As we ease into the last part of the year and winter approaches, the lifelong debate continues: are you team hot or cold? If you’ve been daydreaming of a wintery escape to stunning snow-capped mountain ranges, luxury travel operator Scott Dunn, who first found its footing in the travel industry over three decades ago as an exceptional ski-holiday company, is in the perfect position to suggest some of the world’s most sumptuous ski destinations.
Home to perfect powder and awe-inspiring landscapes, these destinations aren’t just ideal for the skiing to be had, they also boast a wide range of activities for travellers of every disposition. This year, Scott Dunn celebrates yet another milestone: They’ve just been named Best Specialist Tour Operator in Condé Nast Traveller’s annual Readers’ Choice Awards for an incredible 10th year in a row.
Below, we round up some of Scott Dunn’s top picks for a snowy escapade. Whether you’re a beginner to the world of snow sports, or an avid skier ready to put your skills to the test, Scott Dunn’s seasoned travel experts are always ready to help recommend the perfect activities and experiences.
Experience ‘magical’ slopes and go winter festival hopping in Hokkaido, Japan
Hokkaido has long been synonymous with a picture-perfect winter wonderland, and it’s no wonder. In the famed ‘Powder Triangle’ of Niseko, Rusutsu and Furano, ski enthusiasts will be pleased to find metres deep, dry powder, one that’s often dubbed magical by skiers of every level. The snow in the region is famed for its silky feel: For veteran skiers, that makes it easier to gain speed and turn, while ski novices will appreciate the softness of the powder, which can help cushion any potential bumps or falls.
The region also plays host to numerous snow festivals every winter, making for the perfect way to decompress and explore the city after a long day on the slopes. Japan’s largest winter snow festival, the Sapporo Yuki Matsuri, is an event that draws millions of visitors from Japan and around the world to Sapporo each year, and features incredible snow and ice sculptures, snow rides and other attractions, all with a wonderfully convivial atmosphere. And it’s not the only festival in the region, either — Hokkaido also plays host to numerous other festivals during the winter, such as the Asahikawa Fuyu Matsuri, which holds a Guinness World Record for the world’s largest snow sculpture, the Otaru Yuki Akari no Michi, which transforms the charming harbour city of Otaru with dozens of snow lanterns, candles and lights scattered about the canals, and the Lake Shikaribetsu Kotan, where a man-made village wrought of snow and ice appears, replete with igloo lodges, bars, and an open-air onsen bath.
Winter is also one of the best times to taste Hokkaido’s exceptional seafood, especially crabs. Be sure to sample the region’s signature King Crab (Tarabagani), which boasts a rich, thick taste, along with the sweet-tasting Snow Crab (Zuwaigani) in mid-winter, and Horsehair Crab (Kegani), beloved for its dense umami flavour, from late winter — the perfect meal to round off a satisfying day on the slopes.
PHOTO – HOKKAIDO SEAFOOD
Ski from ‘hut-to-hut’ and stay in family-run rifugios in the Italian Dolomites
The UNESCO-listed peaks of mighty the Dolomites offer some of the most beautiful settings for those who enjoy cross country skiing, excursions with mountain guides, snow shoeing, ice climbing or simply sledging. It’s also the best place to experience the Dolomite Superski, a carousel of 12 interconnected ski resorts with 1,200km of prepared pistes, all set against some of the world’s most beautiful backdrops. The spectacular Dolomite mountains also hide a trove of off-piste wonders that can scarcely be found elsewhere in the world.
PHOTO – CORTINA D AMPEZZO IN THE ITALIAN DOLOMITES
Enjoy the breathtaking natural beauty of the Dolomites by staying in remote lodges called rifugios — which range from simple mountain cabins to more elaborate lodges — scattered around the region. Each rifugio offers different experiences and unique scenic views depending on each location. Some, for example, require cable cars for access: the higher and more remote the rifugio, the more amazing the views will be. At these rifugios you’ll find hearty offerings like dumplings and ragù, along with a steaming cup of espresso — the perfect bookend between ski runs. Gourmands will also be delighted by the abundance of lively après ski and restaurant options in the region; the area is also home to several historic Michelin-starred restaurants.
PHOTO – ALPINE PICNIC IN THE DOLOMITESPHOTO – DOLOMITES – SKIING
For those looking for a more fixed base to ski out of, there’s the family-run Rosa Alpina, which is nestled in the charming village of San Cassiano. The property is also home to the renowned restaurant St Hubertus, the famed 3-Michelin star restaurant. Families and those travelling in larger groups will adore Chalet Zeno — a part of the Rosa Alpina — a stylish chalet apartment that comfortably sleeps up to 7, and overlooks both the village of San Cassiano and the majestic Dolomite mountains.
