CNN | 9 Ski Resorts You Can Fly Into
(CNN)The freedom found skiing on a mountain is often earned after lengthy journeys, airport hassles and time-consuming traffic.
But what if flying to the slopes was simple?
Certain ski resorts do offer this — and not just the ones involving a helicopter lift from the nearest international airport.
“The benefit of private jet travel for ski trips is as much about time saving and convenience, as it is about luxury,” says PrivateFly chief executive Adam Twidell.
Here are nine of the best ski resorts that can by flown directly to, with airfields less than 10 miles from the ski lifts.
Courchevel is the queen of the crop when it comes to flying straight to the slopes. Europe’s highest tarmacked runway at 6,583 feet is just yards from the piste.
Skiing is only a matter of minutes away from landing. The steeply sloping runway — only 1,762 feet long — means pilots must power up on landing, a counter intuitive move.
“Get it wrong and the runway has to close while they get a tractor to come down and tow you up,” says Richard Lumb, director of Kaluma Travel. But make it intact, and the 372 miles and 166 lifts of the vast Les Trois Vallees ski area — shared with Meribel, Val Thorens and Les Menuires — are all conveniently close. So, too, are Courchevel’s seven Michelin-starred restaurants, galaxy of five-star hotels, such as the Cheval Blanc and Les Airelles, and constellation of ultra-luxury chalets.
Did you know? Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge chose Courchevel as the venue for a four-day ski break in March 2016.
Meribel sits at the heart of the Three Valleys, a welcoming wooded buffer between the chic Courchevel and high-altitude Val Thorens. Its mini airstrip, nestling among the firs, is just 1,332 feet long and can only cater for light aircraft. The Meribel valley has 100 miles of ski runs, stretching from up to the mighty Mont du Vallon at 9,685 feet, with a mix of easy, intermediate and daringly difficult slopes such as the Saulire couloirs, some of which access Courchevel. Meribel was founded in the 1930s by Briton Colonel Peter Lindsay, who decreed all the building must be sympathetic to the environment, hence the predominance of timber and chalets. The sole five-star hotel is Le Kaila, with its Michelin-starred restaurant, while Hotel Le Grand Coeur and Spa is a long-time favorite for deep-pocketed visitors.
Did you know? Meribel hosted the ice hockey and the women’s downhill at the 1992 Albertville Winter Olympics.
Sound of Music actress Julie Andrews reportedly once said “Gstaad is the last paradise in a crazy world.” Arrive quickly by plotting a course to Saanen private airfield — a VIP gateway just three miles from glamorous Gstaad, which clings to its earthy farming traditions while attracting the beautiful people with generous sprinkles of snow. This Swiss Shangri-La on the northern ramparts of the Bernese Oberland boasts 136 miles of runs split between five main ski areas. Glacier skiing up to 1.86 miles is available a short drive around the valley above Les Diablerets.
There are five five-star hotels including the castle-like Gstaad Palace (the Penthouse suite starts at $10,000 a night), the Park Gstaad and the new Alpina Gstaad.
Did you know? Gstaad regulars over the years are said to have included Louis Armstrong, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, Brigitte Bardot, Roger Moore, John Travolta and Roger Federer.
Zell am See, Austria
Two miles is barely enough time to apply sunscreen, but that’s how far Zell am See‘s airport is from the resort. The nearest lift, the Areitbahn, is just across the road.
Medieval Zell am See occupies a picturesque spot on the western shore of Lake Zell at the base of a horseshoe-shaped mountain, the Schmittenhöhe, with 48 miles of runs.
The new zellamseeXpress gondola has opened up an old run into Glemmtal with plans to extend further towards Saalbach-Hinterglemm. The total skiable domain is about 86 miles, including the trails on the Kitzsteinhorn glacier at 10,500 feet, which towers above Kaprun, and the family-friendly Maiskogel area. The historic Grand Hotel Zell am See sits on a lakeside peninsula, while the nearby Salzburgerhof has a five-star superior rating.
Did you know? The Steinerwirt is rated as Zell am See’s top restaurant on TripAdvisor, while the Crazy Daisy is a popular apres-ski spot.
