As winter is fast approaching, you might be searching for the perfect post-Christmas memorable trip for yourself, your spouse, and even the whole family.
No matter where you choose to go, my experience is that a winter holiday, or some winter long weekends, bring a brilliant contrast to the dark evenings and wet weather the UK experiences at this time of year.
For many, the ideal winter getaway is not a hot, sunny location, but rather an adventure to the mountains for skiing, snowboarding, climbing or trekking. Whether you take a winter holiday every year, or are looking to start this winter, there are many stunning locations you could visit.
So, if you are looking for a new locale to hit the slopes, try a new winter sport or simply shop, eat and relax, here are my thoughts on three alternative personal winter favourites.
1. Chamonix, France
Chamonix Mont-Blanc, Haute-Savoie, Frankreich
One of France’s oldest and most established year-round resorts, Chamonix’s attractions speak for themselves. After hosting the Winter Olympics in 1924, Chamonix became a popular destination for the European elite to enjoy during the cold winter months and for summer mountain adventures.
Located below the magnificent Mont Blanc massif, close to the Swiss border, the beautiful town of Chamonix could be exactly the place you need for a winter break. A proper year-round town, whether you are a fair-weather skier or a hardcore enthusiast; or if fancy your first try at ice climbing or a beginner’s alpine ascent such as the Arrete Cosmique or the Petit Verte, Chamonix has it all. Chamonix is one of my favourite places in the world. Comprising picture-perfect views of France’s largest glacier, Mer de Glace, the daunting needle-sharp peaks of the Aiguilles du Chamonix, the sheer mass of Mont Blanc looking up nearly 4,000 metres from the valley floor, the views are spectacular.
One of the resort’s most famous runs is the Vallée Blanche, a 20km off-piste run (guide essential) snaking down the epic mountainside. If you’re a beginner, there are starter-friendly runs but really Chamonix is ideal for intermediate to advanced skiers.
When it comes to accommodation, you can choose to stay in either a town-based or mountainside chalet that provides amazing views, total luxury inside, and can be booked with a full staff of professionals to ensure a relaxing stay. There are a handful of lovely hotels too including the 5-star Premier Albert.
If you are planning a child-free getaway, there is plenty of nightlife in Chamonix, with an array of chic (and edgy!) bars, restaurants, and clubs to help you unwind after a day on the mountain. During the day you’ll find stores ranging from luxury designer to hardcore mountain equipment to browse at your leisure.
What’s more, Chamonix is only 90 minutes away from Geneva airport by car, great for a long weekend – so your travels should be conveniently quick, too.
2. Aspen, Colorado
Looking at Aspen Colorado during the winter season
If you wish to venture further afield for your ski adventure this winter, Aspen could be the ideal location for your mountain retreat.
Known as a magnet for skiers all around the US, the mountain town of Aspen, Colorado is home to a number of adjoining resorts, all with plenty to offer any group of holidaymakers looking for great skiing, luxurious accommodation, and amazing food.
Depending on your ability, and the amount you wish to ski or snowboard, any one of the Aspen ski resorts can meet your needs.
More advanced skiers tend to flock to Aspen Highlands; Snowmass is great for intermediates; whereas beginner skiers can find what they need at Buttermilk or Aspen Mountain. However, there are opportunities for everyone at each resort – and if you need them, private lessons from expert skiers are available.
Of course, when the day on the slopes is done, Aspen has a huge amount to offer off the mountain, too. Shopping opportunities are bountiful in this coveted travel spot, including stockists of world-renowned luxury jewellers, Brent Neale and Jessica McCormack. Night life abounds as do some wonderful art galleries; frankly non-skiers would find plenty to keep them occupied for a few days.
Whilst it’s a long way away we absolutely loved our week in Aspen including a bit of unexpected excitement on New Year’s Eve when the town was closed because of a bomber; the only restaurant open was an out of town take away rib shack with a 2-hour queue. When we finally got to eat our smoke baby back ribs it was one of the best meals we had ever had…!
3. Megève, France
Winter wonderland in Megève. Walk to the Nordic ski resort La Livraz and around.
Located just across the Swiss border in France, Megève attracts loyal visitors every winter and spring. Combining French mountain charm with luxurious modern amenities and unbeatable intermediate skiing, Megève has all you need for an unforgettably relaxing winter break.
Of course, the Alps are well-known for their diverse skiing and snowboarding opportunities – and nestled snugly within the Alpine range, Megève does not disappoint and is ideal for the fair-weather skier looking to mix their sport with a lengthy, elegant lunch. A change from the more adventurous culture you feel in Chamonix.
When it comes to après-ski, Megève boasts an elegant scene. Enviable restaurants, luxury designer boutiques, and gorgeous spas are abundant in this resort, attracting an international set from Paris, London, Rome, and around the world each winter.
Plus, being just an hour’s drive from Geneva airport, Megève is ideal for a mini-break, as well as a longer, more relaxing holiday. If you’re searching for a place to whisk your significant other away for a few short days for a relaxing winter holiday you can find beautiful accommodation and easy-to-access travel arrangements in and around Megève.
For me Chamonix is the tops but all three offer their own very varied attractions.