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The 10 best resorts for New Year skiing

Banff, Canada - one of the best resorts for new year skiing - paul zizka photography
Banff, Canada - one of the best resorts for new year skiing - paul zizka photography

After three years of skiing uncertainty and restrictions, what better way to kick things off this winter, than with an unfettered celebratory ski trip over the New Year?

The festive season is one of the most popular times of year for ski holidays – while the Christmas period is brimming with families enjoying themselves in the snow, come New Year resorts gear up for some of the most sophisticated and stylish parties on the planet.

Just like when organising a ski holiday at Christmas it is wise to choose your resort carefully if planning to visit the slopes early in the season, to ensure quality snow cover. It’s also worth noting, while France, Italy, Austria and Switzerland are all fully open to Britons, regardless of vaccination status, North America remains closed to unvaccinated skiers.

Snow-sure slopes, jolly mountain atmosphere, the certainty of fireworks and a good chance of a torchlit descent – here’s our pick of the best ski resorts to ring out the old year and raise a glass to the new.

Best for terrain parks

Laax, Switzerland

The ski area shared by the villages of Laax, Flims and smaller Falera targets a youthful market, and particularly snowboarders. Its four terrain parks set at over 2,000m on Crap Sogn Gion (Crap translates as peak in the fourth official Swiss language) are key to the area’s appeal.

In total the parks have almost 90 features, such as rails and boxes, 15 kickers and two halfpipes – the largest one is the world's biggest, a massive 200m long (Olympic size). There’s also the Freestyle Academy, an indoor adventure hall with a skate bowl, ramps, jumps, trampoline and airbag. The ski area has lots to offer freeriders, with a good range of ungroomed, but marked and patrolled, freeride runs as well as vast off-piste areas.

laax
laax

2021/22 saw the opening of the world’s longest treetop walkway, enabling visitors to enjoy unparalleled views of the Alps from a whole new perspective. The 1.5km walkway, which is open throughout the winter, is suspended 28 metres above the ground in the tree canopy and connects Laax Murschetg and Laax Dorf.

The sharp, modern and convenient Rocksresort development at the Laax lift base is the focus of much of the après, with several bars and clubs and a minimalist, cubic apartment hotel. Also part of the Rocks, the Riders Hotel is a gleaming designer hostel in glass and stone, with a stylish lobby bar. International bands and DJs are known to perform at the Palace club.

Where to stay

Merging cutting-edge designer style with backpacker hostel, Riders Hotel hosts live music, and film premières, as well as art exhibitions.

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£ 314

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Best for intermediates

Les Deux Alpes, France

Les Deux Alpes has three major assets: guaranteed snow cover, long cruisy runs for intermediates and one of the finest terrain parks in Europe. A top altitude of 3,600m means that even in the worst winters for snow visitors are never in serious trouble here. What’s more, it has some of the most vibrant après in France.

The mountain’s unusual shape means that some of the most difficult runs are at the bottom, while up on the glacier there are mostly easy blues.

les deux alpes - julian schaldach
les deux alpes - julian schaldach

For 2022/23, the Vallée Blanche chairlift has been replaced by a télémix (a hybrid lift, part chairlift, part gondola) and the Super Venosc gondola has also been updated. As well as intermediates, this resort is good for beginners, who even during their first week on skis or snowboard can access more terrain here than in other ski areas (a new beginners’ slope between Vallée Blanche and Pied-Moutet makes this part of the ski area more accessible). But at the end of the day even wobbly intermediates are advised to download rather than tackle the icy valley runs. Les 2 Alpes Freestyle Land at 2,600m includes a terrain park on the glacier with a halfpipe and superpipe, and a family park. Plus, the off piste in adjoining La Grave is extraordinary.

Le Pano Bar, on the mountain opposite the Jandri Express mid-station, is where the party begins. Later, the action moves on to some 30 bars in town. Pub Windsor claims to be the first bar to be built when the resort opened, and is still going strong. The atmosphere is welcoming, there’s a choice of 100 beers and it’s open until 2am. Avalanche Club has been going for over 20 years and is an institution for the late-night crowd. Open from 11.30am to 6am, it has a mix of dance and house music with themed nights.

