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For this week’s weekend tips we suggest something more radical than usual… and for that we turn to the experts at the National Geographic. This is our selection of Top 5 extreme Ski Towns in the world.
Switzerland is a country of classic ski towns, but Zermatt is its crown jewel. To many, it is the world’s ultimate ski resort. Though surrounded by several glacier-clad peaks, everything here—the town, the skiing, the sky—is dominated by the spiking pyramid of the mighty Matterhorn, one of the most distinctive mountains on Earth. The village itself allows only electric cars (you arrive by rail), and luxury hotels sit side by side with centuries-old wooden barns. Streets are narrow and cobbled; restaurants are abundant and expensive. It’s everything you imagine a Swiss ski village to be.
Thanks to the near-constant storm cycles pumping out of neighbouring Siberia, the mountains on the Japanese island of Hokkaido are globally renowned for having some of the most consistent, lightest powder on Earth. Niseko is the preeminent spot here, an amalgam of four independently owned, interconnected resorts that girdle 4,291-foot Mount Niseko Annupuri.
Bend is a fast-growing, adventure paradise of more than 76,000 people in central Oregon that happens to have the region’s premier ski area, Mount Bachelor, 22 miles west up the road. If you ever dream of skiing in the Pacific Northwest, Bachelor is the kind of mountain you dream about.
Globally renowned as the birthplace of extreme skiing (often defined as “you fall, you die”), Chamonix has some of the world’s premier lift-accessed steep skiing and snowboarding— including plenty of terrain that won’t leave you dead on a glacier if you catch an edge wrong. Located in a deeply cleaved valley near the trisection of France, Italy, and Switzerland, the town sits in the shadow of the highest peak in the Alps, Mont Blanc, and a tangle of other glacier-clad mountains. Chamonix’s cobblestone streets and car-free pedestrian center make for a classic mountain village environment typically bustling with leathery mountaineers and gawking tourists.
In the world of classic ski towns, Taos is a unique gem. Originally an ancient, high-desert pueblo at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in northern New Mexico, the city was populated in the early 20th century by artists and writers who were attracted to the Native American and Hispanic culture, stunning natural surroundings, and the region’s 300 annual days of crystalline sunshine. In 1955, a German immigrant named Ernie Blake founded Taos Ski Valley 18 miles outside of town in a narrow valley engulfed by precipitous peaks. Today, the Swiss-style chalets at the area’s base exude an old-time European character while the town itself feels like a funky Southwestern artist’s colony.
So which is your pick?