Long before gondolas, après ski, catered chalets and purpose-built resorts, folk revelled in the white stuff. And today there are even more ways to enjoy the winter season. For some of the most inspiring Alpine adventures, look no further than tailor-made ski specialist, Ski Safari, who offer ultimate combinations for an extraordinary experience. Arctic adventures in Norway, mixing skiing and whale watching in North America or meeting the famous snow monkeys in Japan, there are plenty of ideas to add to that ultimate bucket list experience, for a ski holiday that is much more than just skiing…
Whale Watching in Western Canada
Incorporating the best of Western Canada’s heritage skiing, the vibrant culture of Vancouver and the stunning natural beauty of Vancouver Island, this bucket list trip is one for a family of skiers and non-skiers alike. The town of Banff is always buzzing and lively and serves as the perfect base to access the ‘Big Three’ ski areas in Banff National Park; Mount Norquay, Lake Louise and Sunshine Village.
Set amidst some of the most magnificent mountains in Canada, the three resorts have extensive terrain with a variety of gentle groomers and challenging steeps as well as exceptional off-piste. An abundance of non-ski activities and attractions can be found in the park itself, from ice climbing and hot springs to dogsledding tours. Guests can then travel on to Tofino on Vancouver Island, stopping to enjoy beauty spots like the old-growth forest of Cathedral Grove on the drive from Nanaimo, where the ferry from Vancouver docks. The choice of activities on Vancouver Island is as exciting as it is varied; from whale-watching (22,000 grey whales migrate along the coast between March and May each year) to the natural hot-springs in Maquinna Marine Provincial Park and even coastal bear watching.
All Aboard the Excellence Class on a Classic Rail Adventure in Switzerland
Explore the Swiss Alps on a classic rail adventure that combines skiing beneath the Matterhorn and a visit to decadent St Moritz with an enchanting train journey through the mountains. New this year is the Excellence Class, setting top standards for luxury rail travel.
Guests choosing the Excellence Class aboard the Glacier Express are guaranteed a window seat to ensure the best views whilst sampling delectable dishes from the five-course menu and drinks from the Glacier Bar. The tour runs between two of Switzerland’s hubs for culture and skiing – Zermatt and St Moritz. In Zermatt, one of Europe’s most snow-sure resorts, guests can indulge in the region’s expansive skiing and mountain-side Michelin star restaurants, all in the foothills of the Matterhorn. The journey by train to St Moritz offers an enchanting tour of the Swiss mountains, including lunch with a panoramic view of the Alps and a crossing over the Landwasser Viaduct, Switzerland’s highest bridge reaching 65 metres in height. Arriving in St Moritz, guests can make the most of scenic slopes overlooking the lake, luxury hotels and fantastic fine-dining. A stay at the ski-in, ski-out 4*+ Nira Alpina offers easy access to the fantastic skiing and boasts an onsite restaurant serving traditional Swiss cuisine and pan-Asian dishes, plus a rooftop bar where the views are as incredible as the cocktails.
Hot Springs and Snow Monkeys in Hakuba Valley, Japan
Known for its phenomenal powder, quiet, well-kept pistes, exciting cuisine and unique resorts, Japan is an ideal destination for adventurous skiers. Hakuba Valley (just a bullet train away from Tokyo) is one of Japan’s largest and most varied alpine resorts, comprising 11 different areas.
However, it would be a shame to travel to Japan and not see the world-famous wild snow monkeys at Jigokudani Monkey Park (less than a 1.5-hour drive from Hakuba Valley), which opened in 1964. Throughout the winter, the Japanese macaques spend their days soaking in the natural hot springs where guests will be mesmerised by their nurturing rituals.
After arriving at the park, hike to the hot springs (about 30 minutes each way) and meet the monkeys, before enjoying a traditional Japanese lunch in nearby historic Obuse, which includes a glass of saké. Afterwards, head to Nagano City, home to Zenkoji Temple: a designated national treasure with a history that spans across 1,400 years. (Snow monkey tours depart daily, best time to travel is in January and February).
A Fascinating Rail Journey to Flåm
Ski Safari offers three of Norway’s superb ski resorts, Myrkdalen, Geilo and Voss, to pair with this breathtaking fjord and railway experience. Journeying through National Parks by rail, passing through spectacular fjords, gorges and glaciers – as part of your ski resort transfer – ticks off a host of experiences in one trip.
Many people visit the Norwegian fjords in the summer, but winter is the time to see them in all their glory, when the destination is relatively empty and the peaks have a dusting of snow. After the fun of a resort-based ski holiday, jump aboard the local train, then transfer via a stunning two-hour boat journey from Gudvagen to access the village of Flåm. Discover the welcoming Norwegian culture and sample its delicious cuisine with a stop at the Ægir BrewPub for a wide variety of craft beers to complement their Viking-inspired dinner menu, served on a plank. Next day, take a thrilling RIB tour through the heart of the Aurlandsfjord with a knowledgeable guide who can impart the intriguing history of the area in the cradle of the most stunning scenery.
The branch line from Flåm to the junction of Myrdal is one of the world’s most beautiful railways and has become the third most visited tourist attraction in Norway, well worth a visit. Though only 20 km long, it ascends 725 metres at gradients so steep the locomotives have been fitted with a four-brake system. It is the steepest standard-gauge railway in Europe and has 20 tunnels as well as snow shelters. The views over Sognefjord, Norway’s deepest and longest fjord at 200 km, are magnificent as the train twists along the mountainside on your route back to Bergen for your flight home.
Dancing in the Northern Lights
Combining the enchanting delights of the spectacular Aurora Borealis light show with a range of world-class experiences on and off the slopes promises to be an unforgettable trip. The perfect mountain retreat of Norefjell in Norway offers Europe’s greatest vertical drop and you can enjoy tree-lined skiing all the way to the spectacular fjord. At the end of the ski-day choose from exciting winter activities or simply relax in Norway’s ‘Best Spa & Resort’ Hotel.
After five exciting days exploring the terrain, fly to Tromsø, an oasis in the Arctic wilderness located near to the Polar Park – home to bears, wolves, musk oxen and lynx, mountain peaks and islands above the Arctic Circle. For the best chance to see the magical array of the Northern Lights, enjoy a boat cruise on the Aurora Explorer, take the Aurora Safari Minibus or try the Tromsø Cable Car, which gives travellers uninterrupted views of the cityscape and potentially front-row seats to the spectacular light show. Spend the rest of the trip exploring this cultural hub, home to an Arctic Cathedral, a husky farm and delicious, fresh, local seafood. For more information contact your local travel agent.