St. Moritz, Switzerland
The term “jet set” could have been coined for the glitterati of St. Moritz. Private jets land at Samedan airfield in the Engadin valley, only four miles from the historic birthplace of winter tourism and the favorite alpine hangout for international moneybags, aristocrats and superstars. The 218 miles of ski runs and 58 lifts in the Engadin valley are centered around St. Moritz’s Corviglia area, which hosted the Winter Olympics in 1928 and 1948. The resort also provided the setting for the skiing scenes in James Bond flick “The Spy Who Loved Me”. Gourmets are well catered for with a selection of fine-dining including La Marmite, the highest Michelin-starred restaurant in the Alps at 8,156 feet. Celebrated five-star hotels include the 120-year-old Badrutt’s Palace (Engadin suite from $5,328 per night), the Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains and the Kulm Hotel. A two-night return from London’s Luton Airport to Samedan with a four-seater Citation Mustang is about $9,000 with PrivateFly. Otherwise it’s an almost three-hour trek from Zurich airport.
Did you know? St. Moritz is home to the infamous Cresta Run toboggan course, first built in 1884, and the nearby Olympia bob run, the world’s first and only naturally refrigerated bobsleigh track. The town also hosts an annual polo match and the “White Turf” horse race on the frozen lake.
Whisper it, but there’s a back door to Switzerland’s famed 4 Vallees ski area — jewel in the crown Verbier — and visitors can fly right up to the doorstep.
Sion airfield in the Rhone Valley is a Swiss Air Force fighter jet base (though they’re moving out next year), but it also welcomes limited commercial flights and private jets if the pilot’s qualified for the tricky approach through towering 13,000 foot peaks. Veysonnaz and Nendaz are traditional hamlets, eight and nine miles from the airport respectively, which connect into the circuit, Switzerland’s largest ski area with 248 miles of runs and 93 lifts. The high point is Mont Fort at 10,826 feet, with Mont Blanc and Matterhorn panoramas. The luxury Hidden Dragon chalet in Veysonnaz was built using Shinto and feng shui rituals to site the plot.
Did you know? Verbier’s La Vache mountain restaurant is co-owned by singer James Blunt, former England rugby union captain Lawrence Dallaglio and former Superbike world champion Carl Fogarty.
Everyone’s heard of Aspen, the Colorado silver-boom mining town done good — so good, in fact, it’s an A-list favorite with some of the most expensive real estate in the United States.
And its Pitkin County Airport is just a few short miles from the slopes. The airfield, which connects with dozens of US cities, is just three miles from the town of Aspen, surrounded by the ski area of Aspen Mountain (known locally as Ajax), Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk. Another ski area, Snowmass Village, is just six miles from the tarmac. Aspen, which features in several songs by late resident John Denver, claims a total of 319 miles of tree-lined Rocky Mountains trails. Common celebrity crash pads include the five-star Little Nell, Hotel Jerome and the St Regis.
Did you know? Aspen’s Buttermilk hosts the Winter X Games, while the 2017 FIS alpine skiing World Cup finals will be held there in March.
A check for $9,890 will buy a round-trip ticket on a private charter from Vancouver to Revelstoke deep in the heart of powder country. The airport — which also hosts two scheduled flights a week (via Revelstoke Air) is just two miles south of town. Be rewarded with a vertical drop of 5,620 feet — the most in North America — and 64 runs among glades and high-alpine bowls on Mount Mackenzie. Revelstoke is also known for its heli-skiing. From the uber-luxury Bighorn lodge, step onto a chopper parked out front and be whisked from doorstep to deep powder in minutes.
Bighorn costs $79,160 for the lodge in a high-season week, excluding heli-skiing. The helicopter will clock up $1,223 per person, per day.
Did you know? Don’t forget to pack a snorkel — Revelstoke is blessed with 40-60 feet of snow annually.
This former mining town from the mid-1800s was the setting for Butch Cassidy’s first bank heist in 1889, but now Telluride rates as one of North America’s hottest ski locations. Telluride Regional Airport sits on a lofty plateau six miles west of town and is open to scheduled services via Great Lakes Airlines or private charters. This makes it possible to fly in and be cruising in the San Juan mountains within the hour. Telluride’s compact center, only eight blocks wide and 12 long, retains a boutique Wild West look with clapboard storefronts and Victorian-era homes. Famous residents have included Tom Cruise, Jerry Seinfeld and Oprah Winfrey. The ski area — 2,000 acres and 127 runs among aspen and spruce glades — is dominated by Palmyra Peak at 13,320 feet.
The Revelation lift whisks skiers up to a high point of 12,515 feet above Revelation bowl.
Did you know? The ski area at Telluride — thought to be a contraction of the phrase “To hell you ride” — was founded in 1970 with snowcat skiing for $12.50 a day including a sack lunch. The first lifts followed in 1972.
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