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With the 2012-13 skiing and snowboarding season almost upon us, Emily Benammar gets the inside word on the best runs, après-ski bars and restaurants from the pros who spend their days chasing the white stuff.
Chemmy Alcott: GB skier:
Cortina d’Ampezzo , Italy
Top elevation 2,930ft
The resort: It’s so quaint, very Italian, the kind of resort where fur is still very high fashion and you feel like you’ve gone back in time 30 years. It’s not as big as Val d’Isere but it’s got an eclectic range of pistes nestled in the beautiful dolomite rocks which makes for breathtaking scenery. Get up for sunrise and have your camera ready to capture the stunning pink view. It’s a family resort and has something for everyone. Also it’s near Venice so a good place for a combi-holiday.
Must-do run: Tofana is a great run that descends down a steep (almost vertical) drop which has racers reaching speeds of up to 85mph within four seconds. If that sounds a bit hairy for you, then there is a great people-watching spot from the café at the bottom.
Après-ski: You can find all kinds of après, from shabby local cafés where locals pop in for their one-euro shot of caffeine to some really elegant and glamorous wine bars. A word of warning – you don’t go to Cortina to lose weight, the food is fantastic and you get about five courses with every meal.
St Anton, Austria
Top elevation 2,811ft
The resort: St Anton has got some great skiing, it’s like a bowl in the mountain so it gets snow from every side. There’s a James Bond-esque lift, which is a gondola that takes you from one side of the mountain to the other. There’s some great accessible off-piste skiing. In most resorts you have to hike to find fresh tracks but here you only need to take the lift: extreme skiing for the lazy skier.
Must-do run: Wasserfall. Part of the World Cup circuit, this is an awesome run and takes its name – waterfall – because there is a section that is as steep as one. It’s really hairy but anyone can ski it and you don’t have to go that fast.
Après-ski: Krazy Kanguruh – it’s a pretty wild place, but the bar is on the piste so remember you have to ski down afterwards. It’s great for people watching. In the town, there are a lot of bars to choose from, so après-ski does not have to be expensive.
Dom Harrington: GB snowboarder
Copper Mountain, Colorado
Top elevation 12,312ft
The resort: They have this facility called Woodward, which is an indoor freestyle training place with trampolines and foam pits, so you can go and learn how to perform new tricks in a safe environment. It’s for everyone; children, beginners and big kids! The runs are wide and easy but it’s also one of the best places in the world for freestyle, with a world-class half-pipe. It’s unbelievable.
Must-do run: Super Bee is a wide, fast run and groomed really well. It starts as a blue and then turns into a black, but in the United States blacks are a bit easier, so if you’re an intermediate you’ll get down it fine. It’s great if you like speed and it runs out at the bottom so you don’t have to worry about stopping.
Après-ski: Endo’s is a little café that does typical American food but also fish tacos, which sounds weird but they’re so good. Go for après as well, as it’s a good place to sit out with a beer. Even in winter it is nice to sit outside and watch the slopes.
Les Deux Alpes, France
Top elevation 11,811ft
The resort: It’s a cheap resort for accommodation and food. Piste-wise, it’s big but might not be the best for beginners. There are loads of really long runs as it’s so high you can get a cable car up and your runs can go on and on.
Must-do run: Get on lift number 28 for Le Valentin, which is a black run that comes right down in to the town. It’s really steep, pretty dangerous but it is a bit of a rush. At the end of the day it gets pretty serious as you will encounter lots of icy patches so you just have to go for it.
Après-ski: Smokey Joes is near the bottom of the Jandri Express, which is the main lift in town. It’s a Mexican-themed bar and a good place to go have a beer. They also do a great Bloody Mary. For a nightclub, go somewhere like Avalanche – it’s the kind of place you never really intend on ending up at, but quite often do.
Jacob Wester: Swedish skier
Top elevation 6,069ft
The resort: There is just so much to do. They have two huge mountains with some of the best access to backcountry skiing in the world. When the snow isn’t good they have a world-class terrain park, so there is something for everyone. Even when it does get crowded there is always somewhere to sneak off to get some fresh snow.
Must-do run: The Horseman Glacier is an amazing run on the peak of Blackcomb. Skiing down the middle is straightforward and a little harder if you take the outside. This huge bowl-like valley offers amazing skiing. You can ski the glacier from a lift or do a 20-minute hike and avoid the queue. When you get up to this point it doesn’t feel like you’re in a ski resort anymore – you might as well be out flying with a helicopter.
Après-ski: Situated right by the Whistler Gondola, Lift serves the best coffee and has a great vibe with a lot of sofas outdoors and heaters. Go there straight from the slopes, order a pitcher of beer and put your feet up.
Top elevation 4,660ft
The resort: It’s a nice quiet town with good nightlife and shopping. Ski-wise, they have something for every level of skier. It’s for families but you also go here to party – the nightlife is amazing. They have good bands playing and such a good atmosphere.
Must-do run: Take the gondola that ends about 500m (1,640ft) from the top and from there you can hitch a ride behind the snowcat for about €10 (£8). They’ll take you all the way to the top, which is about 1,400m (4,590ft). The views from here are amazing. It’s a really long and fun run all the way down and you can choose how challenging you want it to be.
Après-ski: Broken is an American-style hamburger joint that has been there for years and years. You have huge meals, there’s a great vibe and brilliant après. The party gets better the later it gets. You’ll definitely run into one of the local ski pros there, it’s where they all head after a day on the mountain.