Racing down Mount Parnassus, the pantheon of pistes
You probably have not considered Greece for your next skiing holiday. And yet, 70% of the country is covered in mountains and has plenty of snowy surprises in store. So this year, set off for the ski slopes of Mount Parnassus, located 180 kilometres north of Athens. The mild Mediterranean climate starts to change as you approach Arachova. Perched 968 metres above sea level, this cosmopolitan village has managed to preserve all its rustic charm. You set up base camp at the Santa Marina Arachova Resort & Spa, a hotel with lots of character. Elegant suites with to-die-for views over the surrounding peaks and ancient city of Delphi, a large heated indoor pool, a luxury spa... Everything is in place for a most comfortable stay.
However, the lure of the snow forces you out of your enchanting refuge to head for the slopes of Mount Parnassus. Very popular with Athenians, Greece's number one ski resort has 36 kilometres of runs rising to an altitude of between 1640 m and 2260 m. With your ski pass booked online on the resort's website and your rented ski gear, you ascend the sacred mountain, once dedicated to Apollo, aboard ski lifts bearing the names of heroes and deities from Antiquity. Your lift is Hermes and as you climb, the magical vista of the Gulf of Corinth glistening on the horizon comes into view. This majestic ski area is enveloped in complete silence. Feast your eyes before racing down the wide, carefully groomed blue and red pistes.
When you get back to your hotel, sink into a hot tub to ease your tired muscles. In the evening, in Arachova, there is a really lively atmosphere in the shops and tavernas along the road to Delphi. Ravenous from the day's exertions, you head to To Tsoukali, the village's gastronomic restaurant, to savour chicken basted in white wine dished up by charismatic chef Yannis. A meal blessed by the gods of Olympus themselves.
Santa Marina Arachova Resort & Spa
+30 2267 031954
EO Livadias Amfissas, 44
+30 2267 029248
Skiing with The Shining in Oregon
Setting out from Seattle, you have a four-hour drive ahead of you to Timberline. A steep and sometimes snowy road leads up to this mountain resort in Oregon which boasts the longest ski season in North America. Continue your ascent through the deep forests of Mount Hood to Timberline Lodge, a historic hotel perched 1800 metres above sea level. You shudder as the surroundings make you think of The Shining. In fact, this wilderness served as the setting for several outdoor scenes from this cult film.
Check in and make yourself at home in this local institution, opened in 1937 by President Roosevelt himself. You can almost hear the murmur of ghost stories in its wood-clad decor, which inspired Stephen King to write his novel, subsequently adapted for the big screen by Stanley Kubrick. A cosy night's sleep puts your mind at rest and you cannot wait to get out and explore this fabulous area with 41 runs for skiers of all levels. Skis on your feet, you take the chairlift up to Palmer and admire the highest peak in Oregon. Delighted by the quality of the snow, exhilaration takes hold as you whoosh down through the subalpine forest. If you are experienced enough, try your hand at the ramps and moguls at the Freestyle Terrain, a park devoted to freestyling.
Settle your emotions with a delicious hot chocolate by the crackling fire in the lounge at the Timberline Lodge. The view out of the window is dominated by the snowy silhouette of majestic Mount Hood. After a stylish dinner at the Cascade Dining Room, the hotel restaurant, you can have even more fun by joining a guided snowshoe walk by the light of the full moon.
Timberline Lodge Ski Area
27500 E Timberline Road
United States of America
+1 503 272 3311
Powder paradise in Japan
In winter, the mountainous region of Tohoku is decked out in white. So, try out a Japanese ski experience in one of the many mid-mountain resorts on the archipelago. A good choice is Appi Kogen, ranked the best ski resort in Asia by CNN. It is easy to reach, just a three-hour train journey from Tokyo, and attracts winter sports enthusiasts and families in search of snow-filled adventure.
Drop off your cases at the Appi Kogen Onsen Hotel in a room decorated in warm tones. Then, head to a shop to rent your ski gear and kit yourself out from top to toe. The salesperson recommends a snowboard, ideal in the light snow, as well as a face mask to protect against the cold. Out on the pistes, temperatures often hover around -10°C or below. The resort's bilingual staff will help you buy your pass and point you in the direction of the chairlifts.
