For many, the first snowfall of winter triggers one of the season’s greatest joys: planning the first of many ski holidays. Skiing trips are a sure-fire way of kicking aside cabin fever and getting into the cold weather mood: cheeks rosied from the brisk air, poles dragging gently behind, as one carves fresh powder trails through the mountain trails blanketed in white towards a lodge warmed by open fires and endless hot chocolate.
The sport comes in a variety of moods, from traditionally rustic to lavish, moneyed affairs. If you’re the type looking for multiple mountains, major scene, celebrity clout, and non-stop action, Colorado has everything you’d ever need in its marquee destinations of Aspen or Vail, from sophisticated slopes to stylish digs. Meanwhile, Zermatt tops Switzerland’s many offerings, with its narrow streets and countless restaurants, all in the shadow of the Matterhorn. Farther afield, the Austrian mountain village of Kitzbühel keeps the Alpine folk spirit alive, a favorite of royalty and international celebrities. Those with an adventurous streak are often found in picturesque Jackson, Wyoming, beloved for its tony chalets and close proximity to Grand Teton National Park, or Chamonix, France, an adrenaline junkie’s dream thanks to its ultra-steep and highly rugged slopes.
Even better than a day spent on the slopes is how you rest your legs afterwards. Après-ski, the socializing that comes after skiing, be it at the town bar, the base lodge, or the resort lounge, has become synonymous with the sport, and mountain town culture is often judged by how good or authentic their scene is.
Not everyone enjoys hurtling down a mountain with their feet strapped onto pieces of metal. But there’s so much more to mountain towns than their slippery slopes. A ski weekend in Park City, Utah, known for its varied terrain, can also be spent snowshoeing or ice-skating, or familiarizing oneself with the vibrant food and music scenes in town. Visitors to Stowe, Vermont, can try their hands at dog sledding, while the main lodge at New Hampshire’s Bretton Woods has an indoor climbing wall. In Whistler, helicopter tours explore nearby ice fields and ice caves.How to choose? Use Travel + Leisure’s ski guide to choose the mountain that’s right for you.