Where to stay

Les 2 Alpes’ second hostel, Base Camp Lodge, opened for 21/22 (the first was The People Hostel, but this mainly works with groups now). Spread over four floors, Base Camp Lodge has 30 bedrooms including double/twin rooms, family suites and dormitories for up to ten guests. It also has a restaurant, a fitness room and sauna. Find more of the best accommodation in Les Deux Alpes in our guide.

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£ 482

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Best for wild dancing

Sölden, Austria

Sölden’s intermediate-friendly, high-altitude slopes are within an hour’s drive of Innsbruck airport. Its appearance as a backdrop in the 2015 Bond film SPECTRE has put it on the radar of many more Britons, and there's a cinematic James Bond installation next to the ICE Q restaurant that was used as a location in the film.

Sölden’s record for reliable snow stems from its two glaciers, the Rettenbach and the Tiefenbach, and its season continues for most of the year. There are 144km of piste, but the slopes seem much more extensive than this suggests, largely because the three mountains above are well connected, without any annoying paths between them. Most of the pistes are intermediate, but there are lots of off-piste opportunities.

ICE Q - RUDI WYHLIDAL
ICE Q - RUDI WYHLIDAL

Sölden is certainly not the prettiest resort, stretching for 2km with hotels and shops dotted about the main valley road with no real centre, but it has no shortage of club venues for dancing in the new year, and its nightlife is younger and wilder than that of its more conservative, family-friendly neighbour Obergurgl nearby. The biggest club is Katapult, which hosts massive dance nights with international DJs and show dancers, usually including on New Year’s Eve.

Where to stay

The four-star Hotel Regina is a two-minute walk from the main Gaislachkogl gondola. It’s a comfortable, traditional place with its own wellness area and indoor pool. Find more of the best accommodation in Solden in our guide.

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£ 213

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Best for North American adventure

Banff, Canada

Banff is a jolly tourist town with plenty of bars, restaurants and souvenir shops. There are three different ski areas to choose from, each easily accessible by ski bus. Although prices on the ground are not super cheap, a holiday here needn’t cost the earth because tour operators offer great-value packages. That’s because there are a lot of lodgings to meet peak summer demand – the town sits at one end of a scenic drive through mountainous national parks.

Each of Banff’s three very different ski areas is a free bus ride away. Norquay is only a few minutes’ drive, but tiny, with just 190 acres of terrain including a good nursery area. Sunshine Village, 20 minutes away, is a fair size (3,358 acres), and is known for steep terrain and plenty of snow. Lake Louise Ski Resort, 45 minutes away, is the largest area, with 4,200 acres of terrain – it’s best suited to intermediates and experts.

Banff
Banff

There are more than 100 bars in the town, which usually holds a family-friendly New Year’s Eve street party with entertainment, activities, games, campfires, food booths, storytelling and music as well as fireworks at midnight. The après ski lounge at the Juniper Hotel Bistro has great views overlooking Banff. Kick off the evening with a Banff Fog cocktail, which includes vanilla Galliano, Grand Marnier and Earl Grey tea, served hot with cinnamon.

Where to stay

Three-star Rundlestone Lodge on the edge of town is good value with a warm, homely atmosphere and an indoor pool. Find more of the best accommodation in Banff in our guide.

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£ 134

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Best for New year on a budget

Livigno, Italy

It takes almost three hours to get to Livigno from Innsbruck, and longer from Italian hub airports, but it’s worth it for the low prices and reliable snow. The village is strung out along 10km of mountain road that comes to a full stop in winter at 1,816m, near the Swiss border.

It’s a great resort for beginners and low intermediates, with terrain on both the Mottolino and Costaccia/Carosello sides of the valley. Five terrain parks are geared to different levels including beginners and children. The main one is on Mottolino with kickers, rails and an airbag; a second, at Carosello is aimed at intermediates.

For experts, Livigno has a series of managed off-piste routes as well as the rare opportunity for affordable heliskiing.

Livigno
Livigno

Livigno has a special tax status that dates back to Napoleonic times. There’s no VAT, which makes drinks, petrol and consumer goods some of the cheapest in Europe. Many of the old wooden houses in the traffic-free village centre have been converted into atmospheric bars, restaurants and clubs.

