I began skiing when I was in my 30s, which is rather late. The reason was a new partner who was an avid skier and I simply didn’t want to lag behind. He treated me to a trip to St. Moritz in Switzerland and arranged for lessons with a private instructor. The man was a star and discovered that I had a natural talent for the sport. I made real progress and after a week of daily training, I even glided down the Corviglia with him close behind. I didn’t fall over much, didn’t break a leg or suffer any other injury, just enjoyed myself and got seriously hooked.
Thirty years later, the partner is long since history but my love of skiing remains. Wherever in the world that I travel to and it’s winter, I take the opportunity to find a ski resort and spend a few hours on the slopes. As I got older, I found that cross-country skiing was very much to my liking, keeping me fit and strong and less prone to break a bone. I also like company so I ski in groups. I have skied in some rather exotic places that do not spring to mind when thinking about ski resorts — like Turkey and Lebanon. I haven’t yet been to Ski Dubai which is a part of the Mall of the Emirates and has real snow … and real penguins. It’s definitely on my bucket list.
Here is a list of my favorite ski resorts. Best of all, they are suitable for all levels.
1. Cortina d’Ampezzo — Italy
Cortina d’Ampezzo, also known as the Queen of the Dolomites, is located in the north of Italy, in the Veneto region. Surrounded by the southern Dolomites and in a valley formed by the river Boite, Cortina hosted the Winter Olympics in 1956 and will host them for a second time in 2026 together with Milan. The town is a hotspot for skiing and offers slopes for all levels. It’s also famous for its jet-set visitors and thriving après ski and nightlife, a truly fabulous resort where several movies were shot like For Your Eyes Only and Cliffhanger.
It is also the start and endpoint of the annual Dolomites Gold Cup Race, but amateurs are taken good care of with 87 miles of pistes, six ski schools, and some 300 instructors. The most popular ski regions are Faloria, Cristallo, Pocol-Tofana and Cinque Torri. Apart from all the summer and winter activities, Cortina is not only beautiful but also an elegant town. The best of Italian fashion is to be found on the shopping street called Corso Italia together with chic cafes and restaurants. Bar La Suite is a favorite location for après ski.
2. Mzaar Ski Resort — Lebanon
Despite having so many snow-covered mountains, skiing wasn’t practiced in Lebanon until 1913. In that year, a Lebanese engineer who had worked and studied in Switzerland returned to his home country and introduced the sport to his friends. As they say: “the rest is history.” Skiing took off big time, a federation was founded and ski resorts started to spring up. The first was in The Cedars with the first lift established in 1953. The Lebanese became so proficient in skiing that they took part for the first time, in the 1948 St. Moritz/Switzerland Winter Olympics. They didn’t win a medal but have been participating ever since.
The chicest and most popular resort today is Mzaar, just an hour’s drive from Beirut. Due to the proximity, it’s actually possible to ski in the morning and swim in the Mediterranean in the afternoon. Mzaar features 25 lifts and 50 runs down from the Dome du Mzaar right into the premises of the elegant Intercontinental Mzaar Hotel. Not only can you enjoy the scenic drive from Beirut but also the skiing facilities for all levels plus ski schools and instructors, the thriving après ski scene in the hotel, and several great spa treatments to relax after a day on the slopes. So exquisite and beautiful is the resort, that rumor has it, chic Beirutis come down on weekends dressed in the latest ski fashion without ever setting foot on the slopes, just to see, be seen, and enjoy the atmosphere.
3. Geilo — Norway
Located in the Hallingscarvel mountains between Bergen and Oslo, in the middle of the country, lies the ski resort of Geilo. You couldn’t wish for a greater variety of winter sports activities, from 40 slopes of various levels to cross country skiing, dog sledding, fat tire biking, snowshoe trekking, and much more. Kids taking their first steps on skis will be as happy as daredevils who like to whizz along among the trees. This being Norway, the great emphasis lies on saunas and wellness treatments which can be had at the Vestlia Resort. Feed your stomach with a warming meal at the family farm/café Prestholtseter. In winter, it opens in the 7th week of the year, in February, and you can sample typical dishes with a lot of sour cream.
4. Niseko — Japan
Think powder snow and you have the essence of Niseko. Located 63 miles south of Sapporo, it hosted the Winter Olympics in 1972. Niseko is actually four resorts on one mountain called Niseko Annupuri. They are: Niseko Hanazono resort, especially beginner friendly; Niseko Tokyu Grand which is the largest of the resorts; Niseko Village (Green Leaf) is ideal as a base for off-piste skiing; and finally the family-friendly Niseko Annupuri International Ski Area. The desirable powder snow that is so typical for these ski resorts comes from the winds of the Eurasian continent that pick up moisture from the warm Sea of Japan, which in turn forms snow clouds that eventually unload the powder snow. There are plenty of slopes and lifts, skiing as well as snowboarding, and après ski is popular at the Hanazono Resort.
5. Erciyes — Turkey
Mount Erciyes is a volcano in Cappadocia approximately 10 miles from the city of Kayseri and its airport. It is one of Turkey’s oldest ski resorts, very popular among the locals with whom you can socialize happily with on the slopes, on the lifts, and in tea rooms and restaurants. There are two valleys between the cones of the volcano with well-kept slopes, off-piste skiing in powder snow, 14 lifts, and ski schools for beginners. In Erciyes, you can stay at the rather basic Erciyes Hotel, but it has a door to piste accessibility, ski hire, and ski school booking onsite as well as a bar and live entertainment at night. Given the proximity of Kayseri, I preferred the luxurious Radisson Blu with the fabulous spa, views over the mountains, and sightseeing in Kayseri, especially the carpet, gold, and silk bazaar.
6. Aspen — Colorado
Aspen, Colorado is one of the world’s best and most famous ski resorts where you are bound to share the slopes with celebrities and movie stars. Its popularity has also made Aspen one of the most expensive locations in the U.S. to buy property.
Located in an area of the Rocky Mountains known as the Sawatch Range, Aspen features four ski resorts with a variety of difficulties. From vertical drops to bowl skiing to easier slopes for beginners, Aspen’s four ski resorts offer something for skiers of every level. They are Snowmass Mountain; Buttermilk Mountain for beginners with three express lifts; Aspen Highlands, a favorite with the locals; and Aspen Mountain. When you have had enough exercise and just want to relax with a drink and hang out, there is no shortage of places in this location. Aspen and Snowmass feature more than 100 bars and clubs, one of the best-known and chic being the private Caribou Club. If this is somewhat too high-brow for you and you want to eat and party like the locals, the historic Red Onion might be more to your taste.
7. Saariselka — Finland
Saariselka is Europe’s northernmost ski resort, located in Lapland in the far north of the country. It is best reached by air from Helsinki. Located between two mountains (fells), Kaunispää and Iisakkipää, the resort offers every kind of winter sports activity and much more. Well-kept slopes of every difficulty and several lifts— some of them sometimes not operating when there are too strong winds for them to be safe — are there for the skiers. There is also a special kiddy area and Aurora, Finland’s longest toboggan. Ski schools and instructors are available for those who try their first “steps.” Snowshoeing is popular as well as cross country skiing, and you can try your hand at an ice fishing safari on lake Inari. It even provides you with warm, thermal clothes and boots. You can grill your catch (if any) over a campfire — if you feel really romantic, you can get married in Saariselka in the St. Olaf’s Chapel. Apparently, quite a few couples do so. It certainly makes a difference from a beach wedding to being driven to church in a sled pulled by husky dogs or reindeer. You may stay in style and spend your honeymoon in the nearby Hotel & Igloo Village Kakslauttanen.
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