A Guide to The World’s Highest Ski Resorts
There’s something reassuring about a high-altitude ski resort. Seasoned skiers want to know there’ll be snow to greet them once they reach the slopes, but for the beginner too, greater heights often mean the presence of powder on the lower slopes, and can ensure hassle-free skiing to and from your lodgings. At this stage in the season, it’s smart to head for the ski villages, which still promise a few months of cold weather. But where in the world can these record-breaking resorts be found?
France boasts most of the soaring climes in Europe and with its champion Val Thorens being the highest of them all, snow-sure is a by-word that gets used a lot in the French Alps. A good range of easy and challenging runs bordering the vast Three Valleys area keep this purpose-built resort thronging. But Val Thorens isn’t the only place in these parts where you can ski until May; the villages of Tignes offer heights of 2,300 meters (Val Claret), and Couchevel’s lifts reach up to 2,700 though the village itself is much lower.
Across the Atlantic, the soaring heights of Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia is home to one of the most extreme vertical drops in North America and the ski area itself is a hotbed of statistics, with a total of 38 lifts spanning one of the largest and most highly-rated resorts in the world. There’s a worthy rival over the border into the US, however, with Breckenridge in Colorado recently installing an impressive chair-lift that reaches heights of almost 4,000 meters.
The ski resort of Chacaltaya in Boliva held the title of the tallest in the world until just a few years ago, when melting snows forced it to close down. A proud day for China’s Dagu Glacier, however, which seized the crown with its thoroughly modern lift system enabling skiers to reach climes of 4,843 meters. Thankfully, oxygen masks are provided. Elsewhere on the continent, Iran presents a surprising alternative to many lower European resorts with the high altitudes and reliable snows at places like Dizin, near Tehran.
Of course, the other advantages of opting for high-altitude skiing are that you can be a bit more flexible in your timing and land some bargain holidays if you plan well. Try grabbing accommodation at the lower villages near the mountain-top runs; less convenient but more value for your money. Post-Easter ski trips can be a more peaceful experience in any case and with a few snow-sure days or weeks to look forward to, you can practice those turns at your leisure.