Good skiing can be found in lots of places these days. But for a truly enjoyable vacation, it's also nice to head to a place that can offer not only great powder on the slopes, but luxury and indulgence back at the lodge. Here's a guide to some places around the world that fit the bill on the slopes and in town.
Lake Louise, Canada
Many call it the eighth wonder of the world, and in mid-winter there are few scenes quite as wonderful. Lake Louise is best accessed through Calgary, a quick flight from most U.S. cities, and then it's a two-hour drive into the Banff National Park. The road from Banff can be tricky during seasonal storms and icy on sunny winter afternoons, but once you're there you're not likely to want to leave.
Although everyone recommends checking into Fairmont's
Chateau Lake Louise, its super-small guest rooms and tourist-clogged lobby would make even a young Von Trapp child feel von-trapped. Hit up the neighboring Post Hotel with its log cabin-style lobby, which offers comfy Canadian decor and a critically acclaimed restaurant. Book one of the riverside cabins with private entries and spectacular views of the Canadian Rockies.
Les Fermes de Marie
Magical both winter and summer, Megeve is especially stunning in its snowy all-white winter cloak attracting a mix of understated Brits and Prada-packing Italians. The town, located at the base of Mont Blanc, features a 1930s cable car and Gothic church surrounding a center village square along with a stunning mix of alpine architecture.
Les Fermes de Marie is the perfect place to hole up, with a series of mountaintop hamlets made of stacked logs with extensive paneling and eclectic antiques collections. After a day on the grueling double-black diamonds, sink your diamonds into the in-house spa, which offers sublime treatment rooms surrounded by a Beowulf-inspired scene of tree branches and Savoyard beams.
Challenging slopes and a burgeoning luxury scene have made Jackson Hole one of the top ski destinations in the United States. A thriving main village and comfy-chic collection of restaurants and bars are giving nearby Park City and Aspen a run for the billionaire bucks. If you can't afford one of the multimillion-dollar properties in the area, the next best thing is the Amangani.
The uber-luxury Aman Resorts offers six-star opulence in some of the world's most exotic locations. The only U.S. outpost of the Hong Kong-based luxury chain, Amangani is located atop East Gros Ventre Butte, overlooking the snow-capped peaks of Grand Teton National Park. Minimalist guest rooms feature platform beds, Okalahoma sandstone columns and Pacific redwood walls.
Mont Tremblant, Canada
A new nonstop Continental flight from Newark makes this Eastern resort town more accessible than ever. Once you arrive, it's the French Alps bought with Canadian dollars. Rolling hills and small towns dot the countryside around Mont Tremblant. While it won't be the toughest skiing you've ever encountered, the local dining scene makes up for the lack of legendary slopes.
While the hamlet itself has all the charm of a mass-produced Intrawest track-town, the surrounding villages maintain an untouched 19th-century cuteness. Check into the Hotel Quintessence, located directly on Lac du Tremblant, which offers an all-suite concept with stylish interiors, large balconies and clawfoot bathtubs.
It's only a 90-minute drive from Geneva, but for guests like Hugh Grant and James Blunt it's an even shorter helicopter ride. A combination of world-class terrain and global savoir-faire, Verbier has become the jet set-favored getaway for those who summer in St. Tropez and used to winter in Courchevel.
Complete with six bedrooms, home cinema, outdoor hot tub and sauna, Septieme Ciel is the most coveted private chalet rental for celerbity guests like David Beckham. Private chalet rentals are currently the best option for visiting Verbier, at least until
W Hotels debuts its 143-room Retreat Hotel in late 2009.
Nothing says winter like those first images of a fur-clad Mariah Carey sipping a glass of Moet near the slopes of Aspen. It's the ski resort of the North American upper crust, attracting brash billionaires and their trophy wives to the fluffy runs of Buttermilk and Ajax. It's not the most ambitious skiing you'll ever encounter, but who needs black diamonds when you can watch Diane Von Furstenberg and Barry Diller skiing tandem in the middle of a fashion mob?
St. Regis made quite a splash last year, it's still the Little Nell that attracts the star-studded guests and hip après-ski scene for those warm rosemary fries. For the most devout fan, The Residences at The Little Nell offer a limited collection of 26 magnificent ski-out/ski-in residences adjacent to the Silver Queen Gondola. They're priced from $1.7 million and open sometime in 2008.
Grand Hotel and Spa Rodina
Nowhere is the excess of new money more outrageous than Sochi, home to the 2014 Winter Olympics. Previously known more as a summer destination, this Russian Riviera set between the shores of the Black Sea and Caucasus Mountains is being upgraded into one of the finest ski destinations in Europe. During October, it's actually possible to spend the morning on a rogue ski trail and an afternoon sunbathing on the beach.
Pack your flashiest Chanel one-piece ski suit for this glitzy crowd, which flocks to nearby Grand Hotel and Spa Rodina owned by one of Russia's wealthiest industrialists. This former sanitarium, where cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin recuperated after orbiting the earth, offers a peek into a new Russian frontier of luxury. Plasma-screen TVs, in-room caviar service and sprawling resort pool with demanding Eastern European models is like a scene from the next 007 adventure.
Michael Martin is the managing editor of JetSetReport.com -- a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in In Style, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine, ITV and BBC.