Read much modern ski coverage and you would be forgiven for thinking that today’s European ski world is one long jamboree of boutique hotels, snowboard fun parks and heated chair lifts. But the reality is very different.
There are huge swathes of the skiing continent that have never heard of snowboarding, see fur as a lifestyle choice and wear one-pieces for snow-repelling practicality rather than as some kind of ironic fashion statement. For many, it is skiing as it should be. So here’s where you should go for a taste of James Bond-style winter fun.
ALTA BADIA, ITALY
CLOSEST AIRPORT: Milan (Bergamo)
LOWDOWN: Why Brits continue to frequent hectic old Meribel and Val d’Isère when the unhurried time capsule that is Alta Badia is within easy reach is something of a conundrum. Alta Badia consists of five villages in the middle of the Dolomites: Colfosco, Corvara, La Villa, San Cassiano and Pedraces. They form the largest part of the Sella Ronda ski area, which in turn is part of the Dolomiti Superski area. Expect lively skiing and homely food.
MUST DO: Visit Jimmy’s Hutte, which overlooks the Sella Massif and serves plenty of grappa.
CLOSEST AIRPORT: Venice (Treviso)
LOWDOWN: When a resort’s former client list includes Peter Sellers and David Niven, you know you’re in good company. Cortina really is a window to another world, with antiquated cable cars, vertiginous slopes and some seriously regal old architecture. The skiing is divided into four areas – Faloria-CristalloMietres, Tofana-Socrepes, Cinque Torri and Lagazuoi – linked by hectic ski buses and all different in terrain, aspect and elevation.
MUST DO: Stroll the Corso Italia at dusk for some people watching and window shopping. You won’t be able to afford much, but it’s worth it just for the sheer number of fur coats on display.
CLOSEST AIRPORT: Friedrichshafen
LOWDOWN: Obergurgl inspires a fierce loyalty, and everyone you meet seems to be on their third or fourth visit. This is skiing from a less jaded era, with gentle tree-lined routes the order of the day, and the mere sight of a snowboarder in baggy trousers is likely to have the locals calling the cops. Linked to nearby Hochgurgl, the skiing area is surprisingly vast, and bona fide intermediate heaven. At an altitude of 1,920m, expect lots of snow and temporary breathlessness while your body gets used to it.
MUST DO: Once it does, head to the 3,082m Top Mountain Star restaurant, serving killer hot chocolate amid incredible Alpine views.