France, New Zealand and Australia are fantastic places to ski and places that this year I have had great fun skiing in. Each of these countries has something fresh to offer and it makes me feel rather inspired to one year follow the snow around the world.
So four trips later this year what have I learned….well as an anglo-Australian I do have a pull towards Europe and adore everything French — the people, the food & wine and the snow. I generally ski around Mont Blanc — skiing the trois valley which incorporates skiing across mountains that are connected through chair lifts, button lifts and you can ski across bridges. One of my favourite ski days is to ski from Morzine – Avoriaz and occasionally up to Chatel. My favourite base is always Les Gets and use Rush Adventures a family owned business run by Chris and Beth who have a terrific brand and offer a turn-key solution to their patrons. They offer catered chalets and some have hot tubs. They have a superb website whereby upon booking in you create a profile and they do the rest — they will pick you up from Geneva airport and drive you through the villages to Les Gets, they will have ready your ski passes, ski’s and boots ready for you. So no time is wasted getting on the snow. I like to go for New Year’s as love to see on NYE the skiers descend down the mountain in a torch-lit run led by ESF and then enjoy the cauldron of Vin Chaud (mulled wine) which is offered gratis to all in the village that night — you can also listen to the DJ’s tunes on the snow and this year there was an added champagne bar. If you like extreme sports you can go snowmobile riding at night on piste in Avoriaz which is awesome or go paraponting. There are some gorgeous restaurants to select from for the chalet staff’s night off, such as Les Copeaux, L’Outa, Le Falmbeau or if you would like to go up the mountain at night on a piste basher then La Grand Ourse is for you.
New Zealand was quite a surprise this year I bought a superb deal which included a ski lodge + car + snow chains + continental breakfasts daily + 1 group dinner + Super Plus pass to 3 mountains (3 days skiing The Remarkables (45 min drive), 2 days skiing at Coronet Peak (1 hr drive) and 2 days skiing at Cardrona (1.5hr drive)) for 7 days in Queenstown. This is a fabulous location if you are a foodie there are many superb restaurants, my favourite being Botswana Butchery for the Deer wrapped in Proscuito which was very tender. For a lunch time drink head to the lake and enjoy a lovely Coal Pit, Pinot Noir at Pier located on Steamer Wharf. For a late night snack you can join the queue for a Fergburger day or night there are queues for this good quality burger. For skiing I enjoyed the smooth wide slopes of Cardrona the best, also I loved breaking the journey to enjoy a 2nd breakfast at Margaret Bowes superb General Store. In Queenstown there is so much to do when not skiing, from doing a cable car ride up Bob’s Peak Gondola to Skyline and participating in a Kiwi Haka show or simply taking in the breathtaking view whilst supping a cocktail and watching people whiz past you on the Luge below. To taking a day out to go Jet boating or do a ‘Trust the Chef’ degustation dinner with paired wines from Amisfield or tour around the wineries: Gibbston Valley Winery have a superb Wine Cave Tour, do listen to some of the commentary here:
The Remarkables was challenging driving up the mountain, this is not for the faint hearted. The views are breath-taking but unsure if my heart can take up the challenge again.
Coronet Peak – was fun and they have great ski instructors. The ice bar at the top was fun!
Cardrona was an easier drive in the zig-zag fashion climbing the slopes but it was certainly less challenging driving and excellent snow conditions in September.
Australia offers quite a few resorts in New South Wales and Victoria — this time I will focus on Victoria as this month I skied at Mt Buller (3.5hrs outside Melbourne) and Falls Creek (4.5hrs outside Melbourne). Mt Buller can be visited as a day trip you will need to carry snow chains on the mountain even if not needed. You can buy your lift pass online and load it for however many days you are skiing. There is a good little bar half way down Little Wombat run that offers an amazing hotdog (Snag in Aussie).
My new favourite ski resort in Victoria is Falls Creek I stayed at the Falls Creek Resort for a long weekend on half board superb hot breakfast with an interesting menu and dinner each night — which ranged from locally sourced sausages for sausage and mash (loved the pork and mustard) or duck confit or chicken kiev ……I had a room with a superb view of the ski lifts the Falls Creek Hotel is well positioned in the village accessible via ATS (over snow vehicle — which was a cross between a snow plough and a tractor). This resort makes sense everything works: Getting to the snow…on the snow…the great snow! I loved this ski in/ski out hotel family owned by Lisa and Damian (Lisa is an ex Olympic Ski Champion and whilst there won the Grand Slalom at the Masters). From the moment you check in your bags are whisked up the stairs like they are light as a feather — I have never seen staff embrace carrying bags quite like this — and what goes up has to come down (even 4 flights and the bags were carried again) Superb hospitality all round! Their hotel has a ski shop on the ground floor with lockers to put your inside shoes prior to skiing and you later store your ski equipment in. You can organise the ski school online which offers a discount and some packages include ski school. Cloud9 is a great lunch spot on the mountain and in the evenings (if you have energy, there are bands playing at the Frying Pan or an occasional book launch). Whilst at Falls Creek I met so many like minded people that follow the snow so lots of great ski stories were swopped and company enjoyed over a glass of Prosecco or an Aussie Pinot Noir, the bar has a wonderful wine list which you can get lost in.
On the long drive back to Melbourne I stopped at Myrtlefood to return the snow chains and found a wonderful Smokehouse in the Old Butter Factory. This is run by a chef who cares about not only his presentation but the taste. He smokes the beef for 18 hours and the corn for 6 hours and the taste is what dreams are made of. This is a must add to break your trip and make more wonderful memories.
I would love to hear about the areas where you ski – what resorts you stay at — and what booking agents you find give you the best value.