blacks at the front - including the hairy Hairball Alley - put most skiers through their paces. With snow already in this terrific resort, which opens on 18 November 2005, locals predict this year's going to be a big one.

Getting there: Crystal Ski (0870 160 6040; www.crystalholidays.co.uk) offers a seven-night b&b break at the Holiday Inn Apex from £527 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights from Gatwick and transfers.

10. COURCHEVEL, FRANCE

Courchevel has a reputation for being the world's best ski resort. The area is formed of four villages on different levels, Courchevel 1850 being the highest, each linked by a variety of ski lifts and a ski bus. In many ways, it has everything, at a price. Great beginners' slopes, more challenging skiing higher up and a dedicated snowboarding park, as well as ice skating, tobogganing, skidoo-ing, ice climbing and some cool bars.

Getting there: Crystal Finest (020-8939 0842; www.crystalfinest.co.uk) offers a seven-night all-inclusive chalet break from £500 per person, based on two sharing, including cooked breakfast, afternoon tea, champagne and canapes every evening, three-course evening meals, return flights and transfers.

11. IGLS, AUSTRIA

For some, a long weekend away conjures up images of a city break with the chance to browse someone else's high street, discover local culture, dine in style and let someone else make the bed. For others, it's a chance to cram in as much of the cold white stuff as you can get away with. The Tyrolean capital of Innsbruck offers a good combination of the two, with ski slopes a backdrop to this picturesque city with the nearest just 10 minutes away for both downhill and cross-country challenges.

Getting there: Igls is just 10 minutes' drive from Innsbruck, also accessible by local ski bus. British Airways (0870 850 9850; www.ba.com) flies five times a week from Gatwick to Innsbruck on a Tue, Thur, Sat and Sun from £79 return. For accommodation and transfer details to the ski slopes contact the Tourist Office (00 43 512 72720; www.tyrol.com; www.stantonamarlberg.com).

12. OBERGURGL, AUSTRIA

The Tirolean resort of Obergurgl has one of the highest proliferations of top quality hotels for any small ski resort anywhere, the majority of them are family run to exceptionally high standards and many have superbly equipped spa and wellness centres. Good ski conditions and an early start to the season are assured by Obergurgl's favourable position high in the Oetz Valley. Deep powder will satisfy advanced skiers, long red and blue runs will please intermediates and gentle nursery slopes get novices started. Scan the brochures for the best choice of spa hotel, offering Turkish baths, whirlpools, saunas, massages and spa treatments.

Getting there: for accommodation in Obergurgl visit www.tophotelhochgurgl.com and for information about flights and transfer visit the Tourist Office (00 43 512 72720; www.tyrol.com).

13. SELVA VAL GARDENA, ITALY

With over 98kms of excellent trails, including some fairly testing terrain, Selva is high on the map for cross country skiers. Part of Sud Tyrol, Selva combines all that is best of Italian and Austrian traditions. Guided winter walking amid some stunning scenery supplements the cross-country for those who can tear themselves away from the skis. Pit stops include Laurin Keller for popular après ski and Miravalle for delicious pizzas.

Getting there: Thomson Ski (0870 606 1470; www.thomson-ski.co.uk) offers a seven-night all-inclusive break at the Chalet Isgla from £475 per person, based on two sharing, including breakfast, afternoon tea, three-course dinner with wine, return flights and transfers.

14. PAS DE LA CASA, ANDORRA

Pas de la Casa is Andorra's liveliest resort and best ski area, right on the French border at the foot of the most extensive ski area in Andorra. After dark, a wild and colourful nightlife bursts from its bars and nightspots, where duty free pricing makes it an inexpensive place to get hungover. Happy hours, discos, lively cafes and restaurants give Pas de la Casa its reputation as the most "up for it" resort in the Pyrenees. Mexican evenings at the Milwaukee Bar, long evenings at The Marseilles and The Mistral are rounded off by cool sounds at KYU and Billboard Disco.

Getting there: Thomson Ski (0870 606 1470; www.thomson-ski.co.uk) offers a seven-night half-board break at the Hotel Catsby from £405 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights and transfers.