Where to stay

For ski-in convenience it’s hard to beat the smart 65-room four-star Lac Salin, right by the piste and just a few metres from a drag-lift linking with a piste to the Carosello gondola. Décor is modern, staff very helpful and friendly, food excellent, and there’s a lovely terrace overlooking the slopes. It also has an indoor pool, hot tub and sauna and a children’s play room. Babysitting is available on request. Find more of the best accommodation in Livigno in our guide.

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£ 270

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Best for varied après

Ischgl, Austria

The old farming village of Ischgl has developed into a sophisticated tourist centre, with smart hotels and cavernous bars offering full-throttle nightlife. There’s no glacier but its altitude (1,400m), combined with some of the most sophisticated snowmaking in the Alps, pretty much guarantees at least adequate snow cover.

The main ways up the mountain are by heavyweight gondolas, and the slopes best suit mileage-hungry intermediates who enjoy covering lots of ground before returning to the resort for some of the wildest table-dancing in the Alps – although following the pandemic the resort is believed to be focussing on a more muted approach to its off-the-slope antics. For something different, there’s Skyfly – two parallel 2km zip-wires from Silvretta mid-station to the village. The exciting ride can be done with skis or board attached behind in a harness.

Ischgl
Ischgl

Ischgl’s clientele tends to be about 10 years older than the 20-somethings who pack into the Mooserwirt on the slopes above St Anton. From 3.30pm, the atmosphere in the village and at the foot of the pistes is usual electric and very good-natured. Arguably the most unusual bar in town is Niki’s Stadl, with its song and dance entertainment. The music is oompahpah Germanic, but the whole place buzzes. Pacha on the other hand is a little bit of Ibiza in the Tirol, one of four après venues run by the Hotel Madlein and that attracts VIP guests.

Where to stay

The five-star Hotel Trofana Royal is Ischgl’s top establishment. Dining here is special, with Gault Millau and Michelin awarded chef Martin Sieberer at the helm, as is the spacious spa, with both indoor and outdoor pools and an array of treatments on offer. Find more of the best accommodation in Ischgl in our guide.

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£ 314

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Best for a city ski break

Innsbruck, Austria

This is one of Austria’s most beautiful cities, boasting a medieval old town of narrow cobbled streets and colourful buildings along the River Inn. As well as being the Tirolean capital, Innsbruck is also a ski resort, with considerable charm and fine restaurants.

By day, the Tirolean capital is the launchpad for 13 ski areas within a one-hour radius. The closest, Nordkette, is just 20 minutes from town. The 13 resorts have a total of 308km of runs. Four of them, Mutteralm, Serlesbahnen, Hochötz and Rangger Kopfl, are small, family-oriented places well suited to novices, while Glungezer and Schlick 2000 are best suited to intermediates. The seven others – Nordkette, Axamer Lizum, Kühtai, the Stubai glacier, Elferbahnen, Bergeralm and Patscherkofel – offer varied runs, as well as off-piste challenges and ski touring for the more experienced. All the ski resorts are easily accessible from Innsbruck and covered by the Ski plus City Pass, along with the ski bus network. This pass also covers 22 experiences in the city, including museum visits, ski jump stadium visit, ice skating, bike hire and a walking tour. 

Innsbruck
Innsbruck

On New Year’s Eve the centre of Innsbruck becomes a party destination. At midnight Strauss’s Blue Danube strikes up, and there’s waltzing in the streets. Alternatively, try the Cloud 9 club up at Nordkette, which has DJs and dancing, and gives a bird’s eye view of the firework displays in the city. Lifts run until late.

Where to stay

The contemporary design-led Penz Hotel in the centre of town has a rooftop bar and chic bedrooms. There's a boot room and the ski bus stop is a three-minute walk. Find more of the best accommodation in Innsbruck in our guide.

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£ 163

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Best for experts

Verbier, Switzerland

With its luxurious chalets and hotels, challenging high-altitude terrain and vibrant après, Verbier exudes cool cachet. The slopes are snow-sure and the scenery spectacular, and from the top of the ski area – Mont Fort, at 3,330m – the views reach as far as the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc. The combination of altitude and extensive snowmaking mean it’s pretty safe to book a holiday here early in the season.

