Two of life’s greatest pleasures are road trips and snow trips. Whether you slide sideways on a snowboard, or prefer a pair of planks to get down the hill, ski towns are invariably set in beautiful, scenic locations, and at the end of long, winding climbs – the stuff of dreams for a road trip.
So, why not combine the two things? The heady combination of freedom and adventure that life on the road affords you, bookended by sessions on the snow? Perfection.
1) Chamonix - Davos - St Anton
After a few days taking on the spectacularly daunting terrain around Chamonix, hit the road and head east for Martigny and the long drive across Switzerland to Davos (there’s the option of nipping up to Verbier along the way too).
Rub shoulders with overpaid bankers whilst taking the lift up to Davos’ extensive ‘itinerary’ terrain, or pop over into linked Klosters to hang out with British royalty; when you get bored with Prince Charles, hit the road again for the relatively short haul north-east to St. Anton and some of the finest off-piste in the world.
2) Fernie - Kimberley – Panorama - Kicking Horse
The legendary Powder Highway doesn’t get its name for nothing. Starting with Fernie’s bowls of fluff (and the option of cat skiing at Island Lake Lodge, which is next door), you can then head west to Kimberley, which is a slightly bizarre ski town – Bavaria/Olde England meets the Canadian Rockies – before driving north up Highway 95 to Panorama, which boasts some of the biggest vert in North America along with some tidy freeriding.
The scenery is never less than grand as you continue north to Kicking Horse and some of the steepest and most challenging terrain in BC.
3) Bogus Basin - Sun Valley - Lost Trail Powder Mountain - Silver Mountain - Schweitzer Mountain
Other than Sun Valley you may not have heard of these Idaho ski hills; reason enough to go and check them out. Bogus Basin sits just outside the state capital Boise and is great value as it’s a not-for-profit operation.
Sun Valley is the opposite, glitz and glamour with some of the finest piste grooming in the USA. From here drive through classic Rocky Mountain scenery – look out for elk, moose and eagles en-route – to tiny Lost Trail Powder Mountain (there’s a clue in the name as to what you’ll find), then Silver Mountain, home to the world’s longest gondola and some testing tree skiing, before finishing up at crowd-free Schweitzer Mountain close to the Canadian border.
4) Courmayeur - La Thuile - Pila - Cervinia – Champoluc
Enjoy some of Italy’s finest with this easy tour down the Aosta Valley. First stop is Courmayeur, freeride central in the shadow of Monte Bianco (aka Mont Blanc), followed by La Thuile – it’s shady northern slopes hold great powder, and for sunshine you can nip across the border to France and interlinked La Rosiere.
Continue east along the autostrada to Pila, where the terrain can be surprisingly untracked, then onwards to sunny, high-altitude Cervinia beneath the spectacular Matterhorn and linked to Zermatt in Switzerland, whilst your last stop of Champoluc is part of the fabulously snowy Monte Rosa ski area.
5) Alta - Jackson Hole - Grand Targhee - Big Sky
Alta remains one of the few ski hills left to ban snowboarders; however, if you’re riding sideways neighbouring Snowbird has equally good snow and terrain.
From here head up to Jackson Hole via Interstate 80 for the legendary steep terrain of Jackson Hole. The landscape becomes truly spectacular as you drive north-west over the Teton Pass to powder-choked Grand Targhee, which although in Wyoming can only be reached via Idaho.
Last stop is Big Sky; the USA’s biggest linked ski area has eerily deserted slopes and is just a spit away from Yellowstone National Park if you fancy a down day.
6) Silverton – Telluride – Beaver Creek – Breckenridge
It’s a long old drive to Silverton from anywhere – is it worth it for just one tiny chair lift? The answer is a big ‘yes’ if you like steep, deep, high-altitude, powder-sure skiing. The nearby Western town of Telluride (Butch Cassidy once held up the local bank) also has challenging high-level skiing along with superb groomers, and the latter are the selling point at Beaver Creek, a day’s drive to the north. If the über-expensive slopes of Beaver Creek are too much, the short hop along Interstate 70 to Breckenridge will provide great skiing for all abilities.
7) Niseko – Rusutsu - Furano - Asahidake
Most people visiting Japan will hit Niseko first since it’s not just the country’s biggest ski resort, it’s also world famous for its powder; it also has 12-hour-a-day skiing thanks to the world’s biggest night skiing operation.
A two-hour drive away is Rusutsu, where you’ll find more challenging terrain if not quite the same humungous quantities of powder, and from here a day’s drive north-east will bring you to Furano, which has some great backcountry as well as the chance to ski down an active volcano at nearby Asahidake.
8) Voss – Geilo - Hemsedal
Norway’s ski hills are small by European standards, but a road trip here isn’t just about skiing; you drive through some of Europe’s wildest mountain landscapes and can immerse yourself in a culture for which winter is a way of life.
Voss’ big whaleback hills are reminiscent of the Cairngorms, whilst Geilo is big with kite skiers; and Hemsedal is Norway’s biggest ski hill, with a surprising variety of terrain above a lovely valley and attractive village.
9) Cauterets – Luz Ardiden – Grand Tourmalet – St Lary
You can easily visit all of these Hautes- Pyrénées resorts in a week as they’re so close together. First stop Cauterets is very modestly sized, with just 36km of pistes, but there are plans to connect it to neighbour Luz Ardiden which would triple the ski area.
For excellent freeride terrain travel on to nearby Grand Tourmalet and St. Lary; and maybe spend a night in the Pic du Midi Observatory at almost 3000-metres, from where you can enjoy a sublime freeride descent back to La Mongie ski station for breakfast.
10) Mammoth Mountain – Kirkwood – Heavenly
Fly into LA, rent a SUV and six hours later you could be driving into Mammoth. Famed for its mighty snowfalls, Mammoth also has a mix of alpine and wooded terrain that isn’t too common in North America, not to mention a total of ten terrain parks.
A short drive north up Interstate 385 is Kirkwood, also renowned for its powder, and if you keep on heading north you’ll come to Heavenly, an enticing mix of powder choked trees and steeps, spectacular lake and desert views and love-it-or-loathe-it blingy casino town at the base.