On the upper slopes of Mount Maemori, whose summit reaches 1,305 m, in the heart of the Appi Highlands, you will find 21 groomed runs, freshly covered in powdery snow. Exploring this well-marked playground accompanied by local skiers gives you a sense of real pleasure. After a bowl of ramen, noodles in a meat broth seasoned with miso, you set off again with renewed vigour. A bit further on, families hurtle down the slopes on snow tyres shouting with glee.
After all this sport, a bit of comfort is in order. A corridor leads from your hotel straight to the natural hot springs. Immersed in a sodium-rich bath, you wax lyrical about the soothing properties of the onsen, the traditional Japanese spa. Seek out further pleasures at the renowned izakaya restaurant; on the menu, you will find snow crab legs, melt-in-the-mouth maezawa beef and other refined dishes that leave you with emotional memories of your skiing holiday in Appi Kogen.
Appi Kogen Onsen Hotel
605-365 Appi Kogen
+81 (0)195 73 5010
Skiing heaven high in Morocco's Atlas Mountains
Winter in Marrakech, a thick blanket of snow covers the peaks of the Atlas Mountains, rising up beyond Morocco's ochre-hued city. Head for these pristine summits for a complete change of scenery. On the way, do not miss the fork in the road to the hamlet of Oukaïmeden. After a good hour's drive winding between Berber villages that cling to the hillside, you arrive at your destination. Perched above the clouds, at an altitude of 2,620 m, the highest ski resort in North Africa has 20 or so runs to keep skiers happy. A drag lift takes you up to the summit of the resort. You feel extremely small standing at the foot of Mount Toubkal which soars to over 4,000 m. Looking south, the views over the plain of Ouarzazate, nicknamed the Door to the Desert, will leave you speechless.
Inspired by this striking panorama, you glide up and down the slopes to your heart's content. After a lunch break, comprising meat and vegetables cooked over a wood fire, at Chez Juju, the restaurant at the Auberge de l'Anghour, you set off on a snowshoe walk overlooked by the mighty Atlas Mountains. Bewitched by the magic of Oukaïmeden, you congratulate yourself on having decided to stay the night in one of the inn's rooms with its wood-panelled walls and mountain views. As the sun disappears behind the mountains, warm yourself up by the wood stove purring away in the dining room. Tomorrow, if you have booked it with the hotel staff, a helicopter will drop you off in an out-of-the-way powder field, where the ultimate skiing experience awaits.
Auberge de l'Anghour
+212 524 31 90 05
Refuge among the cedars of Lebanon
Are you looking for a skiing destination that is really off the beaten track? What about setting your sights on Lebanon? The country, famous for its cedars, is one of the few places on earth where you can enjoy the thrills of skiing and take in the sea air all in the same day. With mountains running the length of the country, the highest summit being Qurnat as Sawda' at over 3,000 m, this eastern land offers skiers the choice of six resorts which usually enjoy good snow cover.
From Beirut, take the coastal motorway to the town of Jbeil, then head inland and up towards Aannaya and the monastery of Saint Charbel Makhlouf. After an hour and a quarter on the road, your little white Lebanese paradise, Laqlouq, comes into view on a mid-mountain plateau, surrounded by jagged peaks and tree-lined terraces. Immediately won over by the visual harmony of the place, you set off to conquer the slopes with some cross-country skiing. The ski area is free from manmade constructions. One of nine ski chairs takes you 1,830 metres above sea level. You gaze out over the wild, natural landscape munching on a manakeesh, a thyme and cheese flatbread that you bought in Beirut that morning.
Another peaceful panorama, over white-washed trees and silent mountains, awaits on the balcony of your chalet in the Shangri-La hotel complex. Next morning, you leave this rustic wood and stone refuge, to ski among the ancient cedar trees in Lebanon's oldest winter sports resort, appropriately named The Cedars.
Shangri-La Laklouk Village Vacances
Aannaya - Laqlouq road
+961 3 44 11 12