Whether you're a novice or a black run daredevil, the start of winter means it's time to think about booking your ski holiday.
The Perfect 10: Ski holidays
The Bulgarian ski resorts of Bansko and Borovets have been making a name for themselves with skiers who want great snow, a spot of luxury and no eye-watering price tag. Outside the Eurozone, ski passes and lessons are a fraction of the cost of French, Swiss and Austrian resorts while a typical three-course meal with one bottle of wine costs from just £10 per person.
Off the slopes, Bansko's town centre is a Unesco World Heritage site, there's 65km of marked ski runs, an illuminated 7km run for night skiing, and an extreme winter sports fun park or the quieter resort of Borovets boasts the highest mountain in Bulgaria. Balkan Holidays offers packages from £578 per person, including flights and accommodation at the five-star Winter Palace Hotel in Borovets, or from £584 per person staying at the Kempinski Grand Arena hotel in Bansko.
Long-haul trips to Asia might not top your list for a ski trip, but the experts are tipping Japan as one of the world's top destinations, with Niseko, Myoko and Hakuba Valley famous for hosting the 1998 Winter Olympic Games. "There's the incredible cultural experience and secondly the world's best powder snow." says Lindsay Colbert, manager at Japan Ski Experience. "In Japan you can ski without the crowds you'd get in Europe and usually there is very little queuing involved to get on a lift. It's less expensive than you might think, there's outdoor hot springs to relax those aching muscles, night skiing and even the chance to see a snow monkey."
Packages with Japan Ski Experience start from £1,495 for nine nights including flights.
If hurtling down the side of the mountain isn't enough excitement for you, then head to Les Arcs in the French Alps, the home of speed skiing where you can attempt the 'Flying Kilometre' with a gradient of 77%. Also known as the Kilomètre Lancé, you wear aerodynamic clothes and 2m skis before travelling as fast as possible along the 1km stretch of piste – reaching speeds of up to 155mph.
The five resorts making up Les Arcs at Bourg Saint Maurice are located between 810 and 3,800m, with gentle slopes for beginners as well. Erna Low offers seven nights in a two bedroom self catering apartment in Arc 1950 Le Village, based on six sharing, for £325 per person, including return Eurotunnel crossings on departure dates in December.
There's more than one mountain range to choose from in Europe, so turn your back on the Alps and hit the powder in the Aran Valley in the Pyrenees for Baqueira-Beret, Spain's largest skiing resort. Not far from the border with France, there's more than 100km of skiing slopes between 1,600 and 2,500m, including six black runs, 70 slopes and off-piste, while its more southerly location means you get an hour extra daylight than the Alps.
Based around the two villages of Baqueira and Beret, you can find the Spanish Ski team training here, and even Spanish royalty on holiday. Scott Dunn offers seven nights at the luxury La Pleta hotel and spa from £1,600 per person, including flights to Toulouse and return private airport transfers.
If you're fed up fighting to get onto ski lifts or find a tiny bit of fresh powder for yourself, the answer is to head off-piste – but if you don't know how to begin, try your hand at ski touring. Ski Club Freshtracks offers introduction weekends teaching mountain awareness, off-piste ski technique and other skills, including skiing on glaciers while staying in a mountain hut or based from a hotel.
Three nights B&B and four days with a mountain guide costs £450 per person, excluding flights. The introduction trips run from January 27-31 in Les Diablerets, Switzerland, or from March 3-7 in Argentiere, France.
Despite being just a couple of hours from the UK, Norway tends to get forgotten by British skiers in the rush to France. But the unspoilt resort of Voss, one of Norway's top ski resorts, gives you stunning views of Fjord country and the lakes as you hit the slopes. Inghams offers seven nights half-board accommodation in the four star Fleischer's Hotel, plus flights and transfers, from £745 per person. A learn to ski package, including seven day lift pass, ski and boot hire, and five days of lessons costs from £175 for adults.
Alternatively get up close to the scenery with some cross-country skiing. Exodus offers an eight day trip to Kvitavatn, nearly 1,000m above the town of Rjukan, with 80km of tracks through forests, across the lake and open country, as well as downhill. Prices start from £999 including flights.
If you like your skiing but don't want to spend every day on the slopes, you're usually stuck for ways to entertain yourself in most ski resorts. But Les Massif des Aravis is only around 40 miles from Geneva, so if you're pining for the bright lights of the big city, you're not too far for a day trip. But the 6km of resorts, including La Clusaz and Le Grand-Bornand, have plenty to keep you occupied, with snow-shoeing, sledging and ski joering – like water skiing but on snow and behind a horse – as well as 220 km of Alpine slopes.
The Girls Indulgence in La Clusaz package is available outside school holidays, including three days skiing, massage and village tour for around £105. Accommodation costs from around £60 per person per week, based on four sharing.
Deer Valley has been rated the top ski mountain for the past three years in SKI magazine's annual readers poll, and this December it's getting a brand new resort Montage Deer Valley, above Empire Pass. Heavy on the deluxe, you can ski out to more than 20 lifts and 100 alpine trails, while there's complimentary ski valet service, fine dining, a 35,000 square foot spa, outdoor pool and outdoor terrace with fire pits.
The resort is only five minutes from Park City's Main Street, where the January Sundance Film Festival takes place. Rates start at £280 with Preferred Hotels.
For skiers who want to be ahead of the crowd – quite literally – it's hard to beat a trip to Romania. The resort of Poiana Brasov in the Southern Carpathian Mountains was ranked the best value ski resort in a recent Post Office Travel Services report and just 12km is the medieval town of Brasov. The mountains are also home to Europe's highest population of brown bears.
Balkan Holidays offers one week, including half board accommodation at the Hotel Psort, from £495.
If you can't get enough of skiing, the start of spring needn't spell the end. Head to Europe's northernmost ski resort in Riksgransen, Sweden, on the border with Norway, where you can hit the slopes well into June as the midnight sun barely sets – with lifts open until 1am.
Deep in the Arctic Circle, there's plenty of snow year-round, although you'll need to wait for February for enough daylight. A favourite with Swedes for its off-piste conditions, there's heli-skiing as well so you can try your hand at as many as five peaks in one day. Original Travel offers four night trips, including accommodation at the Meteorologen Hotel plus return flights and transfers from £1,050.