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Pack Your Skis

Summer skiing is no longer a novelty for our globe-trotters. We scope out the best experiences

Published: 01st May 2015 06:06 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st May 2015 06:06 AM   |  A+A-

Your summer holidays needn’t be just about battling sweat, suntan and prickly heat. With the kids underfoot for yet another few weeks, why not do what a growing number of travellers are doing-fly out in search of snow. “We’ve had a 36 per cent rise in enquiries for snow-clad destinations like Switzerland, Canada, Iceland, Scotland and New Zealand-for April and May,” says Shibani Phadkar, senior VP, Thomas Cook India. “And today’s evolved traveller is looking for more than just a vanilla holiday-from exploring sites for its cultural value to indulging in adventure sports, it’s more about an all-round travel experience,” she adds. Like Nozawa Onsen in Japan, where, besides skiing (over-50 km of trails and pistes), late holidayers sample the local cuisine-the local sake and pickled nozawana (a leafy green) come highly recommended-and soak in 30 different types of hot springs. And with general tour packages starting from as little as Rs 55,000, you don’t need to break the bank for a spot of fun. Here’s our guide to some of the best options out there.

summer2.jpgPole vaulting: Antartica

If it’s snow you’re chasing, then head to the land of the penguins. Hop aboard the Professor Molchanov-an ice-strengthened cruiser complete with sauna, bar and great open-deck viewing areas-as this 10-day Antarctic Peninsula Walking Expedition Voyage will see you sail in style, while hiking several kilometres each day into the relatively untouched areas. “Make sure you keep an ear out for the captain’s message, for when they spot whales,” advises Neeru Singh, an intrepid Bengaluru-based traveller. “Rides on the Zodiac boat are the main event. And keep your camera handy for the avalanches,” she adds. The penguin colonies and snow-capped mountains will also give you perfect postcard photos to rave about later. The cruise starts at Rs 2.4 lakh and airfare to Ushuaia starts at Rs 1.2 lakh. Details: arcticantarcticcollection.com

Skis and sand: Dubai

Villars2While there’s a certain illogic in heading to a desert for skiing, Dubai is best enjoyed with a healthy dose of irony. Ski Dubai is a 22,500-square-metre resort situated inside the Mall of Emirates with designated areas for skiing, snowboarding and tobogganing, as well as space to enjoy playing in (real) snow. Our reporter gives the ‘penguin encounter’ a thumbs up- bringing you face-to-face with the Arctic birds, it’s only available to swimmers over the age of 18. You also shouldn’t leave without riding the ‘snow bullet’, a zip wire suspended 16-metres above the ground. Return airfare Rs 25,000 upwards. Details: theplaymania.com/skidubai

Sunny-side up: Canada

How about some rock music while you ski? At the Sunshine Village, one of the three major ski resorts in the Banff National Park, Canada, the Spring Concert Series is on (till the third week of May). Catch local bands playing everything from rock to reggae, even as you gear up to take on the over 3,300 acres of skiable terrain, (including Delirium Dive, one of the world’s 10 top off-piste destinations). And when not on the slopes, try the gondola rides or head to the all-new Chimney Corner Lounge and Wine Bar, which includes a 50-bottle portfolio featuring favourites like Napa Valley’s Caymus and Italy’s Tignanello. Rooms from Rs 23,700. Details: skibanff.com

White out: Switzerland

Known as ‘Villars’ to the skiing community, the Swiss village, Villars-sur-Ollon, has retained its rustic charm while catering to an upmarket clientele. Conveniently located an hour’s train ride from Geneva, the resort caters to beginners and pros-with a number of red range cruising runs and over 2,700 km of pistes. Going by our reporter’s last visit, Club Med comes highly recommended. The beautifully-restored 1920s hotel is full of period details like original fireplaces and antique chandeliers. For visitors reluctant to don skis, there are great views over the Rhône Valley-to be enjoyed over world-class cuisine at the restaurants, including the personal favourite L’Alchimiste, which serves great steaks. Airfares Rs 45,000 upwards. Details: villars.ch

Villarrica1Hot as ice: Chile

Chances are, you’ve never mixed fire and ice quite in this way. At Villarrica Volcano, one of Chile’s active volcanoes, you can grab your crampon, ice axe and jacket for a hike up the snowy mountain. As you go up the steep slopes, pause to watch the volcano throw up lava. “As tough as the hike up is, the descent is fun-with paths carved for bob sledging and skiing. You can also choose to come down in 20 minutes-on your bottom, on the frozen natural water slide,” says Saurav Rana, a Bengaluru-basd consultant with the European Commission and an avid mountaineer. Approximately Rs 4,500 (including the ski-lift). Return fare to Puerto Montt starts at Rs 1.3 lakh. Details: visitchile.com

Aakanksha Devi, Maegan Dobson Sippy and Surya Praphulla Kumar

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