The snow has been very late to arrive and the ski resorts have suffered badly, but by the end of the week that might just be a distant memory – it snowed last weekend and its forecasted to snow all week. Very good news indeed… and it even snowed here at home … just minutes away from the Med!
And on that happy note I thought I’d cast around for ski resorts off the beaten track. I’ve already talked about the resorts in Greece – I’d say that was off the beaten track, skiing in Sweden which shouldn’t be off the beaten track but is for some reason, the numerous nursery slopes in Slovenia and the fabulous powder in Japan, but how about some just a little closer to home?
That would mean Baqueira-Beret for us in the south of France or the south west. Paqueira-Beret, known as “The pearl of the Pyrenees” is a village at 1,500m in the Pyrenees which has become Spain’s largest single resort, and a favourite with the Royals. It has over 4,700 skiable acres (1,922 hectares) .and its latitude gives an hour more daylight for skiing than in the Alps, plus it’s warmer. Three valleys shape Baqueira and it has a thousand metre vertical drop – the ski area extends from 1,500 to the 2,510 metres.
Skiing at Baqueira-Beret in the Pyrenees
Then, for those of you who are State side, there’s Mammoth in eastern California which is still relatively off the beaten track mainly because it has been difficult to get to. Mammoth evolved from humble beginnings into a world-class mountain resort. It has more than 3,500 acres (1,400 ha) of skiable terrain, ably serviced by a modern lift system. 27 lifts, including the new 15-passenger Village Gondola, “six pack” Eagle Express, high speed quads and the Panorama Gondola, whisk visitors to their destinations. It is the highest ski resort in California and is known for receiving the highest amount of snowfall of any eastern Sierra peak. The area has 3,100 ft (940 m) of vertical, rising to an elevation of 11,053 ft (3,369 m). It is famous for its bowls, groomed trails, secluded runs through the trees and steep chutes and offers runs for skiers of all abilities, from beginners to experts.
An added attraction are the eight Unbound terrain parks of which Unbound Main, which is located adjacent to Main Lodge, is much loved by extreme snowboarding and skiing enthusiasts, and is one of the major attractions of the ski resort. Many of the top professionals in the sport come to practice and compete in the world famous 18 ft (5.5 m) Super Pipe and 22 ft (6.7 m) Super-Duper Pipe. There are only a handful of SuperDuper pipes in the world. There is also a Mini Pipe. Mammoth Mountain is one of only a handful of resorts in the world to offer a halfpipe of this size and is the only resort in North America to offer three different-sized halfpipes. Mammoth Mountain is also the home training ground for the X Games’ Mammoth Team riders so expect to see some spectacular stunts there. Free skiing championships are also held here.
It is amazing that it is still considered off the beaten track … especially since it also has one of the longest ski seasons in North America, which averages from November to June. However, ski season commercial flights are now available to the area so Mammoth’s relative obscurity to the outside world is about to become a thing of the past.
Mammoth Mountain’s opening day in 2010/2011
Finally – Romania. Romania I’ve never talked about. Polana Brasov, in Transylvania’s Carpathian Mountains, is its most popular resort. It has 12 slalom runs, eight miles of marked ski runs and a lively apres ski life. This resort does not match the other better known European resorts for efficiency yet that’s half the charm and its incredibly reasonable. The majority of pistes are very easy, but what there is of the steep stuff will test the skills of advanced skiers/boarders. Beginners have their very own slopes. It is an Intermediate’s paradise with plenty of lovely wide blues and reds through Sulinar and Ruia. Some call this ‘motorway skiing’ but I prefer to call it ‘waltzing’ because you can’t fail to ski beautifully on a piste like this! More advanced skiers will find fierce blacks on Subteleferic or Lupului, but as there is not much choice for advanced skiers you may find it a bit limiting.
And an added attraction is Dracula’s castle nearby.Vlad the Impaler, Dracular’s namesake, is long gone but the castle is really spooky and freezing cold and your imagination can run riot here!
Skiing in Postavaru mountain – Lupului Slope Brasov Romania
It looks lovely… and empty. Even lovelier!