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Skiing with a difference

If you fancy going somewhere different to ski this year read our first hand accounts on skiing in Slovenia and Wyoming in the US. Two of the a&u team discovered that the magic went way beyond the piste

Ljubljana and Lake Bled:

Slovenia's Julian Alps entranced Julia Colls 

ski slovenia julia colls

We got some funny looks when we said to friends we were going skiing in Slovenia. However, we’re on a family quest to try out new ski locations so, after reading an article about Lake Bled, we got booking.

We flew into Ljubljana, collected our 10-seater mini bus and headed into the city for lunch. The February sun shone brightly as we strolled through the pretty city streets. We zoomed up the cable car to the city’s fortress castle and nosed around the ramparts whilst admiring the glorious views.

Tucked away within the Julian Alps, our base for the week was the charmingly rustic Old Bled House, a minute’s walk from the Lake. No one can prepare you for the breathtaking beauty of Lake Bled. With its picture-postcard island and cut-glass waters, it felt like we’d stumbled into a fairy tale. We hiked up the cliffs and spent a morning exploring stunning Lake Bled Castle. Brightly lit at night, it looks just magical at sunset.

skiing slovenia family skiing slovenia slopes

Now for the white stuff. The Slovenian ski areas are small but perfectly formed. We skied them all. Krvavec is the closest resort from any European airport, a mere 8km. We found many families here. Just 25km from Ljubljana, it’s easy to zip to and very good value. With a 30km ski area, we skied every run in a day. Kranjska Gora is the most famous and oldest resort in Slovenia with 18 slopes in a 20km ski area. Although none of the resorts were crowded we found the most people here. Vogel is a true winter wonderland with stunning scenery tucked next to Lake Bohinj and our total fave. Set within the Triglav National Park, it’s the most natural ski area I have ever visited. We enjoyed 18 km of pistes with magnificent panoramic views. The kids adored the rather bouncy one-man chair lift!

Food on piste is not great. Expect hot dogs, fries and bar snacks and some pretty questionable local stews. Gastro it is not but again it’s hugely good value. Back at the lake we found many good restaurants for dinner, the winner being the fantastic Old Cellar Bled, a vaulted wine cellar in our hotel offering a ‘Taste of Slovenia Wine Journey’.

skiing piste slovenia

We felt like we were in on a huge secret only we knew about. We didn’t have to queue once for a lift and the short easy slopes are perfect for families and beginners. If you are a piste-thirsty skier wanting to cover miles of terrain, Slovenia is not for you. If, however, you are after a good-value family holiday, don’t mind driving to a resort every day and like the odd castle or two, and lake-side stroll thrown into the mix, then this is the holiday for you. We loved it. Next on our list is Bulgaria!

Julia’s 7-night stay in Lake Bled cost £2,408 for a family of 4 incl EasyJet flights. Sixt Car Hire £325; 5-Day Julian Alps ski pass (covers 7 resorts all 1-hour drive from Lake Bled) 96 kids, 127 adults. oldbledhouse.si  oldcellarbled.com sloalps.com

We’re Goin’ to Jackson…

Emily Turner and her son combined Teton Valley skiing with cowboy bars and wildlife

jacksons hole emily

My thirteen-year-old son had had Johnny Cash on repeat since I told him we were going to Jackson. Jackson Hole, Wyoming is not, of course, the Jackson, Tennessee of which Mr Cash and Ms Carter sing – in fact it’s a darn site further west – and reeks of cowboys, saloon bars and last frontiers. It counts Harrison Ford as a resident and, for tourists, is primarily a summer destination for hiking, fishing and cycling in the Grand Teton National Park and neighbouring Yellowstone. But, and this was the primary reason for our visit, it also has fantastic skiing.

After an endless flight via Chicago (don’t ever change here if you have a choice) and Denver, we arrived in Jackson (during high season you don’t have to make the double change). We passed Jackson town and headed on to Teton Village, at the foot of the Teton mountains and home to the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. There is a variety of places to stay here – if you are feeling flash, the Four Seasons has the best location at the foot of the slopes. Roaring fires, open stonework and lots of natural rugs and furs, it feels authentically Wyoming and if you can afford it, worth the extra cash. Otherwise there is a good range of lodges and self-catering options. Neither Jimmy nor I had skied in North America before. The scale, even compared to the big French resorts we know, is extraordinary. In the Alps, the mountains are all bunched up, sparkling spikes jostling round Mont Blanc; here we looked out over a wide flat valley at a chilled Indian chief asleep in the rock [see if you can make him out in the photo above].

jimmy emily colorado

As you would expect, the ski hire was super slick and the tuition excellent. You could happily spend a holiday exploring the miles of groomed tracks, trails and heli skiing. But whatever you do, do NOT just do that; the high point of our visit was still to come.

For our last two days we transferred to Jackson town. I read Laura Ingalls-Wilder at a formative age, so for me it was like walking into the world of Pa, Ma, Mary, Laura and Carrie. (OK, I was a state too far west but hell, I wanted to go and order calico from Mr Oleson’s store). There are antlers in the main square, you can sit on saddle stools and drink bourbon in the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar; I want to say a moose might eat your veg in summer. It is a film set without feeling like a theme park. We both LOVED it.

cowboy bar colorado emily

Traditionalists stay at the Worth Hotel but Jimmy and I were delighted with the boutique Hotel Jackson, one block from the action. There is a mountain to ski on here too, the Snow King Mountain Resort. Though not worth crossing the Atlantic for – it is where the local kids go to ski after school – we spent a happy morning skiing off trail on rickety old lifts that just added to the charm. At the bottom is a hideous roller coaster run that Jimmy adored and the memory of which is making me feel queasy as I type.

Even in Winter there is lots to occupy non-skiing days. We learnt about beer and had a delicious lunch at Snake River Brewing, Wyoming’s oldest brewery and stocked up on Christmas presents (there is dangerously good shopping). The high point of the trip came on our last day with a half-day Winter Wildlife Safari Tour. The grizzlies were asleep but we saw bison, moose, elk, even a golden eagle. We have vowed to come back in the Spring with our tent.

10 nights at Teton Valley & Jackson Hole (staying at the Teton Mountain Lodge and the Worth Hotel) costs from £2,095 p/p incl flights with United Airlines.skisafari.com jacksonhole.com

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