15. KRANJSKA GORA, SLOVENIA

Top tips for beginner skiers? Pick a resort that won't break the bank, where the slopes are gentle and conveniently located and the ski instruction is of a good standard. You're likely to find yourself in pretty Slovenia, in the resort of Kranjska Gora where the nursery slopes form a backdrop to the village, equipment hire and lift passes are among the best value in Europe and the instructors employ a progressive method of learning that has seen novices heading down the slopes by coffee break.

Getting there: Kranjska Gora is featured by First Choice (0870 850 3999; www.firstchoice.co.uk) for the first time this winter and also in the Inghams and Crystal Ski brochures. Alternatively, fly direct with easyJet (0905 821 0905; www.easyjet.com) to Ljubljana and organise your own accommodation and car hire through the Tourist Office (0870 2255 305; slovenia.tourism@virgin.net).

16. VAL D'ISERE, FRANCE

This French resort high up in the Espace Killy, a region that includes both Tignes and Val d'Isere, boasts 97 lifts and high-altitude skiing to almost 3,500m. Val is on everyone's list as a resort offering the best skiing in Europe. Sensational off-piste skiing, waist-high Solaise bumps above the village, the powder bowls of the Tour de Charvet, steep blacks, giant moguls and the Olympic Men's Downhill run combine to make Val one of the most popular resorts, not just for advanced, but at all levels.

Getting there: Total Holidays (08701 633633; www.skitotal.com) offers a seven-night b&b break in Val D'Isere from £389 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights and transfers.

17. FLAINE, FRANCE

If childcare is a key criteria on a family ski holiday, traffic-free Flaine is particularly well set up with kids clubs, kindergartens and ski schools, as well as having an indoor pool and ice-skating. Apres ski is fairly informal and several restaurants cater particularly for families, such as La Perdrix Noire with a great family menu and Chez Daniel for a fun family fondue. The friendly ski school uses the Ski Evolutif short ski method, and budding boarders should head for the kids' half-pipe, the Fantasurf.

Getting there: Crystal Holidays (0870 403 0543; www.crystalholidays.co.uk) offers a seven-night all-inclusive break at the family-friendly Club Hotel Totem from £432 per person, based on four sharing, including breakfast, afternoon tea and three-course evening meals with wine, return flights and transfers. An optional nanny service, older kids clubs and evening baby-sitting clubs are available.

18. CHAMONIX, FRANCE

Nestling beneath Mont Blanc, Europe's highest mountain, Chamonix is a little over an hour's drive from Geneva, making it a great choice for a ski weekend. If they had to, skiers would probably travel much further for its superb range of intermediate and advanced skiing. Boarders won't be disappointed either; Chamonix is known as the extreme free-riding capital of Europe. And when the sun sets, it's a lively town with over 100 restaurants and some of the coolest bars in the Alps.

Getting there: Crystal Ski Fasttrax (0870 403 3310; www.crystalholidays.co.uk) offers a three-night half-board break at the three-star Hotel Morgane in the centre of Chamonix from £315 per person, based on two sharing, including scheduled return flights from Gatwick or Heathrow and car hire. Manchester flight departures available with a £39 supplement.

19. CORTINA, ITALY

Cortina was the home of the first Winter Olympics in Italy and, due to its reliable snow record and well-maintained pistes, still hosts world class ski events. There are a variety of skiing challenges, particularly for intermediates, and advanced skiers should head for the Forcella Rossa at Tofana, which also has the best powder conditions. If there were medals for spas, the five-star Miramonti Majestic could well be up for one with its panoramic swimming pool, spa centre with sauna, jacuzzi, Turkish bath, massage and beauty treatments.

Getting there: Inghams (020-8780 4433; www.inghams.co.uk) offers a seven-night half-board break at the luxurious Miramonti Majestic hotel from £1070, based on two sharing, including return flights from Gatwick and transfers.

20. KANDERSTEG, SWITZERLAND

Kandersteg is a wonderful place to learn and a paradise for cross-country skiers with an impressive 60kms of trails around the village and 95kms if you take the nearby Lauchermalp ski area into account. For those who can't resist the bug even when the sun goes down, there's a 4.5km night trail that's illuminated from 6pm-9pm weekdays. A "Trail Pass" gives you access all areas and costs around 35 Swiss Francs (£15) per week. With typical Swiss efficiency, the trails are beautifully maintained and pass by scenic forests and streams.

