Travel Picks: Top 10 ski destinations
LONDON (Reuters Life!) - For travelers who embrace the snow with sheer dedication, winter is a time to take advantage of all the fresh powder on the ski slopes. Travel website Cheapflights.com (wwww.cheapflights.com) offers powder hounds its choices for the top 10 ski destinations. Reuters has not endorsed this list:
1. Park City, Utah
Just south of Salt Lake City, Park City is no little sibling when it comes to drawing tourists. Famous for hosting the Sundance Film Festival each year, it's also home to serious alpine skiing. Six mountains and 114 trails give cold weather adventurers plenty of room to roam, and other mountain activities like tubing and an alpine coaster won't disappoint. Its dining and aprs ski options aren't half bad, either.
2. Whistler, Canada
Alpine skiing and mountain biking are big at Whistler Blackcomb, which is consistently voted a top ski destination each year. Whistler hosted most of the 2010 Winter Olympics' alpine, Nordic, skeleton and bobsled events, so if you're ready to claim your glory on the slopes, head to the world-renowned Whistler to try your hand at these great heights. But watch out for the bears -- the fuzzy friends in Whistler have been known to open even locked car doors for a snack.
3. Zermatt, Switzerland
Just near the border of Italy, situated in the Swiss Alps at the southern end of Matter Valley, Zermatt is a prime starting point for explorers who take the Haute Route to Chamonix and the Patrouille des Glaciers. You can also get an international lift pass that allows you ski on the Italian side of the border in Cervinia. Skiing inside Zermatt gets divided up into four areas known as Sunnegga, Gornergrat, Klein Matterhorn and Schwarzsee, each characterized by its own unique traits. Another distinct note about Zermatt -- you can ski here in the summer.
4. Val d'Isere, France
In southeastern France, on the border of the Vanoise National Park, sits Val d'Isere. Diverse in its level of difficulty, the ski haven welcomes visitors from all over the world to explore its downhill slopes and outstanding culture. Its lively slopes cater perfectly to its even livelier nightlife, and making the transition between the two is made easy. A free shuttle between the towns of Val d'Isere and La Daille runs every five minutes during the day, and every 30 minutes at night. The area also shares ski domain with Tignes.
5. Verbier, Switzerland
Often known as some of the most challenging skiing in the Alps, Verbier offers nothing short of exhilaration. Located in a high and sunny spot, this beautiful area can be downright intimidating, especially on something like its black run down the front face of Mont-Fort. Classic runs, like the unmarked route from Col des Gentianes and Mont Gele are notables.
6. Chamonix, France
Sitting right under Europe's highest mountain, Mont Blanc, Chamonix has a wide range of intermediate and advanced skiing options. Known as the extreme free-riding capital of Europe, it's also a hot spot for snowboarders as well. Once the day of downhill fun comes to a close, gear up for its dynamic town filled with more than 100 restaurants and bars.
7. St. Anton, Austria
Holding its head high with a glamorous reputation, St. Anton is no one-trick pony. Beyond its glitzy facade, it brings the thrills with world-class skiing, fantastic powder and lots of unmarked trails. Experts enjoy steep drops like that of Zura and the challenging powder bowls of the Valluga. Beginners find their own excitement on the lesser-demanding slopes, or can head to the neighboring resort of Lech, just a bus ride away and skiable on the same lift pass.
8. Vail, Colorado
Time after time, Vail is classified as one of the finest ski resorts in the world. Its seven Back Bowls and exceptional powder draw expert skiers from around the globe. Due to the mountain's size, there is plenty to do for beginners, regulars and veterans - the only problem is that most skiers run out of vacation time before they can truly explore the entire mountainous layout.
9. Banff, Canada
Breathtaking scenery may be Banff's claim to fame, but its recognition goes much further than glittery aesthetics. With a long ski season, light and dry snow, fantastic facilities and three major resort areas, skiing in Banff is a pleasure. Settled in the Canadian Rockies, the unspoiled area is home to nature's elks and moose, among other creatures -- and partnering with its home-grown beauty comes its lavish and luxurious accommodations: The resort area crawls with five-star hotels to welcome tired skiers after a long day on the slopes.
10. Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Beginners beware, this is expert territory. Set in the Grand Teton Mountains, Jackson Hole adds a little attitude with its altitude -- offering up steep runs, deep powder and narrow chutes. A few outstanding parts include the Cheyenne, Tensleep and Laramie Bowls, and more challenges are just a shuttle-ride away in Grand Targhee.
(Editing by Paul Casciato)
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