Have an adrenaline-fuelled adventure in Whistler, Canada
In Whistler, Canada, you’ll find some of the most varied and sprawling ski terrain in North America — some call it some of the best skiing that can be had in the region. From large, above-the-treeline open bowls to smooth cruising terrain, and glacier skiing through chutes and gullies, the two spectacular mountains in the region — Whistler and Blackcomb — present a dazzling expanse of terrain that will keep experts happy for weeks on end, and offer beginners a wide range of activities as well.
PHOTO – GARIBALDI LAKE IN WHISTLER
Beyond regular skiing, Whistler’s varied landscape also allows thrillseekers to pursue plenty of other outdoor activities: Snowmobiling, dog sledding, zip lining and even glacier skiing — there are plenty of other winter sports to be done in Whistler. Tuckered out from all the activities, but can’t stay away from the slopes? Come sundown, head outdoors for a moonlit snowshoe cookout, and savour campfire favourites while you gaze upon the stars.
PHOTO – WHISTLER
Be sure to visit the pedestrian-only Whistler Village after you’re done skiing for the day: In the winter, visitors often liken it to an alpine wonderland. Take a leisurely stroll through the streets, stopping by local boutiques, quaint cafés, and other ski shops. Further up the road lies the Four Seasons Whistler, a luxury hotel and resort that combines rustic mountain charm with modern European elegance. Plus, since the hotel was host to the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, their team of dedicated ski concierges are well-equipped to prepare you for your day out on the slopes.
Go off-the-grid, ski, and watch orcas with the whole family in Iceland
Epic experiences, spectacular scenery: Iceland has it all. Beyond the trendy capital city of Reykjavik — which itself boasts a vibrant atmosphere and lively food scene — you’ll find a sprawling range of wilderness that plays host to some of the most exciting activities for adventure lovers of all ages.
Looking to go off the beaten track? Head further out to Iceland’s scenic Troll Peninsula – which may sound intimidating, but is in reality home to some of the country’s most extraordinary mountainscapes. Troll Peninsula also boasts excellent powder quality, which can be attributed to the maritime climate, and varies between deep powder and corn snow. For seasoned skiers who are looking to try something new, the region’s 1,500 square miles of skiable terrain and the extended daylight hours make it the perfect for heli-skiing, where the skier reaches the top of a mountain by a helicopter instead of a ski lift.
PHOTO – ELEVEN DEPALRPHOTO – DEPLAR
One of the best ways to experience Iceland’s wilderness at its best is at Deplar Farm, a former sheep farm tucked away in a secluded corner of the Peninsula. Each of the Deplar Farm’s 13 rooms offers fantastic views, whether of the dramatic mountains or the peaceful lake. Soak in the views while snowshoeing through the area, or while fat biking through groomed trails around the valley. To decompress after a heart-pounding day of heli-skiing, go whale watching in the nearby fjords, or contemplate upon the incredible night sky — it’s the perfect way to unwind after a long day of hitting the slopes.
PHOTO – ICELAND WINTER
Indulge in unfettered luxury and unparalleled skiing in the famed Swiss Alps
Few skiing destinations are as iconic as the Swiss Alps, and for good reason. Put together pristine snow, magnificent mountains, and an incredible interconnected system of trains, gondolas and cable cars, and you have all the makings of a skier’s paradise.
PHOTO – ANDERMATT -SWITZERLAND
An exceptional destination requires an exceptional way to travel. One of the best ways to experience the Swiss Alps, and to visit the various ski slopes in the region, is through the famed Glacier Express, one of, if not the most, dramatic and scenic ways to experience the Swiss Alps. Travel aboard the Glacier Express in this unique itinerary from Scott Dunn, which whisks you away to some of the most exclusive resorts and ski slopes in the region, each with its own unique terrain — in both comfort and sumptuous style.
PHOTO – GLACIER EXPRESS, SWITZERLAND
The journey begins in Zermatt, the famously car-free mountain village dominated by the mighty Matterhorn. Wide runs and challenging terrain make the area perfect for skiers of every level. From there, the Glacier Express will take you to the charming, traditional village of Andermatt. The Swiss Alps have long been a byword for classic, old-world luxury, one that’s subtle and not at all ostentatious, and few properties represent this as well as the Chedi Andermatt. Skiing here is divided across three uncrowded mountains, making the property the perfect base to hit the slopes.
The final stop on the itinerary is St Moritz, one of the most glamorous ski resorts in the world, and home to the legendary Cresta Run, a natural ice skeleton racing toboggan track. You’ll leave Andermatt by late morning, allowing you to enjoy a leisurely lunch as you pull slowly towards St Moritz, arriving just in time for an after-lunch cocktail. As Switzerland’s largest interconnected region with over 350km of pistes, St Moritz is a haven for skiers of all levels. Non-skiers will also be pleased by the region’s world class restaurants, spas, and many a sunny terrace.
Christmas, in particular, is one of the most popular times to visit the Swiss Alps. There’s a certain intangible magic in the air, especially given all the winter markets and seasonal attractions that are on-going, all of which contribute to the convivial atmosphere.
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