This year marks Ski Safari’s 20th anniversary, the company has come a long way since 1996, but its tailor-made ski adventures remain true to its roots. To celebrate, Ski Safari offers three new resorts, a selection of new ski safaris, new twin centres and new accommodation.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN…
Twenty years ago, Ski Safari took its very first customers to the slopes. Back then, few ski operators offered trips to North America, and the company’s founders, Richard and Sam Rice, thought they were missing a trick.
Starting with Whistler (a resort they knew and loved), Richard and Sam wanted to give British skiers the independence and freedom to make the most of the incredible Canadian terrain – and the concept of a Ski Safari was born.
What started out on a kitchen table in London is now a 24-strong team based in Hove, Sussex. Since that initial leap, Ski Safari has added Scandinavia, Japan, South Korea and Switzerland to its adventurous portfolio, and has been voted the UK’s Highest Rated Ski Tour Operator of the year twice in an independent poll.
Why not head to Whistler, where the Ski Safari concept began?
Whistler has featured in the news recently as it is currently the target of a $1.4-billion friendly takeover by Colorado-based Vail Resorts. Since it was announced, North America’s biggest ski area has been placed at the forefront of many peoples’ minds. However, Ski Safari realised the potential of the Canadian resort 20 years ago in 1996, and the company has been arranging holidays to Whistler ever since. Renowned for its reliable snow record, varied terrain and stunning alpine scenery, plus its 38 lifts and more than 8,000 acres of pistes, Whistler is ideal for beginner to expert skiers and snowboarders and those after a lively après-ski scene. It’s hard to imagine that when the resort first opened back in 1966, it only had a four-person gondola, a double chairlift and a day lodge to its name.
Ski Safari (01273 224060, www.skisafari.com) has a wide range of holidays to Whistler. A 13-night stay at five-star Westin Resort and Spa in Whistler, costs from £1,399 pp for two adults sharing a Deluxe Studio Suite. Price includes return flights (London to Vancouver) and transfers or car hire. Food, ski pass and ski hire extra.
Sun Valley, USA
Built in 1936, Sun Valley was North America’s first purpose-built ski resort. Owned by the Holding family of Sinclair Oil fame, any changes that have been made to the resort since are designed to blend in with the underlying character.
From when it opened, its stylish image and luxury ambiance has attracted many A List celebrities, including Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, Tom Hanks and Clint Eastwood (who filmed Pale Rider here).
Keen skiers should head to Bald Mountain, or ‘Baldy’ as the locals call it, while those new to the sport can ski the beginner terrain around Dollar Mountain, which features the world’s very first chairlift. Plus, there is a snow park with 76 rails and a 22-foot super pipe.
After a day on the slopes, head to the nearby Wild West town of Ketchum, where the accommodation is based. Dating back to 1880 – and once a key mining and fur-trapping area – Ketchum is now a vibrant centre for the arts with galleries, boutiques, top bars and restaurants and a Hollywood actor or two.
Sun Valley used to be quite tricky to reach from the UK, but the new direct flights from London Heathrow to Salt Lake City – followed by a one-hour hop to Sun Valley Airport and a 30-minute transfer to resort – has placed it firmly on the map.
Ski Safari (01273 224060, www.skisafari.com) has a choice of accommodation in Sun Valley. A seven-night stay at the brand-new four-star plus Limelight Hotel Ketchum costs from £1,565 pp for two adults sharing a Deluxe Room. Price includes return flights (London Heathrow to Sun Valley Airport via Salt Lake City), transfers or car hire and breakfast every day. Lunch, dinner, ski pass and ski hire extra.
Situated in west Sweden, near the border with Norway, Vemdalen’s reliable snow record and quiet slopes are ideal for young families and nervous skiers, while its black runs and mellow powder runs offer excitement for the more advanced.
The three different ski areas of Vemdalen: Björnrike, Vemdalsskalet and Klövsjö/Storhogna, are covered on the same lift pass and all linked by ski bus. And for those wanting to try a different activity, there is dog sledding and snowmobiling available too.
Make the most of the compact village, which has a selection of shops, restaurants and bars. New for the 2016/17 season, check out Sameland, a brand-new experience in Björnrike. Aiming to highlight the role played by the Sami people (an indigenous Finno-Ugric people inhabiting Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia), guests can meet and feed the reindeer, learn about the Sami people and, enjoy a traditional meal cooked over a fire in one of the Sami houses. Plus, there is a playhouse for children.
