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This season’s best winter sports experiences

Nothing stands still for long in the world of winter sports. Each season brings with it a plethora of new opportunities to get excited about, from resort facelifts to the rise of new trends like fat biking. We round up some of this season's hottest developments

This season’s best winter sports experiences
Hit the slopes. Image: Getty Images

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Austria: The missing link
For lovers of Austria’s Arlberg region, new lift connections linking Stuben and Zurs will be music to their ears. The much-anticipated connection will do away with the need for a bus ride, and heralds the complete linking of the stretch of resorts from St Anton am Arlberg to Lech. This will increase the ski area to 190 miles of downhill runs, with 87 lifts. The four new lifts, which include a gondola from Stuben to Zürs, will make it easily feasible to ski the entire route in either direction in one day. The £35 million project makes the Arlberg ski area, where all resorts are covered in one lift pass, the largest interconnected ski area in Austria and one of the largest ski areas in the world. stantonamarlberg.com

Finland: Chasing the Northern Lights
In the Arctic wilderness of Finnish Lapland, a seven-night family adventure based at the Muotka Wilderness Lodge will have you thundering through the tundra on a sled pulled by huskies; snowmobiling across pristine landscapes; riding in a reindeer sleigh; trying your hand at cross-country skiing and snowshoeing; and relaxing tired muscles in a natural sauna. Located near Saariselka, 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle, close to the Russian border, this is a renowned spot for viewing the Northern lights. A nighttime trip to the Aurora Camp — one of the best locations for experiencing this natural wonder — is highly recommended. inghams.co.uk

USA: Wild west white-out
A daily flight with Delta from Heathrow to Salt Lake City makes Wyoming’s Jackson Hole an easy destination. A new Sweetwater Gondola has helped facilitate more intermediate and beginner skiing options this season — a welcome development in a resort renowned for its advanced runs. jacksonhole.com

Switzerland: Licence to thrill
Take a break from the slopes in the Swiss resort of Mürren to discover the secret lair of James Bond’s nemesis Blofeld. Perched atop the Schilthorn at a lofty 9,744ft is the revolving 360°-Restaurant Piz Gloria, which acted as the villain’s hideaway in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Try the Bond World 007: Interactive Experience, complete with simulated helicopter ride, before testing your mettle on a black-run descent. Intermediates can take the cable car down and pick up some red and blue runs at Schiltgrat. It’s worth visiting for the stunning views over Wengen and the Mönch, Eiger and Jungfrau mountains. schilthorn.ch

Italy: Family fun
Champoluc in the Aosta Valley is the gateway to skiing in the Monterosa region and the resorts of Gressoney and Alagna. It’s also a base for Ski 2, which offers parents the chance to freely enjoy the 124 miles of pistes, happy in the knowledge that the Ski 2 Penguin Club and ski school are looking after their children. The kids’ clubs are managed and run by qualified British staff and run exclusively for clients on Ski 2 holidays. ski-2.com

Switzerland: Off the beaten track
The secret valley of Val d’Anniviers in Valais, comprising the resorts of Grimentz, Zinal, St-Luc and Vercorin, has almost doubled its ski area with a new cable car linking Grimentz and Zinal. One of the oldest villages in the Alps, Grimentz is home to cobblestone roads so narrow the roofs of houses on either side touch overhead. Don’t miss a cheese fondue evening and a ski run under the light of the full moon. valdanniviers.ch

Europe: Top-secret destination
Finding the best snow can often be a challenge —  so this season, Ski Weekend offers two mystery trips, with the location to be dictated by snowfall. The Top Secret experience is a four-day off-piste trip with a mountain guide, hosted in either La Grave, Grimentz/Zinal, Lötschental, Alagna, Monterosa or the Haute Tarentaise. “I’ll assess the snowfalls and predicted weather systems and make a call at the last minute to find the best snow,” says guide Gavin Foster. skiweekend.com

Italy: Gourmet ski safari
As fresh snow coats the dramatic peaks of the Dolomites, the first few days of December in Alta Badia are all about food. The region boasts three Michelin-starred restaurants, and chefs from these eateries team up with international guest chefs to cook up a range of dishes at a host of mountain locations. Skiers can slope from one hut to the next, sampling the chefs’ creations alongside wines from the South Tyrol. For those wanting further indulgence, a wine-tasting safari will take place in March. altabadia.org

Switzerland: Spectacular spa experience
The spa in the Tschuggen Grand Hotel in Arosa is something of a bucket-list experience. Designed by Mario Botta, the four-storey, 5,000sq metre spa includes indoor and outdoor pools and 11 treatment rooms. Arosa used to be a small resort with limited skiing but plenty of non-skiing activities and walking. Two years ago, however, it was transformed by a cable car linking it to the resort of Lenzerheide (a favourite destination of Roger Federer), trebling the ski run area. tschuggen.ch

Winter sports and ski news: Fat biking. Image: Getty Images

Fat biking. Image: Getty Images

Italy: Fat bike over the Alps
Fat bikes are fast gaining in popularity, with resorts across the Alps setting up tracks and offering bikes for rent. Cortina d’Ampezzo is one of the first to have set up two dedicated fat bike slopes, situated behind the lifts of the Rifugio Col Gallina. Night runs can be arranged, and bikes cost approximately £35 to rent. cortinadolomiti.org

Canada: High-speed adventures
Lying face-down on a sled the size of a tea tray at the top of an Olympic skeleton track certainly gets the adrenalin going. At the Whistler Sliding Centre in British Columbia, you too can enjoy the thrill of reaching speeds of up to 62mph while zipping down the world’s fastest ice track. Once you’ve mastered the skeleton, why not try the four-man bobsleigh. The experiences include a safety briefing and two descents. whistlerslidingcentre.com

Italy: Heli-skiing on a budget 
Although the words ‘heli-skiing’ and ‘affordable’ are usually mutually exclusive, the small Italian resort of Livigno presents a rare opportunity for the two to meet. Heli-skiing was recently introduced here and is only permitted in two valleys. Situated near the Swiss border, Livigno has duty-free status and is a favourite with intermediate and beginner skiers. Heli-skiers will need off-piste experience. livigno.eu

France: A new look for Val d’Isere
This season sees the biggest innovation in France’s top resort for more than a decade, with the opening of a new gondola in the Solaise area, complete with wi-fi and heated seats. The £13.8 million redevelopment will transform mountain access for all standards of skiers, particularly beginners — new slopes have been added at the gondola drop-off to provide the perfect pitch for both novices and snowboarders. There will also be a North American-style day lodge located at the gondola station and, somewhat unusually for a European resort, a picnic area. Best of all, special lift pass reductions are being offered in celebration of the new openings. valdisere.com

Antarctica: Trip of a lifetime
The frozen wilderness of Antartica is the location of a one-off ski trip. Traverse ice and snow, climb blue ice glaciers, and cross ice-covered beaches where penguins and seals roam wild. This ski mountaineering adventure is a 29-day journey that begins with a sail across the Drake Passage as the mystic scenery of the Antarctic Peninsula unfolds and mountains disappear into the sea. The dazzling colour and light is part of an extraordinarily beautiful frozen paradise. Days are spent travelling across thick ice and snow, filled with the sound of ice crunching beneath your skis. mountaintracks.co.uk/trip/ski-antarctica

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Published in the October 2016 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)