Getting there: Inntravel (01653 617906; www.inntravel.co.uk) offers a three-night half-board break at the Hotel Victoria from £458 per person, including flights, transfers and cross-country ski pass.

21. SAUZE D'OULX, FRANCE

Start early and finish late in Sauze d'Oulx, one of five villages that form the Milky Way with access to nearly 400kms of skiing terrain, much of it for intermediates. If you want to party and do some skiing, Sauze d'Oulx is your place. Once dubbed "Suzie does it", the resort has hauled itself up from its former lager-lout reputation and is now a great place for a party. Try cocktails at Moncrons or the Gran Trun wine bar, Paddy McGinty's for an Irish-themed bar, Max Bar for a Brit pub-like atmosphere or Miravallino for a quieter time. Dancing into the small hours takes place at Banditos and Schuss.

Getting there: Panorama Holidays (0870 758 2518; www.panoramaholidays.co.uk) offers a seven-night self-catering break at the Apartments Stefanos from £265 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights and transfers.

22. TREMBLANT, CANADA

Full of French joie de vivre, Tremblant is the most easily accessible North American ski resort from the UK. The ski school is not only excellent, but lessons come with a guarantee to improve your skiing. Tremblant is a wonderful, colourful, traffic-free resort, there's a dedicated beginners' area on the south side of the mountain, magic carpet lifts and a fabulous 6km long Nansen run to test out what you've learnt.

Getting there: Inghams (020-8780 4433; www.inghams.co.uk) offers a special learn to ski package for £194 per adult, which includes hire of skis, ski boots and poles, three hours tuition for three days and a lift pass. A seven-night room-only break at the four-star Grand Lodge Mont costs from £393 per person, based on six sharing, including return flights and transfers.

23. WHISTLER, CANADA

Six massive high-alpine powder bowls, including one called Doom & Gloom, put Whistler firmly on the map for thrill-seekers. Annual snow-fall of over 30 feet make sure there's plenty of off-piste and powder. For advanced skiers, it just doesn't get much better than on the adjoining Whistler and Blackcombe Mountains here in Canada's British Columbia. Blackcombe has steepness with long glacial descents, Whistler has bumps, couloirs, bowls and chutes. Competent skiers and thrill-seekers, eat your heart out.

Getting there: Thomson Ski (0870 606 1470; www.thomson-ski.co.uk) offers a seven-night room-only break at the three-star The Coast Whistler Hotel, just a few minutes' walk to the base of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, for £495 per person, based on four sharing, including return flights and transfers.

24. LEVI, LAPLAND

What could be more fun than a family ski holiday to Lapland that combines the chance to meet the real Santa Claus? Especially when there are optional excursions to Santa's Secret Home for around £30 per adult, £26 per child. It's also a great place to take the children to learn to ski, with uncrowded slopes, good English-speaking ski instructors, a warm friendly atmosphere, husky and reindeer safaris when you've lost your ski legs and a magical quality to the short days.

Getting there: Inghams (020-8780 4433; www.inghams.co.uk) offer a seven-night half-board break at the Matkailumaja Cabins from £367 per person, based on six sharing a three-room chalet, including return flights and transfers. A mini reindeer safari costs £24 per adult, £16 for children and husky safaris cost £26 and £19.

25. DAVOS, SWITZERLAND

As timely as one of its watches, Switzerland's public transport contributes to making it a popular ski weekend destination. With excellent airport links and many resorts within striking distance of Zurich, Berne or Geneva airports via train or bus, travel is flexible and efficient. But don't necessarily settle for resorts closest to airports, which can get crowded. It should take no more than just over 2 hours to get to Davos, for world class skiing, high standards of accommodation and shopping to get very excited about.

Getting there: Inghams (020-8780 4433; www.inghams.co.uk) offers a three-night half-board break at the three-star Hotel Sunstar from £389 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights and rail transfers.

26. BANSKO, BULGARIA

What they lack in incense sticks, dramatic muslin curtains and haunting, eclectic music the Eastern European resorts in Slovenia and Bulgaria make up for with a robust and good value approach to alternative treatments, spas and healthcare. Treatments typically cost half of UK prices, the approach may be a little more clinical, but you have an innate feeling that you're in good hands. We're not talking luxury, but we're talking value, centuries of expertise and a sensible approach to healthcare and aching limbs.

