Cottarel  Ot  Val  Thorens

Head in the clouds - Snow

Love to ski, less keen on the crowds? This year, forgo the usual ski village hotels and escape to a secluded getaway at the top of the piste, says Alicia Miller.

Copperhill Mountain Lodge Åre, Sweden

As you glide through the air a few hundred feet above the ground, you look down to the snow sparkling beneath you. You’re on your way to Copperhill Mountain Lodge – taxied by private helicopter no less – and if this isn’t making an entrance, what is? It might be a bit theatrical, but what better way to arrive at this exclusive resort snuggled above the treeline at the top of Mount Förberget.

The location, in the Swedish ski resort of Åre, is perfect for those who hate crowds, as it is surprisingly undiscovered given the quality of its runs. There are 103 pistes here, mostly geared towards beginners, as well as six black runs (the best sit just below the peak of Mount Åreskutan). But it’s not only Copperhill’s prime plot above this sleepy resort that makes it so desirable – it’s also something to do with that chic Nordic style that Copperhill simply oozes (it is part of Design Hotels). Tanned woods and faux furs take centre stage in minimalist rooms, and there’s a heavy splash of copper throughout, a nod to the area’s mining history. Quirky artistic touches dot the public spaces – you can’t miss the two-metre sculptures by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa near the helipad; the human heads look as though they have been carved from pure ice, and glow like lanterns through the winter nights.

Non-skiers can dodge a day on the downhill for a session of dog or reindeer sledding, or spend time sampling the treatments in the superb spa, where there is even a ‘caviar facial’. If you’d rather eat the stuff than wear it, head to one of the hotel’s three excellent restaurants. Expect to find reindeer fillet, bleak roe, and local mountain fish fjällröding (arctic char) on the menu at the Nieste.

Copperhill  Jk0812 9119

Travel Details

Doubles from £130, with breakfast. Three course dinner at the Nieste restaurant from £50 a head (

Hotel Wedelhutte Zillertal, Austria

At an altitude of 2,350 metres above sea level, Hotel Wedelhütte feels pretty close to heaven. Perched at the highest point in austria’s Hochzillertal ski area, this place defines the notion of total solitude, with nothing more to get your heart racing than unobstructed views of the 3,000 metre Zillertal alps. Oh, and the fantastic skiing.

The snowy peaks of the Zillertal are known and loved by skiers of all abilities, with a range of blue, red and black runs. there are some particularly good options for the more adept; the country’s steepest ski slope, the Harakiri (with an average incline of 78 per cent!) is the next peak over from the hotel.

Tackle the infamous run, then reward yourself with hot spinach and cheese dumplings or tyrolean-style Wiener schnitzel at nearby Schneekarhütte ( The Premium Wedler lounge’s jaw-dropping panoramic views across the endless peaks are the perfect addition to any of their delicious main courses. Try the tafelspitz, a typical austrian dish of beef, root vegetables and spices in a broth served with potatoes. After dinner, watch the sun slink below the horizon before heading down to the hotel’s two-storey wine cellar; it houses an excellent selection of austrian and international wines, and you can arrange a tasting there.

Luxurious as these touches may be, Hotel Wedelhütte, which opened in december 2009, remains relaxed and casual; it’s oldfashioned family chalet meets sophisticated comfort here. Modern touches sneak into the stylish junior suites – think dvd players, infrared cabins and fiendishly cosy beds.

But while this might tempt you to retire to your room after dinner, or to hit the pillow early, don’t miss the chance to ski the night away under the bright floodlights or to take to the toboggan run for an evening sledging under falling snowflakes and the light from a million brightly twinkling stars. It is an experience to remember.

Wedelhutte Lounge 1  Quelle  M   Kleiner  Gmb H

Travel Details

doubles from €240, half-board (

Le Chardon Chalet Val d’isere, France

We’ve heard it all before. one of the world’s finest ski resorts, france’s most varied ski destination, breeding ground of champions such as Jean-Claude Killy – Val d’Isere hardly needs introduction. Scores of visitors arrive every season for the runs, the great snow, the food and the night life – which is what makes finding the perfect place to stay, away from the crowds, that much more rewarding. Look no further for your private paradise than on the piste at Solaise Mountain, and to Le Chardon.

