The clocks have gone back and the temperatures are dropping, which means it's time to don your woolly hat and wax your skis and boards. So where are the best places to go this year?

Go now

For skiers and boarders who can't wait a minute longer to slide on the white stuff, winter never ends on Austria's Hintertux Glacier in Tirol (website:

In Tignes, France (website:, a funicular train lifts skiers through the mountain to La Grande Motte glacier, sitting at a lofty and snow-sure 3,500m (11,480ft).

Alternatively, beat the crowds and sneak in some early turns in Switzerland. Saas Fee (website: has a solid base and the Swiss national team have been spotted race training.

Across the Atlantic, the gods have been smiling on Colorado, which has seen huge dumps of powder. Copper Mountain (website: and Breckenridge (website:, which boasts the highest lift in North America, promise fantastic early season conditions.


Go big

No need to show your passport when you ski across the French-Swiss border in the Portes du Soleil area (website: With 650km (404 miles) of runs and over 200 lifts among 14 linked resorts, there's more chance of getting lost than getting bored. It's heaven for freestyle junkies too - there are seven parks and three halfpipes to play in, including the Biotop, Avoriaz's all-wood natural terrain park (website:

The hottest destination stateside is Big Sky, Montana (website: Last year it joined forces with neighbouring resort Moonlight Basin (website: to offer a combined ticket covering 2,140 skiable hectares (5,300 acres), making this the biggest ski area in the USA. Not yet convinced? How about an average snowfall of 10m (400in), virtually non-existent lift queues and over 220 trails, glades and bowls.

Go steep

Silverton, Colorado (website: may not have a fancy restaurant or slopeside condos, but it does have phenomenal powder, near-vertical chutes, challenging tree runs and a limit of around 80 skiers a day. The mountain, which runs just one chairlift, opened in 2002 and is fast building a reputation as a mecca for expert skiers. From January to April, all skiers and riders must join a guided group and are kitted out with avalanche beacons, probes and shovels.

Go party

If the après scene matters as much as the snow, Val d'Isère, France (website: has no shortage of lively bars and restaurants to kick the night off. Provided your muscles aren't aching too much after a day on the slopes, take a spin on the dancefloor in Le Graal (website: or join the Brits in Dicks Tea Bar (website: - both churn out tunes until 0400.

Go with the kids

Following millions of dollars of investment, the picturesque town of Bansko (website:, in Bulgaria's Pirin Mountains, is the place to go skiing in Eastern Europe. The modern ski area, connected to the historic old town by an eight-person gondola, has a dedicated children's learning area with a magic carpet, while the main slopes are perfect for wobbly intermediates. Spend the evening sampling traditional cuisine (at a bargain price) in one of Bansko's numerous mehanas (tavernas).

Another family-friendly resort is Sun Peaks (website:, in British Columbia, Canada. The compact, pedestrianised village is surrounded by intermediate, uncrowded slopes.

Go for style

Laax (website: in Switzerland is fast becoming one of Europe's most popular snowboarding destinations. The resort plays host to the Burton European Open Snowboarding Championships from 20-27 January (website:

Young Swiss boarders look cool at the incredibly hip Riders Palace hotel (website: - all colourful glass and exposed concrete, with playstations and DVDs in most rooms and DJs pumping out the latest beats in the stylish bar.

For après, take the postbus to Therme Vals (website:, a beautifully designed spa crafted from local quartzite; soothe your aches in the 36°C (97°F) outdoor pool or dare to plunge into the ice pool, a distinctly chilly 14°C (57°F).

Switzerland also wins the prize for the most stylish mode of mountain transport. The futuristic Tschuggen Coaster in Arosa opens in December and is a cross between a mini funicular railway and a rollercoaster. The super-sleek cabins will whisk guests from the Tschuggen Grand Hotel up 500m (1,640ft) to the slopes (website:

Go east

Perhaps the most adventurous ski destination is Gulmarg (website:, in the Pir Panjal mountains of Indian Kashmir. Skiing was established here by British army officers in 1927, but it was the addition of a modern gondola a couple of years ago which put Gulmarg on the winter map. Be prepared for bumpy truck rides and 1980s rental equipment, but also a huge vertical drop (1,700m (5,577ft) to the valley floor) and bottomless powder.

If that sounds too extreme, try the Japanese resorts of Rusutsu (website: or Niseko (website: in the northern island of Hokkaido. The best time to visit is during the Sapporo Snow Festival (website:, from 6-12 February.

Photo Lone Mountain, Big Sky courtesy Big Sky Resort
Photo Tignes (main image) courtesy Monica Dalmasso

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.