European ski holidays aren’t a new phenomenon. But options are more elaborate and wide-ranging than ever this year. New companies and new destinations are enticing skiers of all levels. And peak season extends beyond Easter into April. That makes ski trips a viable option for Spring Break travel as well.
“We wanted to do something different than the usual five, six- or seven-day trip with our ski programs. Our itineraries with Outdoor Journeys are not something you will normally see in the marketplace,” Gianni Miradoli, CEO of Central Holidays tells Travel Agent.
Outdoor Journeys is the active vacations brand from Central Holidays. A new website and brochure are showcasing an expanded range of ski holidays, as well as biking, hiking and trekking options.
Developing new ski product doesn’t happen overnight, notes Miradoli.
“We believe that the people who like to ski in winter and other parts of year also like to have adventure. Not crazy adventure, but soft adventure done in a certain way. We started two or three years ago to look at what was best product available that we could offer. We decided to start with Italy, which has always been one of our major destinations,” said Miradoli.
Outdoor Journeys’ tours always include a specialized guide and keep to a small group size of 10-13 participants.
“For our ski program, we have a freeride in Mont Blanc and Monte Rosa in Italy. There’s a Nordic track in Switzerland. We have a Dolomite safari, where you ski for six days. The group moves to Cortina up and down the Dolomites. We have the same concept in Austria. And we have another itinerary that is very nice. It’s snowshoeing in the Southern Tyrol,” said Miradoli.
There’s an Outdoor Journeys program for most experience levels.
“Some of them can be done by anyone with normal ski experience. We don’t use Black Diamond runs, except for the Free Ride where it is really for expert skiers. But the ski safari in Austria and Italy are for regular skiers,“ said Miradoli.
Hard-core aficionados may be interested in these heli-ski programs.
The “Ski Safari" at Alpina Gstaad offers skiing at three different Alpine resorts in one day. The luxury property featuring a Michelin-starred restaurant is located on five acres in the exclusive hilltop Oberbort area of Gstaad.
The hotel transfers Ski Safari guests via Range Rover or Mercedes V-Class to the Gstaad heliport. A 25-minute helicopter ride then takes them to St. Moritz Corvatsch, in the middle of the resort's ski area. A few hours later, guests helicopter to Zermatt's Testa Grigia on the Italian side of the Matterhorn. After more skiing and a lunch stop, the skiers return by helicopter back to Gstaad. There’s usually time to get in a last run before returning back to the hotel.
"Our guests at The Alpina Gstaad expect unusual and innovative programs when they stay with us. And we like to surprise them," managing director Eric Favre tells Travel Agent.
Clients looking for bragging rights to a new and different destination might consider the remote Rooms Hotel Kazbegi. Located in the heart of the Caucasus Mountains in Kazbegi, Georgia, the Design Hotels member is offering heli-tours through March.
The expert-led tours whisk guests up to pristine mountainsides as high as 13,800 feet in elevation.
For those interested in an alpine backdrop as a wellness getaway, the Grand Hotel Kronenhof’s Holistic Life Retreat may be in order. The luxury property is located in Pontresina, six miles from St. Moritz. A weeklong program beginning March 5th includes moderate movement (yoga classes and gentle walks), massage and a specially-designed detox diet.