The largest in a collection of five luxury chalets, Le Chardon accommodates up to 20 guests and boasts uninterrupted views down to the Manchet valley from the top of the legettaz area. Solaise Mountain offers a network of gentle blue runs ideal for starter skiers; the more experienced should head to the famous face run on Bellevarde, which is usually mogulled from top to bottom.

Crafted in wood and stone to look almost organic on the Solaise slope-side, le Chardon perfects the val d’Isere recipe of style plus substance – with a healthy measure of seclusion thrown in. With luxury amenities including an 18-foot swim-spa, two massage rooms and a hand-crafted snow bar, le Chardon is equipped to the point of absurdity, making you (almost) wonder if you should bother going out skiing at all. Five-course dinners are included in the price, and are extremely tasty – highlights include the crab tortellini with cucumber tarragon consommé and sea urchin tempura and the seared scallop, fennel cream, sumac crisps apple fondant, and sour jelly.

The chalet also has a private hot tub, perect for sipping après ski drinks in, and predictably, the 10 en-suite bedrooms are gorgeous – with cosy fabrics, and floor-to-ceiling windows that mean you end each day with a sunset view over the vanoise National Park.

Lechardon Chardon  Dunvegan

Travel Details

Exclusive use of the lodge starts from £19,900 per week, half-board (

Albergo RifugIo Pralongia Alta Badia, Italy

In the heart of the Italian dolomites, an unassuming mountain hutcum-hotel nestles among glittering snow drifts. By summer this is a verdant farmer’s meadow, dotted with cows and pigs; in winter, it transforms into a white wonderland and picturesque retreat in a region home to some of Italy’s best skiing.

You’re only three hours north of venice here, but it couldn’t feel much further from civilization. Not only is Albergo Rifugio Pralongia essentially a glorified barn, but the few settlements nearby all mimic its alpine construction – sturdy stone base, thick wooden walls; both designed to withstand the onslaught of snow and ice.

Perched on a plateau above Corvara and San Cassiano, the only way up is by the Pralongia ski lift, and the only way down is on skis or snowboard. Simple bedrooms are clad in lighthued woods, and from some you can glimpse the magnificent backdrop of the limestone dolomite peaks. Bask in the morning sunshine as you cast off into the sea of powder; the gentler network of slopes on the plateau is ideal for beginners, while there are 130 kilometres of other runs for skiers of all abilities, particularly intermediates – there are 68 blue and 30 red runs as the hotel is on the same circuit (the Sella ronda) as Val Gardena. Snowboarders are well-served at the Snowpark on the Piz Sorega plateau. Alternatively, head off-piste, or give a different set of muscles a workout by snow-shoeing your way around before watching the sun set behind the 200 million-year-old Sella Massif.

This being Italy, you know you’re going to return to food. If you haven’t indulged during your day out on the slopes (there are a dizzying four Michelin-starred eateries within 20 kilometres in this part of the South tyrol), come back to home cooking at the hut. Expect fresh pastas and typical tyrolean-style dishes such as barley soup, ham dumplings and krapfen (doughnuts).

A2 Pralongia

Travel Details

Doubles from €124, including half-board (

Riffelalp Zermatt, Switzerland

If Heidi had really existed, after having made a killing on book royalties, she probably would have whiled away her days at Riffelalp. This lodge, like Heidi, is quintessentially Swiss in charm and character, and is a little piece of 19th-century history lost up in the mountains. The setting is spectacular; on a plateau at 2,222 metres, it towers above Riffelalp village. A pine forest hugs the pistes leading to the heart of the Gornergrat skiing district, part of Zermatt, which as the alps’ highest snow sports resort, guarantees skiing 365 days a year.

Zermatt has three skiing areas to explore, but don’t miss the chance to ride the highest cable car in the world, which at 3,820 metres, ends at the top of the piste on Klein Matterhorn – unsurprisingly, this is also the resort’s longest run. riffelalp was the height of luxury fashion when it first opened its doors in 1884; now the luxury part is a tad faded, but this grand old hotel has far from lost its allure.

Fine regional cuisine spills forth from the five-star kitchen of Restaurant Alexandre, while a wealth of comfort-food options are served in casual Walliser Keller. There is also a wine bar, which is stocked with a comprehensive list, and a cosy bar with armchairs and games tables. furnishings are staunchly traditional, fitting for a property of its age, and bedrooms are awash in plaids and florals.

