With winter comes the snow and with snow the season of Skiing.
So the question is, do we still have some places in the world which are easy to reach, relatively upmarket for our Facebook profiles, family-friendly, and yet, offering a fresh experience?
This is a guest blog by Ski Enthusiast Muhnochwa, a travel writer who lives out of his suitcase. All the views and pictures in this Blog Post belong to Muhnochwa!
Many of us in India have had our fill, enjoying one-day Skiing sessions at Auli or Manali. Muhnochwa brings to light Skiing destinations barely nine hours by flight from India, which make for perfect family Skiing destinations. Before you pay for your tickets don’t forget to check the passport expiry date on your passport to avoid any last minute panic.
I got hooked on skiing more than a decade ago. For the last five years, every year, I make it a point to visit this one particular town in the cradle of Alps. It’s beautiful and almost fairy-tale like.
Skiing is an all-day, week-long, full-season activity. It takes a little bit of time to get used to it, but once you are independent, you have hundreds of kilometer of slopes in each ski resort affording views like no other, waiting to be explored.
With the fear of drawing crowds to my little haven for the last decade, but trusting your responsible tourism, I am finally going to let out my secret.
winter wonderland called the Alps
Roughly nine hours away from any major Indian city is this winter wonderland called the Alps (add the Pyrenees as well). You might have even been there already, up via the gondolas of Titlis and the Glacier Express, in the summer months.
But you have to see its metamorphosis in the winters. It turns magical from January to March, with lights, all white and bright.
Where do we go
The Alps have everything you need for your first ski holiday.
In Austria, Germany, Switzerland (explore Lucerne), France, and Italy, you have hundreds of possible base locations. All you need to do is to close your eyes and put your finger on a town, look for the nearest airport and book your tickets.
Ok, there is more to it, but that’s where you can make a good start.
Ok, let’s make it a little easier. If you want to be skiing in the Alps, France has the most number of resorts, and the best base airport for reaching them is either Geneva, Switzerland, or Lyon, France.
There are plenty of one-stop flights from major Indian cities to these destinations.
Once you are there, you can head to the Chamonix region (at the best of Europe’s tallest mountain, Mont Blanc), Les 3 Vallees (you will find snow here in summers as well), Courchevel (can be reached directly with a private jet – I have never tried this option), Tignes – Val D’Isere or Meribel.
The tourism websites for these locations are rich with information, about places to stay, things to eat, buying passes, etc.
Switzerland tends to be a bit more expensive but the sights can be exhilarating.
Once, in the slopes of Grindelwald at the base of the majestic Eiger, my mother said the chalets looked like choco-chips on top of vanilla ice-cream, a giant one. She was fairly accurate in her description.
The most movie-like location for skiing also happens to be in the Swiss Alps – Zermatt. With the imposing Matterhorn rising up above the town, skiing here draws people from around the world.
You might have also heard of Gstaad. It happens to be Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor’s base station for skiing. If you are vying for a glamorous holiday, Switzerland should be to your taste.
Skiing in Austria is slightly easier on one’s pocket. Head to Innsbruck for all things skiing. Similarly, Garmisch, close to Munich, Isola 2000, close to Milan and Turin are also major draws from the region.
One of the nicer places to ski nearby is not in the Alps. Head to Andorra from Barcelona or Madrid and you have the best snow in the Pyrenees.
There are many many many more locations. All these places have hundreds of kilometers of slopes, hundreds of ski lifts, and fantastic places to spend a good 7-8 days. If you love mountains, I can assure you will fall in love again.
What to expect on a ski holiday
Snow. Lots of snow. But that’s not all.
Unlike winters in India, winters in the Alps are extremely comfortable because of central heating. The white mountain slopes are the winter version of Ibiza: skiing, music, parties, and food.
The infrastructure in these ski resorts means you spend most time going down, not up, thanks to the continuously running chairlifts. And when you get tired, there are cafes and bars – yes, at the top, as well as in hidden corners of these slopes – which are perfect for a beer on a sunny day or a hot chocolate on a gloomy one.
I am a minor foodie. My entire motivation for getting up to ski is to reach a particular cafe for morning coffee and another one for a proper meaty lunch.
Then as the day ends, the bars open. You can either head straight for a round of drinks before dinner in a restaurant with a fireplace, or if you are with children, head straight for the meal and then back to your chalet.
So a typical day looks something like this:
Get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, up the slopes by 10 am, an hour-long lunch break, back to the town by 5 pm, a round of warm wine or a cold beer, take shower, head out for dinner.
Repeat that every day for six days (six days!! Yes, you get better, you explore more and don’t worry, you won’t run out of new slopes) and you have what the world calls a ski break.
Of course, there is no compulsion to do just this. You can do other things like ice-skating, sledding, snow-trail walking, etc.
Skiing with Children
In case you were wondering what to do with your children, the slopes are full of them, skiing in a row like ducklings. My niece is four now. She started learning to ski last year.
When Skiing with Children, don’t forget to pack thermals, fleeces, ski socks, snowsuit, gloves, and Goggles. For a more comprehensive list read here.
When she was a year old, she used to head out in her pram, up the slopes in Gondolas to get some sun and join us skiers for lunch.
What does it cost
The major costs for a ski break can be broken down into following –
- Flights + visa = approx INR 45k per person
- Ski pass (for a week, adult) = approx 250 Euros or INR 20k
- Ski equipment rentals (for a week, adult) = approx 100 Euros or INR 8k
- Stay (for a week, per person) = approx 200 Euros or INR 16k.
- Chalets come with a kitchen, so food costs can vary.
But all in all, a cost for a week of the excursion is approximately 120k per adult (you have to stay there for a week). And believe you me, this skiing business, it’s like alcohol. You can’t stop at one. You want to do it again and again and again…
Are you a Ski Enthusiast like Muhnochwa? Don’t forget to write about your experience in the comments.