The 10 best resorts for a New Year ski holiday

Telegraph Ski and Snowboard
Fancy ringing in the new year in North America? Try Banff, Canada - paul zizka photography

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 places to ring out the old year and raise a glass to the new.

Unless otherwise stated, prices are per person based on two sharing, half-board, including flights and transfers for seven days. 

Best for terrain parks

Laax, Switzerland

The ski area shared by the villages of Laax, Flims and smaller Falera has been developed in recent years to target 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 larger one of which was extended to 200 metres (Olympic size) for the 2014/15 season and is the biggest in the world. There’s also the Freestyle Academy, an indoor adventure hall with a skate bowl, ramps, jumps, trampoline and airbag, open until 9pm seven days a week. 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. 

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 Palace is a gleaming designer hostel in glass and stone, with a stylish lobby bar. International bands and DJs perform at the Palace club.

Laax, Switzerland Credit: PHILIPP RUGGLI

Where to stay

Four-star Hotel Signina is right by the lifts in the Rocksresort and has a spa, sauna and pool. From £1,790 including a New Year’s dinner in the Camino restaurant, flights and transfers with Alpine Answers.

Best for intermediate cruising

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 3,568m 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. As well as intermediates, this is good for beginners, who even during their first week on skis or snowboard can access more terrain here than in other ski areas. 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.

Les Deux Alpes, Switzerland Credit: julian schaldach

Le Pano Bar, on the mountain opposite the Jandri Express mid-station, is where the party begins, with a DJ from 3pm till 5pm. Later on 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 the best part of 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

Chalet Les Rouses is a traditional wood-clad property with eight en-suite bedrooms and a sauna. It’s well placed for restaurants, shops and nightlife, and the Vallée Blanche chairlift is 200m away. There is a celebration meal and midnight treats of champagne and mince pies for New Year’s Eve as well as a breakfast of smoked salmon and Bucks Fizz on January 1. From £1,620, including equipment hire and area lift pass (saving £70) with Skiworld.

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. A new cinematic James Bond installation opened in July 2018 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 31 lifts (including the 10-person Giggijoch gondola which opened in 2016/17) and 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 in Sölden Credit: 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, including on New Year’s Eve.

Where to stay

The four-star Hotel Erhart is a five-minute walk from the main Gaislachkogl gondola. It’s a contemporary hotel situated in a quiet location with its own spa and free entry to the pool and indoor recreation centre at the nearby Freizeit arena. From £1,701, including a New Year’s Eve gala dinner, with Crystal.

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, 45 minutes away, is the largest area, with 4,200 acres of terrain – it’s best suited to intermediates and experts.

Banff, Canada

There are more than 100 bars in the town, which 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. Elk & Oarsman kitchen and bar on Banff Avenue is also good for drinks and snacks.

Where to stay

Four-star Caribou Lodge on the main street is affordably priced, has a warm, homely atmosphere. It also has a fully equipped spa and excellent steak restaurant. From £1,849 room only with Inghams.

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, Italy

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. There’s a massive New Year’s Eve party at Stalet near the bottom of the Carosello 3000 lift.

Where to stay

Hotel Galli is located in the San Rocco area, directly opposite the ski school and lifts, making access to the Carosello side of the mountain quick and easy. It has a cosy bar and wellness area with a sauna, steam room and whirlpool baths. From £1,425, including New Year’s Eve dinner, with Neilson.

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. 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, Austria Credit: 2015 Getty Images/Jan Hetfleisch

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 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 luxurious Chalet Hotel Abendrot is central but set away from the noisy main drag and is an easy walk to the Fimba and Silvretta lifts. On New Year’s Eve there’s Champagne and a celebration menu. From £1,730, with Ski Total.

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.

The OlympicWorld lift pass covers over 260km of piste in nine ski areas including Kühtai and the Stubai Glacier, all easily reached from Innsbruck by free ski bus. The nearest ski area is Nordkette with 11km of mostly red pistes and a small terrain park, just 20 minutes from the city. The access funicular’s four stations were designed by architect Zaha Hadid. They’re striking and contemporary buildings that are an integral part of the cityscape. From the top of the Nordkette area at Hafelekar (2,256m), novices can admire the city and Alpine views, and experts can tackle Karrinne, a challenging off-piste run.

Innsbruck, Austria

On New Year’s Eve the centre of Innsbruck becomes a party destination from 9pm - 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 historic Hotel Weisses Kreuz in the centre of town has 40 rooms, a handy boot room, and the ski bus stop is a three-minute walk. From £1,254 for four nights including a New Year’s Eve gala menu and a three-day lift pass with Ski Weekends. Excludes transfers.

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, Switzerland Credit: melody sky

For après celebration, Le Mouton Noir champagne 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 Farinet from late afternoon, as revellers dance on tables in their ski boots. By contrast, the minimalist Nevaï hotel has a stylish cocktail bar with balcony.

Where to stay

The central Xtra Chalet de Verbier opened in 1948 and is now run by Inghams. It has 31 recently renovated rooms, a bar and lounge, and provides a convenient and affordable base. The hotel hosts a celebratory meal on New Year’s Eve. From £1,247, with Inghams.

Best for beginners

Passo Tonale, Italy

This compact, value-for-money village lies at 1,880m, with lifts going up to 3,088m. 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, Italy

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 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 a oodles of atmosphere and can be reached in the evening by snowmobile.

Where to stay

For a warm welcome and friendly service, the three-star, family-run Hotel Adamello is hard to beat. Good food, including a Trentino-themed gala buffet, is served and there’s also a children’s games room. From £1,089 with Crystal Ski.

Best for a big ski area

Val d’Isère, France

Linked to neighbouring Tignes to form a linked ski area of 300km of pistes and 90 lifts, 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 - the Solaise access gondola, updated from a chairlift to a 10-person gondola for the 2016/17 season, increased capacity by 40 per cent.

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, France Credit: andy parant/office du tourisme val d'isere

On-mountain après is at La Folie Douce, 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. For winter 2018/19 a new 10-person gondola from La Daille up to the Folie Douce replaces the former cable car. 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 has DJs and live musicians every night from 10pm until 5am. Doudoune, in the basement of Corcorico, is Dick’s main rival as a late-night club.

Where to stay

Aspen Lodge is a smart apartment block, centrally located on the main street, with suites of various sizes and a concierge service. It’s convenient for the slopes as well as shopping and nightlife, and a celebratory New Year’s Eve dinner is provided. From £2,869, in a three-bedroom Aspen Lodge Suite sleeping up to six with VIP Ski.