The slopes here best suit confident, adventurous skiers and snowboarders, and Verbier’s challenging itinerary routes (loosely marked but not formally controlled or patrolled) are where many experts spend their time. Epic downhill highlights for New Year’s Day could include the 900m-vertical route from Col des Gentianes to Tortin, or the 1,000m vertical Vallon d’Arby down to La Tzoumaz on the edge of the ski area.

Verbier - melody sky
Verbier - melody sky

For après celebration, Le Mouton Noir bar on the mountain has a sunny terrace and professional dancers during high season, while fur and Gore-Tex meet in a dozen languages and all ages on the sunny terrace of Le Rouge at the bottom of the eponymous piste. Resort life is concentrated in venues within a short stagger of the après hub of Place Centrale, the main lift base at Médran and the buzzing street between the two. The sound of live bands pounds from the glassed-in terrace of the Hotel Farinet from late afternoon. By contrast, the minimalist Nevaï hotel has a stylish cocktail bar with a balcony.

Where to stay

Rooms at Hotel Bristol in the centre of Verbier, vary from standard doubles with or without balconies, to panorama rooms with mountain views. The veranda suite has a private terrace. It’s family-friendly and has a sauna, but there is no on-site restaurant.

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£ 287

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Best for beginners

Passo Tonale, Italy

This compact, value-for-money village lies at 1,883m, with slopes going up to 3,016m. It’s one of the few Italian resorts to be snow-sure from late October to mid-June, thanks to the Presena glacier at 3,000m. Generally quiet during the week, the village was developed mainly to service the slopes, and a road runs through the middle.

Passo Tonale’s gentle open slopes form a near-perfect nursery area for learning to snowplough and gaining confidence - if booking lessons be sure to ask for an English-speaking instructor. The gondola to the glacier means even non-skiers and beginners can enjoy the views of the Italian Alps from the top - the only run down is red. For those seeking more advanced slopes, there are lift links to Ponte di Legno and Temù.

passo tonale - andrea zampatti
passo tonale - andrea zampatti

Passo Tonale comes to life during the Italian holidays and at weekends, and there are plenty of lively bars in town. For a special meal, Hotel La Mirandola, above the main resort, dates back to the 12th century, and the restaurant has oodles of atmosphere and can be reached in the evening by snowmobile.

Where to stay

At the edge of the village and with beautiful views, but only three minutes walk to the closest lift and bus stop, the Hotel Piandineve is a firm family favourite with its games room and small spa area.

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£ 154

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Best for a big ski area

Val d’Isère, France

Linked to neighbouring Tignes to form a linked ski area of 300km of pistes, Val d’Isère offers high quality, snow-sure slopes for everyone from complete beginners to veteran powderhounds. On top of that, the standard of piste grooming is extremely high and the lift system is constantly being upgraded.

Though the slopes in Val d’Isère can be enjoyed by all, the ski area is best suited to strong intermediates and better. A blue run here could easily be classified as a red in another resort, while black really does mean a serious challenge. Even in high season, such as at New Year when lifts are at capacity, Val has a major advantage – no less than eight main mountain access points, so rush-hour queues are easily avoided.

Val d'Isere - andy parant/office du tourisme val d'isere
Val d'Isere - andy parant/office du tourisme val d'isere

On-mountain après is at La Folie Douce, which opened a new restaurant for winter 2021/22, at the top of the La Daille gondola. It rocks from mid-afternoon until the lifts close, with DJs, musicians and dancers on an open terrace. Bananas near the bottom of the Face run is one of Val’s liveliest après bars, while Cocorico at the Rond Point (almost at the foot of Solaise) is also popular. Dick’s Tea Bar hosts an after dinner club from 11.30pm. Doudoune, in the basement of Corcorico, is Dick’s main rival as a late-night club.

Where to stay

Located in the main street, the Avenue Lodge Hotel is built in contemporary savoyard chalet style with black slate floors and cowhide chairs. Bedrooms are more cutting edge in design than in any other hotel in the resort, and there's also an impressive pool and spa.

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£ 506

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Booking.com rates above are guide prices per person per night over New Year, please note that packages can differ across accommodation. Please check the properties' websites for further information on what's included.