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    High Notes

    Reaching the peak in Antarctica with polar explorer Patrick Woodhead

    Travel — 12 January 2017

    Skiing:
    High notes

    The low-down on the hottest places to ski, snowboard and snowkite (or simply chill), and the coolest way to get there

    WORDS: CHRIS MADIGAN

    Powder snowboarding with an Olympian

    At Sochi 2014, Jenny Jones became the first British woman to win an Olympic snow-sports medal – bronze for flying, spinning and grabbing her way over the obstacles of the snowboard slopestyle course. Now retired, she is leading a group to Japan to explore a different aspect of snowboarding: freeriding in powder. Thanks to meteorological peculiarities involving Siberian storms and the Sea of Japan, Hokkaido island is regularly bombarded with fresh, dry snow.With over 15m annual snowfall, the resort of Niseko is an off-piste playground, best known for its spacious silver-birch glades. Jones is a big fan of its ‘unbelievable terrain, fluffy knee-deep snow, night riding and unique culture’ and, from 15 to 23 January, will offer tips on deep-snow technique to guests (who need to be experienced snowboarders). The company organising the trip also serves Yongpyong, South Korea, which is to stage events at the 2018 Winter Olympics. Ski Safari can tailor-make trips combining two Asian ski areas, or adding city stays in Seoul or Tokyo. Hokkaido PowderWeek with Jenny Jones costs £3,499pp; skisafari.com

    Yongpyong, South Korea,

    Yongpyong, South Korea, which will stage 2018 Winter Olympics events

    History made and celebrated in the Arlberg

    After an investment of €45m, two of the greatest resorts in the Alps – St Anton and Lech, in the Austrian Tyrol – now form one linked Arlberg ski area. Four new high-capacity gondola lifts and new intermediate-level connecting runs between the two halves mean an impressive total of 300km of pistes, including the legendary steeps of St Anton’s Vallugagrat and the consistent snow quality of Lech’s north-facingWarth sector. The crux of the new super-resort is Stuben, which was previously a somewhat overlooked village. A luxury chalet with serious Alpine heritage is opening there this season – Haus Hannes Schneider, available through Scott Dunn, is the childhood home of the eponymous pioneering ski instructor who trained the Austrian army in World War I, starred in a ski movie with German actress (later director) Leni Riefenstahl but was then jailed by the Nazis, escaped to the US and trained the 10th Army Mountain Division for World War II. The chalet has seven bedrooms, a spa, cinema room and games room, plus staff. A week at Haus Hannes Schneider for 12 people costs from £38,000, including flights and transfers; scottdunn.com

    A ski resort with no lifts, pistes or buildings

    A new resort has opened in Utah that has no marked runs and no infrastructure – not even an accommodation lodge.Whisper Ridge may talk quietly, but it has a great schtick: its 60,000 private acres constitute North America’s largest backcountry resort. Eight snowcats allow skiers and snowboarders to access deep snow in gentle bowls and glades, steep chutes and cliff drops.The only man-made structures in this wilderness are mountain-top glamping yurts, where dinner, drinks, massages and yoga are available in addition to shared bunkroom or private suite accommodation. Transfers can be arranged from Salt Lake City, now served by a direct flight from Gatwick. A day of cat-skiing with a night’s accommodation costs from $725pp in a shared bunk, $950pp in a suite, or from $9,440 for a group of up to 12; whisperridgeutah.com

     

    Martin Hartley; Ludovic Di Orio

    Martin Hartley; Ludovic Di Orio

    Staying in Modernist mountain landmarks

    For a brief time in the late 1960s, a number of new French high-altitude resorts rejected the bourgeois idea that all alpine buildings had to be generic Heidi chalets. One of the most dramatic was Avoriaz, which opened 50 years ago. Olympic downhill champion Jean Vuarnet, young developer and socialite Gérard Brémond and unknown architect Jacques Labro collaborated to build a car-free village atop a cliff, with apartment blocks shaped liked pyramids and a hotel, Les Dromonts, resembling a beehive. It lured the likes of Brigitte Bardot, Johnny Hallyday, Natalie Wood, Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin to those early seasons. In 2015, the stylish Sibuet group acquired Hôtel Les Dromonts and restored its Modernist chic, with furniture by Eero Aarnio and Charles and Ray Eames. It has since bought another classic of the architectural genre, Marcel Breuer’s Totem in Flaine, and now offers an exclusive apartment in the Bauhaus style: the Loft sleeps six and features an original Breuer fireplace. Seven nights’ half board at the Hôtel Les Dromonts costs from £1,049pp, including flights and transfers; inghams.co.uk. A night in the Loft at Totem costs €649pp; terminal-neige.com

    Marcel Breuer’s Totem, in Flaine,

    The pool and Bauhaus-style Loft at Modernist architect Marcel Breuer’s Totem, in Flaine,

    Snowkiting in the interior of the Antarctic

    If there’s one method of propulsion that can rival gravity for an adrenaline rush, it’s harnessing the power of the wind. Snowkiting is a development of water-based kitesurfing and can be performed on a snowboard or skis. It requires big, mostly flat spaces – although a few terrain features help you get air if you’re looking for the more acrobatic side of the sport – and nowhere offers wider open spaces than Antarctica. Explorer Patrick Woodhead’s adventure-travel company White Desert offers snowkiting as one of the wild activities – along with climbing, abseiling into crevasses and ice-caving – on offer during its trips to the interior of the continent. It also organises visits to science stations and an emperor-penguin colony. Accommodation is in luxurious fibreglass pods that have en-suite bathrooms, and food is cooked by none other than Lewis Hamilton’s private chef. Group trips every November and December (places are available at the time of going to press for 14–22 December) cost €64,000pp, and private trips can also be arranged; white-desert.com

    When a private jet is the budget airline

    The demand for flights to the Alps during the February half-term holiday is such that return flights from London to Geneva at reasonable times on the 11th and 18th are beginning to creep above £700 – on easyJet! – and British Airways’ are considerably more expensive then that. Luxury operator Butler & Lloyd is offering an alternative: return flights to Geneva or Turin in a 50-seater plane, departing from Farnborough Airport, in Hampshire, for £730. Butler & Lloyd has a dedicated lounge at the modern airport on the M3, and you can guarantee it will be a good deal more peaceful than Gatwick at half-term.The flights can also be taken as part of a £2,635pp seven-night package to the five-star Grand Hotel in Courmayeur, Italy, with transfers and a full concierge service included. butlerandlloyd.com