Getting there: Thomson Ski (0870 606 1470; www.thomson-ski.co.uk) offers a seven-night half-board break at the new four-star Hotel Katarino, which is one of the best equipped properties in Bansko with a wellness centre including saunas, whirlpools, an indoor pool, a fitness room and more, from £380 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights from Gatwick.

27. SERRE CHEVALIER, FRANCE

Biggest is not always best and although Serre Chevalier doesn't have the mileage of some cross country resorts, with only around 35kms of marked trails, it does have an excellent snow record, 300 days of sunshine a year and traditional French ambience. A well-kept secret, the area is made up of four widespread villages with good links to other resorts for downhill skiers. Pitstops include Loup Blanc for traditional local food or L'Arbre a Pain for lunchtime sunshine.

Getting there: Equity Ski (0870 499 2992; www.equityski.co.uk) offers a seven-night half-board break at the Hotel le Serre Chevalier from £591, based on two sharing, including one week's winter sports insurance, lift pass, ski equipment hire, tuition, guiding, return flights and transfers.

28. SOLDEU, SPAIN

Once known for cheap booze and rowdy Brits, Andorra has invested hugely in its skiing infrastructure and as a consequence, these days attracts more serious skiers and après skiers in equal measure. It's hard to take the apres out of resorts like Soldeu, which alongside having an award-winning ski school and a variety of terrain for intermediate skiers, has a first class snow record and nightlife up there with the best, including a good choice of live music, lively bars and discos.

Getting there: Panorama Holidays (0870 758 2518; www.panoramaholidays.co.uk) offers a seven-night half-board break at the Hotel Soldeu Maistre for £425 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights from Gatwick and transfers.

29. ARINSAL, SPAIN

If friendly instructors are your bag, the Andorran resort of Arinsal is for you as it is reputed to have the friendliest, English speaking ski instructors anywhere. No growling "bend your knees" here, this is a good fun, unpretentious resort, very hospitable with lots of sunshine and plenty of gentle, confidence-building runs. Arinsal won't let you down when it comes to après ski either, as it has a lively atmosphere with a superb selection of bars and restaurants. La Riba Bar, Surf Bar and The Rocky Mountain are some of the most popular.

Getting there: Panorama Holidays (0870 758 2518; www.panoramaholidays.co.uk) offers a seven-night half-board break at the Hotel Princesa Parc from £379 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights from Gatwick and transfers.

30. VERBIER, SWITZERLAND

Situated in a high, sunny and sheltered position in Switzerlands's southern Alps, Verbier is home to some of the most challenging skiing in the Alps. The exhilarating black run down the front face of Mont-Fort is famous for white knuckle skiing. This is only for those who like their skiing scary and nerve-racking. The non-pisted routes from Col des Gentianes and Mont Gele are also classic runs, while steep couloirs and acres of powder make this a paradise for those pushing the limits or pounding the serious bumps of the notorious Tortin snow bowl.

Getting there: Thomson Ski ((0870 606 1470; www.thomson-ski.co.uk) offers a seven-night all-inclusive break from £518 per person, based on two sharing, , including breakfast, afternoon tea and three-course evening meal with wine, return flights and transfers.

31. CHAMPOLUC, ITALY

Sometimes it's the ski company more than the resort that provides the reason for family travel. Ski Esprit, have made the Italian resort of Champoluc in the Aosta Valley, a base for one of their nurseries, with snow clubs and exclusive ski classes for older children, afternoon activity clubs and evening "Cocoa Club". Champoluc is located below Monte Rosa, Italy's tallest mountain and once the kids are settled, the surrounding Monterosa ski area is extensive and scenic, with satisfying long intermediate runs.

Getting there: Ski Esprit (01252 618300; www.esprit-holidays.co.uk) offers a seven-night all-inclusive break at Chalet Biancaneve from £409 per person, based on two sharing, including breakfast, afternoon tea, high tea for children, and four-course dinners for parents with aperitifs and wine, return flights and transfers.

