Karen has travelled all over the place to get her skiing fix – from early days growing up in the Cairngorms, to winter seasons in Austria, to luxurious holidays in Switzerland, Utah, California, BC, and more. Read Karen’s ski bucket list top 5, plus her recommendations for family skiing, skiing as a couple and her favourite place to take a city break stopover: San Francisco.
Ski Bucket List, Karen
- Best for high mileage: Avoriaz. Base yourself here, in the heart of the Portes du Soleil, and you can go in a different direction every morning, covering hundreds of kilometres of varied pistes on the French/Swiss border. Avoriaz is in the best position to access the whole circuit, but it’s possible from any of the villages – that dash to make the last lift just adds to the excitement!
- Best for late season: Alberta triple centre. Individually Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper are all great, but combine them in a triple centre trip and you get jaw dropping views and world class skiing at every turn. It’s great at any time of the season, but in April, when the sun comes out and the wildlife starts to wake up, there’s no better place to be. The Icefields Parkway (between Lake Louise and Jasper) is regularly voted among the world’s best drives, and gets my vote for most amazing scenery too!
- Best place to stay: The Fairmont Chateau Whistler ticks all the boxes for me. It offers ski-in/ski-out luxury at its best. There are larger and more luxurious rooms elsewhere in Whistler, but I’ve yet to find a hotel that can touch it for atmosphere and warmth. Sitting in their slopeside hot-tub with a cold beer, after a great day on the slopes is something every skier should experience at least once!
- Best place to be on a powder day: It’s a three way tie! Squaw Valley, California; Engelberg, Switzerland; and Snowbird, Utah. All three have the elements I love best in abundance: steep pitches, wide open bowls and great scenery!
- Best Après-ski: Aspen. Hand over your skis to the valet and start on the patio at the Ajax Tavern. Then move to the poolside happy hour at the 39 degrees bar in the Sky Hotel. Feeling hungry? Check out the awesome happy hour at the Limelight Lodge which includes personal pizzas. To top it off I recommend the cocktail list at the J Bar – whatever your tastes you’ll find a bar in Aspen that feels like home!
For Couples I would recommend:
The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise: normally on a ski trip I’d suggest that it’s a bit of a waste of money to pay for a view you’re not going to see much of. This is the exception! The tranquillity of Lake Louise isn’t going to suit everyone, but the view over the lake and glacier opposite is jaw dropping. Use jet-lag to your advantage and get up early to watch the sunrise over the lake. You won’t forget it.
For families I would recommend:
Saas Fee: Swiss resorts generally work well for families and this is no exception. OK, it’s a longer transfer than some, but you can use the Swiss rail/bus system which is great value and kids travel free! The village is car free, charming and full of family friendly restaurants. There’s a full programme of kids activities and the ski school will take your little ones from age 3. Be sure to check out the Waldhaus Bodmen.. a rustic restaurant kids of all ages will love! There are camels, alpacas and ducks in the barn, and inside the restaurant there’s are bunnies and guinea pigs in an enormous pen (these don’t seem to be on the menu!).
For a city break stopover:
San Francisco is one of those special cities that has a unique vibe and appeal. The summer months can see it shrouded by a thick fog so visiting in the winter months, when the air tends to be clearer means you can see the city at its best. It’s a great add on to your California ski trips and works well at the beginning of end of your stay, or both!
Here are a few ideas of how to fill your time…
San Francisco is quirky. The downtown is compact so it’s ideal for exploring on foot or by ‘trolley’ (we don’t really like the word ‘tram’ here in Edinburgh!). I recommend staying at Clift Hotel, a fantastic boutique hotel on Geary street with an Alice in Wonderland feel and a very funky bar.
Start your day with a ride on the trolley down to Fisherman’s Wharf. The open air vehicles have been running since 1873 and are the only ones of their kind left in the world. Grab some breakfast at Fishermans Wharf and the famous Pier 39. Unashamedly touristy, but endearing, you’ll find craft (tat) shops, restaurants and sea lions galore here!
A trip to Alcatraz is a must: worth booking in advance as spaces are limited, and go in the morning if you can as the views tend to be better. You can tour the prison, take the ubiquitous photos of your nearest and dearest in incarceration, and get a real feel for this unique landmark. You’ll get great views of the Golden Gate Bridge from here, and those staying for more than a day may fancy hiring bikes to explore this at close quarters. You can also take helicopter tours to get a different perspective on one of the most photographed bridges in the world.
San Francisco has a fantastic literary and arts history so you can head to North Beach; the Italian district, to check out the haunts of Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation. The City Lights bookshop retains that lovely old bookshop feel that Borders and Waterstones just can’t touch! Grab a beer in Vesuvius next door and soak up the atmosphere.
From North Beach, head to Lombard Street – at one end it’s the crookedest street in the world! Go there if that’s your thing, or head the other way and climb up to the Coit Tower: this will give you great views of the city and there are some great paintings and murals too. It’s at the top of Telegraph Hill and to give those thighs a work out you can head down the 400 ‘Filbert Steps’ – this scenic route takes you through gardens with resident parrots!
From there you can stroll down the Embarcadero and the Old Ferry Building. This used to be a transit hub but is now a big foodie market with delicious artisan Californian produce – you’re bound to have worked off that breakfast now so treat yourself to a cocktail and a spot of local cuisine.
Head back to the Union Square area if you want to take in some big brand shopping: the flagship Levis, Apple and BeneFit stores are all here! Or take a wander through Chinatown – one of the largest in North America.
When you get back to the Clift, you can chill out in the Redwood lounge. The bar is carved from a singe redwood tree and It has a cool lounge vibe and great cocktails! And if Chinatown didn’t tempt you, you’ll find lots of great restaurants, or perhaps you can check out a show at one of Geary street’s theatres.
You’ll sleep well after that!
Get in touch with Karen or any of our reservations team by calling 0131 243 8097 for expert help and advice with your ski holiday plans this winter. Click here to request a tailor-made quotation online.