Ski Safari (01273 224068, www.skisafari.com) has a choice of accommodation in Vemdalen. A seven-night stay at the centrally located three-star Hovde Hotel costs from £935 pp for two adults and two children (aged 11 and under) sharing a two-bedroom apartment. Price includes return flights (London to Östersund) and transfers or car hire. Food, ski pass and ski hire extra.
Located on Hokkaido, the northern Island of Japan, Kiroro offers deep powder, quiet slopes and fantastic off piste. Although it has been under the radar for many years, Kiroro is becoming more popular with foreign travellers, especially since it was declared that skiers and snowboarders could use the lifts to access the unrivalled backcountry terrain.
Built in 2001, the modern resort receives more consistent snowfall than Niseko and Rusutsu, and is a wonderful place to escape the crowds. The nine ski lifts and 21 runs plus a dedicated powder zone and plenty of tree runs, means there is never a dull moment.
After exploring the slopes, relax at one of the two resort hotels – the ski-in ski-out Sheraton Hokkaido Kiroro Resort or the Kiroro Tribute Portfolio Hotel, which feature shops, restaurants, swimming pools, onsens and karaoke. Alternatively, make the most of the extra activities, consisting of snow rafting, snowmobiling and snow shoeing.
Ski Safari (01273 224067, www.skisafari.com) has a choice of accommodation in Kiroro. A seven-night stay at the four-star Kiroro Tribute Portfolio Hotel costs from £1,595 pp for two adults sharing a twin room. Price includes return flights (London to Sapporo Chitose) transfers or car hire and breakfast every day. Lunch, dinner, ski pass and ski hire extra.
NEW SKI SAFARIS
Ultimate BC Ski Safari, Canada
With so many incredible resorts in Canada, it can be tricky to choose just one. The brand-new Ultimate BC Ski Safari allows travellers to combine any of Ski Safari’s 12 resorts in British Columbia (the birthplace of heli-skiing), from the well-known Whistler Blackcomb to the slightly more wild Whitewater. Add in some of the world’s best heli or cat-skiing, top ski tuition and delicious food and the experience cannot be matched.
The huge concentration of ski areas means relatively short driving distances between each one, allowing skiers and snowboarders to maximise their time on the mountains. Don’t miss Kicking Horse, which puts even the most seasoned riders to the test, with more black (and double black) diamond runs than any other grade. Advanced skiers are spoilt for choice with inbound chutes, ridges and bowls. The resort is also famous for its light powder and the region for its heli-skiing terrain. Take a pit-stop in Panorama. Its landscape is especially good for intermediate skiers, and there’s a superb ski school for beginners and phenomenal backcountry options too. Panorama has one of the biggest vertical drops in the US, and the challenging Extreme Dream Zone and Taynton Bowl feature over 750 acres of patrolled ex-heli-ski terrain, plus you can heli-ski right from the resort base. Finally, Fernie is known for its super-light powder and consistently steep pitch. The resort has the largest number of marked runs in the Canadian Rockies and five legendary bowls to please even the most advanced skiers and riders. Don’t leave without visiting Yamagoya Sushi, a renowned Japanese restaurant and a popular hangout amongst the locals. Other resorts to stop at include Red Resort, Kimberley, Apex, Big White, Sun Peaks and Silver Star.
Ski Safari’s (01273 224060, www.skisafari.com) Ultimate BC Ski Safari costs from £2,290 pp (two sharing) for a 21-night trip. Price includes return flights with Air Canada (London to Kelowna), accommodation and SUV hire. Food, ski pass and ski hire extra.
Ski & Spa Safari, Norway
Brand new to Ski Safari’s exciting and adventurous portfolio, combine skiing with time to relax and unwind at three of Norway’s most luxurious spa hotels. Beginning (and finishing) in Norway’s capital, Oslo, drive (in a rental car) to Geilo, a resort ideal for beginners and nervous skiers. Stay at the ski-in ski-out four-star Vestlia Resort for three nights. The resort has a luxurious adult-only spa and a separate family pool and kids’ soft play area. Drive to Norefjell, a tranquil area, little known among British skiers. Here, skiers can carve from the summit (1,188 metres) all the way down to the fjord below (Norway’s greatest vertical drop), taking in spectacular alpine views en route. Stay at four-star Norefjell Ski & Spa for three nights, a triple prize winner in the 2015 World Travel Awards, which features an indoor and outdoor spa area spread across two floors, along with an ice-skating rink, climbing wall and a toboggan run for the more adventurous. Finish the ski safari in Oslo, and stay at the luxurious five-star spa hotel, The Thief, for two nights before heading home. Brand-new to Ski Safari’s luxury portfolio, The Thief offers spectacular views, impeccable service, an extensive collection of artwork and delicious global cuisine.