32. VOSS, NORWAY

It's not just about ski mileage, nor is it about close proximity to airports: a ski weekend that takes an hour or so longer to arrive but has an excellent flying routes from the UK might just prove to be the one where there are fewer crowds. Voss in Norway proves this point, with unspoiled and captivating scenery, yet it's very easy to get to via a daily scheduled flight from the UK. So the transfer may take a couple of hours, but the extra hour is quickly made up for with no lift queues and un-crowded slopes.

Where: Inghams (020-8780 4433; www.inghams.co.uk) offers a three-night half-board break at the four-star Fleischer's Hotel from £434 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights from Gatwick and transfers.

33. KITZBUHEL, AUSTRIA

The Hotel Schloss Lebenberg is the perfect getaway for those who are looking to be pampered. The award-winning Polly Hillbrunner Beauty Spa in the Vitalturm tower next to the castle is rated as one of the best in Austria and hotel guests can indulge in first class health, fitness and beauty treatments. This magical 16th-century castle, which looks like it comes straight off the pages of a children's book of fairytales is located in the highly fashionable resort of Kitzbühel, the home of the infamous Hahnenkamm world cup downhill race.

Getting there: Directski (0800 587 0945; www.directski.com) offers a seven-night half-board break at the four-star Hotel Schloss Lebenberg from £619 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights from Gatwick and transfers.

34. LIVIGNO, ITALY

An all-round resort in the Valtellina alpine valley near the Swiss border, Livigno retains its traditional rustic character and offers high altitude, sunny skiing and a more than acceptable 30kms of cross-country skiing. There's plenty of entertainment and accommodation for all pockets and tastes. If you tire of cross-country, the intermediate skiing is fun and wide ranging but if you need to stay on the flat, you can try snow shoeing, skidoo-ing, horse riding, skating or sleigh rides, or fuel up in the Irish pubs, cafes, restaurants and pizzerias.

Getting there: Panorama Holidays (0870 758 2518; www.panoramaholidays.co.uk) offers a seven-night half-board break at the Hotel Lac Salin from £489 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights and transfers.

35. MERIBEL, FRANCE

For those who want to ski hard and party hard, Meribel provides access to the largest ski area in the world, the Three Valleys, with over 600kms of runs and masses of off-piste opportunities. And even before the sun goes down, the parties start, with Jack's and Rond Point packed even while the lifts are still operating and "happy hours" starting mid-afternoon. Down in the bustling resort the top spots are Dick's Tea Bar, The Pub and late night dancing at Scott's.

Getting there: Directski (0800 587 0945; www.directski.com) offers a seven-night self-catering break at the four star Les Fermes de Meribel Apartments from £379 per person, based on four sharing, including return flights from Gatwick and transfers.

36. LE CORBIER, FRANCE

Can't ski, want to ski, but can't keep up with a skiing friend or partner? Let them thrash the bowls and blacks of Le Corbier and the vast 310kms of the surrounding ski area, while you enjoy the exceptional learning slopes and easy going blue runs on good snow that surround Le Corbier. A great choice for mixed ability skiers, learners will feel completely comfortable, there's a nursery area with wonderful snow at the top of the resort for that top of the world feeling, yet the ski area is highly rated by intermediate and advanced skiers too. Getting there: Rocket Ski (0870 499 2626; www.rocketski.com) offers a seven-night half-board break at the Hotel le Mont Corbier in a brilliant ski-in, ski-out location, 40 yards from the beginners' drag lift, for £440 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights and transfers.

37. LES ARCS, FRANCE

Proving it's not just about height and steepness, although that helps, the new Vanoise Express cable car link to La Plagnes opens up 420kms of challenges in the Paradiski area. Having said that, Les Arcs, which also features Europe's biggest vertical drop of 2,000m down the 7km black, Aiguille Rouge and the challenging runs around Arc 2000 ensure it's not for the faint-hearted. The highest of the four villages that make up Les Arcs is Arc 2000, the most popular with experienced skiers with tremendous off-piste and door step skiing.

Getting there: Rocket Ski (0870 499 2626; www.rocketski.com) offers a seven-night all-inclusive break at the Chalet Richermoz from £479 per person, including breakfast, afternoon tea and three-course evening meal with wine, return flights and transfers.

