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November 10, 2017
Not sure which ski resort to head to this winter? We chatted to Ski Sunday presenter and ex-Olympian, Graham Bell, to find out about his favourite winter wonderlands.
When I skied here with the British team, we always considered this a home race, because of the number of Brits in town. The reason for that is that it ticks almost every box. It's got good altitude and a glacier so there's guaranteed snow, but there's also a fast lift system, great cruising on-piste runs and fantastic, easily accessible off-piste.
I've personally got fond memories of this resort because it's where I met my wife.
Saved from closure this season, La Grave is the ultimate off-piste big mountain resort. The rickety old lift that accesses La Meije glacier is in desperate need of replacing, and at the top there are only a couple of pistes, but if you're into ski mountaineering then this is the place for you.
It is the kind of resort where you expect to see skiers wearing their avalanche transceivers and climbing harnesses to breakfast.
If you're thinking of taking on La Grave for the first time, definitely hire a mountain guide.
St Anton on the Arlberg pass has a rich skiing history – it's where alpine skiing pioneer Sir Arnold Lunn organised the first Arlberg Kandahar race in 1928.
The resort covers a huge area and has recently been linked to Zurs and Lech by the new Flexenbahn lift. The off-piste and ski touring options are almost endless, but be warned - this is not a place for a timid skier, as a blue run here would be marked as red in most other resorts.
The Krazy Kanguruh bar (roughly a 500-metre ski from the town) is the birthplace of the apres-ski tradition of dancing on tables in ski boots.
This resort is home of the Hahnenkamm ski race, which attracts tens of thousands of spectators each year. Outside of race times, the old medieval town has a more sedate pace.
Although the race course is the steepest and toughest in the world, the recreational skiing is mostly red-run cruising. The lift system is amazing and the installation of heated chairlifts has been a welcome improvement.
The Vallee d’Aosta region has some great ski resorts and offers really good value for money. My favourite is Champoluc because it gives access to the best heli-skiing available in the Alps.
Fancy giving it a try? The Monte Rosa mountain which sits above the town can be accessed by a helicopter ride from the top of the lift system. This cuts down the helicopter's time in the air and makes it more affordable. You'll need to hire a guide, and it's best to have a day skiing the off-piste itineraries as a warm up before dropping out of a helicopter at over 4,000 metres above sea level!
The region of South Tyrol offers the best of both worlds. Originally part of Austria, the area combines Italian flair and love of food with Austrian efficiency and organisation.
Located in the Dolomite mountains, the scenery in this particular area is absolutely outstanding. Jagged rocky outcrops tower above the ski slopes and take on a red hue at sunset.
Val Gardena is also the start of the Sella Ronda, which takes you on a 26-kilometre ski circuit into four neighbouring valleys.
This old mining town has great character and life, and has to be the poshest of all the North American resorts. The Colorado snow conditions are generally great because of the altitude and the distance from the nearest ocean.
The last time I raced here was in a 24-hour charity ski race on a two-man team with my brother Martin. I also have the bragging rights that Cindy Crawford massaged my legs in the gondola.
Whereas Whistler has the reputation, if you want some of the best powder skiing and steep challenging terrain in the Rockies then head to Fernie. It's a little trickier to get to than some of the other western Canadian resorts, but it's worth the effort.
Although it's in British Columbia, the nearest airport is Calgary in Alberta. The snowfall here is legendary, with an average of 8.75 metres a year.
If you want chocolate box alpine scenery then Zermatt is the place. It's got the most photographed mountain in the world - the Matterhorn - rising like a Toblerone above the car-free town. The glacier has some of the highest pisted skiing in the Alps so it's snow-sure.
The route options off the top of the Stockhorn and Rothorn are great, and if you fancy a bit of adventure you could hire a guide and head up onto the Monte Rosa to ski from the top of the Klein Matterhorn lift at 3,885 metres.
Japan gets a huge amount of powder, because the cold winds from Siberia pick up moisture from the Sea of Japan and dump it back down as snow.
This is a resort I haven't actually skied yet, but it's at the top of my bucket list! It’s on the island of Hokkaido and has some of the best powder skiing in the world. I love skiing in Japan – I’ve skied at Hakuba on the island of Honshu and I've never seen snowflakes like it. They were the size of saucers!
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