Ski Safari’s (01273 224 068, www.skisafari.com) Ski & Spa Safari costs from £1,485 pp (two sharing) for an eight-night journey. Price includes return flights (London to Oslo), accommodation, half board in Geilo and Norefjell and car hire. Other meals, ski pass and ski hire extra.
Hokkaido Explorer Ski Safari, Japan
Home to Japan’s best snow and freshest seafood, the Hokkaido Explorer allows adventurous skiers and snowboarders to experience off the beaten track resorts. Recently named the top Asian destination by Lonely Planet magazine, Hokkaido offers year-round beauty and world-class skiing. Experience Rusutsu, known for its phenomenal powder, crazy Japanese kitsch and its beautiful tree runs; Ski Safari’s new resort, Kiroro, with its quiet slopes, wide-open groomers and incredible backcountry terrain; and Furano, famous for its spectacular volcanic scenery and traditional Japanese character, before finishing in the city of Tokyo for a full day of sightseeing. Walk through the buzzing city, stopping at majestic temples, mega-malls, theme parks and fish markets.
Ski Safari (01273 224067, www.skisafari.com) has an exciting selection of trips to Japan. The 14-night Hokkaido Explorer Ski Safari (which now features a stay in Kiroro) costs from £2,495 pp (two sharing). Price includes three-star and four-star accommodation, return flights (London to Sapporo Chitose) and transfers. Food, ski pass and ski hire extra.
NEW TWIN CENTRES
Ski Safari’s Twin Centres allow visitors to experience multiple resorts, or combine coastal cities with snowy mountains. Brand new for the up-and-coming season, Ski Safari has introduced an exciting variety of fresh combinations.
With new, direct flights to Salt Lake City (from London Heathrow), skiing in Utah is a lot easier. Plus, a new (and free) stopover means visitors can enjoy twin centre holidays for no extra travel cost. Utah is known by many as having the ‘greatest snow on earth’, and this season guests can combine it with six other resorts, from steep and deep Jackson Hole, to Montana’s huge terrain in Big Sky and its best tree skiing in Whitefish, in addition to Lake Tahoe, Red and White Water, plus Ski Safari’s new resort, Sun Valley.
A Park City & Heavenly twin centre costs from £2,035 pp (two sharing) for a 14-night holiday with lift pass. The price includes return flights with Delta (London to Reno via Salt Lake City) shared return transfers to Park City, seven nights’ B&B accommodation at the three-star Landmark Inn, seven nights’ B&B accommodation at the three-star Best Western Station House Inn, SUV car hire and Epic Local pass with unlimited skiing at both resorts. Food and ski hire extra.
Alternatively, a Snowbird & Jackson Hole twin centre costs from £1,830 pp (two sharing) for a 10-night holiday. The price includes return flights with Delta (London to Jackson via Salt Lake City) shared return transfers to Snowbird, five nights’ accommodation at the three-star Lodge at Snowbird, return transfers to Jackson Hole and five nights’ B&B accommodation at the three-star plus Parkway Inn in Jackson Hole. Food, ski pass and ski hire extra.
For more information call 01273 224060, www.skisafari.com.
Assiniboine Lodge, Canadian Rockies
Built in 1928, Assiniboine Lodge was the first ski lodge in the Canadian Rockies, and has managed to retain its rustic charm to this day. Located in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site in British Columbia) and situated at an elevation of 2,180 metres, with space for 30 guests – in seven private cabins and five lodge rooms – the four-star guesthouse can only be accessed by hiking, skiing or helicopter. Managed and run by Sepp and Barb Renner since 1983, adventurous skiers and snowboarders can enjoy fresh, hearty food, warm showers, relaxing saunas and goose-down duvets.
Ski Safari (01273 224060, www.skisafari.com) now offers a romantic stay in Banff with a fly-in ski touring break at Assiniboine Lodge. The 10-night Fly-in Ski Touring in the Romantic Rockies costs from £2,235 pp (two sharing) for a seven-night stay at 4* Buffalo Mountain Lodge in Banff, before flying in a helicopter for a three-night stay at Assiniboine Lodge. The price includes return flights (London to Calgary), SUV car hire, and all meals at Assiniboine Lodge, ski-touring guides, avalanche transceiver, probe and shovel and return helicopter flights to and from the lodge. Other meals, ski pass and ski hire extra.