38. KAPRUN, AUSTRIA

With fabulous family facilities and superb high-altitude skiing for competent skiers on the Kitzsteinhorn Glacier, Kaprun is hard to beat. Beginners on the village slopes benefit from great instruction at the ski schools. The picturesque village is dominated by Kaprun's church and glacier and there are over 25 restaurants where a three-course meal won't set you back much more than £12 per head. There are also plenty of bars to frequent when you've tucked the kids up in bed. Facilities are plentiful and include a sports centre with heated pool, skating, indoor tennis and squash.

Getting there: Neilson (0870 333 3356; www.neilson.co.uk) offers a seven-night b&b break at the three-star Pension St Georg from £359 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights and transfers.

39. ST MORITZ, SWITZERLAND

Mention St. Moritz and chic, champagne and shopping all spring to mind, but only on a par with superb skiing, scintillating standards and celebrity magnet. Ski weekends in this sunny resort in the Engadine valley might even be good or taking in a spot or two of cricket, (on the frozen lake, 3-4 February 2006), some horse racing (5, 12 and 19 Feb, same venue) or maybe a wager on the greyhound racing (26 Feb).

Getting there: British Airways (0870 850 9850; www.ba.com) flies five times a week from Gatwick to Innsbruck on a Tuesday, Thur, Sat and Sun from £79 return. For accommodation and transfer details to the ski slopes contact the Tourist Office (00 43 512 72720; www.tyrol.com; www.stantonamarlberg.com).

40. BRIDES-LES-BAINS, FRANCE

The natural spa town Brides-les-Bains is fast becoming a popular destination for those looking for a unique piece of France. Formally known as the resort of "elegant ladies", come summertime this pretty town is the slimming capital of France with a real focus on health and fitness. The Spa de Brides-les-Bains offers traditional oriental baths, aromatic steam rooms to drain out toxins, plus every type of sauna known to man.

Getting there: Directski (0800 587 0945; www.directski.com) offers a seven-night self-catering break at the three-star Résidence Cybèle from £182 per person, based on four sharing, including return flights from Gatwick and transfers.

41. WINTER PARK, USA

Huge snowfalls and plenty of fresh powder make the unpretentious town of Winter Park in Colorado, with its world-class mountains, a magnet for lovers of snow-sports, whether boarding, downhill or cross- country skiing. Cross-country skiers will find plenty of ski areas, all with generally excellent snow and a total of over 125 miles of well groomed trails. Tours into the back-country add to the variety of terrain and for many, Winter Park is an all round world class resort.

Getting there: Crystal (0870 160 6040; www.crystalholidays.co.uk) offers a seven-night b&b break at the Olympia Lodge from £445 per person, based on four sharing, including return flights from Gatwick and transfers.

42. HEAVENLY, USA

The stunning resort of Heavenly is less than an hour away from Reno airport on California's border with Nevada, at the south end of Lake Tahoe. The après-ski in Heavenly is all simply extraordinary with big gaming casinos on the Nevada side where top-name pop and jazz stars, comedians and circus acts entertain. The skiing is also unique with large areas of widely spaced trees and fabulous fresh powdered snow.

Getting there: Directski (0800 587 0945; www.directski.com) offers a seven-night half-board break at the four-star Lakeland Village hotel from £649 per person, based on four sharing, including return flights from Heathrow via Atlanta and transfers.

43. RUKA, LAPLAND

In contrast to the glare of Europe's more ostentatious resorts, Lapland offers the novice skier unspoiled, pristine surroundings, trees dripping with snow, a wilderness of frozen lakes and snow-sculpted forests. Close to the Arctic Circle, the resort of Ruka is a fabulous place to learn to ski, thanks to its combination of uncrowded slopes, small classes and friendly, English speaking instructors.

Getting there: Crystal Holidays (0870 405 5047; www.crystalski.co.uk) offers a seven-night self-catering break at Lodge Ruka Cottages from £365 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights and transfers.

44. JACKSON HOLE, USA

Call yourself an expert? Watch the locals drop over the lip of Corbet's Couloir before making your mind up then follow if you dare. Jackson is a mecca for expert skiers the world over. A cowboy town high in the USA's Grand Teton mountains, its testing steep runs, deep powder and narrow chutes put it in gut-wrenching category. Ski the superb powder in the Cheyenne, Tensleep and Laramie Bowls, or take a ski shuttle to Grand Targhee for more challenges.

