As the mercury drops in Hong Kong, we turn our imaginations to places where the air is fresh and crisp, and we can frolic in the snow. Here are five wintry destinations perfect for satisfying that urge this year!
If you want a snowy Japan adventure that’s closer to Tokyo, then Hakuba is the place for you. Accessible by a quick bullet train from Tokyo station to Nagano station (with a picturesque view of Mount Fuji along the way), Hakuba offers some phenomenal skiing and snowboarding routes. Hakuba was the host of the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, and offers more terrain, vertical rise and advanced slopes than anywhere in Japan.
Take the opportunity to experience Japanese culture too; after an exhausting day of skiing, nothing is better than being able to warm up and relax in a traditional Japanese onsen (hot spring). The mineral content in the onsen water is believed to have healing powers, soothing away any aches, pains or sprains from your outdoor adventures!
Yongpyong, South Korea
Yongpyong ski resort is located in the north west of South Korea, at an elevation of 700 m in the Baekdudaegan Mountains. It is the largest ski and snowboard resort in Korea, and due to its upcoming hosting of the technical alpine events of slalom and giant slalom in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games; it has recently gained increased international recognition.
The highest point of the resort is Dragon Peak, where the Olympic downhill events will be held. It has several advanced slopes and is accessible by a scenic gondola ride. The remainder of the ski area offers a good range of options for different abilities, with the more groomed runs for beginners on the lower slopes. Other activities in the area include karaoke and bowling, as well as great Korean food to be had.
Weather patterns that form over west Hokkaido mean that Niseko accommodates some of the highest snowfall in Japan, making it an internationally recognised skiing hotspot. The moisture content of the snow is only eight per cent, which means that it is extremely light and powdery, making for incredible skiing!
The ski resort has 64 courses in total. They range from wide-open runs to off-piste glades, meaning there’s something for everyone. The longest run is an impressive 5.6 km long! By purchasing an All Mountain lift pass, you can use all 38 lifts and spend your days exploring the four areas of this responsibly managed development – Annupuri, Higashiyama, Hirafu, and Hanazono. If skiing or snowboarding isn’t your thing, you can try out a spot of horseback riding, snow tubing or snowshoeing instead, and sample some top-notch Japanese cuisine. Don’t leave without soaking in an onsen!
Pragelato Vilattea, Italy
Boasting charming chalets and a beautifully preserved nature site, Pragelato Vialattea is the perfect European getaway for winter holidays. It is located in the Piedmont region at an altitude of 1,600 m. The ski area is huge; in total there are 440 km of slopes, all which have consistently good-quality powder snow.
The area has been carefully preserved both environmentally and culturally, and retains a traditional Italian authenticity – you won’t find a single Starbucks here! The Mollino Chalet at an altitude of 2,300 m has the best hot chocolate in the area, and you can’t leave without trying the pizza at La Trattoria – the crust is classically thin and crispy, and extremely delicious.
Whistler-Blackcomb is commonly held as North America’s number one ski resort. It has a fantastic range of terrain: from its famous steep chutes and open powder-filled bowls to sheltered tree-lined cruising pistes and gentle beginner slopes. Blackcomb Mountain has two permanent glacier snowfields, which means that unsuitable snow conditions are rarely a worry. The spectacular ‘Peak 2 Peak’ gondola connects together the upper slopes of Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb Mountain, which means that you don’t have to descend all the way down the mountain just to get to the other side. The combined lift system can handle a massive 65,507 skiers per hour!
Other than these activities, you can also enjoy snowmobile and dog-sled excursions, indoor climbing, outdoor zip-line routes, and treatments at one of the many soothing spas. The après ski scene is also alive and well here: Dusty’s and the Garibaldi Lift Co. Bar are prime examples of good ol’ Canadian bars!