Here are five of the leading World Cup resorts for skiers to visit:
Lake Louise, Canada
- The resort with more ski kilometres than any other in Canada, Lake Louise has plenty of runs to suit beginners, intermediates and experts. For those who like a challenge, there's good powder, some mogul fields and steep runs above the treeline. One of the lift pass options includes pistes at Mount Norquay and Sunshine Village. Located in the beautiful Canadian Rockies, Lake Louise is a charming resort with good apres ski, accommodation and other snow activities, including sleigh rides, ice-skating, cross-country skiing and dog sledding. It hosts men's and women's races at the end of November and in early December during the Winterstart racing festival. Calgary is the best airport for connections.
- The Val Gardena has welcomed the world's best male downhillers for the last 40 years or so, staging races in December amid the stunning Italian Dolomites. Selva is the main resort in the valley, part of the Dolomiti Superski area and one of the stops on the 26km-long Sella Ronda ski tour. It's a great resort for intermediates and has some good nursery slopes in the centre of the village. The Saslong downhill course is famous for the so-called camel bumps that the speedy love to jump but it's not the toughest course on the circuit and is therefore skiable by good intermediates. Selva, which is known as Wolkenstein by German-speaking residents, is at 1,500m or so and has the best snow record of the other villages in the valley.
St Moritz, Switzerland
- One of the most glamorous resorts in the Alps, St Moritz has hosted Winter Olympics and Alpine Skiing World Championships and is visited regularly by the best women racers on the World Cup tour. St Moritz, at 1,770m, has some of the priciest hotels and restaurants in the mountains, is popular with celebrities but generally avoided by skiers on a budget. The skiing is best suited to intermediates and experts, with fewer runs for beginners, and the black runs at Diavolezza are a particular challenge. The nightlife is good and visitors can always enjoy horse racing on the frozen lake when taking a break from skiing.
- The Streif on the Hahnenkamm mountain at Kitzbuhel is widely recognised as the toughest men's downhill course on the World Cup circuit and the race meeting is also the biggest social event on the tour. With some terrifyingly steep pitches and long jumps, all skiers need their wits about them when giving it a try. The village overflows with visitors during the event, held at the end of January every year, and the atmosphere gets particularly electric if the race is won by an Austrian. Generally, Kitzbuhel's skiing is a lot milder than the Streif would suggest, with some particularly good runs for beginners and intermediates. The main problem facing the resort is its relatively low altitude, which means snow conditions can suffer in dry or mild weather.
- Host of the 1936 Winter Olympics, and the first of the competitions to see alpine ski medals awarded, Garmisch-Partenkirchen is Germany's premier winter sports resort and has hosted the sport's World Championships on a couple of occasions. The slopes are regular stops on the men's and women's downhill and slalom tours, with recreational skiing on the Hausberg, Kreuzeck and Osterfelder runs. Visitors can also take the mountain railway up to the Zugspitz glacier area, which offers easier high-altitude pistes. The resort, formed when the towns of Garmisch and Partenkirchen were united for the Olympics, is reached easily by train from Munich airport.