Skiing has spread throughout the world – anywhere there is snow, a hillside and people who want to ski, lifts are built and a ski area developed. From the mini ski areas on the eastern side of North America to the high Himalayas, there are lift-served ski slopes. Instructors from the northern winters travel south to the mountains of Australia, New Zealand and South America in the summer months to work in ski schools in the developing resorts of the southern hemisphere.
The European Alps, however, are still the most popular winter playground for the holiday skier, with the mountain regions of North America also offering extensive skiing facilities.
Most resorts have development programmes for improving the service provided for skiers. Lift systems are continually being modernised, replaced or added to for the increasing number of skiers, in order to reduce waiting time and open up new slopes. Pistes and ski trails receive attention in the closed season, widening and smoothing out the ground to make skiing safer. Hotels have updated their facilities, and there are additional services and recreation activities on offer. The latest alternative snow sports of snowboarding and monoskiing are an example of the growth trend to try alternative sport.
The growing popularity of Nordic Skiing has made many resorts add cross-country trails and tracks as part of their skiing facilities. Cross-country skiing offers an inexpensive healthy activity for those who want to leisurely wander through pleasant undulating snowy terrain, or for anyone of any age who wants to test their competitive ability in Citizens Races. Summer skiing on glacier facilities is being extended in the higher Alpine areas, so that several ski resorts can now offer year-round skiing.
Austria – has the special welcoming charm of its Alpine Villages and the friendliness of mountain people. While the Eastern Alps are not as big as their neighbours, they offer much variety of skiing. The tradition of efficient ski schools and great apres-ski are plus points to consider if Austria is your choice.
France – there have been many new ski resorts developed over the past few years through the French Alps and the Pyrenees mountains. They are specifically designed to cater for the mass of skiers, with efficient lift systems and wide pistes. Purpose-built modern resorts cannot have the charm of traditional Alpine villages, but do cater for the demands of the growth in skiing, particularly with linked resort lift systems.
Italy – the main resorts are concentrated along the Alpine borders in the north of the country. Most of these are old-estabished town resorts, but there are newly developed areas. The largest linked ski-lift circuit in the world is claimed for the connected resorts around the Dolomite Mountains. Costs in Italy are reasonable and the reliable weather in the southern Alps adds to its appeal.
North America – the Canadian and U.S. Rockies and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges have developed ski resorts, with the Rockies having some excellent powder snow conditions. Of particular interest is the growth in Heli-skiing – using helicopters to fly into inaccessible snow bowls. Friendliness and efficient chairlift service is the norm at all American resorts, with extra special care given to grooming the trails.
Scotland – development of ski facilities in the Scottish Highlands has lagged behind the growth in the number of skiers. However, when weather conditions are not extreme, the skiing is enjoyable in the ‘corries’ and deep gullies, with more holiday accommodation being made available in the valleys. The established resort of Aviemore remains the most popular area, with Glenshee and the new development of Aonach Mor, Fort William, offering equally good ski sport. Spring snow skiing in Scotland has much to recommend for late season sport.
Switzerland – the highest mountain areas of the Alps are reflected in any typical Swiss resort – solid, somewhat staid, but reassuringly efficiently organized. Switzerland offers the best and most challenging of skiing, but can be generally expensive. Endeavour to keep costs down by going where tour operators have established packaged holidays. Summer skiing on glaciers is available in many areas.