Zermatt’s 350 kilometres of piste caters for all abilities and should keep you busy, but Riffelalp offers plenty of extracurriculars. Swim in the indoor pool – or for that matter, the outdoor pool – ice skate, curl, take a glacier tour, or practice your throw in one of the two hotel bowling alleys. If the choice itself proves too exhausting, retire to the spa centre, where the highlights include the Schönbiel, a cave with a steam bath, or the Chriiter Grotto, a combination of saline baths and waterfalls. The hotel also offers something that never goes out of style – an alpine panorama, with a view directly facing the Matterhorn. You can’t get much more Swiss than that.

Riffelalp  Chalet  Junior  Suite

Travel Details

Doubles from €290, including half-board (

Piz Seteur Val Gardena, Italy.

Resembling, from a distance, an icing sugar-dusted gingerbread cottage plucked from a Brothers Grimm fairy tale, Piz Seteur looks positively good enough to eat. at 2,064 metres, the view of the dolomites from its windows is equally enchanting; the supreme seclusion here, at the top of a ski lift, is a solitude-seeker’s dream.

As the lodge is located in the world’s largest ski circuit, dolomiti Superski, there’s plenty of breathtaking scenery to enjoy while whooshing downhill. There are 1,220 kilometres of slopes to choose from, 500 kilometres of which are interconnected. These include the Sella ronda circuit, which comprises 40 kilometres of intermediate level pistes looping through the Gardena Pass, Sella Pass, Pordo Pass or Campolongo Pass. the hotel sits right on the circuit and fit skiers can complete the circuit in a day, with stops in huts en route.

Give your legs a rest and slide down to the valley on the four-mile toboggan run; then take a break to sip on cappuccinos and taste local cured meats on the sunny veranda. Sunlight pours in through the windows of the homely bedrooms, which are decked out in fabrics as white as the snow outside. Where something can be made from pine, it has been, whether the object in question is the bed-frame, the wall-coverings or the log-like night table. The rest of the materials blend in harmoniously; a white stone wall adds fortification, a rock basin forms your sink and thick, embroidered duvets keep you warm through blisteringly cold nights.

As any newly rebuilt luxury ski lodge should, Piz Seteur comes with a pampering and wellness area. as the hotel is located in among such spectacular scenery, suitably large windows have been installed so that you can enjoy the view between sessions in the saunas and the whirlpool bath. The in-house restaurant, like the rooms, seems carved from wood, and friendly service makes you feel warm here even though it’s freezing outside.

Piz  Seteur2

Travel Details

Doubles from €140 per person, including half-board (

Sunshine mountain lodge Banff, Canada

Perched at 2,200 metres at the top of a ski lift in a Banff National Park and UNESCO World Heritage site, like so many west-coast Canadian projects these days, Sunshine Mountain lodge is a feat of eco-friendly construction. A wall of eight-metre-high windows framed with pine and stone ensures that inside this lodge is sunny indeed, and in an environmentally friendly manner at that.

Eco doesn’t mean basic, however, and each of the new west wing loft rooms has in-floor heating, natural gas fireplaces and jetted tubs. All those windows extend to the bedrooms too – which have unobstructed views of majestic lookout Mountain. In the main lodge you can bag a room with a balcony, and all bathrooms are cast in slate and granite. The Eagle’s Nest dining room, as the name suggest, affords supreme views of the snowy national park and offers hearty British Columbian produce. Expect salmon, beef and lashings of maple syrup, along with wines from the okanagan valley. Highlights include the grain mustard rack of lamb.

Sunshine village is one of Canada’s most popular intermediate-level resorts, drawing the crowd with its reputation for superb snow – around nine metres annually.

There is some excellent challenging terrain for skiers and snowboarders alike; experts should head to Goat’s eye doubleblack runs and gladed areas, or the extreme delirium dive. The lift is open until 10pm on fridays and the hotel will provide you with lanterns and blankets to snuggle under as you ride to the village. Head back up before the cold starts nipping at your toes and warm up in the cedar sauna, in front of the woodburning fireplace, or even cuddle around a crackling bonfire for a star-gazing session.

Sunshine Mountain  Mg 1158 Room  B  Dec 08 2009

Travel Details

Standard doubles in the main lodge from £176, including breakfast. Double (deluxe) room with balcony in main lodge from £200 including breakfast. three courses at the eagle’s Nest restaurant from £30 (

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