Fresh winter ideas from the Dolomites to the Arctic include rail tours, gourmet mountain huts, eco-friendly snowmobiling – and great skiing
Snowshoeing in the Dolomites, Italy
Promising magical winter hikes along snowy forest trails in the Fanes-Senes-Braies natural park, around Lago di Braies and beneath the craggy peaks of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo. This snowshoeing trip to the Dolomites explores some of the region’s prettiest scenery. Hotel Adler has a great restaurant and a wellness center in the village of Villabassa. It’s the base for the week and the tour is offered with the option of rail travel instead of flights.
Electric snowmobiles in La Plagne, France
Like snowmobiling but hate the fumes and noise this winter? There is an electric option. The Alps’ first fleet of Moonbikes, which are easier and lighter to ride. They have a top speed of 26mph. Moonbikes available for hire from Oxygène ski school in La Plagne for guided tours in the early evening. This happens after the lifts close. It’s a quiet yet exciting way to explore the slopes.
Snowy no-fly city break to Budapest
The winter journey’s part of the fun on a short break by rail to the Hungarian capital. Setting off from London St Pancras to Brussels, then a change of train at Cologne (and time for dinner in the old town) to hop on the sleeper to Vienna and arriving in Budapest the next day for lunch (goulash, surely). Three days here is enough to pack in the city’s thermal spa baths, Buda Castle, clubbing in the Jewish Quarter and the Christmas markets. On the return there’s a stopover in Munich, close to the Bavarian and Austrian Alps, so it’s possible to extend the trip for some snow sports.
Scandinavian grand rail tour
The Polar Express is new and utterly epic rail tour to Scandinavia’s coolest cities and most exhilarating Arctic realms. Going by rail from London to Cologne then on to Copenhagen, Gothenburg and Oslo. The 21-night adventure takes in the scenic Dovre and Rauma railways and crosses the Arctic Circle on the Nordland Line. Chilly days will be spent exploring Norwegian mountains, on elk safaris, visiting fjords, forests and the Lofoten Islands (by ferry); looking out for the aurora borealis, and warming up with fika (coffee and cake stops). Some of the region’s top architectural hotels – the Icehotel, the Treehotel and Arctic Bath in Swedish Lapland – are included.
Wine on skis, Alta Badia, Italy
Delicious South Tirolean wines are one of the best things about a holiday to Italy’s Alta Badia region. Here, one of the most popular winter activities is the “sommelier on the slopes” event. Accompanied by a ski guide and a wine expert, skiers zip from hut to hut for fine wine tastings. New this year are dates that include a four-course tasting menu lunch at a gourmet hut. Try it on a Ski World self-drive package to the rebuilt Residence Villa Trieste in Corvara.
Posh new hostel in Austria’s Zillertal
“Basic but wow” is the perfect description for the rooms at Das Gerlos. And though the new pad calls itself a modern hostel, it looks pretty smart, and has a spa. In the quiet mountain village of Gerlos, at 1,246 metres, it’s a great base for cross-country skiing and winter hikes. Ski lifts a short walk away link to the wider Zillertal ski area, with 180 lifts and 542km of slopes. And unusual activities such as moonlight skiing.
New ski train packages to the French Alps
The end of the ticketed Eurostar Ski Train service, which used to whisk skiers from the UK to the Alps, was a blow, but Compagnie des Alpes, which runs lifts in many ski resorts, has launched a new chartered service. Unlike with the Eurostar, tickets must be bought as part of a package with lift pass and accommodation through Travelski Express. The overnight non-stop journey leaves London St Pancras on Friday evenings, arriving in Moûtiers and Bourg-Saint-Maurice the next morning, and returns the following Saturday. The tour includes transfers to Tignes, Les Arcs, La Plagne, Méribel, Les Menuires or Val d’Isère. Oh, and there are no sleepers, only reclining seats.
Festive family skiing in France
Skiing at Christmas is a magical, twinkly Santa’s-grotto-come-to-life experience, but prohibitively expensive for most families. For a relative bargain, look at the budget-focused UCPA. Set up 56 years ago by the French government to encourage youngsters to take part in outdoor sports, it’s now a not-for-profit organisation. On its family weeks to French resorts, accommodation is typically in a big hotel with a bar and nightclub, with buffet meals and evening entertainment – everything’s included and there’s a fun atmosphere.
New French base for secluded winter walking
A few miles from glitzy Courchevel in the French Alps, but a world apart, the village of Pralognan-la-Vanoise has landed on the map with the opening of stylish four-star hotel, Edelweiss. This off-the-radar village has been a mountaineering centre for more than 150 years and is an excellent spot for cross-country skiing and winter hiking as well as the downhill stuff. Close to the village centre, at 1,500 metres, the hotel has 23 chic, pine-clad rooms and a spa.
Cumbrian fondue by the slopes
For a taste of Alpine life closer to home, The Yan boutique hotel near Grasmere is a fun option for a wintry weekend, influenced by the owners’ years of managing ski chalets. A new winter menu features Cumbrian fondue and croziflette – pasta baked in cheese – and if the snow is plentiful, there’s actual skiing on Raise, a peak on the Helvellyn range, where the Lake District Ski Club’s tow lifts whirr into life to access nine ungroomed runs.