Getting there: Inghams (020-8780 4433; www.inghams.co.uk) offer a seven-night room-only break at the Ranch Inn from £451 per person, based on four sharing, including return flights from Gatwick via Minneapolis and transfers.

45. MADONNA DI CAMPIGLIO, ITALY

Set high in the Dolomites, this resort is a fabulous family destination. Featuring high quality accommodation and a more sophisticated après ski scene than most European resorts, Madonna offers an excellent range of skiing from the gentle slopes of Campo Carlo Magno to the terrifying 3-Tre World Cup run. Book your children into the local ski school and their English-speaking instructor will come and collect them from the hotel each morning, a service anybody who has skied with young children will surely appreciate. Getting there: Directski (0800 587 0945; www.directski.com) offers a seven-night self-catering break at the Residence Posta and Sport from £329, based on three sharing, including return flights from Gatwick and transfers.

46. SALZBURG, AUSTRIA

The Sound of Music city and Mozart's birthplace, Salzburg is a ski destination with a difference, combining history with culture and the best of a city break, while the surrounding ski resorts, such as Zell am See, Kitzbühel, Obertauern, Gastein Valley, Leogang and Schladming, provide the perfect opportunity to ski. Getting there: Crystal (0870 403 3310; www.crystalholidays.co.uk) offers a three-night b&b break at the Hotel Markus Sittukus in Salzburg from £178 per person, including transfers to nearby ski resort by coach, accompanied by an English-speaking guide who will also arrange lift pass and ski hire to minimise waiting time, return flights and transfers.

47. SAAS FEE, SWITZERLAND

Feast your eyes on the towering mountains and dazzling blue glaciers that form a stunning backdrop to the charming Alpine village of Saas Fee, then indulge your body with the sumptuous spa treatments of the five-star Ferienart Resort & Spa, a luxurious spa resort in the centre of the village. Less conventional treatments include a Chardonnay wrap, where guests are smothered in grape-skins and a choice of massages, spa treatments, sauna and steambaths. Skiing is phenomenal for all levels.

Getting there: Inghams (020-8780 4433; www.inghams.co.uk) offer a seven-night half-board break at the Ferienart Resort & Spa from £857 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights and transfers.

48. LILLEHAMMER, NORWAY

The little lakeside town of Lillehammer, where the 1994 Olympics took place, is not actually a downhill resort at all. It is one of the best places in Europe for cross-country skiing as it comes as naturally to Norwegians as walking. Lillehammer is great for families and beginners with plenty of activities for non-skiers. There is a huge variety of activities including the Olympic Bobsleigh and luge track, dogsledding, night skiing, to ice-skating, tobogganing and much more.

Where: Directski (0800 587 0945; www.directski.com) offers a three-night half-board break at the three-star Hotel Molla from £359 per person, based on four sharing, including return flights from Heathrow and transfers.

49. LES DEUX ALPES, FRANCE

One of the liveliest of the French resorts, Les Deux Alpes is busy and cosmopolitan after dark with a huge choice of bars, restaurants and clubs. For live music, The Secret has a good season-long choice, The Avalanche is considered the best club in the resort, but the options are seemingly endless with variety from O'Brians Irish Bar to Crowded House for lively atmosphere or the Windsor Pub, popular with Brits! The skiing's pretty good too, ranking among the highest in France with 200kms of ski slopes.

Getting there: Thomson Ski (0870 606 1470; www.thomsonski.co.uk) offers a seven-night self-catering break at the Residence du Soleil from £309 per person, based on five sharing, including return flights from Gatwick and transfers.

50. ST JOHANN, AUSTRIA

Located less than two hours from Salzburg airport, St. Johann in the Tyrol is a true family resort. The ski school and kindergarten meeting places are located just off the main street. Bobo, the local 12-foot penguin, will welcome your little ones into ski school on the first morning. Skiing is taught with a huge emphasis on having fun. Aside from the skiing, there are other great family-friendly activities locally including ice- skating, sleigh rides and tobogganing.

Getting there: Directski (0800 587 0945; www.directski.com) offers a seven-night half-board break at the four-star Sport Hotel Austria from £519 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights from Gatwick and transfers.

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